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

ENERGY -- Biofuels on brink . . .

Technological advances along with strong societal and economic forces make the timing perfect for development of biorefineries for the production of biofuels and biomaterials from renewable energy crop resources. The integration of bioenergy crop development and biorefinery conversion technology will "lead to a new manufacturing paradigm," according to authors of a Jan. 27 Science perspectives paper by a team of researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology and Imperial College of London. "'More, bigger and better,' the mantra of modern consumerism, also summarizes – ironically – the goals of (proposed) research aimed at modifying plant species for use in sustainable biomass production," the authors write. The paper, titled "The path forward for biofuels and biomaterials," comes on the heels of last year's Department of Energy/U.S. Department of Agriculture billion-ton biomass study, which found that biomass could play a significant role in supplementing energy needs in the United States. ORNL authors were funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

MILITARY -- Weigh-in-motion on the move . . .

A portable weigh-in-motion system developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is near ready for action as field testing is under way. While because of human error conventional portable systems can be off by 14 percent or more, the system developed by a team led by Bob Abercrombie of the lab's Computational Sciences and Engineering Division has demonstrated zero percent error and unprecedented consistency. The ORNL hardware and software system automatically identifies the equipment, determines the individual axle weights, distance between axles, total vehicle weight, profile and center of balance as the vehicle passes over the weighing pads. The system prevents mistakes common to methods that rely on manual scales, tape measures, calculators, paper and pencil. With military missions all over the world, transporting vehicles safely and efficiently is critical, and the ORNL weigh-in-motion system addresses a great need. Field testing began at Fort Eustis and will continue at Fort Bragg, Fort Drum and nine other sites. The Department of Defense has funded development of the weigh-in-motion technology, which has potential applications by the Department of Homeland Security. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

Energy -- Cool cars . . .

A technology that integrates multiple cooling systems in hybrid vehicles to create greater energy efficiency is being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Vehicle thermal management systems typically are designed to enable vehicles to operate at their highest efficiency and lowest cost while attempting to minimize additional weight. Hybrid and fuel cell vehicles operate with multiple cooling systems that include cooling the motor, internal combustion engine, batteries, fuel cells, transmission and power electronics. A floating loop integrated cooling system for advanced vehicle applications, developed by ORNL engineer John Hsu, integrates the existing passenger air conditioning system to provide cooling for the power electronics and electric motors that will be used in fuel cell and hybrid vehicles. The floating loop system eliminates the need for a separate piping system and heat exchanger, yet enables the air conditioning and traction cooling system to operate autonomously while extending the vehicle's lifetime. The program is funded by DOE's Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies. [Contact: Fred Strohl (865) 574-4165; strohlhf@ornl.gov].

Physics -- More, better MIRF . . .

The atomic physics community is getting a boost with the just-completed upgrade of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Multicharged Ion Research Facility. Researchers have been conducting experiments at MIRF since 1984. The upgrade, which broadens its range of available energies by five orders of magnitude, will enhance the facility's ability to investigate the interactions of atomic and molecular ions with matter. These studies are being performed to explore atomic collision phenomena in a wide variety of plasma environments, ranging from plasma fusion reactors -- including experiments for the ITER project -- to interstellar space. Agencies that support MIRF research include DOE's Basic Energy Sciences and Office of Fusion Energy Programs and NASA. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399; cabagewh@ornl.gov]

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