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The Lead

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...

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...

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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

ORNL joins global fight against polio

October 17, 2014 8:36 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

The new Urban Dynamics Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to aid polio vaccination efforts in developing countries. Teams at the institute will apply big data analysis to population dynamics in Nigeria, allowing polio vaccination crews to better estimate the amount of vaccine needed and to target areas of priority, saving time and money in eradicating the disease.

Research reveals unique capabilities of 3-D printing

October 16, 2014 8:51 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated an additive manufacturing method to control the structure and properties of metal components with precision unmatched by conventional manufacturing processes. The researchers demonstrated the method using an ARCAM electron beam melting system (EBM), in which successive layers of a metal powder are fused together by an electron beam into a 3-D product.

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Electric vehicle technology packs more punch in smaller package

October 15, 2014 8:46 am | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Using 3-D printing and novel semiconductors, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a power inverter that could make electric vehicles lighter, more powerful and more efficient. At the core of this development is wide bandgap material made of silicon carbide with qualities superior to standard semiconductor materials.

First observations of atoms moving inside bulk material

October 14, 2014 8:23 am | by Christopher R. Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have obtained the first direct observations of atomic diffusion inside a bulk material. The research, which could be used to give unprecedented insight into the lifespan and properties of new materials, is published in Physical Review Letters.

Unlocking enzyme synthesis of rare sugars to create drugs with fewer side effects

September 29, 2014 8:57 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory team has unlocked the enzymatic synthesis process of rare sugars, which are useful in developing drugs with low side effects. In a recently published paper, the team reported the pioneering use of neutron and x-ray crystallography and HPC to study how the enzyme D-xylose isomerase, or XI, can cause a biochemical reaction in natural sugar to produce rare sugars.

Researcher works to predict electric power blackouts before they happen

September 26, 2014 8:34 am | by Katie Jones, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

The largest power outage in U.S. history, the 2003 Northeast blackout, began with one power line in Ohio going offline and ended with more than 50 million people without power throughout the Northeast and the Canadian province of Ontario. Despite the apparent failure of the electric grid during such cascading events, blackouts aren’t necessarily grid failures.

Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

Team aims to improve plant-based battery with neutrons, simulation

September 18, 2014 8:02 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

When Orlando Rios first started analyzing samples of carbon fibers made from a woody plant polymer known as lignin, he noticed something unusual. The material’s microstructure—a mixture of perfectly spherical nanoscale crystallites distributed within a fibrous matrix—looked almost too good to be true.

World’s first 3-D printed car being assembled at IMTS

September 10, 2014 6:15 pm | Videos | Comments

During the six-day IMTS manufacturing technology show in Chicago this week, the “Strati” will be the first vehicle printed in one piece using direct digital manufacturing. The process will take more than 44 hours of print time. A team including Local Motors, Cincinnati Inc. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory will then rapidly assemble it for a historic first set for Saturday.

Researchers test multi-element, high-entropy alloy with surprising results

September 5, 2014 7:59 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new concept in metallic alloy design has yielded a multiple-element material that not only tests out as one of the toughest on record, but, unlike most materials, the toughness as well as the strength and ductility of this alloy actually improves at cryogenic temperatures. This multi-element alloy was synthesized and tested through a collaboration of researchers.

Researchers test multi-element, high-entropy alloy with surprising results

September 5, 2014 7:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new concept in metallic alloy design called “high-entropy alloys” has yielded a multiple-element material that tests out as one of the toughest on record. But, unlike most materials, the toughness as well as the strength and ductility of this alloy, which contains five major elements, actually improves at cryogenic temperatures.

Materials scientists play atomic Jenga

September 4, 2014 8:07 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory got a surprise when they built a highly ordered lattice by layering thin films containing lanthanum, strontium, oxygen and iron. Although each layer had an intrinsically nonpolar distribution of electrical charges, the lattice had an asymmetric distribution of charges.

Scientists learn to control reactions with rare-earth catalyst

August 28, 2014 9:06 am | by Dawn Levy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered they can control chemical reactions in a new way by creating different shapes of cerium oxide, a rare-earth-based catalyst. Their finding holds potential for refining fuels, decreasing vehicle emissions, producing commodity chemicals and advancing fuel cells and chemical sensors.

Rubber meets the road with ORNL carbon, battery technologies

August 27, 2014 3:22 pm | by Ron Walli, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Communications | News | Comments

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team of researchers is developing a better anode for lithium-ion batteries.

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