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Story tips From the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- May 2009

MATERIALS -- Soft-matter spectrometer . . .

The Spallation Neutron Source has added another instrument to its eventual suite of 25. The Neutron Spin Echo Spectrometer is expected to be best of its class in soft-matter research. The spectrometer is particularly well suited for analyzing molecular motions and mobility, which will be useful for answering questions concerning polymer melts and related behaviors in molecular networks and rubbers, as well as interface changes and interactions in complex fluids, electrolytes and gels. After commissioning is completed, the Neutron Spin Echo Spectrometer will be available to both the neutron science user community and its German government sponsor. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]

TRANSPORTATION -- Wider tires increase cargo load . . .

Wide tires on tractor-trailers can reduce the weight of a rig, enabling additional cargo to be added without compromising fuel efficiency. That conclusion is drawn from an in-depth tractor-trailer performance study managed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Center for Transportation Analysis. The study focused on a 12-month monitoring of a special tractor-trailer fleet traveling more than 700,000 miles across most of the Eastern United States through different terrain and driving conditions. DOE's Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies funded the study. [Contact: Fred Strohl, (865) 574-4165;]

BIOENERGY -- Nature at work . . .

In one of the largest experiments of its kind, thousands of cottonwood cuttings planted in common gardens in British Columbia, Oregon and California will help scientists determine which strains are best suited for cellulosic ethanol production. This study, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, builds upon what scientists have for years observed about genetic variation among trees in natural populations. In 2013, scientists will extract cores from the stems to evaluate differences in ethanol production. Information gained from this study may lead to the identification of genetic traits that produce high-yielding bioenergy crops and a renewable supply of biomass to help meet transportation fuel needs. Researchers noted that the use of three separate sites allows them to distinguish the genetic effects from the environmental effects in the composition and properties of the biomass. This research was funded by the Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Office of Science. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

FUSION -- Computational confirmation . . .

Fusion energy took a small step forward with a successful simulation performed on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Jaguar supercomputer. A team led by C.S. Chang of New York University recently used the XGC1 code to verify that turbulence in the well-confined edge of plasma in a fusion reactor can penetrate the core and boost its temperature. While this has long been believed to be the case, this simulation provides proof and sets the stage for the next step, which would use all 150,000 cores of Jaguar and simulate the entire ITER device. The XGC1 code used 20,000 cores, consumed more than 1 million CPU hours and gathered more than 1 terabyte of data. Unlike previous codes, this one provides far greater resolution as it tracks individual particles in a given state and simultaneously simulates plasma at the edge and core. This research was funded by the Department of Energy Office of Fusion Energy and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]


Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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