Public Release: 

Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oct. 2015

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 news@ornl.gov.

BIOFUELS - High-octane payoff ...

Ethanol's inherently high octane rating makes it attractive for meeting fuel economy and greenhouse gas targets and renewable fuel mandates, according to an Oak Ridge National Laboratory report. Although ethanol has two-thirds the energy density of gasoline, its higher octane - an anti-knock index - rating allows for more aggressive engine design, which can improve efficiency. "High-octane fuels can create additional demand for large amounts of ethanol and enable improved fuel economy in dedicated vehicles," said Tim Theiss of ORNL's Sustainable Transportation Program. Researchers expect efficiency gains that offset the lower energy density to occur with blends of between 20 and 40 percent ethanol. They also point to potential benefits of about a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, vehicle efficiency gains of up to 10 percent and significant increase in ethanol demand with a corresponding decrease in petroleum use. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

VEHICLES -- Connected to efficiency ...

Collisions and congestion at intersections and where highways merge could be greatly reduced - even eliminated ¬¬- with a technology being developed by a team led by Andreas Malikopoulos, deputy director of the Urban Dynamics Institute at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The approach presented by Malikopoulos at the recent 18th IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems takes into account which vehicle is closest to the merging zone and assigns times for each vehicle to reach and leave that section. Unlike other approaches addressing the vehicle coordination problem, this method yields the "optimal solution" for all vehicles in real time, which allows for easy vehicle implementation. Malikopoulos and colleagues note that an optimized connected vehicle system can dramatically reduce the 5.5 billion hours wasted each year in traffic jams and the nearly 3 billion gallons of fuel. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov]

MATERIALS - Accelerating discovery ...

Steady progress in the development of advanced materials has led to modern civilization's foundational technologies--better batteries, resilient building materials and atom-scale semiconductors. Development of the next wave of materials, however, is being slowed by the sheer complexity of material systems at extremely small scales. Fortunately, the tools and techniques to overcome these challenges are starting to emerge thanks to advances in experimental imaging, data analytics and high-performance computing. Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Sergei Kalinin, Bobby Sumpter and Richard Archibald have published an overview of these transformative trends in the October 2015 issue of Nature Materials. "We believe this is the wave of the future--not only for understanding the physics and chemistry that characterize a material but also for manipulating materials to exhibit desirable properties," Sumpter said. [Contact: Jonathan Hines, (865) 574-6944; hinesjd@ornl.gov]

NUCLEAR -- Molten salt reactor anniversary ...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is marking the 50th anniversary of the startup of its Molten Salt Reactor Experiment this month. A workshop on molten salt reactor technologies Oct. 15-16 at ORNL will bring together government representatives, U.S. and international researchers, regulators, utilities and reactor design firms for technical discussions and a reception honoring the pioneers of MSR technology. The MSRE, designed to assess the viability of liquid fuel reactor technologies for use in commercial power generation, operated from January 1965 through December 1969, logging more than 13,000 hours at full power during its four-year run. The MSRE was designated a nuclear historic landmark in 1994. "Molten salt technology has experienced a revival in interest both domestically and internationally, and the experiment itself remains unique in reactor development history," said ORNL's David Holcomb. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308; mccorkleml@ornl.gov]

COMPUTING-- Mining information ...

Harvesting oil, mitigating subsurface contamination, and sequestering carbon emissions share a common thread--they deal with multiphase flows, or situations where materials are flowing close together in different states (solids, liquids, or gases) or when the flow is comprised of materials that have a common state with a different chemical makeup that prevents mixing (oil and water). A research team led by Virginia Tech's James McClure is using computational resources at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility to improve computational models for subsurface multiphase flow calculations. The team can essentially take 3-D micro-CT imagery of geologic systems and put them in motion. Thus far, the team has been able to gain unprecedented insight into the intersection of disparate phases, such as oil and water, move and interact in porous rock below the Earth's surface. [Contact: Eric Gedenk, (865) 241-5497; gedenked@ornl.gov]

###

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.