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


FUSION -- A twisted doughnut . . .

Stellarators confine hot plasma in a circular, three-dimensional magnetic field, or torus, inside a fusion reactor. Fusion energy researchers have long sought the best shape for that field to optimize reactor performance. A team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Fusion Energy Division has designed the magnetic field coil system to shape the plasma and the vacuum vessel to contain it for the National Compact Stellarator Experiment at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Using complex computer programs and mathematical models, ORNL team members Mike Cole, Paul Fogarty, Paul Goranson, Jim Lyon, Brad Nelson and David Williamson evaluated many different concepts. The final design -- shaped like a giant, twisted doughnut -- will help prevent plasma disruption, sustain longer fusion reactions and confine the plasma more securely so that it does not lose particles and energy. NCSX is a PPPL-ORNL partnership. Construction for the experimental facility is scheduled to begin in October. First plasma is scheduled for 2008. [Contact: Mike Bradley, 865-576-9553;].

GEOGRAPHY -- A vision for security . . .

National security could be enhanced with a system that quickly sorts and evaluates spatial and geographic information captured in enormous volumes of images. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory-developed system combines the lab's expertise in a number of areas and addresses the problem of having too much information for trained personnel to analyze. Consequently, much of the staggering collection of data is not effectively utilized, said ORNL's Budhu Bhaduri, co-principal investigator for the project. With the ORNL system, security experts would have access to a dynamic data archive plus methods to quickly analyze the information using a variety of tools, including intelligent software agents, geospatial modeling, feature extraction and image and pattern recognition. This combined with ORNL's unparalleled LandScan population database provide national security personnel with a powerful system to safeguard the nation. Funding for this work is provided by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226;].

BUILDINGS -- After the flood . . .

Flooding causes more damage to buildings throughout the United States--particularly residential buildings-- than any other single natural event. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have found through tests that damage to homes from future flooding can be minimized through repair or renovation using flood damage-resistant materials and methods. For example, some currently available but nonstandard building materials, such as closed-cell foam insulation, were tested and were found to have desirable flood-damage resistant properties. Other, more conventional materials were found to perform better than expected. The studies suggest that the complete replacement of water-damaged building materials may not always be necessary. ORNL conducted the research in collaboration with Tuskegee University in Alabama, a state that recently experienced its own high water problems associated with Hurricane Ivan. [Contact: Bill Cabage, 865-574-4399;].

BIOLOGY -- Mimicking nature . . .

Nanoscale synthetic cell membranes developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory move researchers one step closer to creating artificial cells and manmade interfaces that could one day be used to treat diseases and perform other tasks at the cellular level. In a paper to be published in an upcoming issue of Nano Letters, Mitch Doktycz and colleagues at ORNL and the University of Tennessee outline a system of microarrays of vertically aligned carbon nanofibers. Using advanced fabrication methods, researchers can control the length, diameter, shape, position, orientation and chemical composition of the nanofibers. The nanofibers can be arranged to create tiny fluid-filled membrane structures that enable rapid diffusion-based mixing. The silicon-based fabrication techniques allow integration with electronic devices. "Integration with other microscale structures such as electronic systems would make possible communication between manmade devices and solution-based reaction systems," Doktycz said. "Copying the scale of biological systems will lead to an effective interface to them." Initially, this work was funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Since 2002 funding has been provided by the National Institutes of Health. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226;].

ENERGY EFFICIENCY -- Frostless in frost . . .

The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Tennessee Valley Authority are testing an electric ratepayer's dream -- a "frostless" heat pump that produces warmer air than conventional air source heat pumps, especially during the defrosting cycle and at lower overall cost. A heat pump circulating warm air through a structure can struggle when the outside temperature is low and the pump's compressor and outdoor coil motor are affected by the cold. The ORNL-developed frostless heat pump uses a device that enables it to produce warmer air faster and for longer periods while minimizing the defrosting cycle. Recent testing in several East Tennessee homes resulted in greater thermal comfort by eliminating the "cold blow" experienced with conventional heat pumps as well as more efficient operation. Further home testing this fall and winter is expected to confirm that the gained efficiency results in lower electric bills. The residential testing of the frostless heat pump is enabled through collaboration with Modern Supply, a Knoxville-based heat pump distributor, which is providing the frostless heat pump units for purchase and installation. [Contact: Fred Strohl, 865-574-4165;].

Source: Eurekalert & others

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