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

December 15, 1999

December 1999

Story ideas from ORNL. To arrange for an interview with any of these researchers, please contact Ron Walli of Public Affairs at 423-576-0226;

ENERGY - Solar energy x 3 . . .

Solar energy could get a megaboost, effectively gaining a three-fold improvement over conventional technology, with a system being developed at ORNL. It's called the full-spectrum solar energy system, and it harnesses the clean and abundant energy found in sunlight and uses that energy more efficiently than is possible with traditional solar energy technology. Full-spectrum solar energy departs from conventional approaches that focus on using solar energy for a single purpose, such as to generate power. The proposed system would collect and distribute the visible portion of the light spectrum and use other portions of the spectrum to generate electricity. [Contact: Jeff Muhs]

ENVIRONMENT -- A cleaner fuel . . .

Increasingly stringent standards for sulfur emissions from vehicles could be met with a new process being developed by researchers at ORNL and Petro Star in Alaska. The novel chemical-biological process could result in ultra-clean fuels with sulfur contents of less than 30 parts per million (ppm) compared to the 300 ppm of today's fuels. The Petro Star/ORNL process involves partially oxidizing the sulfur chemically, then extracting the sulfur using a solvent. Then, genetically engineered microbes further reduce the amount of sulfur in the petroleum feed stocks. Researchers are studying the amount of energy the bacteria require and whether the process will be economical compared to existing approaches. Preliminary efforts have been positive and researchers are seeking follow-on support. [Contact: Abhijeet Borole]

ELECTRONICS -- A deeper shade of purple . . .

When scientists at ORNL talk about Deep Purple, they're not talking about the rock group. They're describing an ultra-clean ozone-collecting process with applications for producing revolutionary semiconductors and possible applications that reach into the realm of science fiction. Ozone can oxidize materials at room temperature with much higher reactivity than pure oxygen. The process opens the door to optimizing the "atomic gluing" of dissimilar materials that could produce a new family of semiconductors. Collected high-purity ozone is purple in color with higher concentrations becoming deep purple. [Contact: Alex Gabbard]

MILITARY - Weighing on the fly . . .

Armed with an automated weigh-in-motion system being developed at ORNL, U.S. military forces could increase mobility and decrease mistakes when loading vehicles on transport planes and ships. The project could lead to the conversion of static scales into weigh-in-motion scales at a minimal cost while dramatically decreasing the amount of time required to weigh vehicles, determine axle weight and center of balance. Military personnel will use this information to assist in load planning for military vehicles being transported by planes and ships. ORNL expects the system to have civilian applications as well. [Contact: Dave Beshears]

DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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