Story tips from the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2009

Published: Monday, June 29, 2009 - 15:44 in Physics & Chemistry

Cool ride . . . Electric vehicle technology is accelerating at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Researchers at the lab's Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Research Center have developed an innovative cooling concept that could improve vehicle performance, life expectancy and overall efficiency without increasing costs. The "floating loop" two-phase cooling concept enables significant reductions in the inverter weight and size while increasing the power it can handle. PEEMRC is the Department of Energy's broad-based research center helping lead the nation's advancing shift from petroleum-powered to hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. The center's efforts directly support DOE's Vehicle Technologies Program and its goal to provide Americans with greater freedom of mobility and energy security while lowering costs and reducing impacts on the environment. [Contact: Kathy Graham, (865) 946-1861;]

MATERIALS -- Amazing alloys . . .

Highly corrosive environments have met their match with a new family of alloys developed by a team led by Mike Brady of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Materials Science and Technology Division. Alumina-forming austenitic, dubbed AFA, stainless steels boast an increased upper-temperature oxidation, or corrosion, limit that is 100 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit higher than that of conventional stainless steels. The new alloys deliver this superior oxidation resistance with high-temperature strengths approaching that of far more expensive nickel-base alloys without sacrificing the typical lower cost, formability and weldability of conventional stainless steels. Collaborative efforts have begun with the private sector to evaluate AFA alloys for applications ranging from gas turbines to advanced fossil-fired steam plants and chemical and process industry equipment. Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Advanced Research Materials Program and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

SENSORS -- Detection from afar . . .

A new explosives detector with incredible sensitivity and a range of up to 100 meters could save lives and thwart the efforts of terrorists. With PIAS, based on photo-induced acoustic spectroscopy, the military and law enforcement agencies will have an instrument that is one-tenth the size of competing products, at five pounds is one-fifth the weight and is about one-fifth the cost of the competition. PIAS, developed by a team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, works by illuminating the suspected explosive with an eye-safe laser and allowing the scattered light to be detected by a quartz crystal tuning fork. After a series of subsequent steps, the instrument is able to identify a number of explosives without jeopardizing the safety of the operator. Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy's Office of Nonproliferation Research and Development and the Office of Naval Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

MATERIALS -- Over the top . . .

Homeowners seeking energy efficiency and savings could soon be making an environmentally friendly addition to their roofs. Billy Ellis Roofing, a Fort Worth, Texas-based roofing company, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are collaborating to test a roof system with Thermadeck insulation, a Styrofoam piece specifically designed for air ventilation covered with foil that can be installed on top of a standard shingle roof. Taking advantage of the simple science that heat rises, the Thermadeck insulation equipped with air gaps helps move hot air up and away from the roof in an effective, cost efficient way without compromising the quality of the roof. Billy Ellis Roofing funds the research through a user agreement with ORNL's Building Technology Center. [Contact: Emma Macmillan, (865) 241-9138;]

Source: DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory


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