ORNL story tips May 2000

May 17, 2000

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

INDUSTRY - Drying lumber in a flash . . .

Lumberyards everywhere could revolutionize their businesses with a microwave pretreatment system that reduces from about two months to 10 days the amount of time needed to dry hardwoods. The system could save the lumber industry a significant amount in energy costs and reduce inventory requirements and expense. It can also reduce yield losses caused by long periods during which wood is exposed to insects, weather and fungus. The technology, developed by ORNL and partners, selectively opens cellular membranes, increasing fluid flow through the wood. This improves the drying rate and decreases the time required to kiln dry. The treatment also permits the production of a broad new range of low-pressure impregnated wood products for a variety of applications. [Contact: Alicia Compere]

AUTOMOBILES - Fuel cell breakthrough . . .

Low- or zero-emission high-mileage automobiles powered by fuel cells could be just around the curve with the development of a carbon composite bipolar plate developed at ORNL. A bipolar plate is a key component of a proton exchange membrane fuel cell, the technology of choice in the automobile industry because of its low-temperature operation and rapid startup. ORNL's plate overcomes significant barriers in the areas of weight, cost, corrosion resistance, conductivity and manufacturing. A key to the success is the development of a low-cost method to produce a porous carbon-fiber preform and then seal the surface with a conductive carbon. A fuel cell uses hydrogen to produce electricity with water being the only emission. [Contact: Ted Besmann]

TRANSPORTATION - New hope for diesels . . .

Diesels equipped with a new emission control system could meet Environmental Protection Agency standards scheduled to be phased in beginning in 2004. ORNL researchers achieved 0.05 grams per mile nitrogen oxide emissions from a light-duty diesel vehicle using a prototype nitrogen oxide adsorber and 3 parts per million sulfur diesel fuel. The system reduced the vehicle's nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 90 percent when the vehicle was run according to federal test procedures. While durability of the emissions reduction system has not been shown, results indicate that there is hope for this efficient power plant to power our future. [Contact: Brian West]

PHYSICS - Beyond the stars . . .

Using a beam of fluorine-17 thought to be too difficult to create in sufficient quantities for experiments, ORNL researchers are gaining a better understanding of what happens in stellar explosions. Precision measurements performed with fluorine-17, which lives for just a minute, help physicists understand how elements are created in X-ray bursts and nova explosions. These aren't as spectacular as supernovae, but they're far more frequent events. This experiment helps scientists place their models of stellar explosions on a firm empirical foundation. The fluorine-17 beam was generated in ORNL's Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility. [Contact: Jeff Blackmon]
To arrange for an interview with any of these researchers, please contact Ron Walli of Communications and Community Outreach at (865) 576-0226; wallira@ornl.gov

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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