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Argonne Scientists Make Vanadium Into a Useful Catalyst for Hydrogenation

In a new study, Argonne chemist Max Delferro boosted and analyzed the unprecedented catalytic activity of an element called vanadium for hydrogenation - a reaction that is used for making everything from vegetable oils to petrochemical products to vitamins.

Fungal Enzymes Team Up to More Efficiently Break Down Cellulose

Cost-effectively breaking down bioenergy crops into sugars that can then be converted into fuel is a barrier to commercially producing sustainable biofuels. Enabled by DOE User Facilities, a team reports that early lineages of fungi can form enzyme complexes capable of degrading plant biomass.

Printed, Flexible and Rechargeable Battery Can Power Wearable Sensors

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first printed battery that is flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. The zinc batteries could be used to power everything from wearable sensors to solar cells and other kinds of electronics. The work appears in the April 19, 2017 issue of Advanced Energy Materials.

Neutrons Provide the First Nanoscale Look at a Living Cell Membrane

A research team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has performed the first-ever direct nanoscale examination of a living cell membrane. In doing so, it also resolved a long-standing debate by identifying tiny groupings of lipid molecules that are likely key to the cell's functioning.

How X-Rays Helped to Solve Mystery of Floating Rocks

Experiments at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source have helped scientists to solve a mystery of why some rocks can float for years in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles before sinking.

Special X-Ray Technique Allows Scientists to See 3-D Deformations

In a new study published last Friday in Science, researchers at Argonne used an X-ray scattering technique called Bragg coherent diffraction imaging to reconstruct in 3-D the size and shape of grain defects. These defects create imperfections in the lattice of atoms inside a grain that can give rise to interesting material properties and effects.

Neptune: Neutralizer-Free Plasma Propulsion

The most established plasma propulsion concepts are gridded-ion thrusters that accelerate and emit a larger number of positively charged particles than those that are negatively charged. To enable the spacecraft to remain charge-neutral, a "neutralizer" is used to inject electrons to exactly balance the positive ion charge in the exhaust beam. However, the neutralizer requires additional power from the spacecraft and increases the size and weight of the propulsion system. Researchers are investigating how the radio-frequency self-bias effect can be used to remove the neutralizer altogether, and they report their work in this week's Physics of Plasmas.

Report Sheds New Insights on the Spin Dynamics of a Material Candidate for Low-Power Devices

In a report published in Nano LettersArgonne researchers reveal new insights into the properties of a magnetic insulator that is a candidate for low-power device applications; their insights form early stepping-stones towards developing high-speed, low-power electronics that use electron spin rather than charge to carry information.

Researchers Find Computer Code That Volkswagen Used to Cheat Emissions Tests

An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U.S. and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car's onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test.

Physicists Discover That Lithium Oxide on Tokamak Walls Can Improve Plasma Performance

A team of physicists has found that a coating of lithium oxide on the inside of fusion machines known as tokamaks can absorb as much deuterium as pure lithium can.


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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Joins Energy-Focused National Science Foundation Research Center

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is joining a National Science Foundation-backed research center that will develop new technologies for storing, controlling and distributing energy that could ward off cybersecurity threats and lower energy bills.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Describing the dizzying pace of technological innovation, former United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz urged graduates to "anticipate career change, welcome it, and manage it to your and your society's benefit" at the 211th Commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Saturday.

ORNL Welcomes Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurial Research Fellows

Oak Ridge National Laboratory today welcomed the first cohort of innovators to join Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast region's first entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

Department of Energy Secretary Recognizes Argonne Scientists' Work to Fight Ebola, Cancer

Two groups of researchers at Argonne earned special awards from the office of the U.S. Secretary of Energy for addressing the global health challenges of Ebola and cancer.

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC Recognized for Leadership in Small Business Utilization

Jefferson Lab/Jefferson Science Associates has a long-standing commitment to doing business with and mentoring small businesses. That commitment and support received national recognition at the 16th Annual Dept. of Energy Small Business Forum and Expo held May 16-18, 2017 in Kansas City, Mo.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President's Commencement Colloquy to Address "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity"

To kick off the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Commencement weekend, the annual President's Commencement Colloquy will take place on Friday, May 19, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, titled "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity," will include the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, and the Honorable Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA, and will be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has approved a new doctoral program in data science and engineering as part of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

SurfTec Receives $1.2 Million Energy Award to Develop Novel Coating

The Department of Energy has awarded $1.2 million to SurfTec LLC, a company affiliated with the U of A Technology Development Foundation, to continue developing a nanoparticle-based coating to replace lead-based journal bearings in the next generation of electric machines.

Ames Laboratory Scientist Inducted Into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

DOE HPC4Mfg Program Funds 13 New Projects to Improve U.S. Energy Technologies Through High Performance Computing

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing is funding 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.9 million.


