Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, July 2011

July 21, 2011

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PHYSICS - Fueling discovery . . .

To study questions of why the universe has matter, physicists can try to create another 'Big Bang' somewhere and study how it evolves. If they only do it once, however, like flipping a coin, there is bias. So they must run a few thousand 'Big Bangs' and wait 14 billion years for each one and see how things come out. Or, they can turn to the new Fundamental Neutron Physics Beam Line at Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Spallation Neutron Source and run experiments at phenomenal power and speed and over several years to get answers to such fundamental physics questions, posed by the origins of matter. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel;]

MATERIALS - Films of remarkable order . . .

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are making new functional nanocomposite materials by inserting nanoparticles into asymmetric block copolymer films, resulting in promising new matrices on which such materials can be constructed. The Magnetism Reflectometer at ORNL's Spallation Neutron Source revealed remarkable evidence that when such thin self-assembled nanocomposite films are confined to two layers and heated, the copolymer layers and nanoparticles form stable structures that preserve the original morphology. Neutrons revealed that after heating, the two-layer structure had become imprinted in the thin films and retained the composition after incorporation of the nanoparticles. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel;]

SENSORS - Palladium power . . .

Nano-sized palladium particles elevate the performance of a new hydrogen microsensor to an unprecedented level, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Nickolay Lavrik. The key innovation is based on the fact nano-sized palladium particles react very quickly to hydrogen gas. "Our hydrogen sensor consists of a silicon or silicon nitride cantilever transducer with a responsive coating, a gas flow system and an optical readout system," Lavrik said. As the palladium particles absorb hydrogen, their volume increases, causing the cantilever to bend, and a read laser instantly detects that movement. The ORNL hydrogen gas detector boasts far greater selectivity and lower cost than competing products. [Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

ENERGY - An inside look . . .

Porous carbons are widely used as electrode material for energy storage in supercapacitors and batteries. Whether a porous carbon is efficient for such applications depends on the size and shape of the pores. Carbide-derived carbon has attracted particular interest because the possibility exists to tune its pore characteristics and control the average pore size with sub-nanometer accuracy. Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory used the SANS [GP-SANS] Instrument at the High Flux Isotope Reactor to take measurements of microporous titanium carbide-derived carbon. SANS produced new findings about both the porosity and pore shape in these very narrow-pored materials, correcting findings made earlier by X-ray scattering and computational modeling. [Contact: Agatha Bardoel;]

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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