Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2014-08-05 12:00:00
  • Article ID: 621589

Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2014

To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our media contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to news@ornl.gov.

MATERIALS – Transparent ballistic results …

Glass used for military vehicle windshields is being put to the test by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory team evaluating different formulations for mechanical strength, high pressure and shock response. The goal of the team, headed by Andy Wereszczak, is to identify compositions featuring satisfactory transparency, low density and the ability to be cost-effectively fabricated into large thick sheets. The work, being performed for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., takes advantage of ORNL’s unique instruments, capabilities and expertise. Ultimately, this research is expected to explain why various glasses yield substantially different ballistic impact performance and different failure and fracture phenomena. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

ENERGY – CO2 to the rescue …

Tomorrow’s commercial refrigeration systems -- like the ones in supermarkets – could be cooled by carbon dioxide instead of hydrofluorocarbons, a greenhouse gas that is nearly 4,000 times more potent than CO2. That is important because millions of pounds of HFCs leak into the environment every year, said Brian Fricke, a researcher in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Building Equipment Research Group. To address the problem, Fricke and colleagues are experimenting with CO2 and other refrigerants, including a hydrofluoroolefin called R1234yf. While by definition CO2 has a global warming potential of 1, the hydrofluoroolefin’s is 4, so both are far less harmful to the environment than HFCs with a rating of 3,900. Still, while CO2-based systems work well in cold climates, they aren’t as efficient in warmer climates, so Fricke is experimenting with various approaches to address the limitation. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

NUCLEAR – Graphite put to the test …

Conclusions drawn from previous oxidation studies for nuclear grade graphite cannot be extrapolated to new versions of the material, which is an integral component of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. This was a key finding of a study led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Cristian Contescu and published in the Journal of Nuclear Materials. Researchers looked specifically at the behavior of nuclear graphite in contact with traces of moisture at the high temperatures associated with gas-cooled reactors. The research showed that differences in raw material, microstructure and purity have a significant effect on the oxidation and slow degradation rates. This information is vital to the industry as new formulations of nuclear grade graphite, a moderator and major structural component in HTGRs, are developed. The paper is available at http://dx/doi.org/10.1016/j.jnucmat.2014.07.009. [Media contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

MANUFACTURING – Low-cost 3-D feedstock …

Reformulated plant matter could be at the roots of a revolution in 3-D printing projected to hit $5.2 billion by 2020. Soydan Ozcan, a researcher in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Carbon and Composite Group, leads a team that is testing plant material that has been reformed into neatly woven nanoscale crystals and fibers. Mixed with various plastics, including those that are bio-based, these needle-like crystals can produce feedstock polymers for 3-D printers with stiffness improvements already a factor of three over widely used structural materials. They are also less expensive and mostly biodegradable. Potential applications include fuel-efficient car parts, batteries, packaging and building materials, furniture, disposable electronics and bulletproof suits. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

BATTERIES – Better graphite anodes …

Lithium-ion batteries for cars, phones, laptop computers and other devices could retain their charge more effectively and last longer because of a method developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. By employing a proprietary additive to the furnace gas used during processing of natural graphite, the ORNL team produced anodes that enable a coin cell to retain up to 75 percent of its charge capacity after 1,600 to 2,000 cycles. This represents a significant improvement over the baseline version’s 67 percent after 1,400 cycles. Researchers noted that their patent-pending technique stabilizes the graphite surface, reduces cost and lowers temperature requirements. These advances allow processing to be done with less expensive furnaces and less energy. The method could also help the U.S. graphite industry gain a competitive edge over overseas sources. Findings were published in the journal CARBON. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

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Kentucky Researchers First to Produce High Grade Rare Earths From Coal

University of Kentucky researchers have produced nearly pure rare earth concentrates from Kentucky coal using an environmentally-conscious and cost-effective process, a groundbreaking accomplishment in the energy industry.

Watching Atoms Move in Hybrid Perovskite Crystals Reveals Clues to Improving Solar Cells

The discovery of nanoscale changes deep inside hybrid perovskites could shed light on developing low-cost, high-efficiency solar cells. Using X-ray beams and lasers, a team of researchers led by the University of California San Diego discovered how the movement of ions in hybrid perovskites causes certain regions within the material to become better solar cells than other parts.

Quantum Dots Amplify Light with Electrical Pumping

In a breakthrough development, Los Alamos scientists have shown that they can successfully amplify light using electrically excited films of the chemically synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals known as quantum dots.

The Challenge of Estimating Alaska's Soil Carbon Stocks

A geospatial analysis determined the optimal distribution of sites needed to reliably estimate Alaska's vast soil carbon.

