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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- December 2010

To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our Media Contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to

BIODIESEL -- Ultrasonic remedy . . .

A significant barrier to greater use of biodiesel could be blasted away with a proprietary approach developed by a team of researchers led by Mike Kass of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Energy and Transportation Science Division. By using a high-intensity dose of ultrasonic energy, Kass and colleagues have demonstrated that they can remove or prevent the formation of precipitates, or solids, in biofuels. "Biodiesel forms invisible precipitates at temperatures approaching 41 degrees Fahrenheit," Kass said. "These precipitates cause plugging of filters and lines and are one of the leading concerns associated with expanded use of biodiesel." Co-inventors are Sam Lewis and Maggie Connatser. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

TRANSPORTATION -- Single-wides save fuel . . .

Tractor-trailer trucks may leave a different "footprint" in the near future. Heavy trucks outfitted with single wide-based tires instead of the conventional dual tires are more fuel efficient, according to a study sponsored by DOE's Office of Vehicle Technologies. A paper from DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory reports that Class 8 heavy trucks equipped with new-generation wide-based single tires--instead of the familiar dual tires--get markedly better mileage, which improves as more single-tires are installed on the truck. Fuel economy improved around 6 percent when either the tractor or the trailer was equipped with the single-wides and more than 9 percent when both were mounted with single-wide tires. The paper, by Oscar Franzese and Helmut Knee of ORNL and Lee Slezak of DOE, has been named to receive the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies Pyke Johnson Award for the Best Paper in the Area of Planning and Environment. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]

DATA -- Finding feelings . . .

A prototype data-analysis software developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could help track potential terrorist groups by uncovering hidden meaning in the group's written interactions. The method can extract emotional content known as affective meaning from unstructured text documents like blogs, emails, tweets and chat feeds, said Jack Schryver, co-developer of the ORNL tool. "Research shows that group processes such as group formation, recruitment, coalition, threat and conflict depend on the underlying affective meaning in their textual communications," Schryver said. This automated tracking of group dynamics could allow intelligence analysts to more efficiently monitor and identify threats to national security. Other ORNL researchers include Cathy Jiao, Tracy Warren and Edmon Begoli. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308;]

BIOMETRICS -- ID from afar . . .

Unsuspecting subjects could be identified in mere seconds with a novel recognition system being developed by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Unlike conventional technologies that look at a facial feature or the iris, ORNL's off-angle multi-modal biometric recognition system captures several features -- iris, face, ears, gait and soft biometrics at a distance. "By capturing multiple biometrics and combining them to achieve identification, we can overcome a failure to capture or recognize any one specific metric and thus offer superior performance," said Chris Boehnen, a researcher in the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division. The system also can be used as a screening tool at checkpoints to ensure that only authorized personnel enter a facility. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]


Contact: Morgan McCorkle
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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