Story TipsFrom the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National LaboratoryMarch 2017

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 [email protected].

TOOLING – Repeating the pattern …

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has successfully developed and tested a novel sand casting technique to quickly design complex patterns to fabricate components for industry partner Emrgy Hydro, makers of hydropower devices designed to generate electricity from slow or shallow water flows. Using 3-D printing, the collaborative research team rapidly prototyped a complex gearbox pattern and created molds to make no-waste aluminum parts for the Emrgy system. “Leveraging ORNL’s expertise in additive manufacturing, we’re able to test and make adjustments quickly, which reduces our cost and lead time in designing and making components,” Emily Morris, Emrgy founder and chief executive officer, said. “This can be critical to the success of fabricating a new energy system.” The process was co-developed at Atlanta-based Emrgy Hydro, the DOE Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL and Wisconsin-based Eck Industries. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; [email protected]]


Cutline: Using 3-D printing, ORNL researchers rapidly prototyped a complex gearbox pattern and created sand molds to make no-waste aluminum parts for industry partner, Emrgy Hydro.

CHEMISTRY – Accelerating gas separation…

Oak Ridge National Laboratory chemists report in the journal Advanced Materials that they have accelerated membrane-based gas separation with porous hollow nanospheres that could ultimately separate carbon dioxide from flue gases at power plants. The scientists created a polymer membrane containing hollow spheres with a porous shell that provide free space through which gas diffuses quickly. “It’s the first time hollow carbon spheres have been incorporated into polymers,” said ORNL’s Jinshui Zhang. “We saw increases of 40 percent in selectivity and 800 percent in permeability [for smaller carbon dioxide molecules compared to larger nitrogen molecules].” The spheres are 80 times narrower than a human hair; the pores penetrating them are 500 times smaller still. Next, the researchers will change the sphere size, shell thickness and membrane polymer to optimize performance. [Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448; [email protected]]


Cutline: Scientists synthesized porous hollow carbon spheres (HCS, shown in pink), incorporated them in a triblock copolymer (PS-PEB-PS, two blocks of polystyrene flanking a block of poly[ethylene-ran-butylene]) matrix and spin cast the mixture to create a robust membrane with improved permeability and selectivity for smaller carbon dioxide molecules (red and white) compared to larger nitrogen molecules (blue).

MANUFACTURING – Pushing boundaries …

Advanced manufacturing will benefit from additive manufacturing techniques as demonstrated by a team led by Michael Kirka of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The method uses electron beam melting to precisely control the microstructure of additive manufactured materials, determining the mechanical properties at different locations within a part. “This research will change the way we design components in the future where engineers can use variations in microstructure to enhance performance and not just geometry and bulk properties as we do today,” Kirka said. The work is detailed in a paper titled “Strategy for Texture Management in Metals Additive Manufacturing,” published in Journal of Materials Science. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]


Cutline: A paper written by a team led by Michael Kirka earned the cover of the Journal of Materials Science.

ENERGY – Connected homes …

Homeowners, utilities and the environment could be winners with a home energy management system, or HEMS, developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The team’s open-source, user-friendly and easy-to-use software monitors and controls energy consumption, according to Helia Zandi of ORNL’s Modeling and Simulation Group. “HEMS supports monitoring and controlling a wide range of devices running different protocols such as WiFi, Z-wave and ZigBee,” Zandi said. “The system provides secure communication between devices and the smart grid.” It can also help reduce peak demand by using smart algorithms. Zandi noted that HEMS is a growing sector in the era of smart grids and smart homes and can help homeowners adapt their usage based on feedback provided by the system. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]


Cutline: Homeowners can save energy and money through ORNL’s home energy management system.

DRONES – Aiding electric utilities…

Electric utilities seeking to enhance worker safety and system reliability by using drones to inspect their transmission systems can look to a new report by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers to help guide their efforts. The report by ORNL’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Center surveys best practices by electric utilities and is intended to “help professionalize the safe and proper operation of UAS work.” It includes Federal Aviation Administration regulations, training and flight planning tips, safety checklists, emergency procedures, and a discussion of how UAS standards and practices can be developed and merged into existing aviation rules and guidelines. The report is publicly available. [Contact: Stephanie Seay, (865)576-9894; [email protected]] Image:

Cutline: An ORNL report provides best practices for electric utilities using drones to monitor transmission systems.

CYBER – ORNL hosting conference …

Three of eight cyber technologies to be showcased at the 12th Annual Cyber and Information Security Research Conference April 4-6 were developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which will host the event. The conference attracts hundreds of the nation’s premier cyberspace researchers, and this year’s event will include the Department of Homeland Security Transition To Practice technologies. The event will bring together cyber security researchers, program managers, decision makers, security vendors and practitioners to discuss challenging tasks and novel solutions related to cyber security. Registration for the conference closes March 31. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]


Cutline: Kevin Kerr of ORNL’s Information Technology Services Division was one of the speakers at last year’s conference.