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

CLIMATE - Electricity usage versus price ...

A high school senior at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has published research showing that, while it's just part of a complex story, higher electricity costs alone cannot be counted on to reduce demand for electricity and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The paper, published in "Sustainability," reports that while a higher price of electricity caused consumers in Los Angeles to use less electricity, use in Chicago and New York was unaffected. "Although the initial assumption was that a higher average electricity price would decrease total energy consumption, only the results from the Los Angeles case support this assumption," said lead author and ORNL intern Katherine Fu of Farragut High School in Knoxville, Tenn. Electricity costs were just part of the equation as the researchers also examined population trends, heat waves and the demands of energy consumption in cities. Authors noted that this finding has implications for policymakers as they consider mitigation strategies. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

MATERIALS - Lead-free electromechanics ...

Piezoelectric materials convert mechanical stress into electrical energy in products from electric cigarette lighters to ultrasound machines. Unfortunately most contain lead, which is toxic. "Lead is extremely active in these materials, so we need to find another chemical element with the same properties," said Valentino Cooper, a Department of Energy Early Career Award recipient at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who uses supercomputers to study materials at the level of atoms and electrons. With theoretical calculations based on newly obtained geometries from experiments, Cooper's team revealed an easy transition between phases of bismuth ferrite. This advance opens the door for tuning electromechanical response in products that can be strained to generate a current (e.g., clothing that coverts forces from movement into electricity) or subjected to a current to change a material's shape (think advanced fuel injectors). [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448;]

PHYSICS - 'Repulsive' quantum magnet ...

Neutron measurements at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source are giving physicists new insight into the behavior of quantum magnets. A research team led by Young-June Kim from the University of Toronto used neutron spectroscopy to observe a novel type of energy band repulsion in a magnetic insulator. The study adds to scientists' understanding of quasiparticles, a theoretical concept that describes many particle interactions inside a material. "One general rule for quasiparticles is that energy levels or bands don't like to intersect -- what's known as level repulsion," said ORNL coauthor Garrett Granroth. "In this paper, we show a specific example of a level repulsed by a continuum of states in a quantum magnet, which hasn't been seen before." Understanding the intricate magnetism of this material may help researchers predict analogous behavior in other complex systems such as superconductors. The team's results are published in Nature Physics. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308;]


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