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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2014

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our media contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to

SENSORS - Bridge failure warning . . .

With 25 percent of the nation's 607,000 bridges structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, millions of people are at risk every day, but NuFortis and an Oak Ridge National Laboratory technology could ease tensions and save lives. "Our patented system not only monitors a structure's health in real time, but also continuously warns of structural failure," said Jason Rebello of NuFortis, which was formed by three graduate students at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sensors applied to the infrastructure monitor stress, strain, vibration and movement and instantly transmit information to people who can take appropriate action. ORNL, working with the Federal Highway Administration, plans to fine-tune the system this fall by equipping a bridge in Virginia with this technology. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

COMBUSTION - Supercomputer igniting advance . . .

Simulations on Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Titan could help Ford Motor Company and other automobile manufacturers meet increasingly stringent fuel economy and emissions standards. The ORNL team is working with Ford to leverage expertise in computational science and engine technologies to develop a method that identifies combustion instability, which can occur if the engine is getting too much air or recirculated exhaust gases. Used in the right ratios, however, they can significantly improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. "In the past, researchers had to rely on highly simplified engine models to simulate the thousands of consecutive engine cycles needed to study the cycle-to-cycle variability with statistical accuracy," said Dean Edwards, who leads the ORNL team. Now, however, concurrent simulations run on Titan allow researchers to use highly detailed models while avoiding exceedingly long computation times. Results will be available to industry. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ELECTRIC GRID - Forecasting system licensed . . .

Location Based Technologies has signed an agreement to integrate and market an Oak Ridge National Laboratory technology that provides real-time status of the electric grid and critical energy sectors. The system, called VERDE (Visualizing Energy Resources Dynamically on the Earth), enables decision-makers to respond swiftly to major power disruptions. VERDE, which combines the display capabilities of Google Earth with analysis and modeling components, significantly enhances situational awareness and speeds recovery times from power outages. Location Based Technologies, based in California, expects to offer the system to commercial customers, public utilities and other agencies throughout the United States by June 30. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

REFRIGERATION - Look ma, no refrigerants . . .

Refrigerators featuring magnetic cooling and 20 percent greater efficiency are the product of a cooperative research and development agreement between GE Appliances and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. While the concept of magnetocaloric cooling has been around for many years, only since 2006 has GE explored using the technology for home refrigeration. In addition to energy savings and vastly simplified recycling at end of life, these refrigerators use no compressors or refrigerants that could be harmful to the environment. ORNL is working with GE to assess specific component and materials requirements for stable and reliable operation of the refrigerator-freezer, evaluate magnetocaloric effect materials and maximize performance in laboratory testing. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]


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