Story Tips

From the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory

December 2017

 To arrange for an interview with a researcher, please contact the Communications staff member identified at the end of each tip. For more information on ORNL and its research and development activities, please refer to one of our media contacts. If you have a general media-related question or comment, you can send it to news@ornl.gov.

 Weather—Precision de-icing

 A precision approach to treating snow- and ice-covered roads, developed by an Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led research team, aims to help cities effectively allocate resources and expand coverage on roadways. The combined software and hardware technology analyzes existing city data and uses high-resolution modeling to identify areas most vulnerable to drivers during hazardous weather conditions. The novel approach features a variable control mechanism designed for the spreader on salt trucks to optimize the amount of melting, or de-icing, agent applied to roads, which minimizes waste and increases the number of roads treated. “Across the United States, cities are collectively spending about $1.5 billion on winter road maintenance,” ORNL’s Olufemi (Femi) Omitaomu said. “Our goal is to give cities an intelligent approach to managing their resources effectively.” [Contact: Ashley Huff, (865) 241-6451; huffac@ornl.gov]

 

Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/01%20Weather-Precision_de-icing.jpg

 

Caption: An ORNL-led team developed a variable control mechanism to enable precision de-icing on urban roads, using roadway data from the City of Knoxville in Tennessee. Credit: Jason Richards/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcyzUstjuik

 

Video Caption: An ORNL-led team developed a variable control mechanism to enable precision de-icing on urban roads, using roadway data from the City of Knoxville in Tennessee. Credit: Jenny Woodbery/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Biology—Bacterial breakdown

 

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory-led team discovered a function of certain microbes that produces a new derivative of vitamin B12, which is crucial to a cell’s ability to perform life-sustaining metabolic activities. Their findings could ultimately open avenues for novel environmental and water clean-up strategies. “Microbes used to break down contaminants require specific vitamins to function,” said Frank Löffler, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Environmental Biotechnology, who led the research. While studying a specific vitamin B12 derivative, the team revealed modifications of an often-overlooked region of the vitamins’ molecular structure, known as the lower base. This lower base structure determines the function of enzymes that break down toxic chlorinated solvents. “This discovery has potential to enhance the efficacy of current bioremediation approaches, plus it could open new opportunities to affect the progression of certain human diseases,” Löffler added. The team’s findings were published in Nature Chemical Biology. [Contact: Sara Shoemaker, (865) 576-9219; shoemakerms@ornl.gov]

 

Image #1: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/Biology-Bacteria_breakdown.jpg

 

 

Caption #1: While studying a specific vitamin B12 derivative, an ORNL-led team discovered a “helper molecule” (shown in red) in an often-overlooked region of the vitamin’s structure, an area that critically determines how enzymes break down toxic chlorinated solvents. Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Image #2: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/Biology-Bacteria_breakdown2%20r1.jpg

 

Caption #2: A bacterial species known as Desulfitobacterium hafniense uses unsubstituted purine to form purinyl-cobamide, a “helper molecule” required to enzymatically break down environmental toxins. Credit: Frank Löffler/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

 

Materials—When alloys attract

 A multi-laboratory research team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutrons, x-rays and computational modeling to “see” the atomic structures inside a new class of aluminum-cerium alloys created for automotive and aerospace applications. The structures occur when alloy components that have a high reaction affinity, or likelihood to bond, are combined. The attraction helps create the materials’ superior stability and strength. “The Al-Ce base alloy forms architectures that are inherently stable at elevated temperatures and under load,” said ORNL’s Orlando Rios, whose team also experimented with the alloy’s composition. “We found that adding minute amounts of other elements, such as 0.4 percent weight magnesium, achieved significant increases in alloy strength.” The research was conducted through the Critical Materials Institute, which has been developing high-value applications for cerium to boost the economics of mining rare-earth materials. The team’s paper was featured on the cover of Materials Horizons. [Contact: Kim Askey, (865) 946-1861; askeyka@ornl.gov]

 Image: https://www.ornl.gov/sites/default/files/news/images/Materials-When_alloys_attract%20r1.jpg

 Caption: A research team, including scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Ames Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, illuminated the mechanisms that create stability and strength in a new class of aluminum alloys. Credit: Orlando R. Rios, Scott K. McCall, et al. Mater. Horiz., 2017, 4, 1070.