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Contact: Ron Walli
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

June 2012 story tips from Oak Ridge National Laboratory

MATERIALS - Transparent performance . . .

Windshields, windows, solar panels, eyeglasses, heart stents and hundreds of other products representing a multi-billion-dollar market are potential targets for Oak Ridge National Laboratory's thin-film superhydrophobic technology. Conventional commercially available products tend to lack transparency, suitable bonding capability or both, making them largely impractical, said Tolga Aytug, one of the developers. The ORNL product, based on glass, can be produced with manufacturing processes that are cost effective and easily scaled up. In addition to the inherent self-cleaning properties, these coatings result in energy savings by reducing the need for washing and chemically treating windows and other optical coatings exposed to weather. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

COMPUTING - Decoding the materials genome . . .

A hybrid supercomputer capable of 10 to 100 petaflops, or a quadrillion calculations per second, can support the Materials Genome Initiative, says Jeongnim Kim of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The initiative aims to accelerate understanding of the fundamentals of materials, providing practical information that innovators can use to develop new products and processes. Kim is the principal author of QMCPACK, an application code widely used for large-scale simulations of molecules, solids and nanostructures. The code uses a technique called Quantum Monte Carlo to predict electronic structures. [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448; levyd@ornl.gov]

ENERGY -- Industrial strength savings . . .

Wireless sensors that could help the steel industry save money and reduce energy use and emissions are being put to the test at Commercial Metals Co. in Cayce, S.C. A team led by Glenn Allgood of Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently installed wireless sensors designed to withstand harsh conditions and provide instantaneous information to improve monitoring and control of a steel mill's equipment. Allgood noted that the melting, refining, casting and rolling process consume a significant amount of electrical and chemical energy. While steel mill operators have traditionally measured and monitored energy inputs, they have not attempted to measure and quantify energy losses. CMC is expecting a measurable improvement in efficiency and corresponding production cost savings as a result of using the information as feedback into the process. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

SUPERCOMPUTING -- Lower costs, less toxicity . . .

Discovery of new drugs requires the screening of thousands of compounds to identify hundreds of candidates that are winnowed to dozens of effective agents. A few go on to preclinical development, the stage at which most drugs fail, and fewer still make it further to become the subjects of expensive and time-consuming clinical trials. Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Jeremy Smith, working with University of Tennessee assistant professor Jerome Baudry, is using supercomputers to speed the process. "If drug candidates are going to fail, you want them to fail fast, fail cheap," Smith said. In one day, a petaflop supercomputer -- which executes 1 quadrillion calculations per second -- can analyze 10 million drug candidates binding to a protein. Within a decade, exaflop machines are expected to handle the interactions of 10 million drugs with 1,000 different proteins, allowing predictions of effectiveness and side effects. [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448; levyd@ornl.gov]

ENGINEERING - Ceramics put to the test . . .

Researchers from Corning Inc. used the VULCAN Engineering Materials Diffractometer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source to investigate the mechanical properties of ceramic materials used in car emission control and filtration devices. The instrument helps researchers understand the performance of the materials at the high temperatures required in car engines, and researchers plan to continue their relationship with VULCAN and its instrument scientists on other relevant materials, extending their study to performance at low temperatures. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel, bardoelaa@ornl.gov]


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