Story tips from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, December 2019

Credit: Trey Gebhart/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Manufacturing – Lightning strike out

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory demonstrated that an additively manufactured polymer layer, when applied to carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP, can serve as an effective protector against aircraft lightning strikes. CFRP is usually used on an airplane’s exterior because it’s lighter than traditional metal. Although lightweight, CFRP has a drawback – low electrical conductivity and heat resistance, making it vulnerable to lightning strikes. “We printed a novel, easy to apply adhesive material for CFRP,” ORNL’s Vipin Kumar said. “The polymer’s chain-like structure makes the resulting material electrically conductive and structurally strong with thermal treatment.” In a study, the research team conducted simulated lightning strike tests on polymer protected CFRP versus unprotected. “The polymer-protected sample showed minimal damage upon visual inspection and enabled much more uniform heat dissipation,” Kumar said. “Our results proved that the polymer layer provided a continuous path to effectively distribute the lightning current.” [Contact: Jennifer Burke, (865) 576-3212; [email protected]]


Credit: Researchers conducted simulated lightning strike tests on additively manufactured polymeric material applied to carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP. The test revealed minimal damage to the polymer protected CFRP compared to the unprotected material. Credit: Vipin Kumar/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Fusion – Argon calling

As scientists study approaches to best sustain a fusion reactor, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory investigated injecting shattered argon pellets into a super-hot plasma, when needed, to protect the reactor’s interior wall from high-energy runaway electrons. Other pellet materials, frozen from room-temperature gasses, have successfully reduced the plasma’s thermal energy, but argon was most effective at runaway electron dissipation. Using fuel pellet injection technology – which literally shoots cryogenic pellets of fuel into the plasma to raise its density – the team used an injector optimized for argon during a series of tests at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility. “Now that we have demonstrated argon’s effectiveness, our next step is to determine how many pellets and pellet injectors are needed for a solution that’s applicable,” said ORNL’s Larry Baylor. This research may be scaled up for possible application on ITER, the international experimental reactor. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; [email protected]]



Caption: Scientists tested ORNL-developed pellet injection technology with shattered argon pellets shot out of a bent shatter tube in a lab at ORNL. The technology was later tested on an experimental fusion plasma to mitigate runaway electrons, preventing interior wall damage. Credit: Trey Gebhart/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Biology – Honoring a genetics pioneer

The life and legacy of Dr. Liane Russell – world-renowned for her groundbreaking genetics research in mice – will be celebrated during a symposium on December 20 beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The event will feature past and current recipients of the Liane B. Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellowship, as well as select guests who were influenced by Russell’s work and life. She was lauded for her contributions to mammalian genetics, including the chromosomal basis of sex determination in mammals and the effect of radiation on embryos. Findings by Russell and her husband, the late William L. Russell, about the vulnerability of embryos to radiation led to changes in radiological practices for female patients of child-bearing age. Known as “Lee,” Russell was also an active conservationist, as a founder of the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Protection. Visitors to the symposium must contact ORNL in advance to make arrangements. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; [email protected]]


Caption: The life and legacy of pioneering geneticist Dr. Liane Russell will be celebrated during a symposium on December 20 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy


Media Contact
Sara Shoemaker
[email protected]

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