Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

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


ORNL early career awards tackle range of energy challenges

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., July 18, 2012 — Fusion, climate, nuclear physics and advanced materials make up the fields of science that will be supported at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through the latest round of awards from the Department of Energy's Office of Science Early Career Research Program.

Four ORNL staff members were among 68 scientists from across the nation selected for the five-year awards designed to bolster the nation's scientific work force by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

The awards are also aimed at providing incentives for scientists to focus on mission research areas that are a high priority for DOE.

Wei-Ren Chen, of the Biology and Soft Matter Division of ORNL's Neutron Sciences Directorate, will receive funding for a proposal, titled, "Multiphasic Soft Colloids: From Fundamentals to Application of Energy Sustainability," selected by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

Chen's project is to develop a fundamental understanding of the structure, dynamics and interaction of molecular-level materials known as multiphasic soft colloidal systems. His research will lay groundwork for the design of novel materials that address DOE's mission to develop advanced energy technologies such as energy storage.

Nicolas Commaux, who is working through ORNL's Fusion Energy Division, will receive funding for a proposal, titled, "Development and Characterization of Improved Disruption and Runaway Electron Mitigation Systems," selected by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences.

Commaux's proposal is to develop and characterize new techniques to mitigate disruptions and runaway electrons in large burning-plasma tokamak fusion reactors. These disruptions, or sudden loss of plasma confinement, are major challenges for large fusion devices such as the ITER fusion experiment because they can induce severe damage to the plasma-facing components and the structures of the machine.

Daniel J. Hayes' early career proposal, titled, "Model-Data Fusion Approaches for Retrospective and Predictive Assessment of the Pan-Arctic Scale Permafrost Carbon Feedback to Global Climate," was selected by the Office of Biological & Environmental Research. Hayes works in ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division.

Hayes' project entails surveying, integrating and evaluating existing information on key processes that control the transfer of carbon from frozen organic material to atmospheric greenhouse gases. This information will help inform future decisions about energy, climate and the Arctic and will also help with the design and implementation of future climate-related research activities.

Steven D. Pain, of the ORNL Physics Division, will receive early career funding for his proposal, titled, "Nuclear Physics on the Road to FRIB: Enhancing Direct-Reaction Measurements Through High-Resolution Coincidence Experiments," selected by the Office of Nuclear Physics.

Pain's research will focus on enhancing the sensitivity of direct reaction experiments on short-lived exotic nuclei, which exist only for a short time before decaying to the more common stable isotopes, by measuring gamma rays and charged particles that are released during reaction processes. His project will help address questions regarding the origin of elements in the cosmos and the nuclear reactions in exploding stars. These studies will lay the groundwork for future experiments conducted at the proposed Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.

The final details for each award are subject to final grant and contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for DOE's Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.