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Casting a Wide Net

Designed molecules will provide positive impacts in energy production by selectively removing unwanted ions from complex solutions.

New Software Tools Streamline DNA Sequence Design-and-Build Process

Enhanced software tools will accelerate gene discovery and characterization, vital for new forms of fuel production.

The Ultrafast Interplay Between Molecules and Materials

Computer calculations by the Center for Solar Fuels, an Energy Frontier Research Center, shed light on nebulous interactions in semiconductors relevant to dye-sensitized solar cells.

Supercapacitors: WOODn't That Be Nice

Researchers at Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage, an Energy Frontier Research Center, take advantage of nature-made materials and structure for energy storage research.

Groundwater Flow Is Key for Modeling the Global Water Cycle

Water table depth and groundwater flow are vital to understanding the amount of water that plants transmit to the atmosphere.

Finding the Correct Path

A new computational technique greatly simplifies the complex reaction networks common to catalysis and combustion fields.

Opening Efficient Routes to Everyday Plastics

A new material from the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center, facilitates the production of key industrial supplies.

Fight to the Top: Silver and Gold Compete for the Surface of a Bimetallic Solid

It's the classic plot of a buddy movie. Two struggling bodies team up to drive the plot and do good together. That same idea, when it comes to metals, could help scientists solve a big problem: the amount of energy consumed by making chemicals.

Saving Energy Through Light Control

New materials, designed by researchers at the Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center, can reduce energy consumption with the flip of a switch.

Teaching Perovskites to Swim

Scientists at the ANSER Energy Frontier Research Center designed a two-component layer protects a sunlight-harvesting device from water and heat.


Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Monday May 15, 2017, 01:05 PM

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday April 07, 2017, 11:05 AM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jonathan Kirzner

Department of Energy, Office of Science

Wednesday April 05, 2017, 12:05 PM

High-Schooler Solves College-Level Security Puzzle From Argonne, Sparks Interest in Career

Argonne National Laboratory

Tuesday March 28, 2017, 12:05 PM

Champions in Science: Profile of Jenica Jacobi

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Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

Brookhaven National Laboratory

Wednesday February 15, 2017, 04:05 PM

Middle Schoolers Test Their Knowledge at Science Bowl Competition

Argonne National Laboratory

Friday January 27, 2017, 04:00 PM

Haslam Visits ORNL to Highlight State's Role in Discovering Tennessine

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Friday May 13, 2016, 04:05 PM

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Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

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Shannon Greco: A Self-Described "STEM Education Zealot"

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University of Utah Makes Solar Accessible

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Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

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Don't Get 'Frosted' Over Heating Your Home This Winter

Temple University

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Neutrino Experiments Utilize ORNL Experts, Equipment to Explore the Unknown

Article ID: 659572

Released: 2016-08-23 09:05:14

Source Newsroom: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

  • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy; photographer Genevieve Martin

    From left, David Dean, Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri and Chris Bryan of Oak Ridge National Laboratory check on a prototype detector at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a Department of Energy Office of Science User Facility that creates continuous neutron beams. The prototype will mine neutrinos formed as a byproduct of radioactive decay processes for one of three neutrino experiments with major ORNL participation.

  • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy; photographer Carlos Jones

    Nearly 60 international scientists attended a workshop organized by ORNL’s Physics Division, “Neutrinos in Nuclear Physics,” July 29–31 in Knoxville.

Approximately 100 trillion neutrinos bombard your body every second—but you don’t notice these ghostly subatomic particles. Because they are electrically neutral and interact with other matter via the weak force, their detection is difficult—and the subject of challenging experiments that convene physicists from universities, national labs and other research institutions worldwide.

The demonstration that neutrinos can change identities—made possible by two large experiments—was rewarded with the Nobel Prize last year. The discovery meant that neutrinos have mass, albeit small. It hinted at new physics beyond the Standard Model, which captures our current understanding of matter and energy but is incomplete. This year the field of neutrino physics is full of enthusiasm as three significant experiments with different goals gear up to advance our understanding of neutrino physics. All three experiments benefit from expertise and facilities at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“We’re enthusiastic because these experiments will provide the means to answer basic questions about the universe,” said ORNL physicist Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri. Physicists will use novel detectors to explore unknowns of the cosmos, from the properties of neutrinos to the possibility that neutrinos are a component of dark matter, which makes up one-quarter of the universe.

One of the neutrino experiments, with ORNL nuclear physicists in leadership roles, is the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR. It is located inside a former gold mine in Lead, South Dakota, where the Homestake solar neutrino experiment once ran. Nearly a mile underground to block most radiation from interfering with sensitive experiments, the Homestake solar neutrino experiment detected cosmic neutrinos from 1970 to 1994. A Nobel Prize recognized this work in 2002.

