Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, December 2007

December 10, 2007

MATERIALS -- Tougher teeth . . .

Artificial teeth and crowns made of ceramic material are doomed to fail - usually within six to 10 years - but that may change because of a technique that borrows from nature. A group led by Claus Daniel of Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Materials Science and Technology Division has discovered that a high-speed periodic laser treatment of dental grade ceramics alters the surface structure. "Nowadays, cracks begin at the interface between ceramic and remaining tooth or metallic anchor and grow to create a fatal crack and failure of the tooth," Claus said. "We need to inhibit those cracks from be initiated." The proprietary technique being developed by Claus and partners at University of Illinois at Chicago, Boston University and University of Tennessee controls the shape and the microstructure creating nanocrystalline material with up to 50 percent increase in flexure strength adding only pennies to a product worth hundreds of dollars. The treated composite resembles biological materials with complex hierarchical structure. Funding has been provided by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

[Contact: Ron Walli (865) 576-0226;]

MATERIALS -- Boost for E85 . . .

One obstacle to increased use of E85 will fall when Underwriters Laboratories begins certifying fuel dispensers, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are contributing data that could fuel the process. While E85, an alcohol fuel mixture, can help meet the goal of displacing 20 percent of gasoline with biofuels within 10 years, there must first be assurances that the dispensing equipment is safe. Consequently, UL, North America's leading safety testing and certification organization, recently announced the establishment of safety requirements. ORNL's Ron Graves of the lab's Engineering Science and Technology Division is leading a team conducting long-term dynamic testing of materials to be used in E85 dispensers. The concern focuses on potential deterioration of materials exposed to highly concentrated ethanol-blended fuels. Other partners in this UL-funded project are the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

[Contact: Ron Walli, (865) 576-0226;]

NEUTRON SCIENCE -- Record cold . . .

Just a few months after the Spallation Neutron Source announced a new world's record for beam power, its sister neutron facility at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory--the High Flux Isotope Reactor--can boast a record of its own. HFIR's new cold source is producing more cold neutrons than expected and probably exceeds the current top reactor-based cold source. Cold neutrons, which are chilled with liquid hydrogen, are best suited for analyzing the molecular structures of soft materials such as polymers and biological tissues. HFIR's success means a world-class reactor-based cold neutron source will be available to researchers in the United States.

[Contact: Bill Cabage, (865) 574-4399;]

TECH TRANSFER -- Marketing innovations . . .

Oak Ridge National Laboratory has received $2.5 million from the Department of Energy as part of a new Technology Commercialization and Deployment Program to help bring energy efficient and renewable energy innovations to market. Technology transfer officials at the lab worked with DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy program on the initiative to close the gap between initial development of new technologies and delivery them to the marketplace. The program leverages collaborations between ORNL researchers and private companies, which have made matching contributions to DOE funding. Funded projects at ORNL include lower-cost, higher efficiency material for photovoltaic solar cells; continued testing of a new stainless steel alloy with improved high temperature performance for use in reduced-emission diesel and gasoline engine turbochargers; and a lower cost, more energy efficient manufacturing process known as high magnetic field processing for next-generation materials.

[Contact: Larisa M. Brass, (865) 574-4163;]
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DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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