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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, November 2010

VEHICLES -- Charge on the fly . . .

A prototype charging system for electric and hybrid vehicles is helping demonstrate a technology that could one day play a key role in the electrification of America's highways. The bench-scale prototype developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is allowing researchers to quantify the power transfer parameters necessary to wirelessly charge stationary and moving vehicles. "Our laboratory tests have been successful in transmitting greater than 4 kilowatts," said Laura Marlino of the Energy and Transportation Science Division. "This has been demonstrated with efficiencies in the mid-90s from the transmitting antenna to the load across a 10-inch air gap." [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

NANOSCIENCE -- Sapphire's sacrifice . . .

Sapphire nanowires grow using an unexpectedly complicated reaction with oxygen atoms changing between partners in vapor, liquid and solid phases. By concentrating on the triple-junction of the three phases, observations captured with high-resolution electron microscopy at the atomic scale, at high temperature and in real time, reveal a growth process that requires the nanowire to sacrifice some of its mass in order to grow longer. While vapor-liquid-solid growth has been studied previously, these are the first studies at atomic resolution. This investigation by an international team that includes Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology and DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory produced a clearer view of the process, allowing improved understanding of the complicated mass transport involved in the growth of nanowires using a liquid catalyst. The work is published in Science. [Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]

DIESELS -- Joule of a milestone . . .

When Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research Center researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory achieved a 45 percent brake thermal efficiency in a multi-cylinder engine, they demonstrated a new potential for passenger-size diesel engines. They also reached a Department of Energy joule milestone and verified the efficiency potential of recovering thermal exhaust energy that is normally discarded to the environment. The reported efficiency is the fraction of fuel heating value converted to useful work as measured at a shaft. At one time this was done literally with a mechanical brake applied to the engine output shaft, hence the term brake efficiency. Robert Wagner of the Energy and Transportation Science Division noted that there are other ways of measuring efficiency that exclude many of the real-world losses and therefore give considerably higher but less real-world information. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

SUPERCOMPUTING -- Three-dimensional waste plumes . . .

A research team led by Peter C. Lichtner of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is using the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility's (OLCF's) Jaguar supercomputer, located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), to build a three-dimensional model of an underground uranium waste plume at the Hanford Site's 300 Area, only a few miles from the city of Richland, WA. Hanford, one of three primary locations for the Manhattan Project, produced a third of the nation's plutonium for defense. A better understanding of the underground migration properties of uranium, which has infiltrated the Columbia River, may aid stakeholders in weighing options for contaminant remediation. "The results could apply to other sites along the Columbia River that are contaminated too," said Lichtner.. "And what we learn from this site we should be able to apply to other sites as well, not only at Hanford, but also around the country." [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448;]

DATA -- Tracking trucks . . .

A vehicle monitoring study at Oak Ridge National Laboratory could help transform energy-intensive vehicles like transit buses and utility trucks into energy-efficient equipment. ORNL researchers have installed data acquisition and wireless communication systems on several East Tennessee heavy vehicles to take a closer look at how the machines perform in real time. The study, called the Medium-Truck Duty Cycle project, is designed to provide the first quantitative profile of the driving behavior of medium-sized trucks. The thorough understanding of vehicle performance could lead to more effective recommendations for fuel efficiency improvements in medium trucks. ORNL researchers include Gary Capps, Bill Knee, Mary Beth Lascurain and Adam Siekmann. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308;]


Contact: Morgan McCorkle
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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