Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Media Relations (news@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL Joins Supercond to Develop a Traffic Monitoring System for 1996 Olympics

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Feb. 28, 1995 — A minority-owned company in Atlanta is joining forces with the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to prevent traffic from being the main competition at the 1996 Olympics.

In a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) between Martin Marietta Energy Systems and Supercond Technology, Inc., plans are under way for the development of a multi-lane traffic monitoring system. The CRADA, funded by the DOE's Office of Economic Development and Diversity, is expected to have applications for traffic management during the 1996 summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, when more than two million visitors are expected during the two-week interval of competition.

Engineers in Oak Ridge and Supercond are working together to develop "smart structures" for intelligent highways by integrating fiber optic materials into a variety of materials including composites and concrete for use in transportation systems. "Smart structures" are composed of materials containing sensors that can provide a variety of measurements. In this instance, the sensors will be in the surface material of the highways and will measure the number of cars, their speed and the degree of congestion in the area. These measurements will be transmitted to a central facility, where traffic can be monitored throughout the city.

Supercond will be leading the commercialization effort of the CRADA. Dr. Thomas Mensah, Supercond's president and chief technical officer, said, "The initial strategic focus of the CRADA is to demonstrate how the sensor will work on the highways in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics."

The second part of the agreement involves the development of intelligent structures and containers from polymer-based composite materials. The researchers are investigating the ability to implement silicone rubber fibers into reusable shipping containers. These fibers, which will act as sensors, will permit the users to quickly and easily monitor the structural integrity of the containers. If the containers have not been damaged, they will immediately be available for use again.

Supercond Technology, an Atlanta-based firm, specializes in defense technology conversion focusing on smart-materials development and advanced communication systems for aerospace and other commercial applications.

ORNL, one of the Department of Energy's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Martin Marietta Energy Systems, which also manages the Oak Ridge K-25 Site and the Oak Ridge Y-12 Plant.