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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, August 2005

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

ENVIRONMENT -- Sinking CO2 . . .

Carbon sequestration in the ocean could become far more feasible with a system being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The Continuous Jet/Hydrate Reactor takes carbon dioxide from power plants flue gases and produces a solid-like composite material that holds its shape when released in water at the proper depth and temperature - about 1,200 meters and 3.3 degrees Celsius. The composite product, which can be made denser than seawater, slowly dissolves as it sinks. Continuous production of these sinking gas hydrates - ice-like compounds -- at intermediate ocean depths provides increased sequestration efficiency without the significant costs of deep injection. In addition to its application for CO2 sequestration, this technology can be used for water desalination, natural gas storage and food production. The technology, which has been successfully demonstrated in Monterey Bay, is being developed by Costas Tsouris and Liyuan Liang. Funding for this research is provided by DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY -- Pure, efficient power . . .

Grocery stores, schools, hotels and hospitals are likely candidates for a high-efficiency system that provides heating, cooling and electric power. The PureComfort system, developed through a partnership between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and United Technologies Research Center, features a combination of 60-kilowatt microturbines and a new direct exhaust-fired double-effect absorption chiller/heater that recycles exhaust streams. The system provides simultaneous electric power and cooling. Bob DeVault of the lab's Engineering Science and Technology Division noted that the system can be configured to provide emergency backup power to the customer in case of an electric outage. Optionally, PureComfort can provide heating, regenerate a desiccant (for humidity control) and provide coolant to a supermarket refrigeration system. This combination of multiple simultaneous electric and thermal outputs enables the system to achieve an overall fuel efficiency of more than 80 percent compared to the 33 percent typical of a central power plant. Funding for the project was provided by DOE's Office of Distributed Energy. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

BIOLOGY -- Single-cell analysis . . .

Detection and treatment of human diseases could be greatly enhanced by the Nanobiosensor for Single-Cell Analysis, a device developed by a team led by Tuan Vo-Dinh of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Life Sciences Division. The nanobiosensor, which consists of a laser, a fiber optic nanoprobe and a microscope system, can detect and quantify biochemicals within a living cell. The tip of the nanoprobe has a specific receptor, like an antibody, DNA or enzyme that attracts a specific antigen or protein being studied. The cell remains intact and continues to live and divide after the probe has been removed. Vo-Dinh envisions the device being used in biomedical research, clinical diagnostics, drug discovery and ultra-high throughput screening applications. The project was funded initially through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program and more recently by DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865-576-0226;]

ELECTRONICS -- Slick surveillance system . . .

Technology similar to that found in a CD player is at the heart of a system that could make homes and the nation safer. The Laser-Based Item Monitoring System, developed by a team led by Pete Chiaro of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Engineering Science & Technology Division, consists of a laser diode, electromechanical positioning system, light detector and signal processing electronics. The surveillance system, which creates high-resolution reflection maps instead of visual images, can sense extremely small changes in light signals. This allows it to detect movement of items within the target area. Because the system doesn't create a visual image, it can be used in situations where confidential information or security interests could be compromised by the use of video surveillance. The project was funded by DOE's Office of International Safeguards. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]


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