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Nuclear—Tiny testing fuels

For the first time, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has completed testing of nuclear fuels using MiniFuel, an irradiation vehicle that allows for rapid experimentation.

Strain-tolerant, triangular, monolayer crystals of WS2 were grown on SiO2 substrates patterned with donut-shaped pillars, as shown in scanning electron microscope (bottom) and atomic force microscope (middle) image elements.

A team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory explored how atomically thin two-dimensional (2D) crystals can grow over 3D objects and how the curvature of those objects can stretch and strain the 

Computing—Routing out the bugs

A study led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory explored the interface between the Department of Veterans Affairs’ healthcare data system and the data itself to detect the likelihood of errors and designed an auto-surveillance tool

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.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Chris Petrie assembles a fiber optic sensor, fabricated using additive manufacturing, for measuring dimensional changes. Petrie is developing fiber optic–based sensors that can offer greater insights into how materials, such as fuel cladding, perform during irradiation testing inside ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor. Credit: Carlos Jones/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

With operating licenses for nearly all nuclear power plants set to expire in the 2030s and 40s—a pending loss that would affect a fifth of the country’s electricity supply—U.S. utilities will need to find a way to respond to what has been called the “nuclear cliff.”

Miaofang Chi

Miaofang Chi, a researcher at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has received the 2019 Kurt Heinrich Award from the Microanalysis Society (MAS).

Snowflakes indicate phases of super-cold ice

An ORNL-led team's observation of certain crystalline ice phases challenges accepted theories about super-cooled water and non-crystalline ice. Their findings, reported in the journal Nature, will also lead to better understanding of ice and its various phases found on other planets, moons and elsewhere in space.

The researchers used the new model to accurately identify clusters of gene mutations (spheres), which helped them study the emergence of various genetic diseases. Image credit: Ivaylo Ivanov, Georgia State University.

Environmental conditions, lifestyle choices, chemical exposure, and foodborne and airborne pathogens are among the external factors that can cause disease. In contrast, internal genetic factors can be responsible for the onset and progression of diseases ranging from degenerative neurological disorders to some cancers.

Samples of 70% dark chocolate prepared for study with the USANS instrument at the Spallation Neutron Source. (Credit: ORNL/Genevieve Martin)

Tempering, the heating process that gives chocolate its appealing sheen and creamy texture, is a crucial part of crafting quality chocolate. But, at the molecular level, it gets a little tricky, and when done incorrectly, can render entire batches of chocolate gritty and unappetizing.

ORNL researcher Ben Ollis is optimizing ORNL-developed control systems for a range of projects in which solar energy, energy storage and other locally sited power assets known as microgrids provide reliable, secure electricity to homes and businesses.

While learning the ins and outs of utility operations as a part-time dispatcher during college, Ben Ollis coped with issues from storm-damaged power lines to transformer faults caused by snakes crawling into substation equipment (yes, it’s a real problem).