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

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

SUPERCOMPUTING -- SciDAC event set . . .

Phani Nukala and Robert Harrison of Oak Ridge National Laboratory are among some three dozen researchers who will be presenting invited talks at the 2006 Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing Program June 25-30 in Denver. Three hundred researchers are expected to attend the event, being hailed by organizers as a celebration of computational science worldwide. Highlights of the conference include presentations by the Department of Energy's Raymond Orbach and Michael Strayer, who will also announce projects to be funded by SciDAC this year. SciDAC was founded by DOE in 2001 to bring together physical scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists from different institutions. Accomplishments under SciDAC are varied and include gaining a better understanding of the origins of the universe, predicting with greater certainty global climate change and devising ways to burn fuels more cleanly and efficiently. For more information about the conference, visit or e-mail [email protected]. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]

BIOSENSORS -- Advanced water sentinel . . .

Naturally occurring photosynthetic microorganisms are the focus of an invention to rapidly detect contamination of water supplies. The patent, awarded recently to a team led by Eli Greenbaum of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, advances previous work in this area but involves a method rather than apparatus to detect chemical or biological warfare agents. Unlike traditional systems, there is no filter paper or other material that can become fouled and rendered useless. Instead, Greenbaum's method involves tissue-based biosensors such as green algae and cyanobacteria for direct detection of chemical warfare agents. These living sensors are always present and continuously renewed by flowing water. As water samples pass through the cell, any changes that negatively affect photosynthetic capability will be detected. With a compact optoelectronic recording system, a cell modem and encrypted communications, coded messages can be transmitted to a remote location where appropriate action can be taken. This work was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and United Defense. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]

NATIONAL SECURITY -- Striking a nerve . . .

In a project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Bill Whitten and Peter Reilly of ORNL'S Chemical Sciences Division are teaming with Honeywell to develop a micro gas analyzer the size of a cell phone that combines a very small gas chromatograph with a tiny mass spectrometer. The researchers are testing the GC-MS sensor's ability to detect trace amounts of dimethyl methylphosphonate (DMMP), a nerve gas simulant. Miniature GC-MS sensors could be worn by warfighters to help them detect a very-low-level chemical threat and warn them to evacuate or remediate the contaminated area in time to survive. [Contact: Mike Bradley, (865) 576-0226; [email protected]]


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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