Strain-Free Epitaxy of Germanium Film on Mica

Germanium was the material of choice in the early history of electronic devices, and due to its high charge carrier mobility, it's making a comeback. It's generally grown on expensive single-crystal substrates, adding another challenge to making it sustainably viable for most applications. To address this aspect, researchers demonstrate an epitaxy method that incorporates van der Waals' forces to grow germanium on mica. They discuss their work in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Unplugging the Cellulose Biofuel Bottleneck

Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.

Detailed View of Immune Proteins Could Lead to New Pathogen-Defense Strategies

Biologists at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley used cryo-EM to resolve the structure of a ring of proteins used by the immune system to summon support when under attack, providing new insight into potential strategies for protection from pathogens. The researchers captured the high-resolution image of a protein ring, called an inflammasome, as it was bound to flagellin, a protein from the whiplike tail used by bacteria to propel themselves forward.

Unlocking the Secrets of Ebola

Scientists have identified a set of biomarkers that indicate which patients infected with the Ebola virus are most at risk of dying from the disease. The results come from one of the most in-depth studies ever of blood samples from patients with Ebola.

Scientists Make First Observations of How a Meteor-Like Shock Turns Silica Into Glass

Studies at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made the first real-time observations of how silica - an abundant material in the Earth's crust - easily transforms into a dense glass when hit with a massive shock wave like one generated from a meteor impact.

How Fungal Enzymes Break Down Plant Cell Walls

Lignocellulose-degrading enzyme complexes could improve biofuel production.


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Jefferson Lab Scientist Selected to Receive Francis Slack Award

Dr. Hari Areti, has been selected to receive the Francis G. Slack Award, established by the Southeastern Section of the American Physical Society, to honor excellence in service to Physics in the Southeastern U.S.

ORNL Wins Nine R&D 100 Awards

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have received nine R&D 100 Awards in recognition of their significant advancements in science and technology.

Argonne Scientists Capture Several R&D 100 Awards

Innovative technologies developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently earned several R&D 100 Awards.

Eight Los Alamos innovations win R&D 100 Awards

Eight Los Alamos National Laboratory technologies won R&D 100 Awards last week at R&D Magazine's annual ceremony in Orlando, Florida.

Physicist David Gates Named Editor-in-Chief of Plasma, a New Online Journal

Article announces David Gates' appointment as editor-in-chief of Plasma magazine

Argonne to Install Comanche System to Explore ARM Technology for High-Performance Computing

Argonne National Laboratory is collaborating with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to provide system software expertise and a development ecosystem for a future high-performance computing (HPC) system based on 64-bit ARM processors.

CANDLE Shines in 2017 HPCwire Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards

Argonne National Laboratory has been recognized in the annual <em>HPCwire</em> Readers' and Editors' Choice Awards, presented at the 2017 International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis (SC17), in Denver, Colorado.

SLAC's Helen Quinn Honored with 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics

Helen Quinn, a professor emerita at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University, will receive the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics - one of eight prestigious Franklin Institute Awards that will be handed out in Philadelphia next April.

PPPL Honors Grierson and Greenough for Distinguished Research and Engineering Achievements

Article describes PPPL's presentation of 2017 Kaul Prize and Distinguished Engineering Fellow awards.

INCITE Grants of 5.95 Billion Hours Awarded to 55 Computational Research Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced 55 projects with high potential for accelerating discovery through its Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment (INCITE) program. The projects will share 5.95 billion core-hours on three of America's most powerful supercomputers dedicated to capability-limited open science and support a broad range of large-scale research campaigns from infectious disease treatment to next-generation materials development.


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The Challenge of Estimating Alaska's Soil Carbon Stocks

A geospatial analysis determined the optimal distribution of sites needed to reliably estimate Alaska's vast soil carbon.

Unplugging the Cellulose Biofuel Bottleneck

Molecular-level understanding of cellulose structure reveals why it resists degradation and could lead to cost-effective biofuels.

How Fungal Enzymes Break Down Plant Cell Walls

Lignocellulose-degrading enzyme complexes could improve biofuel production.

Stretching to Perfection of 2-D Semiconductors

Scientists use heat and mismatched surfaces to stretch films that can potentially improve the efficient operation of devices.

Simple is Beautiful in Quantum Computing

Defect spins in diamond were controlled with a simpler, geometric method, leading to faster computing.

The Effect of Hurricanes on Puerto Rico's Dry Forests

More frequent storms turn forests from carbon source to sink.

A Chemical Thermometer for Tropical Forests

Monoterpene measures how certain forests respond to heat stress.

Where a Leaf Lands and Lies Influences Carbon Levels in Soil for Years to Come

Whether carbon comes from leaves or needles affects how fast it decomposes, but where it ends up determines how long it's available.

Twisting Molecule Wrings More Power from Solar Cells

Readily rotating molecules let electrons last, resulting in higher solar cell efficiency.

Rules Are Only Suggestions in Heavy Elements

The arrangement of electrons in an exotic human-made element shows that certain properties of heavy elements cannot be predicted using lighter ones.


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