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Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, September 2016

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

ADHESIVES - Metals that bind ...

Oak Ridge National Laboratory and 3M are teaming up to study whether adhesives can be developed to join heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration components. Using neutron imaging capabilities at the lab's High Flux Isotope Reactor, the research team will characterize novel aluminum-to-copper adhesive bonding materials at the microscopic level. The ability to non-invasively quantify the adhesive's coverage and evaluate geometric pathways that affect joining strength could ultimately improve efficiency and performance when applied in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219,]


Cutline: A new ORNL and 3M project will investigate ways to improve adhesive joining materials used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

SOLAR - Cleaner coatings ...

Keeping energy-concentrating mirrors at solar thermal power plants free from dirt is both labor and time intensive. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working to address the challenge with lab-developed superhydrophobic coating technology. "We've shown that applying superhydrophobic coating to the surface of solar mirrors reduces dust particle accumulation," said ORNL's Georgios Polyzos. "Now, we're working to improve the coating's durability, which could make it a cost-effective solution for boosting energy production and operational efficiency at concentrated solar power plants." The ORNL team is subjecting thinly sprayed mirror samples to simulated harsh desert conditions. Following successful lab testing, they plan to evaluate the coatings on mirrors in the field. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219,]


Cutline: Cleaning and maintaining solar mirrors could become less labor and time intensive with the application of ORNL-developed superhydrophobic coating technology.

NUCLEAR -- Testing future reactors ...

Fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors are a promising design in the next generation of nuclear energy production, and one of the first steps from concept to reality is underway at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A team led by ORNL's Graydon Yoder Jr. is operating a test loop to see how fluoride salts would perform in transferring heat from the FHR's core. "It's the first high-temperature fluoride salt pumped test loop facility in the U.S. since the 1970s," Yoder said. "The loop can provide useful information to reactor developers showing that liquid salt heat transfer meets performance goals and safety requirements." The FHR would provide temperatures well above 600 degrees Celsius, which increases energy efficiency while maintaining a low pressure because the fluoride salt is far from its boiling point. The research team is also testing other new concepts, including silicon carbide as a piping component and a dry rotating gas seal design. [Contact: Jason Ellis, (803) 804-4122;]


Cutline: ORNL researchers use infrared photos to identify temperature loss that could create problems in the high-temperature fluoride salt pumped test loop.

MATERIALS - Modeling radiation damage ...

In nuclear reactors, energetic neutrons slam into metal atoms that are ordered in a lattice, displacing them with enough force to trigger a cascade of collisions. Laurent Béland,Yuri Osetsky and Roger Stoller, of the Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution Energy Frontier Research Center at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, modeled radiation damage and discovered that the number of defects ultimately created in a material correlates with atomic displacements that high-pressure shock waves generate early in the collision cascade. "In a typical simulation, the forces emerging from interatomic interactions at these distances are inaccurately modeled, which impacts the final outcome of the cascades," Béland said. "This region where we had only an ad hoc description of collisions is where all the important things happen," Stoller added. Their better understanding will improve simulations of chemically complex alloys. [Contact: Dawn Levy, (865) 576-6448;]


Cutline: Bombarding a nickel lattice with high-energy neutrons creates a cascade of collisions that displace atoms. High-pressure energy waves generated early in the collision cascade determine the fate of defects that ultimately form in the material. Image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy


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