Partnering institutions from all over the world later built the MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR’s neutrino detector at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota to detect an event that, if seen, would have weighty implications for the nature of the neutrino and its role in the cosmos. ORNL nuclear physicists have lead roles in project management, detector development and design, and detector modeling and simulation. David Radford, who leads the MAJORANA and Advanced Detectors group in ORNL’s Physics Division, joined the MAJORANA Collaboration in 2006. ORNL took on project office leadership in 2009.

The MAJORANA DEMONSTRATOR uses the isotope germanium-76 as both source and detector in a search for “neutrinoless double-beta decay.” The initial experiment, with equipment weighing 88 pounds (40 kilograms), is to demonstrate the feasibility of a much larger ton-scale experiment. If the decay process is observed, it would prove that the neutrino is its own antiparticle, give a measure of the neutrino mass, and provide a possible answer to why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter.

Detecting neutrinos from neutron factories

Two other large, collaborative neutrino experiments, called PROSPECT and COHERENT, are sited in Tennessee at ORNL. These two high energy physics experiments will detect, for the first time, neutrinos generated at two facilities whose main purpose is the production of neutrons.

Two new neutrino detectors for COHERENT and PROSPECT are possible thanks to ORNL’s two world-class neutron “factories,” the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). SNS and HFIR are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

At ORNL’s neutron factories neutrinos are produced in very large quantities during normal operations. Why not use the neutrinos for experiments too? At SNS, researchers use the proton beam parasitically to generate neutrinos for the COHERENT experiment. At HFIR, the neutrinos to be detected by PROSPECT are produced in the core of the reactor from the decay of fission products.

PROSPECT is a reactor neutrino experiment led by Yale University. Its partners will mine information about neutrino oscillations—transmutations of electron neutrino, muon neutrino and tau neutrino “flavors” from one to another. Specifically, they want to find out if neutrinos oscillate over short distances (less than 20 meters). Short-baseline neutrino oscillations have not been definitively observed. Observing neutrinos from HFIR’s core would allow precision measurements of the neutrino flux and energy spectrum and possibly reveal the existence of a fourth flavor known as “sterile neutrinos.” Seeing this new particle would necessitate revising the Standard Model, which describes elementary particles and the forces that govern them.

“PROSPECT is sited at HFIR because it was identified as the best site for short-baseline neutrino experiments, in part due to the fact that it has the most compact core of any high-power research reactor,” said Chris Bryan, who manages experiments at HFIR for ORNL’s Research Reactors Division. The study involves 68 collaborators from 14 institutions, including 14 from ORNL. Near the reactor, experimenters will place a movable detector system that, including shielding, weighs 30 tons and stands 15 feet tall. The detector system will sit as close as 21 feet to the reactor core. Researchers will fill it with 3 tons of liquid scintillator to detect the flash produced when a neutrino interacts with a proton to form a positron (or anti-electron) and a neutron. A prototype detector has been built at ORNL for tests preparing for the arrival of PROSPECT’s detection instrument, now under construction at Yale. That instrument will be deployed at ORNL’s famous research reactor before data collection begins next year.

COHERENT, a Duke University–led experiment at SNS, has partners from 16 institutions. Its 65 researchers include 8 from ORNL, with Jason Newby, a physicist in the Nuclear Security and Isotope Technology Division, as the ORNL representative to the collaboration. The scientists aim to make first-of-a-kind measurements of a phenomenon predicted by the Standard Model but never observed—the scattering of low-energy neutrinos off various nuclei. “The pulsed nature of the proton beam makes the Spallation Neutron Source a unique facility for this experiment,” said ORNL Physics Division Director David Dean. “In the U.S., the SNS is the best facility for observing coherent, low-energy neutrino scattering.”

Because the SNS accelerator produces pulsed beams of protons, the neutrinos will be pulsed too, allowing researchers to easily separate scientifically significant signals from background noise.

For this test of the Standard Model, a beam of protons will hit a target of mercury, an atom with a big nucleus capable of releasing a slew of particles, including pions that stop in the target, decay and release neutrinos. Because the pions decay at rest, the neutrinos generated will be of low energy and suitable for the scattering experiments. In the SNS basement under the mercury target, these neutrinos will penetrate 20 meters of shielding before being identified by a detector made of a 31-pound scintillating crystal of cesium iodide. Three additional targets of argon, germanium and sodium iodide will be installed this fall.

Owing in large part to ORNL facilities, and large national collaborative efforts, scientists worldwide will soon be better able investigate the nature of these ghostly neutrinos, forcing them out of the dark shadows of the unknown universe.

The U.S. Department of Energy supports neutrino research through its Office of High Energy Physics, with the exception of neutrinoless double-beta decay studies, which are supported by the Office of Nuclear Physics.

Neutrinos loomed large at Nuclear Structure 2016, an international physics conference that ORNL’s Physics Division hosted in Knoxville in July.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit www.science.energy.gov.—by Dawn Levy