July story tips from Oak Ridge National Laboratory

July 22, 1999

SENSORS -- Super-sensitive chemical detectors . . .
A new generation of chemical microsensors developed at ORNL offers increased performance and versatility over conventional detectors. The new microsensor is based on the photo-induced bending of micro-electro-mechanical systems as the surface absorbs target chemicals. The sensor is activated by shining a laser light, applying an external electric field or exposing it to radiation. While the conventional approach is to coat the surface with chemical layers to achieve chemical specificity, ORNL's sensors feature chemical layers that allow for selectivity by activating the coating itself. [Contact: Panos Datskos]

ENVIRONMENT -- A river flows through it . . .
ORNL researchers hope to help strike a balance between power generation and environmental concerns using a computer model they've adapted to a Montana river system. At issue is the relicensing of several hydroelectric dams, particularly along the Madison River, which flows north from Yellowstone country to the Missouri River. The model was originally developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority to simulate water flow through the system of dams in the Southeast. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is using an environmental assessment by ORNL to weigh the merits of the arguments in deciding whether to issue the renewals. [Contact: Bo Saulsbury]

AUTOMOTIVE -- Electric bus of the future . . .
A new motor controller with advanced soft-switching circuitry developed at ORNL promises to make electric and hybrid vehicles more practical. The 100-kilowatt inverter and controller, which are being tested aboard an electric bus in Chattanooga, Tenn., represent breakthroughs in several areas, including in cost, volume, weight and reliability. The soft-switching circuitry helps reduce damaging power spikes and increases efficiency. Early results are promising, according to ORNL and its partners, Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority, Advanced Vehicle Systems and the Electric Transit Vehicle Institute. Researchers plan to operate the system on a test track and city route and collect and evaluate data. [Contact: Curt Ayers]

MANUFACTURING -- A safer workplace . . .
A rapid infrared heating device developed at ORNL for making steering wheel assemblies significantly reduces repetitive stress injuries in one type of automotive manufacturing. The device, called a polymer boot heater, eases the installation of the protective boot used in automotive rack-and-pinion steering assemblies. The heater expands the leading part of the polymer boot so it can be easily mounted onto a metal housing. It reduces the amount of force needed to install the boot and should decrease injuries. The heater is in use at General Motors' Delphi Automotive Systems in Huntsville, Ala. [Contact: Vinod Sikka]
Story ideas from ORNL. To arrange for an interview with any of these researchers, please call Ron Walli of Communications and Public Affairs at 423-576-0226.

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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