ORNL-led team demonstrates desalination with graphene membrane

Nature Nanotech Pores

Researchers created nanopores in graphene (red, and enlarged in the circle to highlight its honeycomb structure) that are stabilized with silicon atoms (yellow) and showed their porous membrane could desalinate seawater. Orange represents a non-graphene residual polymer. (Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy)


By Dawn Levy

Less than 1 percent of Earth’s water is drinkable. Removing salt and other minerals from our biggest available source of water—seawater—may help satisfy a growing global population thirsty for fresh water for drinking, farming, transportation, heating, cooling, and industry. But desalination is an energy-intensive process, which concerns those wanting to expand its application.

Now, a team of experimentalists led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated an energy-efficient desalination technology that uses a porous membrane made of strong, slim graphene—a carbon honeycomb one atom thick. The results are published in the March 23 advance online issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

“Our work is a proof of principle that demonstrates how you can desalinate saltwater using free-standing, porous graphene,” said Shannon Mark Mahurin of ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, who co-led the study with Ivan Vlassiouk in ORNL’s Energy and Transportation Science Division.

“It’s a huge advance,” said Vlassiouk, pointing out a wealth of water travels through the porous graphene membrane. “The flux through the current graphene membranes was at least an order of magnitude higher than (that through) state-of-the-art reverse osmosis polymeric membranes.” [Read more…]


20th Anniversary Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit at ETSU May 27-28

Tennessee Valley Corridor Logo


The Tennessee Valley Corridor will hold its 20th Annual TVC National Summit in Johnson City at East Tennessee State University on May 27-28.

The Summit will be hosted by ETSU President Brian Noland, in cooperation with Congressman Phil Roe, with the theme “Education Fuels the TVC Economy.”

“From our region’s community colleges to our outstanding four-year universities, the Corridor has a strong foundation to prepare the next generation of the workforce,” Roe said. “As co-chairman of the Tennessee Valley Corridor Caucus, I look forward to sharing some of the work that is ongoing in Congress. The Summit will look at education from the business and industry perspective and discuss how to ensure the workforce has the skills they need to find quality jobs at home, and how our educational institutions can partner with businesses and organizations for better success, which is critical for us all to learn about.” [Read more…]

CNS donates $25K to Boys, Girls Clubs; others match the gift

CNS Donation to Boys and Girls Club

Boys and Girls Clubs of the Clinch Valley founder and Executive Director Emeritus Lawrence Hahn, center, discusses the history of the organization with CNS President and CEO Jim Haynes, left, and the club’s Chief Volunteer Officer Gerald Boyd. (Photo courtesy CNS)


Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC has donated $25,000 to Boys and Girls Clubs of the Clinch Valley, and that gift has been matched—for a total of $50,000. The money will be used for a new roof at the Oak Ridge facility.

CNS President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Haynes presented a symbolic $25,000 check to the Oak Ridge unit during a ceremony on Thursday. Representatives of some of the 16 organizations that matched the CNS donation were also present.

“On behalf of our 5,000 employees at Y-12, we are extremely pleased to contribute to an Oak Ridge organization that makes such a difference in young peoples’ lives,” Haynes said. “Y-12 employees have a long history of serving this community, and we are honored to continue that tradition. The Oak Ridge Boys and Girls Club has served the community for decades, and we are proud to contribute so that it can continue to serve for decades to come.” [Read more…]



Planning for national park, Park Service tours Jackson Square, K-25, ORNL, Y-12

Vic Knox of National Park Service

Vic Knox (Photo by D. Ray Smith)

Note: This story was last updated at 12:37 p.m.

Planning for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park has started, and federal officials this week toured Jackson Square, the former K-25 site, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Stops included the Alexander Inn, Chapel on the Hill, the former K-25 Building site, the Graphite Reactor at ORNL, and two buildings at Y-12: Building 9731, a pilot plant, and Building 9204-3, also known as Beta 3.

“Several of those sites are just amazing,” said Vic Knox, associate director of park planning, facilities, and lands for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. “They seem like they are just the way they were in 1943. It seems like they take you back in time.”

Oak Ridge was built as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s fist atomic weapons during World War II. Besides Oak Ridge, the new national park includes Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington. [Read more…]

Big day: Main Street Oak Ridge, Manhattan Project Park on Thursday’s agenda

Main Street Oak Ridge Presentation

Pictured above during a presentation on Main Street Oak Ridge last week are Crosland Southeast partner James Downs, right; Barry James, Crosland Southeast senior vice president, center; and Houston E. Daugherty, Cannon and Cannon vice president.


A vote that could help Main Street Oak Ridge, the redevelopment of the former Oak Ridge Mall, is on Thursday’s agenda. So is an open house on the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

They are among two of the biggest projects in Oak Ridge in years, and both are considered key parts of an economic renaissance that also includes new business development along Oak Ridge Turnpike and South Illinois Avenue, a new Kroger Marketplace shopping center, the proposed multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the announcement by metal powder manufacturing company CVMR this month that it will move its operations from Toronto to Oak Ridge, investing $313 million and adding 620 jobs.

A rezoning has been requested for Main Street Oak Ridge. It will be considered by the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission during a meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Courtroom. The Planning Commission will also consider a planned unit development, or PUD, master plan for the project. [Read more…]

Planning to preserve history of K-25, which could be part of national park

K-25 Building Aerial View

Now demolished, the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building, pictured above, was once used to enrich uranium for atomic weapons and commercial nuclear power plants. Located in west Oak Ridge, the site could become part of a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. There is a separate effort to preserve K-25’s history; that work could be incorporated into the new park. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy)


It was once the world’s largest building under one roof and part of the one of the largest industrial projects ever, a top-secret program to build the world’s first atomic weapons in World War II.

