ORNL Communications Report to DOE: Dec. 11, 2017


Feature: Fueling the future with Robert Wagner

Profile of Robert Wagner, director of the National Transportation Research Center at ORNL

Posted Dec. 4



Feature: Researchers discover breakthrough process for directly converting methane to methanol

The direct oxidation of methane—found in natural gas—into methanol at low temperatures has long been a holy grail. Now, researchers at Tufts have found a breakthrough way to accomplish the feat using a heterogeneous catalyst and cheap molecular oxygen, according to a paper published today in the journal Nature by a team led by Tufts University chemical engineers. The release, led by Tufts University, will be posted and distributed on Nov. 30. It includes a quote by ORNL scientist and coauthor Lawrence Allard who provided microscopy work. The release will be cross-posted to ORNL’s news webpage as a feature Dec. 1.

Week of Dec. 4


Event: TN Advanced Energy Business Council

Craig Blue, director of ORNL’s energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, will deliver a presentation during the TN Advanced Energy Business Council’s annual “Opportunities in Event” Dec. 7 in Knoxville.

Dec. 7


Visit: DOE’s Timothy Unruh

Timothy Unruh, DOE deputy assistant secretary, renewable power, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, will visit ORNL Dec. 18-19 for tours and briefings. He will be hosted by Moe Khaleel, ORNL’s assistant laboratory director for energy and environmental sciences. No media coverage is planned.

Dec. 18-19



Story tip: Biology—Telltale microbes

A new process to identify certain microbes in women could be used to diagnose endometriosis without invasive surgery, and even before symptoms start. A collaborative research team analyzed bacteria from a small sample of pre-menopausal women undergoing laparoscopic surgery for suspected endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the uterus’ lining grows outside the uterus, resulting in painful lesions and possible infertility. Researchers from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Michigan State University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory studied microbes gleaned from women with and without endometriosis and compared bacteria from the uterus with vaginal microbes.

Week of Jan. 1


Story tip: Sensors – Vehicle fingerprinting

Algorithms designed to parse data gathered by roadside sensors could make it easier to identify vehicles sought in AMBER Alerts and to assist researchers studying traffic patterns. Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists built a sensor platform to collect detailed images of cars, as well as electrical pulses and audio signals from engines, to uniquely identify vehicles.

Week of Jan. 1


Story tip: Plug-in learning

For smarter data management and analysis, researchers have developed a low-power neuromorphic device based on spiking neural networks that can quickly and more efficiently analyze and classify data. The versatile platform, which will be compatible with instruments that collect data during scientific experiments, becomes “smarter” as it classifies large amounts of information into smaller, more manageable datasets. “The device is designed to get better at the task it was trained to do,” said Catherine Schuman with Oak Ridge National Laboratory who developed the device’s training algorithms.

Week of Jan. 1


Story tip: Fossil energy – Neutrons run deep

To improve models for drilling, hydraulic fracturing and underground storage of carbon dioxide, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists used neutrons to understand how water interacts with fractures in rock.

Week of Jan. 1


Feature: A global perspective on plant health

ORNL researcher Lianhong Gu’s contributions to a recent project studying plant photosynthesis via solar-induced fluorescence measurements from the NASA OCO-2 satellite.



Profile: Stacy Davis: Changing the world through data

Researcher profile on ORNL’s Stacy Davis, a researcher at the National Transportation Research Center, conducting transportation data analysis. The profile covers her research area and professional and academic background. The story is part of ORNL’s researcher profile series.



News release: Genes found in drought-resistant plants could accelerate evolution of water-intensive crops

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have identified genes responsible for water-use efficient photosynthesis in drought-resistant plants, which could play a significant role in bioengineering water-intensive food and energy crops to survive in semi-arid environments.



Media Highlights


ITER fusion project reaches 50 percent completion

The ITER Organization has announced reaching the 50 percent completion mark on the path toward First Plasma in 2025. A press release and associated collateral materials are available at:

https://www.iter.org/worldsmostcomplexmachine50percentcomplete. Reuters, the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, ABC News, U.S. News & World Report and the Seattle Times have published recent stories. Related U.S. news articles, as of Dec 6, include:


Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nuclearpower-fusion-project/iter-nuclear-fusion-project-faces-delay-over-trump-budget-cuts-idUSKBN1E01RT

The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/12/06/world/asia/ap-nuclear-fusion.html?_r=0

The Washington Posthttps://www.washingtonpost.com/6563d6ae-daa7-11e7-a241-0848315642d0_story.html?utm_term=.b0fdedb5a2e3

Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/fusion-energy-iter-reactor-50-percent-complete-735266
ABC News: 
US News & World Report: https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2017-12-06/nuclear-fusion-project-hails-halfway-construction-milestone
Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/nuclear-fusion-project-hails-halfway-construction-milestone/


Chattanooga renaissance fund completes 2nd successful investment with sale of startup

The Chattanooga Times Free Press published this story updating the progress of the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, which was started in 2010 to help provide capital for new businesses in the Chattanooga area – some of which have technology and other partnership agreements with ORNL.

Dec. 1



Nanoscience students find opportunities for internships, jobs on visit to Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The Augusta Free Press of Waynesboro, Va., published this story about 24 students majoring in Virginia Tech’s nanoscience degree program visiting the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL as they met scientists to explore opportunities for future internships and careers.

Dec. 4



Oak Ridge improving disaster response plans

WATE-TV, Knoxville’s ABC affiliate, aired this story about a meeting of fire chiefs from ORNL, Y-12, ETTP, the city of Oak Ridge and other surrounding communities to discuss how the DOE-related fire departments and other safety-related agencies could assist the communities in case of a large-scale emergency.

Dec. 6