ORNL welcomes first Liane Russell fellows

Liane Russell Reception at ORNL

Lab Director Thom Mason and award-winning scientist Liane Russell welcomed Celia Shiau, Huiyuan Zhu, and Huina Mao at a Thursday reception. Shiau, Mao, and Zhu are the first early-career researchers coming to Oak Ridge National Laboratory under a fellowship named for Russell. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


Renowned mammalian geneticist Liane Russell returned Thursday to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to congratulate the first recipients of a new fellowship named in her honor.

ORNL created the Liane Russell Distinguished Early Career Fellowship to attract a diverse and promising work force of early career scientists and engineers whose interests align with DOE missions.

“It is gratifying to see these opportunities being made available to a diverse group of talented young people because, sadly, in the scientific fields this has not always been the case,” Russell said. “For this reason I am particularly honored to have my name attached to the fellowships.”

The competitive, three-year fellowship is aimed toward establishing long-term research careers at ORNL. It is available to outstanding scientists and engineers who have received their doctorate degrees within the past seven years, with emphasis given to attracting women and minority candidates.

The first three Russell fellows, recognized at Thursday’s reception, are: [Read more...]

Guest column: Explosive interest in ‘Manhattan’

Cynthia C. Kelly

Cynthia C. Kelly

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The WGN America television show “Manhattan” has galvanized the interest of millions of viewers. Shown on Sunday nights, national audiences are riveted by the dramatic tension between rival groups of scientists and the omnipresent security police in Los Alamos in 1943. “Manhattan” follows the scientists as they confront the challenges of making a workable atomic bomb while dealing with an intrusive military force, intense rivalries, and strained marital relations where couples can no longer confide in each other.

The show is a blend of fact and fiction. The primary characters are entirely fictional including the main scientist, Frank Winter; Chinese-American physicist, Sidney Liao; and wunderkind Charlie Isaacs and his most attractive wife, Abby. But “Manhattan” has preserved at least two real persona, J. Robert Oppenheimer as the director of Los Alamos, and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr who visits the laboratory to offer his advice.

The central tension is the race to develop two different approaches to a plutonium-based bomb. Winter believes an implosion bomb offers the best option but most of the scientists—including Oppenheimer—are more confident in a gun-type plutonium bomb similar to the design used for the uranium-based bomb. While the enmity between the two groups is exaggerated for television, “Manhattan” does a good job showing the challenges the scientists and engineers faced knowing little about the newly discovered and quite bizarre element plutonium.

In a 1965 interview with journalist Stephane Groueff, J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled: “I think the set of problems connected with implosion was the most difficult, and it required very new experimental techniques. It was not a branch of physics anyone was very familiar with. It was, from a theoretical, an observational, and a practical point of view, quite an adventure. Plutonium was a terrible test from beginning to end and never stayed quiet: it gets hot, it is radioactive, you cannot touch it, you have to coat it, and the coating always peels. It is just a terrible substance.” [Read more...]

Tech 2020 president resigns

John Morris

John Morris

Technology 2020 President and Chief Executive Officer John Morris has announced his resignation effective September 30. He has worked at Tech 2020 since December 2008, and has served as president since 2011.

“I value the time I have spent around Tech 2020, first as an entrepreneurial client company, then as the director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth director and later as CEO,” Morris said in a press release Thursday. “This was not an easy decision, but I am an entrepreneur at heart, and I want to return to direct involvement with startups.”

Tech 2020 is the region’s venture development organization, working to help new technology-based companies start up and flourish. The organization supports the technology commercialization efforts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, and is currently working with more than 30 client businesses at various stages of growth. Tech 2020 also manages a large federally-funded advanced manufacturing project, serves as the headquarters for Meritus Ventures and the newly established Lighthouse Angel Fund, and leads the state’s FIRST Robotics Program and the Regional Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. [Read more...]

DOE appoints new member to advisory board

Wanfang Zhou

Wanfang Zhou

The U.S. Department of Energy has appointed Wanfang Zhou to the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board. Zhou was appointed to a two-year term on the federally chartered citizens’ panel that provides independent advice and recommendations to DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, which is responsible for the cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation.

Zhou, a Knoxville resident, is a hydrogeologist with ERT Inc., a company that provides information technology, cybersecurity, program support, and engineering and environmental services to federal and state government agencies.

He received his doctorate in water resources and environmental engineering from the University of London’s Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine. He is a certified professional geologist by the American Institute of Professional Geologists and a registered professional geologist in five southern states. [Read more...]

DOE responds to advisory board recommendation
 on groundwater studies

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management has responded to a recommendation made earlier this year by the Oak Ridge Site Specific Advisory Board.

In May, the federally appointed citizens’ panel recommended that DOE conduct additional groundwater studies to address any potential offsite migration of chemicals or radioisotopes from DOE’s Oak Ridge Reservation. The recommendation focuses on developing information that fosters a better understanding of potential impacts of groundwater contamination related to risk mitigation, groundwater remediation, and long-term stewardship.

In 2013, DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation held a series of workshops to prioritize groundwater pathways on the ORR. Together the agencies created a groundwater strategy document that described the potential for releases from waste disposal sites and storage areas. The document also prioritized known groundwater plumes, concentration of contaminants, contaminants of concern, and potential health risks. [Read more...]

Rubber meets the road with new ORNL carbon, battery technologies

Recycled Tire Battery Schematics

ORNL researchers’ goal is to scale up the recovery process and demonstrate applications as anodes for lithium-ion batteries in large-format pouch cells. (Image courtesy ORNL)


Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team led by Parans Paranthaman and Amit Naskar is developing a better anode for lithium-ion batteries. An anode is a negatively charged electrode used as a host for storing lithium during charging.

