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ORNL

— Architecture

ORNL roof-and-attic system keeps houses cool in summer, warm in winter

Heating and cooling a house are two of the biggest ongoing costs for homeowners and are responsible for the bulk of the average household’s energy consumption. A new kind of roof-and-attic system field tested at the DoE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) improves the efficiency of both winter heating and summer cooling. Importantly, the new system can be retrofitted to most existing roofs. Read More
— Science

Oak Ridge develops improved way of extracting uranium from seawater

The world’s estimated reserves of uranium are only 6 million tons and with the growing demand for reliable energy free of greenhouse emissions leading to more and more nuclear plants being built, that supply may not last very long. Some estimates place the time before all the uranium is gone at between 50 and 200 years. However, the oceans of the world contain 4.5 billion tons of uranium dissolved in seawater. That’s enough to last something on the order of 6,500 years. The tricky bit is getting it out, but a team at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee has come a step closer to economically extracting uranium from seawater with a new material that is much more efficient than previous methods. Read More
— Medical

New concept could lead to low-cost DNA sequencing in everyday clinical practices

Doctors and scientists wishing to decode a human genome can now do so in a day for US$1,000 a pop using the recently-released Ion Proton sequencer. With a price tag of $149,000, though, the machine isn’t cheap – nor is it the be-all and end-all of desktop gene sequencing. For one thing, the tiny $900 MinION sequencer should be available soon. Also, a team of scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Yale University have now developed a concept of their own, which could end up providing an even less expensive high-speed sequencer. Read More
— Science

Culturomics research uses quarter-century of media coverage to forecast human behavior

"Culturomics" is an emerging field of study into human culture that relies on the collection and analysis of large amounts of data. A previous culturomic research effort used Google's culturomic tool to examine a dataset made up of the text of about 5.2 million books to quantify cultural trends across seven languages and three centuries. Now a new research project has used a supercomputer to examine a dataset made up of a quarter-century of worldwide news coverage to forecast and visualize human behavior. Using the tone and location of news coverage, the research was able to retroactively predict the recent Arab Spring and successfully estimate the final location of Osama Bin Laden to within 200 km (124 miles). Read More
— Science

Hydrogen found to be essential to creating better graphene

Graphene, the "wonder material" composed of single-atom-thick carbon sheets, is currently finding its way into a variety of electronic devices including computer chips, capacitors, transistors and batteries, just to name a few. It is typically created using a chemical vapor deposition process, in which carbon-containing gases are made to decompose on a copper foil substrate. The performance of the material may be limited, however, due to the fact that the individual graphene grains in one sheet are not of a consistent size or shape, and usually are larger than a single crystal. That could be about to change, though, as a new production method that utilizes hydrogen gas is promising higher-performance graphene with uniform, single-crystal grains. Read More
— Military

Fiber-optic laser-based system brings rifle sights into the 21st century

At long ranges, snipers must compensate not only for crosswinds and the fact that bullets travel in a curved trajectory, but also allow for even very small barrel disruptions that can cause a shooter to miss their intended target by a wide margin. Contending with such difficulties makes feats such as the 1.53 mile (2.47 km) sniper kills by British Corporal Craig Harrison even more impressive, but a new type of rifle sighting system developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) could take one of these variables out of the equation. The fiber-optic laser-based sensor system precisely measures the deflection of the barrel relative to the sight and automatically adjusts the crosshairs to match. Read More
— Science

ORNL demonstrates photosynthetic hydrogen production

One of the biggest problems with the move towards a hydrogen economy is currently the production of hydrogen fuel takes a lot of energy, which generally comes from burning fossil fuels. For hydrogen vehicles to make sense, cleaner more efficient hydrogen production methods will need to be developed. One promising approach takes its lead from the natural processes of photosynthesis in order to convert sunlight into hydrogen fuel. The latest breakthrough in this quest comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where scientists have taken an important step towards understanding the design principles that promote self-assembly in natural photosynthetic systems. Read More
— Electronics

Graphite foam promises longer-lasting LEDs

LED lamps may soon be able to go much longer between fixture replacements thanks to a new graphite foam cooling system developed at the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The graphite foam works by passively wicking heat away from the lamp via its lightly-packed, open skeletal structure – and given that a ten-degree decrease in operating temperature can double the lifespan of LED lighting components, the benefits of keeping them cool are clear. Read More
— Science

Pure platinum alternative promises breakthrough in fuel cell technology

The most obvious obstacles for the widespread adoption of fuel cell technology are cost and performance. Although they promise benefits over internal combustion engines and batteries in terms of environmental impact, they are still fairly limited in use for these reasons. One of the most expensive elements used in most fuel cells is platinum, but now researchers have created a unique core and shell nanoparticle that uses far less platinum, yet performs more efficiently and lasts longer than commercially available pure-platinum catalysts at the cathode end of fuel cell reactions. Read More
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