Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2004

04/01/04

To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and Community Outreach staff member identified at the end of each tip.

PROTECTIVE GEAR — High-tech for first responders . . .

First responders could minimize the risk to themselves and do their jobs more effectively if they were wearing a protective suit proposed by a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. As envisioned by Gary Steimer of the lab's National Security Directorate, the Advanced Integrated Responder Ensemble (AIRE) will be made of new materials, will be lightweight and incorporate sensors and a communications system. The suit will provide thermal protection, personal cooling and will detect and counter chemical and biological threats. "From boots to helmet, AIRE will provide first responders with technological advances that will dramatically increase their capabilities," Steimer said. Partners in the effort include the Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

CHEMISTRY — Self-organizing polymers . . .

By developing techniques to precisely control the growth and shape of polymers at the molecular level, researchers hope to make possible the design and synthesis of new materials with biomedical applications. The idea is to mimic the "bottoms-up" approach used in nature, which starts with single molecules of controlled size, shape and functionality, and assembles the molecules to form structures such as enzymes. Through a better understanding of these structures at the molecular level, Phil Britt of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Chemical Sciences Division and Jimmy Mays of the University of Tennessee hope they can impact chemical, material, biological and computational sciences. Ultimately, this research could lead to targeted drug delivery systems for treating diseases. Funding is provided by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

SPACE — Fuel for the future . . .

Neptunium stored at the Savannah River Site is slated to be processed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and provide fuel for future space missions. Under the proposed program, the material would be transported from Savannah River to Oak Ridge, where it would be blended with an aluminum-metal powder, pressed into pellets, irradiated and undergo chemical processing at ORNL. After encapsulation and additional processing at Idaho National Engineering and Environmental and Los Alamos National labs, the material -- plutonium-238 -- could supply NASA's power needs for radioisotope thermoelectric generators for decades. The processing would be done at an existing ORNL facility. Bob Wham of ORNL's Nuclear Science and Technology Division said a record of decision has been signed, and the next step involves getting funding from the Department of Energy. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

AUTOMOBILES — Look ma, no belts . . .

Broken drive belts in your car might be a thing of the past because of a technology being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Electric drive motors could replace the belts that run compressors, water pumps and oil pumps of hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. The motors, however, require inverters, and ORNL's Gui-Jia Su, John Hsu and Cliff White are developing an integrated inverter that would work with multiple motors. An inverter converts DC (direct current) voltage to AC (alternating current). Some of the inverter components can then be shared among the motors, making the drive system smaller and less costly. Su, who is developing an inverter for the traction motor drive and the compressor drive, said a simulation study has confirmed the benefits of the integrated inverter drive. A proof-of-concept setup is being assembled and laboratory testing will follow. Funding for the Engineering Science and Technology Division project is provided by the Department of Energy's Office of FreedomCar. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
-- Voltaire