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

NAVIGATION -- Micro gyro . . .

Airplanes, submarines and even automobiles of tomorrow may be equipped with arrays of inexpensive high-performance micro-mechanical gyroscopes for navigation and other purposes. The proprietary system of MEMS gyroscope arrays being developed by a team consisting of Panos Datskos, Slo Rajic and Nickolay Lavrik of Oak Ridge National Laboratory is radically different than today's gyroscopes, which are big and costly. Instead, this system consists of multiple highly sensitive and accurate silicon chip-scale gyroscopes. The researchers envision their system being especially useful for navigation and geolocation in environments where global positioning systems are not possible or practical. These tiny gyroscopes could also find their way into automobiles for ride stabilization and rollover detection. In addition, the researchers believe their system will be useful for several consumer electronics applications. The research is funded by the U.S. Navy and ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ELECTRONICS -- Zinc oxide LEDs . . .

Efficient yet inexpensive light-emitting diodes made of zinc oxide could one day replace today's state-of-the-art gallium nitride-based devices. Key to the discovery is production of positively charged carriers -- p-type doping -- in zinc oxide using rapid pulse thermal processing. "LEDs require both p-type positively charged carriers -- and n-type -- negatively charged carriers -- materials in close contact," said Jun Xu, lead author of the paper published recently in Applied Physics Letters (Vol. 92, Issue 16). "Zinc oxide is potentially a good light emitter because of its high exciton binding energy and vertically aligned nanostructure." The new technique overcomes problems encountered with other techniques and provides the ability to generate positive carriers in zinc oxide. This opens possibilities for developing reliable efficient LEDs and other applications such as advanced electronics operated in hostile environments, photo sensors, photovoltaic devices and radiation detectors. Funding was provided by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

BIOLOGY -- Soil sleuths . . .

By applying new DNA chip technology, scientists are for the first time able to study the diversity of the thousands of microbial species present in soil over an entire forest stand. For most plants and animals, scientists understand these basic patterns well enough to describe them mathematically as "ecological laws." However, because microbes cannot be identified by eye like plants and animals, it has been unclear how these laws and patterns apply to microbial habitats. "Understanding the basic patterns of organism diversity in nature is the first step to understanding how species and ecosystems may change in relationship to stresses such as those induced by future climate change scenarios," said the University of Oklahoma's Joe Zhou, lead author of the paper to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-authors are Sanghoon Kang of the University of Oklahoma, Christopher Schadt and Charles Garten of ORNL. Funding was provided the Department of Energy and the University of Oklahoma Research Foundation. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY -- Cheaper, efficient power . . .

A second generation high-temperature superconducting wire measuring 935 meters developed through the combined efforts of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's superconductivity technology group and SuperPower of Schenectady, N.Y., recently transmitted a record 158,950 amps-per-meter of current. These wires were used to fabricate a strong, flexible cable at low cost for power grid applications, including fault current limiters, transformers, coils, and motors. This wire could provide power utilities in the future with the ability to produce lighter, smaller, and more efficient power equipment. The wire could also increase the amount of electricity transmitted at a given time, while enabling the transmission stream cooled with liquid nitrogen to be less congested as a result of operating more efficiently due to less resistance. This technology recently earned a 2008 Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer and is part of an ongoing test to transmit electricity to a power grid in Albany, N.Y. The funding source is DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. [Contact: Fred Strohl, (865) 574-4165; ]


Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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