01/14/2015

DOE/OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY

Story tips from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Jan. 2015

While researchers in Oak Ridge National Laboratory's buildings group focus on increasing energy efficiency using new foam insulation panels, the nanophase materials sector experiments with catalyst performance, revealing an oxidation discovery that could help reduce vehicle emissions. Additionally, Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers aim to reduce the size, weight and power for some particle accelerators with development of a new voltage supply. And by using water and nano-sized particles isolated from trees and plants, scientists explore low-cost and nontoxic metal oxides.

Nano - "Green" metal oxides
Water and nano-sized particles isolated from trees, plants and algae are the ingredients of a new recipe for low-cost metal oxides that are widely used in displays, smart windows, magnetic memories and coatings. This innovation by Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers Soydan Ozcan and Yuan Lu could replace the conventional method for fabricating metal oxide particles and films, saving many steps, cutting costs and eliminating harsh chemicals and toxins. "Our metal oxide nanomaterials represent a transformational advance with unprecedented low manufacturing costs and the ability to adjust morphology for specific applications," Lu said. The researchers envision their technology having a significant impact on the $4.1 billion transparent conductive layer - glass and film - market. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308; mccorkleml@ornl.gov]

Materials - Next-generation insulation
A composite foam insulation panel being developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and partners could reduce wall-generated heating and cooling loads in buildings by 38 to 50 percent, potentially saving homeowners $150 or more per year. The proposed 2-inch board will feature modified atmosphere insulation and target an R-value of 25 at a projected cost of 30 cents per square foot more than current insulation materials. That works out to a payback of 10 years. "This project is in line with the Department of Energy's goal to reduce energy consumption in buildings by 50 percent by 2030," said Kaushik Biswas of ORNL's Building Envelope Systems Research Group. ORNL researchers will use their extensive experimental and modeling capabilities to measure and optimize the material's thermal performance. Partners in this project are Firestone Building Products Co. of Indianapolis and NanoPore of Albuquerque, N.M. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308; mccorkleml@ornl.gov]

Tech - Mini power supply licensed
An efficient and extremely compact high voltage power supply developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory is headed for use in neutron, X-ray and gamma-ray generators. Starfire Industries of Champaign, Ill., has licensed the patent-pending technology to help reduce the size, weight and power aspects for their particle accelerator devices used in non-destructive testing and imaging. The ORNL technology was developed by Bruce Warmack, Nance Ericson, John Brainard and Chuck Britton. [Contact: Morgan McCorkle, (865) 574-7308; mccorkleml@ornl.gov]

Materials - Efficient catalysts
Reduction of pollution from vehicles and power plants relies, in large part, on how effectively catalysts can oxidize nitric oxide (NO). Advancing such catalyst performance requires a better understanding of the noble metals used in catalytic converters. Using theoretical modeling, experimental work and advanced instruments at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists recently discovered remarkable oxidation of NO on single platinum atoms -- a discovery that bucks a common assumption that single atoms are catalytically inactive. "This work will impact determining the optimum loading of noble metals on emissions-treatment catalysts and design of low-temperature catalysts," said ORNL's Chaitanya Narula.

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