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ORNL's Communications team works with news media seeking information about the laboratory. Media may use the resources listed below or send questions to news@ornl.gov.

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A selfie from the Curiosity rover as it explores the surface of Mars. Like many spacecraft, Curiosity uses a radioisotope power system to help fuel its mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Radioactive isotopes power some of NASA’s best-known spacecraft. But predicting how radiation emitted from these isotopes might affect nearby materials is tricky

This photo shows the interior of the vessel of the General Atomics DIII-D National Fusion Facility in San Diego, where ORNL researchers are testing the suitability of tungsten to armor the inside of a fusion device. Credit: General Atomics

The inside of future nuclear fusion energy reactors will be among the harshest environments ever produced on Earth. What’s strong enough to protect the inside of a fusion reactor from plasma-produced heat fluxes akin to space shuttles reentering Earth’s atmosphere?

ORNL’s Drew Elliott served as a major collaborator in upgrading the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory’s Lithium Tokamak Experiment-Beta. Credit: Robert Kaita, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Lithium, the silvery metal that powers smart phones and helps treat bipolar disorders, could also play a significant role in the worldwide effort to harvest on Earth the safe, clean and virtually limitless fusion energy that powers the sun and stars.

ORNL scientists are currently using Proto-MPEX to perform necessary research and development that is needed to build MPEX. Credit: Genevieve Martin/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Temperatures hotter than the center of the sun. Magnetic fields hundreds of thousands of times stronger than the earth’s. Neutrons energetic enough to change the structure of a material entirely.

Solid radium sulfate sits in the bottom of a flask during the recovery process. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have discovered a better way to separate actinium-227, a rare isotope essential for an FDA-approved cancer treatment.

Kat Royston

As a teenager, Kat Royston had a lot of questions. Then an advanced-placement class in physics convinced her all the answers were out there.

Postdoctoral researcher Nischal Kafle positions a component for a portable plasma imaging diagnostic device at ORNL in February. The device, a project for ARPA-E, is built of off-the-shelf parts. Credit: Carlos Jones/ORNL

The techniques Theodore Biewer and his colleagues are using to measure whether plasma has the right conditions to create fusion have been around awhile.

Argon pellet injection text

As scientists study approaches to best sustain a fusion reactor, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory investigated injecting shattered argon pellets into a super-hot plasma, when needed, to protect the reactor’s interior wall from high-energy runaway electrons.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed an experiment for testing potential materials for use in interplanetary travel. The experiment exposes prototype materials to temperatures over 2,400 degrees Celsius with only 300 watts of input electrical power. Credit: Carlos Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

If humankind reaches Mars this century, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-developed experiment testing advanced materials for spacecraft may play a key role. 

Nuclear—Deep space travel

By automating the production of neptunium oxide-aluminum pellets, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have eliminated a key bottleneck when producing plutonium-238 used by NASA to fuel deep space exploration.