Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, June 2006

COMPUTING -- Preparing for duty . . .

Extensive systems design, computational and visualization capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are playing a vital role in providing a "virtual soldier" for use in the treatment of battlefield wounds. As envisioned in the Virtual Soldier project, each soldier would be equipped with a personalized electronic dog tag that contains baseline medical data. This information would become crucial for treating wounded soldiers at the site and as the soldier is transported. While the overall mission is to revolutionize medical care for soldiers and save lives, ORNL is tasked with providing 3D visualization expertise and software that allow anatomical and physiological data to be rapidly shared and understood. The software being developed by Richard Ward and Line Pouchard will ensure that the multitude of systems likely to be used in this effort communicate efficiently. Eventually, every soldier will have a virtual representation that medical personnel can use to diagnose and treat wounds and disease. The 3D visualization of anatomy and related ontologies developed at ORNL are likely to have applications in other biomedical engineering and biomedical informatics programs. The Virtual Soldier project, led by the University of Michigan, is sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

BIOLOGY -- New DNA detector . . .

Disease diagnosis, forensics and environmental monitoring are among the areas likely to benefit by a system that combines the best of two proven technologies. Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Micromechanical Biochip Array Reader System provides fast and accurate identification of proteins and DNA sequences by using arrays of biochips and cantilevers. The system, dubbed -BARS, does not use external labels for detection, and thus avoids the need to use ultraviolet sources and optics to scan the information. In addition, the system uses cantilevers that have not been coated with receptor molecules, thereby avoiding cost and coating uniformity issues. The result of this patented technology developed by a team led by Thomas Thundat of the Life Sciences Division is a sensor with sensitivity 100 to 1,000 times greater than competing technologies, lower cost, smaller size and the capability of fast and continuous operation. Funding was provided by DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY -- Off the wall . . .

A steel wall stud that improves thermal performance within wall systems over traditional steel studs has significantly improved the R-values based on the results of several tests conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Buildings Technology Center. During an era of rising energy and lumber costs, Engineering Technology Consultants of Marysville, Wash., tested the Insul-Stud at the ORNL user center in temperatures of 50 degrees F and 100 degrees F, determining an R-value of 12.5, which is a significant improvement over the 8.15 R-value that was determined through identical testing on a conventional steel stud. The Insul-Stud was also found to demonstrate improved acoustic insulating properties, preventing wall transmitted vibrations or sounds that are heard with a conventional steel stud. The Insul-Stud's design minimizes and disrupts heat flow horizontally and vertically, which also creates the sound dampening qualities. Testing continues regarding the Insul-Stud's resistance to hurricanes and seismic activity. This project is funded under DOE's Work for Others program. [Contact: Fred Strohl, (865) 574-4165;]

SNS -- Neutrons to instruments . . .

DOE's Spallation Neutron Source has posted more firsts in its procession to full operation. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently opened a shutter that allowed an instrument to receive and count neutrons for the first time. Those neutrons also were the first "cold neutrons" produced at SNS from the facility's cryogenic moderator system. Neutrons are literally chilled with liquid hydrogen to remove thermal energy, which makes them more suitable for studying certain types of materials such as biological samples. The instrument, the Backscattering Spectrometer, will be one of up to 24 instruments that will analyze a range of materials for the neutron science community. The SNS created its first neutrons in late April. [Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]


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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love.
-- Mother Teresa