Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, December 2002

December 06, 2002

To arrange for an interview with any of these researchers, please contact the ORNL Communications and Community Outreach staff member identified at the end of each tip.

ROBOTICS - Easing the warrior's load . . .

Soldiers, the elderly and handicapped alike will get a big assist with exoskeleton technology being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and partners. The goal of the project is to enhance the load carrying capability, mobility and endurance of the land warrior and others. For the military, the exoskeleton would, for example, make possible long marches with backpack loads of up to 300 pounds. In the first phase of the project, ORNL scientist Francois Pin and researchers from AeroVironment have overcome perhaps the biggest hurdle by developing an integrated fuel transformer/fuel cell power supply. Others involved in the Department of Defense-funded project are Virginia Tech, Army Research Laboratory and the University of Minnesota, who are working with ORNL on the development of actuation, human-machine sensing interfaces, and controls technologies. [Contact: Ron Walli, 865/576-0226 or]

MATERIALS - Woodman, spare that tree . . .

An average house in the United States can be framed with wood harvested from one-third acre of forest or with steel recycled from six old cars. Wood has been the traditional choice because of cost and thermal efficiency. Now Jan Kosny and other scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have made steel an equal choice by developing a steel-framed wall system that is comparable to wood in thermal efficiency level and cost. It also offers an improved fire rating, additional structural stability and good acoustic performance. In addition, the design cuts the cost of plumbing and electrical installation. [Contact: Marty Goolsby, 865/574-4166 or]

INFORMATION PROCESSING - Evaluating the threat . . .

VIPAR goes where no other software has dared to go. The Virtual Information Processing Agent Research system--developed by Tom Potok and others at Oak Ridge National Laboratory--collects, organizes and displays information from various electronic information sources. It can be used by the military, intelligence and business communities to provide timely, coherent information summaries of world news and intelligence from web-based sources. VIPAR differs from other software or search engines in that it interrogates each source according to user-defined rules and clusters information according to content similarity. This means it can be useful in evaluating possible terrorist threats or other issues related to national security. The original software was developed from a need for modeling on-demand manufacturing techniques. [Contact: Marty Goolsby, 865/574-4166 or]

CHEMICAL MONITORING - Keeping labs safer. . .

Laboratory chemicals with dated shelf lives can become dangerous if not carefully monitored. Paul Ewing and other researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a special storage cabinet system to enhance inventory and tracking of such chemicals and other similar high-risk assets through an antenna-based passive radio-frequency identification tag technology. The "smart cabinet" will track the placement of laboratory chemicals used in a typical research environment inside a small enclosed storage area. The cabinet uses special shelves that have radio frequency reader capability for constant monitoring of placement and removal of chemicals. Changes are recorded in a computer database, and discrepancies are reported to designated personnel through electronic mail or pager. This eliminates the need for physical inventories. [Contact: Fred Strohl, 865/574-4165 or]

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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