The method, outlined in a paper published in the journal RSC Advances, has numerous advantages over conventional approaches to making anodes for lithium-ion batteries.

“Using waste tires for products such as energy storage is very attractive not only from the carbon materials recovery perspective but also for controlling environmental hazards caused by waste tire stock piles,” Paranthaman said.

The ORNL technique uses a proprietary pretreatment to recover pyrolytic carbon black material, which is similar to graphite but man-made. When used in anodes of lithium-ion batteries, researchers produced a small, laboratory-scale battery with a reversible capacity that is higher than what is possible with commercial graphite materials. [Read more...]

Y-12 hosts Medal of Honor recipients at Town Hall Forum


The Medal of Honor Knoxville Convention Committee has chosen the Y-12 National Security Complex to host a community event Friday, September 12, at 10 a.m., during this year’s convention.

Several Medal of Honor recipients will participate in a Town Hall Forum at Y-12’s New Hope Center located at 602 Scarboro Road.

The forum will be moderated by Hallerin Hilton Hill from WOKI’s Newstalk 98.7.The community is invited to attend, listen to recipients tell their stories, and answer questions from the audience.

Currently scheduled recipients for this Town Hall Forum include men who served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. [Read more...]

Expanded Safety Fest set for September

Safety Fest TN

Making Tennesseans safer at work


Virtually any company will tell you that worker safety is job one.

In Oak Ridge, there’s an event every year to help make sure the words get turned into action. For the third consecutive year, the Oak Ridge Business Safety Partnership, partnering with a number of organizations, will host Safety Fest TN, a week of safety classes, safety seminars, a Safety Expo, and a community Safety Forum—all free of charge to anyone who registers. The event is scheduled for September 8-12 and is based at the New Hope Center at the Y-12 National Security Complex.

“We appreciate Consolidated Nuclear Security working with us to accommodate Safety Fest TN and for sponsoring the community brunch on September 8,” said Jenny Freeman, chair of the ORBSP planning committee, which is responsible for organizing the event.

Classes will also be held at five other locations, including Centro Hispano in Knoxville, where courses will be offered in Spanish. The addition of Spanish language classes is a new and important outreach. [Read more...]

ORNL scientists uncover clues to role of magnetism in iron-based superconductors

Magnetism of Iron-based Superconductors

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists used scanning transmission electron microscopy to measure atomic-scale magnetic behavior in several families of iron-based superconductors. (Photo courtesy ORNL)


New measurements of atomic-scale magnetic behavior in iron-based superconductors by researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University are challenging conventional wisdom about superconductivity and magnetism.

The study published in Advanced Materials provides experimental evidence that local magnetic fluctuations can influence the performance of iron-based superconductors, which transmit electric current without resistance at relatively high temperatures.

“In the past, everyone thought that magnetism and superconductivity could not coexist,” said ORNL’s Claudia Cantoni, the study’s first author. “The whole idea of superconductors is that they expel magnetic fields. But in reality things are more complicated.”

Superconductivity is strongly suppressed by the presence of long-range magnetism—where atoms align their magnetic moments over large volumes—but the ORNL study suggests that rapid fluctuations of local magnetic moments have a different effect. Not only does localized magnetism exist, but it is also correlated with a high critical temperature, the point at which the material becomes superconducting. [Read more...]

Mayor, superintendent, others participating in JMS ice bucket challenge

Thom Mason Ice Bucket Challenge

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday afternoon. He then challenged Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Director Paul Alivisatos, and Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan to do the same. Afterward, Mason said the experience was “bracing.” (Photos by Carlos Jones)


ORNL Director Mason took the challenge Wednesday

Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan and Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent Bruce Borchers are participating in an ice bucket challenge at Jefferson Middle School on Friday.

Members of the JMS cross country team will administer the ice buckets.

“You are no doubt aware of the social media-fed phenomenon sweeping the nation in the past couple of weeks: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge,” coach and JMS teacher Steve Reddick said. “As of today, the challenge has raised $41 million. Many of us have received challenges from friends and foes alike, and we’ve decided to stage a Mega-Ice Bucket Challenge at 4:15 p.m. after cross country practice tomorrow (Friday).” [Read more...]

Honors: Hispanic engineers group recognizes ORNL’s Idrobo

Juan Carlos Idrobo

Juan Carlos Idrobo

Juan Carlos Idrobo, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been recognized by the Hispanic Engineer National Achievement Award Corporation with the 2014 Outstanding Technical Achievement Award for groundbreaking research in scanning transmission electron microscopy of 2D materials.

Idrobo works in the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences’ Microscopy group. The Ecuador native received his bachelor’s in physics from Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia; his master’s in physics from the University of Illinois at Chicago; and doctorate in physics from the University of California, Davis. He joined the ORNL research staff in 2010.

The award is associated with Great Minds in STEM, a nonprofit organization that advocates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers for the Hispanic community. [Read more...]

Honors: ORNL’s Varela receives Microscopy Society’s Burton Medal

Maria Varela

Maria Varela

Maria Varela, a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has received the Microscopy Society of America’s Burton Medal for early career scientists.

Varela’s research experience includes thin-film growth, transport properties, and structural characterization by x-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. She specializes in aberration corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy and atomic resolution energy loss spectroscopy.

After receiving her doctorate in physics from Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, Varela came to ORNL as a Eugene P. Wigner Fellow. She has approximately 180 publications in refereed journals and has presented more than 100 invited talks and seminars. She has collaborated with scientists from more than 50 universities in the United States and abroad. [Read more...]