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The Lead

Shape-shifting plastic

May 21, 2015 8:18 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not all plastics are created equal. Malleable thermoplastics can be easily melted and reused in products such as food containers. Other plastics, called thermosets, are essentially stuck in their final form because of cross-linking chemical bonds that give them their strength for applications such as golf balls and car tires.

First large-scale graphene fabrication

May 14, 2015 4:32 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

One of the barriers to using graphene at a commercial scale could be overcome using a method...

Digitizing neurons

May 14, 2015 8:21 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Supercomputing resources at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will support a new initiative designed...

Using microbial communities to assess environmental contamination

May 13, 2015 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

First there were canaries in coal mines, now there are microbes at nuclear waste sites, oil...

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Superhydrophobic glass coating offers clear benefits

May 11, 2015 5:00 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

A moth’s eye and lotus leaf were the inspirations for an antireflective water-repelling, or superhydrophobic, glass coating that holds significant potential for solar panels, lenses, detectors, windows, weapons systems and many other products. The discovery is based on a mechanically robust nanostructured layer of porous glass film. The coating can be customized to be superhydrophobic, fog-resistant and antireflective.

Researchers probe chemistry, topography and mechanics with one instrument

May 4, 2015 7:39 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

The probe of an atomic force microscope (AFM) scans a surface to reveal details at a resolution 1,000 times greater than that of an optical microscope. That makes AFM the premier tool for analyzing physical features, but it cannot tell scientists anything about chemistry. For that they turn to the mass spectrometer.

Method takes quantum sensing to a new level

April 24, 2015 8:09 am | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Thermal imaging, microscopy and ultra-trace sensing could take a quantum leap with a technique developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Their work overcomes fundamental limitations of detection derived from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that the position and momentum of a particle cannot be measured with absolute precision.

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DNA data set is potent, accessible tool

April 15, 2015 7:52 am | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists focused on producing biofuels more efficiently have a new powerful data set to help them study the DNA of microbes that fuel bioconversion and other processes. In a recently published paper, researchers describe methods and results for sequencing the Clostridium autoethanogenum bacterium. These and other microorganisms play important roles in biofuels, agriculture, food production, the environment, health and disease.

Mixing up a batch of stronger metals

April 9, 2015 8:09 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Just as a delicate balance of ingredients determines the tastiness of a cookie or cake, the specific ratio of metals in an alloy determines desirable qualities of the new metal, such as improved strength or lightness. A new class of alloys, called high entropy alloys, is unique in that these alloys contain five or more elements mixed evenly in near equal concentrations and have shown exceptional engineering properties.

Connecting vehicles

April 2, 2015 10:41 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Drivers trying to get to work or home in a hurry know traffic congestion wastes a lot of time, but it also wastes a lot of fuel. In 2011, congestion caused people in U.S. urban areas to travel an extra 5.5 billion hours and purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel costing $121 billion. But despite the tangle of vehicles at busy intersections and interstate ramps, most of the country’s highways are open road.

Protein shake-up

March 26, 2015 10:47 am | by Chris Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For living organisms proteins are an essential part of their body system and are needed to thrive. In recent years, a certain class of proteins has challenged researchers’ conventional notion that proteins have a static and well-defined structure. It’s thought that mutations in these proteins, known as intrinsically disordered proteins, are associated with neurodegenerative changes, cardiovascular disorders and diseases like cancer.

Desalination with nanoporous graphene membrane

March 26, 2015 7:53 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Less than 1% of Earth’s water is drinkable. Removing salt and other minerals from our biggest available source of water, seawater, may help satisfy a growing global population thirsty for fresh water for drinking, farming, transportation, heating, cooling and industry. But desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application.

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Battery boost

March 25, 2015 8:14 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are commonly found in portable electronics such as cell phones and notebook PCs. They’re also gaining popularity in electric vehicles, where their compact, lightweight build and high-energy storage potential offers a more efficient and environmentally safe alternative to nickel metal hydride and lead-acid batteries traditionally used in vehicles.

Microscopy directly images problematic lithium dendrites in batteries

March 6, 2015 10:56 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have captured the first real-time nanoscale images of lithium dendrite structures known to degrade lithium-ion batteries. The ORNL team’s electron microscopy could help researchers address long-standing issues related to battery performance and safety.

Innovative wireless sensor technology yields better energy efficiency

March 2, 2015 8:17 am | by Sara Shoemaker, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Regulating comfort in small commercial buildings could become more efficient and less expensive thanks to an innovative low-cost wireless sensor technology being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the energy consumed in the U.S. Studies indicate that advanced sensors and controls have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 20 to 30%.

