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Xunxiang Hu, a Eugene P. Wigner Fellow in ORNL’s Materials Science and Technology Division, designed this machine to produce large, crack-free pieces of yttrium hydride to be used as a moderator in the core of ORNL’s Transformational Challenge Reactor and other microreactors. Credit: Xunxiang Hu/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

About 60 years ago, scientists discovered that a certain rare earth metal-hydrogen mixture, yttrium, could be the ideal moderator to go inside small, gas-cooled nuclear reactors.

Yanwen Zhang

In the search to create materials that can withstand extreme radiation, Yanwen Zhang, a researcher at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, says that materials scientists must think outside the box.

At the U.S. Department of Energy Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, this part for a scaled-down prototype of a reactor was produced for industry partner Kairos Power.

Scientists at the Department of Energy Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL have their eyes on the prize: the Transformational Challenge Reactor, or TCR, a microreactor built using 3D printing and other new approaches that will be up and running by 2023.

Recent research involving Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source demonstrates crystal-like heat conduction in a solid-liquid hybrid, AgCrSe2.

Research by an international team led by Duke University and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists could speed the way to safer rechargeable batteries for consumer electronics such as laptops and cellphones.

Coronavirus graphic

In the race to identify solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory are joining the fight by applying expertise in computational science, advanced manufacturing, data science and neutron science.

Smart Neighborhood homes

To better determine the potential energy cost savings among connected homes, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed a computer simulation to more accurately compare energy use on similar weather days.

Weiju Ren’s knowledgebase is making the nuclear world safer. Called DOE’s Gen IV Materials Handbook, it manages data about structural materials for the Very High Temperature Reactor. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Six new nuclear reactor technologies are set to deploy for commercial use between 2030 and 2040. Called Generation IV nuclear reactors, they will operate with improved performance at dramatically higher temperatures than today’s reactors.

Tungsten tiles for fusion

Using additive manufacturing, scientists experimenting with tungsten at Oak Ridge National Laboratory hope to unlock new potential of the high-performance heat-transferring material used to protect components from the plasma inside a fusion reactor. Fusion requires hydrogen isotopes to reach millions of degrees.

Neutrons—Mastering magnetism

Researchers have pioneered a new technique using pressure to manipulate magnetism in thin film materials used to enhance performance in electronic devices.

Materials—Engineering heat transport

Scientists have discovered a way to alter heat transport in thermoelectric materials, a finding that may ultimately improve energy efficiency as the materials convert heat flow into electricity.