Story tips from the DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dec. 2008

December 09, 2008

CLIMATE -- Spotlight on CO2 . . .

Data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory combined with computational power and tools provided by ORNL researchers will result in unprecedented levels of information about atmospheric carbon dioxide. The satellite, scheduled for launch in mid-January, will collect precise global measurements of CO2 and transmit that information to Earth. Using version 5 of the Goddard Earth Observing System model (GEOS-5), developed by a team that includes ORNL's David Erickson, scientists will with great precision be able to see sources and sinks of atmospheric CO2. The combination of Jaguar's massive computing power - 1.64 petaflops per second (peak) - and scientific interpretations aided by NASA satellite data should for the first time give scientists a clear picture of where carbon is being produced and where it ultimately ends up. Funding is provided by NASA and the Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY -- Heat to power . . .

Combined heat and power (CHP) technologies, which capture and reuse waste heat from electric or mechanical power, account for about 9 percent of annual U.S. power generation. Roughly doubling that capacity could cut projected U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2030-- the equivalent to taking 45 million cars off the road -- an Oak Ridge National Laboratory study shows. Current CHP systems made up of gas turbines, fuel cells or engines combined with heat exchangers and chillers cut 1.8 billion Btu of fuel consumption and 266 million tons of CO2 emissions compared to traditional separate production of electricity and thermal energy. In addition to the 60 percent CO2 reduction, raising CHP generating capacity to 20 percent would create a million new jobs; $234 billion in new U.S. investments; and fuel savings equivalent to nearly half the total energy now consumed by U.S. households. The ORNL report on "Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future" is sponsored by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Industrial Technologies Program.

ISOTOPES -- Banner year . . .

Californium-252 and actinium-225 generated half of the $5 million in sales for the Department of Energy's National Isotope Data Center at ORNL in fiscal year 2008. That amount represents a $1 million increase from 2007. Californium-252 -- used as a start-up source in nuclear reactors, in analyzers for the coal and concrete industries and in detectors for homeland security -- produced $2 million in sales. Actinium-225, an isotope extracted as a product of the decay of thorium-229 and used in radiotherapy trials for various cancers, including ovarian, lung and myeloid leukemia, accounted for more than $500,000. The Californium-252 is produced at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor in conjunction with the lab's Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. ORNL offers a wide range of capabilities in isotope production and irradiation tests for materials research. Beyond these contributions, HFIR, supported by the Office of Science, is a world leader in producing neutrons for materials studies.

SENSORS -- On the prowl . . .

Mathematics and sensors come together in some new ways to form a powerful tool for combating terrorism, piracy and the transport of drugs. In a project that combines resources at ORNL and Clemson University, researchers and students are using something called Level 3 sensor fusion to identify and predict the behavior of ships, tanks, people and more. "This means we not only know where they are, but we can make educated guesses about what they're going to do and when," said Chris Griffin of ORNL's Computational Sciences & Engineering Division. The system, called LEPERD - Learning and Prediction for Enhanced Readiness and Decision Making - involves a lot of new math and uses techniques from pattern recognition, learning theory, statistical analysis and control theory. Funding is provided by the Office of Naval Research.
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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