ORNL, Whirlpool to develop new energy-efficient refrigerator

February 26, 2015 8:20 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Whirlpool Corp. are collaborating to design a refrigerator that could cut energy use by up to 40% compared with current models. The goal of the CRADA is to make a next-generation household refrigerator more energy efficient by using WISEMOTION, an innovative linear compressor manufactured by Embraco, and other novel technologies and materials.

Flipping the switch

February 10, 2015 10:11 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Inadequate insulation is one of the largest causes of wasted energy, quickly allowing comfortable heating or cooling to disperse air outside. That’s why researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating with industry to develop a high-performance material that nearly doubles the performance of traditional insulators without a high cost premium.

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Researchers tune friction in ionic solids at the nanoscale

January 28, 2015 8:26 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Friction impacts motion, hence the need to control friction forces. Currently, this is accomplished by mechanistic means or lubrication, but experiments conducted by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have uncovered a way of controlling friction on ionic surfaces at the nanoscale using electrical stimulation and ambient water vapor.

Model explores location of future U.S. population growth

January 21, 2015 8:59 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a population distribution model that provides unprecedented county-level predictions of where people will live in the U.S. in the coming decades. Initially developed to assist in the siting of new energy infrastructure, the team’s model has a broad range of implications from urban planning to climate change adaptation.

Controlling the properties of nanomaterials

January 13, 2015 8:43 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are learning how the properties of water molecules on the surface of metal oxides can be used to better control these minerals and use them to make products such as more efficient semiconductors for organic light-emitting diodes and solar cells, safer vehicle glass in fog and frost and more environmentally friendly chemical sensors for industrial applications. 

“Seeing” hydrogen atoms to unveil enzyme catalysis

January 7, 2015 11:03 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Enzymes are catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in living organisms and control many cellular biological processes by converting a molecule, or substrate, into a product used by the cell. For scientists, understanding details of how enzymes work is essential to the discovery of drugs to cure diseases and treat disorders.

Microscopy pencils patterns in polymers at the nanoscale

December 17, 2014 2:50 pm | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have used advanced microscopy to carve out nanoscale designs on the surface of a new class of ionic polymer materials for the first time. The study provides new evidence that atomic force microscopy, or AFM, could be used to precisely fabricate materials needed for increasingly smaller devices.

Good vibrations rock an insulator to go metallic

November 11, 2014 8:24 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For more than 50 years, scientists have debated what turns particular oxide insulators, in which electrons barely move, into metals, in which electrons flow freely. Some scientists sided with Nobel Prize–winning physicist Nevill Mott in thinking direct interactions between electrons were the key. Others believed, as did physicist Rudolf Peierls, that atomic vibrations and distortions trumped all.

First look at atom-thin boundaries

November 10, 2014 10:55 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made the first direct observations of a 1-D boundary separating two different, atom-thin materials, enabling studies of long-theorized phenomena at these interfaces. Theorists have predicted the existence of intriguing properties at 1-D boundaries between two crystalline components, but experimental verification has eluded researchers.

Thermomagnetic processing method provides path to new materials

November 7, 2014 9:49 am | by ORNL | News | Comments

For much the same reason LCD televisions offer eye-popping performance, a thermomagnetic processing method developed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can advance the performance of polymers.           

Microgrid could standardize small, self-sustaining electric grids

November 4, 2014 2:56 pm | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yan Xu talks about “islanding,” or isolating, from the grid, she’s discussing a fundamental benefit of microgrids—small systems powered by renewables and energy storage devices. The benefit is that microgrids can disconnect from larger utility grids and continue to provide power locally.

Computational model predicts superconductivity

November 1, 2014 11:34 am | by Katie Elyce Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers studying iron-based superconductors are combining novel electronic structure algorithms with the high-performance computing power of the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to predict spin dynamics, or the ways electrons orient and correlate their spins in a material.

Garnet ceramics ideal for high-energy lithium batteries

October 22, 2014 8:06 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered exceptional properties in a garnet material that could enable development of higher-energy battery designs. The team used electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.

Atomic trigger shatters mystery of how glass deforms

October 20, 2014 11:04 am | News | Comments

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has cracked one mystery of glass to shed light on the mechanism that triggers its deformation before shattering. The study improves understanding of glassy deformation and may accelerate broader application of metallic glass, a moldable, wear-resistant, magnetically exploitable material that is thrice as strong as the mightiest steel and ten times as springy.

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