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ORNL


— Space

US restarts production of plutonium-238 to power space missions

In an effort to avert an outer space energy crisis, the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has restarted production of plutonium-238 (PU-238) after almost 30 years. The civilian stockpile of the plutonium isotope used to power the radiothermal generators (RTG) that make electricity for US deep space probes has dwindled to only 35 kg (77 lb), so the first 50 g (1.7 oz) of plutonium oxide produced by the laboratory marks a major turnaround in American space capabilities.

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— Materials

New process could see "white graphene" pairing with graphene in ultra-thin electronics

Monolayer-thick sheets of hexagonal boron nitride, or "white graphene," share many of the properties of graphene, including exceptional mechanical strength and thermal conductivity. But one important point of difference is its electrical conductivity, with graphene being a conductor, while white graphene is an insulator. Now researchers have developed a process to create a virtually perfect monolayer of white graphene, making a dream team pairing of graphene and white graphene substrate for use in next generation electronic devices a possibility.

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— Materials

New fluorescent lighting phosphors slash use of rare-earth elements

Phosphors are essential to fluorescent lighting, and thus office parks the world over, but their use of rare-earth elements makes them less than ideal. To address that issue, new types of phosphors have been developed that use substantially less rare-earth elements than current phosphors found in fluorescent bulbs. This could reduce the reliance on the limited supplies of rare-earth elements until fluorescent lighting can be completely replaced by LED lighting, which isn't expected to occur for over a decade.

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— 3D Printing

Researchers create a 3D-printed vehicle that can power a 3D-printed home (and vice versa)

A research team from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ONRL) has created a new model for how we can connect the way we power our homes and vehicles. Dubbed AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy), the platform features special technology that allows a bi-directional flow of energy between a dwelling and a vehicle. In other words, the house can fuel the car and the car can fuel the house. What's more, ORNL used 3D printing technology to build the dwelling and the vehicle, before successfully trialing the new energy system.

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— 3D Printing

ORNL unveils 3D-printed Shelby Cobra in Detroit

It stands to reason that if you had a big enough 3D printer, one of the first things you would do is print a replica of a vintage 1965 Shelby Cobra sportscar, and that's what the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) did for the 2015 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The result of a project that took only six weeks from conception to finished product, the vehicle not only celebrates the Shelby Cobra's 50th anniversary, but also acts as a demonstration of modern additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping technology. Read More
— Science

Water droplet networks could harvest water from fog

Harvesting water out of thin air, might seem like a pipe dream, but the air-stable water droplet networks, currently being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers could prove to be a step in the right direction. Created with the aid of a new technique, these water droplet networks could also potentially find use in membrane research and biological sensing applications. Read More
— Science

Dual-functioning electrolyte improves capacity of long-life batteries

The three main components of a battery's makeup: the anode, cathode and the ion-conducting electrolyte, have been long understood to serve separate, independent functions. A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is seeking to challenge this theory, experimenting with a dual functioning electrolyte that supplements the cathode to significantly improve the capacity and longevity of long-life batteries. Read More
— Science

Oak Ridge unveils Titan, the world's most powerful supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has just introduced Titan, the world’s most powerful supercomputer. The size of a basketball court and using enough power to run a small town, the water-cooled circuits of Titan are capable of 20 petaflops or 20,000 trillion calculations per second. This makes Titan ten times more powerful than ORNL’s previous computer, Jaguar and 200,000 times more than the average PC. What’s more, it achieves this through components originally created for gaming computers. Read More
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