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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

Pu-238 pellet drawing

After its long journey to Mars beginning this summer, NASA’s Perseverance rover will be powered across the planet’s surface in part by plutonium produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The CrossVis application includes a parallel coordinates plot (left), a tiled image view (right) and other interactive data views. Credit: Chad Steed/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

From materials science and earth system modeling to quantum information science and cybersecurity, experts in many fields run simulations and conduct experiments to collect the abundance of data necessary for scientific progress.

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.

A new computational approach by ORNL can more quickly scan large-scale satellite images, such as these of Puerto Rico, for more accurate mapping of complex infrastructure like buildings. Credit: Maxar Technologies and Dalton Lunga/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

A novel approach developed by scientists at ORNL can scan massive datasets of large-scale satellite images to more accurately map infrastructure – such as buildings and roads – in hours versus days. 

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.

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.

The electromagnetic isotope separator system operates by vaporizing an element such as ruthenium into the gas phase, converting the molecules into an ion beam, and then channeling the beam through magnets to separate out the different isotopes.

A tiny vial of gray powder produced at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the backbone of a new experiment to study the intense magnetic fields created in nuclear collisions.

Radiochemical technicians David Denton and Karen Murphy use hot cell manipulators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the production of actinium-227.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is now producing actinium-227 (Ac-227) to meet projected demand for a highly effective cancer drug through a 10-year contract between the U.S. DOE Isotope Program and Bayer.