Today the building is gone—demolition was completed in December 2013—but the stories of what took place inside the former mile-long, U-shaped K-25 Building could live on in a replica equipment building, viewing tower, and history center.

And K-25 could become part of a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park approved by Congress in December and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 19. The 14-page bill was the culmination of 15 years of work, said Colin Colverson, Manhattan Project Park lead in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office.

The law recognizes the Manhattan Project as one of the most significant events in U.S. history, with assets and history that must be preserved. It’s considered one of the top scientific achievements of the 20th century, and Oak Ridge residents still marvel at how quickly the three local sites (K-25, X-10, and Y-12) were built and began operating in all-out race to build an atomic bomb before Germany. [Read more…]

Five more spring nature walks planned on Oak Ridge Reservation

Five more nature walks are planned this spring on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Reservation with themes of frog calls and bat monitoring, wildflowers and forest growth, bird watching, invasive plants, reptiles, and amphibians.

The frog calls and bat monitoring walk is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 4, and will be concentrated in the ponds around East Tennessee Technology Park. Wade Gefellers and Kitty McCracken of ORNL’s Environmental Sciences Division will demonstrate how local bat populations are monitored and methods to identify local frog populations based on calls. Participants, limited to 25 with children allowed, will meet at the ETTP visitors overlook parking lot at 7 p.m. [Read more…]

Materials science duo advances next wave of alloys; work conducted at ORNL, UT

Louis Santodonato

Louis Santodonato

Peter Liaw

Peter Liaw

KNOXVILLE—High-entropy alloys—substances constructed with equivalent quantities of five or more metals—might hold the key to future manufacturing and construction, and two researchers from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville could help pave the way.

Doctoral candidate Louis Santodonato, along with his adviser Professor Peter Liaw, both in materials science, did an extensive study into this class of materials, which are considerably lighter and less prone to fracture, corrosion, and oxidation than conventional alloys.

The pair used various methods to observe and model the atomic mixing behavior of high-entropy alloys, work that was picked up by the prestigious journal Nature Communications. [Read more…]

ORNL, Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics cooperate on salt-cooled reactors

ORNL and SINAP Salt-cooled Test Reactors

Representatives from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) met at ORNL to discuss plans for building a salt-cooled test reactor. Pictured in front of ORNL’s molten salt test loop are (from left) David Felde, ORNL; Yang Zou, SINAP; Guanyuan Wu, SINAP; Xiaohan Yu, SINAP; Naxiu Wan, SINAP; Zhimin Dai, SINAP; David Holcomb, ORNL; Kun Chen, SINAP; Kevin Robb, ORNL; Mike Laufer, University of California at Berkeley; Guimin Liu, SINAP; and Weiju Ren, ORNL. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


Representatives from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics met at ORNL last week as part of an agreement between the two institutions to work together on the advancement of salt-cooled nuclear reactor technologies.

At the meeting, SINAP staff members were expected to describe their plans for building the first salt-cooled test reactor, and the two sides began planning the next steps in the shared research project.

The Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, between ORNL and SINAP focuses on accelerating scientific understanding and technical development of salt-cooled reactors, specifically fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactors, or FHRs. The project will draw on ORNL’s expertise in fuels, materials, instrumentation and controls, design concepts, and modeling and simulation for advanced reactors, as well as the lab’s experience in the design, construction and operation of the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment, the only molten salt reactor ever built. [Read more…]

UCOR accepting proposals for new education mini-grant program


UCOR, the federal government’s cleanup contractor in Oak Ridge, is accepting proposals from area schools for educational grants with a specific goal of enabling new instructional methods in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM.

UCOR is a partnership between URS and CH2M Oak Ridge LLC.

The UCOR Education Mini-Grants will be awarded directly to teachers and schools for specific projects. All teachers are welcome to apply, but proposals should focus on STEM projects. For instance, a music teacher might apply for a grant for a math-related project within the field of music.

Schools in Roane, Anderson, Loudon, Knox, and Morgan counties are eligible to submit proposals. [Read more…]

ORAU: Science-societal relationship critical to success of big data analysis

Oak Ridge Associated Universities Building MC-100

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities Building MC-100 is pictured above.


Leading experts present challenges during ORAU annual meeting

Today’s scientists working with big data to identify the next breakthrough in medical care, environmental solutions, or other critical areas need to be skillful in data analytics but also adept at communications. That was one of the key insights attendees heard recently at ORAU’s 70th annual meeting of its Council of Sponsoring Institutions, titled “Big Data Analytics: Challenges and Opportunities.”

“For science to prosper, the science-society relationship must be positive and strong,” said keynote speaker Alan Leshner, chief executive officer emeritus for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS. Leshner, who holds a doctorate in physiological psychology from Rutgers University, told the audience that many scientists are not prepared to talk about their work and its implications with the public. [Read more…]

Dainiak named director of REAC/TS

Nicholas Dainiak

Nicholas Dainiak

Radiation response specialist has more than 35 years of medical expertise

Nicholas Dainiak has been named director of the Radiation Emergency Assistance Center/Training Site, or REAC/TS, at the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.

A deployable asset of the U.S. Department of Energy, REAC/TS provides 24/7 emergency medical response for incidents involving radiation anywhere in the world, a press release said. REAC/TS also provides direct support for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Emergency Operations and the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center, or FRMAC.

Adding to its depth of radiation response and consultation capabilities, REAC/TS is uniquely qualified to teach medical personnel, health physicists, first responders, and occupational health professionals about radiation emergency medicine, the release said. REAC/TS also operates an acytogenetic biodosimetry laboratory, one of only two in the U.S., where chromosome aberration analysis is used for ionizing radiation dose assessment. [Read more…]