Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Bill Cabage (cabagewh@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


Three ORNL researchers receive Office of Science early career research grants

ORNL early career grant recipients (from left) are Gonzalo Alvarez-Campot, Nina Balke and Ezekial Unterberg.
OAK RIDGE, Tenn., May 26, 2011 — Three researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory are among recipients of Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards for 2011.

The five-year awards are designed to support exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. The grants will be up to $500,000 per year per researcher to cover year-round salary plus research expenses.

The three ORNL recipients investigate complex problems and phenomena associated with strategic energy research goals.

Gonzalo Alvarez-Campot, who holds a joint appointment in ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences Division and Computer Science and Mathematics Division, submitted a winning proposal, titled, "Diagonalization Solvers for Electronic Collective Phenomena in Nanoscience," selected by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Alvarez's project aims to advance theoretical modeling capabilities to understand nanoscale phenomena in strongly correlated electronic materials, including Mott insulators and high-temperature superconductors. The fundamental understanding of these materials can provide insights for the development of new materials for solar cells, solid-state lighting and superconductor power transmission. Computer codes will be made accessible to the scientific community as part of the user-driven program at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

Nina Balke, of the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL, was selected for her proposal, titled, "Spatially Resolved Ionic Diffusion and Electrochemical Reactions in Solids: A Biased View at Lithium-Ion Batteries."

Balke's project will seek to enhance the fundamental understanding of the nanoscale processes that define a battery. Her research will combine the use of a novel microscope with 100-fold improved resolution with electrical and structural battery characterization techniques and advanced theoretical modeling. The research will investigate the complex interplay of ionic and electronic transport in battery materials.

Ezekial A. Unterberg, of ORNL's Fusion Energy Division, submitted "Innovative Techniques for Improved Diagnosis and Control of Edge Localized Modes in 3-D Toroidal Plasmas," selected by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences.

A major challenge for the ITER international fusion experiment and future fusion reactors is controlling the intense fluxes of heat generated in high-energy, long-pulse plasmas by instabilities known as edge localized modes, or ELMs. These modes can seriously damage fusion reactor surfaces. Unterberg's research aims to create tools to improve the understanding of ELM excitation and facilitate the design of more effective control methods.

The total of 67 early career award selectees, who represent 41 institutions and 22 states, were chosen based on peer review from 1,150 proposals submitted last November.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for DOE's Office of Science.