February 2003 Story Tips
Story ideas from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications and External Relations staff member identified at the end of each tip.
Carbon nanotubes hold great promise for applications ranging from miniaturized drug delivery systems to lightweight structural material for aircraft, spacecraft and suspension bridges. The hollow, spaghetti-like tubes promise to replace steel with structural materials that are 100 times stronger and weigh six times less. Carbon nanotubes conduct electricity like perfect metals or can act as tiny semiconductor devices. They already have found their way into today's new field-emission flat-panel displays and promise to replace silicon chips in tomorrow's computers. Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Dave Geohegan, Alex Puretzky and Ilia Ivanov are using laser ablation and vapor deposition techniques to grow nanotubes up to millimeters long. They also are developing ways to align them in polymers for new generations of materials. The challenge now is to gain a better understanding of the tubes' chemistry and how they grow so scientists can optimize the process. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
A new machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's National Transportation Center user facility could help the auto industry make cars that are safer and sustain less damage in collisions. The one-of-a-kind Intermediate Strain Rate Machine enables engineers working with the automotive industry to provide more accurate performance data to improve the crash simulations used in the design process. The ISRM also can assist the military and NASA with structural material testing needs. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; firstname.lastname@example.org]
Ecological models and other tools available to decision makers can vastly reduce the environmental impacts of new roads, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Virginia Dale, one of the authors of two recently released books. In the past, environmental impacts of new roads were often considered too late in the road siting and construction process. Now, however, with highly detailed geographic information systems and computer modeling readily available, decisions can be made that minimize the effects of new roads or at least accurately reflect impacts to the environment. The books, "Road Ecology" and "Ecological Modeling for Resource Management," are about taking the long view and doing a better job of ensuring that ecological effects are fully understood and considered when building new roads or managing ecological resources. [Contact: Ron Walli; 865.576.0226; email@example.com]
Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working to develop and evaluate the use of fiber-reinforced ceramic matrix composite combustor liners as a replacement material for metallic liners to improve operating performance of natural-gas-fired industrial turbines. Several long-term engine tests have shown that the use of such liners results in increased power output, improved thermal efficiency and reduced emissions. The development and use of such advanced materials supports the U.S. Department of Energy's goals of increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution. [Contact: Fred Strohl; 865.574.4165; firstname.lastname@example.org]