News Release

Story tips: Clean water bots, self-sanitizing N95 masks and cooking with hydrogen

Peer-Reviewed Publication

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Environment — Clean water bots

video: Measuring water quality throughout river networks with precision, speed and at lower cost than traditional methods is now possible with AquaBOT, an aquatic drone developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory. view more 

Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Environment — Clean water bots

Measuring water quality throughout river networks with precision, speed and at lower cost than traditional methods is now possible with AquaBOT, an aquatic drone developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The maneuverable AquaBOT measures water quality indicators such as nitrate, temperature and dissolved oxygen along the entire length of mid-sized streams where water quality can be variable.

“Compared to manual measurements taken in just a few locations, the drone gives a much more detailed picture of what’s happening along streams and rivers,” said ORNL’s Natalie Griffiths. “AquaBOT helps us identify hot spots where pollutants, such as excess fertilizer, are flowing into waterways. Pinpointing these areas is the first step to understanding water quality changes and developing solutions.”

Griffiths and colleagues at Drake University are using AquaBOT to study streams in Iowa croplands, evaluating potential sustainability practices with bioenergy crops. Her team is also adapting the technology to measure climate-warming methane emissions from reservoirs.

Media contact: Kimberly A. Askey, 865.576.2841,


Caption: The ORNL-developed AquaBOT measures a range of water quality indicators, providing data for studies focused on clean water and sustainable energy. Credit: Natalie Griffiths/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy


Materials — Self-sanitizing N95 masks

Oak Ridge National Laboratory collaborated with Iowa State University and RJ Lee Group to demonstrate a safe and effective antiviral coating for N95 masks. The coating destroys the COVID-19-causing coronavirus and could enable reuse of masks made from various fabrics.

The team evaluated Goldshield 75, finding that the patented product effectively killed the novel coronavirus without degrading mask fibers and showed no toxicity. Coated masks were germ-free 24 hours after virus exposure even over repeated test cycles and after high-temperature storage.

The work builds on technology developed at the DOE Carbon Fiber Technology Facility at ORNL. “We explored avenues to integrate effective antiviral coatings that are safe for the wearer and the environment,” said ORNL’s Parans Paranthaman.

“The long-term goal is to develop filter media with a built-in coating, which may also be useful in other applications, such as air filters for hospitals, or in combatting other pathogens,” said ORNL’s Merlin Theodore. — Ashley Huff and Jennifer Burke

Media contact: Sara Shoemaker, 865.576.9219,


Caption: Scientists, from left, Parans Paranthaman, Tina Summers and Merlin Theodore at DOE’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility at ORNL are partnering with industry and a university to develop antiviral materials for N95 masks. Credit: Genevieve Martin/ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy


Buildings — Cooking with hydrogen

A prototype cooking appliance developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory uses a 50% blend of hydrogen and natural gas, offering an alternative to safely reduce emissions that contribute to the nation’s carbon footprint.

Natural gas-powered appliances significantly increase carbon emissions; decarbonizing requires using renewable fuels such as hydrogen. ORNL’s prototype operates with a flameless burner that relies on heterogeneous oxidation. This approach distributes energy through infrared radiation and over a larger surface, allowing for lower temperature options than conventional burners.

“Safety and emissions are the key challenges associated with adding hydrogen to the fuel mix in a cooking range,” said ORNL’s Praveen Cheekatamarla. “Our prototype utilized tailored thermal and fluid transfer characteristics to enable burner operation at moderate temperatures in a safe and clean manner.”

Future research includes increasing the number of burners within the prototype and running on either 100% hydrogen or natural gas and varying mixes of the two.

Media contact: Jennifer Burke, 865.414.6835,


Caption: Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers developed a single burner cooking appliance powered by a blend of 50% hydrogen and natural gas, reducing emissions that contribute to the nation’s carbon footprint. Credit: ORNL, U.S. Dept. of Energy

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