Story tips from Oak Ridge National Laboratory

October 18, 1999

Energy -- A cool concept . . .

Light-colored roofs that reflect the sun's heat can save consumers money. ORNL is working with the roofing industry to predict the amount of savings and establish standards to help consumers compare materials. Researchers are developing objective procedures that allow a consumer to determine the advantages of either re-roofing a building or using a highly reflective roofing material during initial construction. While the "cool roof" is a simple concept, testing under highly variable conditions can affect results and cause confusion in the roofing industry and among regulators and consumers who do not know how to evaluate marketing claims. Through controlled tests at the Building Technology Center, researchers hope to quantify the long-term energy and durability benefits of highly reflective roofing materials in different climatic regions indigenous to the United States. They also plan to develop and promote a fair and credible procedure to help consumers choose a roofing material.
[Contact: Bill Miller]

Instrumentation -- Sensor in a drum . . .

Until now, packaging, storing, transporting or working near drums containing liquid and other forms of waste has been a risky proposition. Each year, hundreds of drums, which become pressurized over time, either blow their lids or rupture. When that happens, workers are put at risk of injury and they and the environment are at risk of contamination. That danger can be avoided with a drum pressure alert device developed at ORNL. It's an inexpensive system that uses a convoluted cylinder and a magnet to provide information about the pressure inside a plastic or metal 20-, 30- or 55-gallon drum.
[Contact: Frank Hodges]

Environment -- Compare from your chair . . .

Car and truck buyers concerned about the environment can turn to a new Web site ( to find information about the environmental and energy consequences of vehicle choices. Shoppers can check out Environmental Protection Agency gas mileage numbers, compare estimates of greenhouse gas emissions and follow links to other car buyer information sites, organized in an easy-to-use format. The EPA estimates gas mileage numbers for every 2000 model car and light truck; the Department of Energy is distributing that information. DOE?s new Web site, developed and maintained by ORNL, connects that information to climate change, environmental pollution and oil imports. Using the comprehensive links section, shoppers can easily jump to manufacturers' Web sites, explore safety ratings or learn about advanced technologies.
[Contact: David Greene]

Energy -- Putting a tiger in your tank . . .

ORNL researchers are working to develop more effective natural gas storage tanks in vehicles. Methane, the major constituent of natural gas, has a higher octane rating for vehicles than other fuels, including unleaded gasoline. It equates to better mileage performance; however, it cannot be stored at a density as high as that of other fuels. By taking advantage of the physical adsorption of the gas in microporous carbon fibers, researchers have devised a method to store compressed natural gas at 500 pounds per square inch instead of the typical 3,000 psi. This lower storage pressure reduces the cost of the storage vessel, allows the use of single-stage compressors and represents a lesser safety hazard than the higher pressures on conventional compressed natural gas storage tanks. The novel technology also allows for the near complete release of the gas.
[Contact: Tim Burchell]
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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