Story tips from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2017


Credit: Illustration by Brett Hopwood, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy.

Climate – Bridging human impacts

A new integrated computational model reduces uncertainty in climate predictions by bridging Earth systems with energy and economic models and large-scale human impact data. Co-developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the novel integrated Earth system model, or iESM, leverages the power of supercomputers, including ORNL's Titan, to couple biospheric feedbacks from oceans, atmosphere and land with human activity, such as greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture and land use. "The resulting model provides comprehensive predictions of projected climate outcomes, eliminating important sources of uncertainty from those predictions," ORNL's Peter Thornton said. The ORNL-led team detailed the modeling results in Nature Climate Change. They will continue using Titan to further develop, evaluate and apply iESM, delivering new knowledge and capabilities to the broader climate science community. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; [email protected]]


Caption: A new integrated climate model developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other institutions is designed to reduce uncertainties in future climate predictions as it bridges Earth systems with energy and economic models and large-scale human impact data. Illustration by Brett Hopwood, Oak Ridge National Laboratory/Dept. of Energy.

Computing – Data-driven healthcare for veterans

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop methods and algorithms to mine the VA's health data more efficiently. The resulting novel, secure platform promises to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of veterans through better understanding of underlying causes of diseases and conditions, hereditary factors and health history. "The transfer of such large volumes of data, and its continued security, requires ORNL's platform to be thoroughly vetted and tested before it is made available to researchers," said Edmon Begoli who leads the lab's involvement in the Million Veterans Program-Computational Health Analytics for Medical Precision to Improve Outcomes Now, or MVP-CHAMPION. [Contact: Scott Jones, (865) 241-6491; [email protected]]


Caption: An ORNL-developed secure platform to analyze large health datasets maintained by Department of Veterans Affairs holds promise for better outcomes, a deeper understanding of disease and improved operations.

Neutrons – Beating the clock

Using neutron scattering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a research team captured a time-sensitive phenomenon to prove that the entropy, or randomness, of atoms in a metallic glass when exposed to intense heat is linked to how atoms self-configure versus their vibration. The large neutron flux of ORNL's Wide Angular Range Chopper Spectrometer continuously recorded changes in the sample's vibrations as the temperature slowly increased–a technique not possible a decade ago. "It's only thanks to the incredibly intense neutron beams available at ORNL that we could do this experiment and put to rest a decades-old, much-debated theory that had never been tested," said Hillary L. Smith from California Institute of Technology who led the paper published in Nature Physics. Understanding the material's behavior could help in developing better quality metallic glass alloys. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; [email protected]]


Caption: A California Institute of Technology-led experiment used neutron scattering at ORNL to resolve a decades-old debate whether the source of entropy in metallic glass materials was caused by the atoms' vibrations or configuration. Image by Marios Demetriou, California Institute of Technology.

Materials – Adding strength

Developing low-cost materials for 3D printing larger, stronger components for the tooling, aerospace and automotive industries is the aim of a new partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Illinois-based Polynt Composites USA. The collaboration focuses on early-stage research and development of reactive materials that print at room temperature and harden through a chemical reaction that cross-links each printed layer. This approach yields stronger, more scalable printed products. "Working with the manufacturing and materials science experts at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, we will optimize our vinylester and polyester composites for additive manufacturing and identify the chemistries with the best mechanical properties for scale up and commercialization," said Steve Voeks, Polynt Americas R&D director. [Contact: Kim Askey, (865) 946-1861; [email protected]]


Caption: Researchers are optimizing reactive composites like this vinylester for use in large scale additive manufacturing–printing with the material as a viscous liquid at room temperature. Photo courtesy of Polynt Composites USA.

Buildings – Airtight savings

A new tool developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory can help homeowners and builders calculate energy loss when air leaks through a building's envelope, the physical barrier separating the interior and exterior. Starting with specific building metrics, the calculator analyzes multizone airflow and ventilation and then determines the associated energy loss through a whole building energy simulation tool. "Air leaks are responsible for over four percent of all energy used in the United States," ORNL's Som Shrestha said. "This energy-savings calculator can demonstrate the benefit of constructing airtight buildings." The free, web-based tool was developed in conjunction with the Air Barrier Association of America and the National Institute of Science and Technology. [Contact: Jennifer Burke, (865) 576-3212; [email protected]]


Caption: A new calculator developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory can identify air leaks throughout a building's envelope, demonstrating the energy-savings potential in airtight building construction.

Manufacturing – Tailoring performance

A new manufacturing method created by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Rice University combines 3D printing with traditional casting to produce damage-tolerant components composed of multiple materials. Composite components made by pouring an aluminum alloy over a printed steel lattice showed an order of magnitude greater damage tolerance than aluminum alone. The process, published in Materials and Design, was developed for potential automotive and other applications where thermal and mechanical properties must be optimized simultaneously. "This scalable processing strategy can be used to fulfill specific component functions, giving materials designers unprecedented control over both microstructure and material properties," said ORNL's Amit Shyam. [Contact: Kim Askey, (865) 946-1861; [email protected]]

Image #1:

Caption: Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers modified the shape and density of 3D-printed lattice structures to achieve desired material properties in metal composites.

Image #2:

Caption: Composite components created by pouring an aluminum alloy over a printed steel lattice showed an order of magnitude greater damage tolerance than aluminum alone.


Media Contact

Sara Shoemaker
[email protected]

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