New User Facility Measures Up

Some of the best and most precise measurement instruments in the world are now available to representatives of industry and universities, thanks to a new Department of Energy user facility at ORNL.

ORNL's Instrumentation and Controls Division has created the Metrology Research and Development Laboratories facility. It is one of more than a dozen DOE user facilities at ORNL that are open to the Laboratory's more than 4000 yearly guest researchers.

It is one of more than a dozen DOE user facilities at ORNL that are open to the Laboratory's more than 4000 yearly guest researchers.

"Small companies in the area need to use certain testing equipment they can't afford to buy," says Tim McKnight, engineer at the user facility. "We have made this facility available because it enables these companies to expand their capabilities by using our instruments."

Large companies from around the nation also benefit from the facility, says Jim Hylton, group leader of the I&C Division's Sensors and Metrology Group. They have access to unique instruments at the facility, which consists of an array of research centers for developing and testing measurement and sensing technologies. Facility instruments can measure temperature; flow rate for liquids and gases; light intensities and diffraction; and levels of electromagnetic, acoustic, and ionizing radiation.

One unique instrument available is the gravimetric calibrator, a state-of-the-art device that can measure flow rate of any type of gas. Built for use by the semiconductor industry, it has been awarded an international patent and an R&D 100 Award, which is presented annually by R&D magazine in recognition of the year's most significant technological innovations.

Outsiders may also value ORNL's capability of measuring electrical noise that might interfere with operation of electronic systems. Such testing can be done on user equipment in the ORNL facility or at the user's outside facility using portable monitoring equipment loaned by the Laboratory.

ORNL also has a facility in which a user can expose equipment to harsh industrial environments for long-term tests. Such experiments can be controlled remotely over the Internet.

At the Metrology Research and Develpment Laboratories facility, mechanical engineer Ruth Anne Abston prepares a mass flow controller for testing by ORNL's prize-winning gravimetric calibrator, which measures gas flow rates.

The Metrology Research and Development Laboratories not only provide a wide array of instruments but also offer more than 40 years of expertise to users.

"The users," Hylton says, "have access to the I&C Division's research and development staff of more than 100 scientists and engineers who specialize in diverse areas of measurement and sensor technology."

In addition to meeting the measurement and testing needs of today, McKnight says, the new user facility is developing the measurement and testing techniques of tomorrow.

"The facility's goals are to continue to provide state-of-the-art capabilities to industry and academia and to continue to improve the facility," he says. "We will continue to make ORNL-developed technology available to companies and universities."

-- April Davidson

Where to?

[ Next article | Search | Mail | Contents Review Home Page | ORNL Home Page ]