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Researchers from ORNL Received Recognition in Nanotechnology

Published on July 2, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have won six R+D 100 Awards for innovative technologies in areas ranging from national security to the advanced materials industry.

"This is yet the latest example of how the Department of Energy and our national laboratories are continuing to demonstrate world-class leadership in innovation, as we enhance our energy security, national security, and economic competiveness," said U.S. Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman. "On behalf of the department, I would like to congratulate all of our employees who have earned R&D 100 awards and in particular this year's winners."

R&D Magazine issues the awards in recognition of the year's most significant technological innovations. This year's awards were announced Monday, June 30.

"This is an impressive example of the diversity and depth of the laboratory's research talent," said ORNL Director Thom Mason. "These awards demonstrate our ability to translate breakthroughs in fundamental science into applications that address important technological challenges."

This year's awards bring ORNL to a total of 140 since the awards' inception 45 years ago. ORNL has won more R&D 100 awards than any other DOE laboratory and is second only to General Electric.

Researchers from ORNL received recognition for the following inventions:

(1) Adaptive band excitation controller and software for scanning probe microscopy, invented and submitted jointly by Stephen Jesse and Sergei Kalinin of DOE's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL and Roger Proksch of Asylum Research Corp.

The adaptive band excitation controller and software opens a new range of scanning probe microscopy techniques by performing more rapid probing of energy dissipation than has previously been possible. These techniques are used by researchers for functional imaging and manipulation on an extremely minute scale—down to the nanometer and atomic scale. This technology enables scientists to characterize a sample's electrical, magnetic, and mechanical energy conversion and dissipation properties at the nanoscale at standard imaging rates.

Research was sponsored by the DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences and Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering.

(2) Cratos V Nano-Wool, developed and submitted jointly by Roland Seals of Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Y-12 and Paul Menchhofer, Vinod Sikka and Fred Montgomery of the Materials Science and Technology Division.

Cratos V is a new process for producing high-purity carbon nanotubes quickly and at a fraction of the typical cost. The resulting high-strength lightweight Nano-Wool may be used to reinforce cutting tools, grinding wheels and metal composites, or to produce new polymers that conduct electricity. The introduction of the Cratos V technology decreases production cost, making nanotubes significantly less expensive than other sources. The advance is due to the development of a new high-productivity catalyst in combination with a simplified process that yields very pure nanotubes.

Funding for the project came from Y-12's Plant Directed Research and Development program.

(3) Laser-induced fluorescence composite heat damage detector, developed and submitted jointly by Chris Janke and Cliff Eberle of the Materials Science and Technology Division, Curt Maxey and John Storey of the Energy & Transportation Science Division, Art Clemons of the National Security Directorate, and Walt Fisher, Eric Wachter and Josh Fisher of Galt Technologies.

The heat damage detector provides rapid and accurate heat damage assessments of fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites found in military and commercial aircraft. Composites have a high strength-to-weight ratio, increasing aircraft fuel efficiency without a compromise in safety. However, they are vulnerable to heat damage, which can cause significant degradation in the materials' properties. The detector is the first of its kind that does not require destruction of the sample under inspection, reducing the cost of identifying and repairing heat-damaged composites ten-fold. The system is also lightweight and portable.

Work on the detector was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

(4) NanoSH Superhydrophobic Technology, developed and submitted jointly by John Simpson, Brian D'Urso and Steve McNeany of the Measurement Science and Systems Engineering Division, Vinod Sikka of the Materials Science and Technology Division, and Donald Speicher and Andrew Jones of Ross Technology Corp.

NanoSH makes surfaces completely water repellant by forming a microscopic air gap between the treated surface and water. This nanotechnology has a range of applications, from reducing the energy needed to propel waterborne vessels or to pump water through pipes by decreasing friction to protecting metals and alloys from corrosion. Unlike most hydrophobic films, the NanoSH coating is easy and inexpensive to make.

NanoSH was funded by ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program.

(5) SpaciMS: Spatially Resolved Capillary Inlet Mass Spectrometer, developed and submitted jointly by William Partridge Jr., Jae-Soon Choi, John Storey and Sam Lewis of the Energy & Transportation Science Division, Neal Currier and Aleksey Yezerets of Cummins, Alexandre Goguet and Christopher Hardacre of CenTACat, Queen's University Belfast, David Lundie, Terry Whitmore and Adrian Jessop of Hiden Analytical, and Gerald DeVault and Robert Smithwick III of the Y-12 National Security Complex.

SpaciMS takes samples inside the confined spaces of reactors like automotive catalysts, fuel reformers or fuel cells, measuring changes in chemical composition in both space and time within the reactors. Sampling within the reactor during operation gives greater understanding of reactor and catalytic chemistry than has previously been possible by measuring reactor exhaust alone. This technology was used in the optimization of the groundbreaking 2007 Dodge Ram heavy-duty pickup truck, which met 2010 emissions control standards three years ahead of schedule.

Funding for the development of SpaciMS was provided by ORNL's Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program and DOE's Office of Heavy Vehicle Technology and Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies.

(6) 2-MGEM, Optical Anisotropy Factor Measurement System, developed and submitted jointly by Doug Mark, Baoliang "Bob" Wang, Andy Breninger, Tarik Hadid, Chad Mansfield, Bob Lakanen and Abebe Gezahegn of Hinds Instruments and Gerald Jellison, John Hunn and Christopher Rouleau of the Materials Science and Technology Division.

The 2-MGEM microscope is used to characterize light polarization properties of a sample more accurately and reliably than previous techniques. Application of the technology is for characterization and quality control of the coated particle fuel that will be used in the next generation of cleaner, more efficient nuclear power reactors, which are believed to be one of the best near-term solutions to the world's increasing energy needs. Additional applications could include the characterization of other crystals, carbon compounds and thin-film coatings.

Funding for this project was provided by sources including the DOE's Advanced Gas Reactor Fuel Development and Qualification Program.

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