Story Tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, September 2008


Newswise — To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations 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.

TRANSPORTATION -- New data available . . .

The Department of Energy has just released the 27th edition of the Transportation Energy Data Book. The book, available at http://cta.ornl.gov/data/index.shtml, is produced by Stacy Davis of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Transportation Analysis. New data in this year's edition include: transportation petroleum use by mode; ethanol consumption; number of vehicles per 1,000 people in different regions of the world for 1996-2006 (China grew from 9.3 to 26.6); mpg for trucks as a function of speed; characteristics of daily driving; percent of housing units with a garage or carport; and more. The data book, created under the Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis in DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, draws together transportation data from diverse sources under a single, comprehensive document. It is a valuable tool for informing policymakers and analysts about activity in the transportation sector. Also available is http://www.fueleconomy.gov, maintained jointly by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which offers tips to help you reduce the amount of gas you use.

ENERGY -- Microturbine magic . . .

Specialized skills and instruments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are helping a major manufacturer of microturbines make products expected to set new standards for performance and reliability. Capstone Turbine Corp. of California credits ORNL and the High Temperature Materials Laboratory for playing a key role in developing the C200 microturbine with a generating capacity of 200 kilowatts. The unit features 33 percent efficiency and meets stringent California emissions requirements. While most of the microturbines sold by Capstone are used in land-based distributed generation applications, the company is focusing on microturbines to be used in hybrid buses with double the fuel economy of a traditional diesel bus. This research has been funded by the Department of Energy's Advanced Microturbines Program. Capstone worked with ORNL through the HTML User Program.

GEOLOGY-- Compelling evidence . . .

Fragments of tektites, natural glass objects, discovered by a team of geologists and geochemists help support a theory that a meteorite may be responsible for the sudden climate change that devastated large mammals in North America 11,000 years ago. While critics of such an extraterrestrial event have in the past noted the lack of evidence, the micro-tektites from the Clovis-age Murray Springs in Arizona could cause them to rethink their position. "These micro-tektites contain iron oxide spherules in a glassy iron-silica or silica matrix, which is one indicator of a possible meteorite impact," said lead author Mostafa Fayek of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. "The spherules also contain elevated concentrations of vanadium and sulfur, and small amounts of titanium." The University of Tennessee's Larry Anovitz, who works in ORNL's Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, noted that the chemistry of the spherules and matrix is consistent with that of tektites associated with other meteorite impact sites such as those found in Romania. Funding was provided in part by the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada.

PHYSICS -- Quadrupole DNA sequencing . . .

Research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is exploring how a system of nanotubes, magnets and electrically charged particles could lead to a quicker, cheaper way to conduct DNA sequencing. The project headed by Predrag S. Krstic of ORNL's Physics Division will use a nanoscale quadrupole Paul trap, a component of a mass spectrometer that captures ions in an electromagnetic field, to develop a high speed DNA sequencing device. Using the Paul trap to manipulate DNA between nanotube electrodes could result in a lower cost alternative to nanopore sequencing, which works by moving strands of DNA through a small hole in a membrane. Most of the work is being conducted in collaboration with the Mark A. Reed Research Group of Yale University. The research is funded by $722,000 from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. The program seeks to cut the cost of whole-genome sequencing from millions of dollars to $1,000 or less, making individual genome sequencing cost-feasible for routine medical care.

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