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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2008

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

COMMUNICATIONS -- Birds eye view . . .

Emergency management officials miles from the scene of an event will see exactly what first responders are up against with a system being tested at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. RealityVision uses common mobile devices to allow for real-time video streaming, which will provide better support for making decisions by reducing the time delay for gathering and sending information. This tool allows management to make the right decisions on strategies to minimize the impact to people and the site, said Brian Geoghegan, chief product officer of Reality Mobile of Herndon, Va., developer of RealityVision. The system will be put to the test in an ORNL emergency management exercise in July. Developers envision the system being used by law enforcement, firefighters, border officers and other public and private first responders. Funding is provided by TechSolutions within the Department of Homeland Security. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

INFORMATION -- Quantum leap . . .

Super-secret encryption systems, personal identification data that cannot be stolen and enhanced sensors are just a few of the applications for a quantum optical chip being developed by Warren Grice and colleagues in the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate. Their work is part of a new field of research known as quantum information, which applies the seemingly paradoxical rules of quantum physics to the world of information. Quantum information has some unique advantages, Grice said. For example, only those who know how it was written can read it or even observe it without corrupting it in a telltale way. Also, a quantum-based computer could quickly solve certain difficult problems like cracking mathematically based encryption systems or finding the optimum path through a complicated network by processing all possible answers at the same time. Grice envisions the quantum optical chip, which uses single photons to store quantum bits of information, enabling the development of quantum information technologies like the quantum computer. This work is funded through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY -- Gas cooled fuel . . .

Advanced gas reactors offer more efficient operation, less waste disposal and other benefits over water-cooled reactor designs used in U.S. nuclear power plants. But creating fuel that burns efficiently and reliably in the higher temperatures of advanced gas reactors has been a challenge -- until now. Fuel fabricated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in cooperation with Idaho National Laboratory and the Babcock & Wilcox Company, has demonstrated the most successful performance ever for U.S. advanced gas reactor fuel. In recent tests at the Advanced Test Reactor at INL, the ORNL fuel achieved 9 percent burn-up, a significant milestone on its way to a target of 16-18 percent. Higher burn-up allows for more efficient use of uranium and less waste compared to the 3-4 percent rate of standard fuel at U.S. power plants. This experiment is the first of eight planned to qualify fuel as part of the Department of Energy's Next Generation Nuclear Power Plant project. The fuel elements are built from thousands of tiny uranium-containing spheres coated with carbon and silicon carbide to contain the radioactive fission products. The coated particles are compacted by a special process into fuel sticks and loaded into a graphite form. The fuel work for this first test was conducted in ORNL's Materials Science and Technology Division and funded by DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy. [Contact: Mike Bradley, (865) 576-9553;]

BIOSCIENCE -- Protein pairs feel the heat . . .

Computer simulations published in April in Physical Review Letters have shown that pairs of proteins bound to each other undergo a profound change in their relative motion as they heat up, a phenomenon that could provide clues to how proteins interact to govern living cells. The molecular dynamics simulations, the product of an international collaboration led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Jeremy Smith, are currently being pursued on the Cray XT4 Jaguar supercomputer. The simulations set the stage for neutron scattering experiments to test the theory by measuring protein motion. "Understanding the physical nature of these associations will help us to comprehend why they form and when," Smith said. The work is funded by Laboratory Directed Research and Development. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]


Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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