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


MATERIALS -- Tricking the sun . . .

By simply installing roofing material coated with special color pigments, homeowners and businesses can cut air-conditioning costs 20 percent and reduce peak loads on utilities. The new roofing product, being developed by the roofing industry, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories, consists of tile, metal, wood shake or asphalt shingles that contain mixtures of complex inorganic color pigments. To the eye, the materials look dark, yet they reflect much of the sun's energy in the (invisible) infrared portion of the light spectrum. In contrast, traditional roofing materials absorb more infrared and visible light. Metal roofs are available in a range of colors and will resist fading better than standard materials. The additional cost of about 5 cents per square foot for painted materials should be recovered within about three years, according to ORNL's Bill Miller. Applications to concrete and clay tile are boosting reflectance from 5 percent to more than 40 percent. Shingle and wood shake products are under development with the goal being to bring cool roof color materials to the market in three to five years. The three-year $2 million project is funded by the California Energy Commission. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226, [email protected]]

SUPERCONDUCTORS -- Solving a mystery . . .

Widely held notions about why so-called high-transition temperatures superconductivity occurs may not be accurate after all, according to a team of researchers whose paper was published in the June 3 issue of Nature. At the heart of the issue is the observation of new excitations that scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee and elsewhere have observed using a time-of-flight neutron scattering technique. These excitations, which may provide the "glue" that enables superconducting material to operate at temperatures five times higher than is possible with other superconductors, are observed for the first time because of improved instrumentation. With this new knowledge, scientists hope to be able to design new materials with even higher transition temperatures, which will make superconductors less expensive. Superconductors have many applications, including in power transmission, medical imaging and electronics. ORNL authors are Herb Mook and Pengcheng Dai, who holds a joint appointment at UT. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226, [email protected]]

ENVIRONMENT -- Mapping carbon flux . . .

Oak Ridge National Laboratory¹s new Flux Ecoregions Website is a valuable tool for climate researchers and great viewing for map lovers. Because carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas, climate researchers take great interest in how the earth's ecosystems store and release carbon into the environment. The Ameriflux network of carbon flux towers, sponsored by several government agencies including the Department of Energy, measures carbon uptake and release in 60 locations across the United States. Each tower measures carbon flux, or change, from a meandering area of about one square kilometer. Extrapolating these sparse measurements into a continuous estimate across the nation's 7.8 million square kilometers remains a challenge. ORNL researchers William Hargrove and Forrest Hoffman, using multivariate statistics and supercomputers, have combined data on climate and soils with satellite-based measurements of vegetation and productivity to divide the country into 90 homogeneous flux ecoregions. The flux ecoregions will help to produce continuous estimates by pre-arranging the country into zones having similar carbon fluxes. The Flux Ecoregion Website¹s maps, found at, come in several colorful formats with features including zoom and animation‹perfect for researchers and cartophiles alike. [Contact: Bill Cabage, 865-574-4399, [email protected]]

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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