airplanes have driven the U.S. economy for most of the 20th century.
Mass-produced, affordable cars and trucks, combined with the U.S. highway
system, created the American middle class and spurred the growth of
cities and suburbs. U.S. fighter jets helped achieve many victories
in world and regional conflicts, and U.S. aircraft stimulated the growth
of American businesses and U.S.-based international corporations.
helped bring Americans peace and prosperity in the 20th century, it
threatens to impair our quality of life in the 21st century. As gasoline
prices rise, we are reminded of our growing dependence on foreign oil,
a dependence that threatens our national security and economic health.
Because the world's oil supplies may run out in 40 years, we must find
ways to use gasoline more efficiently and rely on alternative fuels
to ensure that the transportation needs of subsequent generations will
still be met. Our transportation vehicles are responsible for one-third
of our nation's energy use and carbon dioxide emissions, which could
adversely affect the stability of our climate.
Because of a growing population,
economic prosperity, and the resulting travel boom, congestion on our
highways and at our airports is getting worse. Pollution from highway
traffic is threatening air quality and health in our metropolitan areas
and national parks. Additionally, we must continuously deal with threats
to highway safetyranging from cell phone use to defective tireswhich
are partly responsible for the 41,000 traffic accident deaths each year
in the United States.
As President Clinton
has noted, a competitive, growing economy requires a transportation
system that can move people, goods, and services quickly, efficiently,
reliably, and economically. Such a transportation system needs technological
innovations to make it happen. A high-tech transportation system will
increase fuel efficiency and safety and reduce air pollution, carbon
dioxide emissions, and congestion.
The National Transportation
Research Center, which opened in October 2000 in Knox County, Tennessee,
is dedicated to helping develop and test advanced transportation systems
and solve problems of the transportation industry. NTRC houses user
facilities containing state-of-the-art equipment purchased by the Department
of Energy. It has one of the largest concentrations of transportation
researchers. It is expected to attract transportation research talent
and businesses needing assistance. NTRC's 160 researchers75% from
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and 25% from the University of Tennessee
at Knoxvillewill make this center an important asset to the transportation
It is appropriate
that transportation issues be studied in East Tennessee using world-class
researchers and facilities. Tennessee ranks fourth in the nation in
automotive manufacturing. Knox County has the second busiest truck weigh
station in the nation, and the state of Tennessee ranks sixth in the
United States in the number of trucks that pass through on the interstate.
Capps shows a trailer at the National Transportation Research
Center (NTRC) in which emerging truck technologies will be demonstrated.
(Photo by Curtis Boles and enhanced by Jane Parrott.)
This special issue
presents the story of the birth of the NTRC, the transportation issues
its researchers are addressing, and the research achievements and capabilities
of many of its researchers. This issue features equipment and research
plans for some of these NTRC labs: composites, infrastructure materials
testing, human factors, geographic information systems, materials packaging,
transportation policy analysis, vehicle and engine testing, commercial
vehicle operations, intelligent transportation systems and traffic control,
military transportation vehicle simulation, power electronics, and materials
modeling and characterization. NTRC's state-of-the-art equipment includes
a pad and bridge crane for package drop tests, a package vibrator, "weigh-in-motion"
static truck scales, and several engine dynamometers. Two chassis dynamometers
will be installed to measure the performance and emissions of cars and
This issue also
highlights the most recent ORNL technologies that have won the prestigious
R&D 100 award. All these winners are excellent examples of ORNL science
and technology at their best, and one especially has a strong link to
transportation. The development of a new type of carbon foam has opened
the door to many areas for application of lightweight heat sink technology,
including for automobiles.
The NTRC is an
example of what a new facility can do to stimulate collaborative research
and transfer technical knowledge by minimizing barriers, such as guarded
fences. We hope this special issue will increase awareness of East Tennessee's
new repository of transportation research expertise and equipment. It
is hoped that NTRC will open up new avenues for investigation to help
steer the U.S. transportation system in desirable directions.
, Deputy for Science
and Technology at ORNL
Transportation Research Center (NTRC)
University of Tennessee