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Category Archives: 2012 Spotlights

Veerle Keppens

Thermo-shifts – Veerle Keppens

Veerle Keepens’s research turns temperature shifts into electricity.
Imagine being able to generate thermoelectric power from minute changes in temperature. As promising as this sounds, efficient thermoelectric materials—those that impede the transfer of heat from one side of the material to the other, while allowing electrons to pass—are hard to come by. Working in tandem, Veerle Keppens and ORNL’s Olivier Delaire search for microscopic clues to the origins of suppressed thermal conductivity, in hopes of uncovering beneficial thermoelectrical materials. Read More…

Lee Han

Faster Than Real Time – Lee Han

Lee Han’s research helps first responders reach emergency scenes faster.
People say you can’t predict the future. But the fact of the matter is that we must, or we can’t keep up with the present. When disaster strikes or chaos threatens, when we need to get emergency personnel in while getting evacuees out, we need to know a great deal ahead of “real” time in order to make decisions quickly enough. Lee Han and his team have built the foundation for a faster-than-real-time traffic simulation system—some 1,000 times faster than the state-of-the-practice. Read More…

David Jenkins

Dry Cleaning Flue Gas – David Jenkins

David Jenkins’s research keeps carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide ranks high on the list of problematic ingredients in flue gas. Wet scrubbers that combine water and organic compounds deliver the most effective method available to date. But you pay a high-energy penalty to regenerate the solution for reuse, David Jenkins says, not to mention their volatile nature and long-term instability. Jenkins and a team led by ORNL’s Radu Custelcean are pursuing a promising alternative approach using scrubbers filled with porous, crystalline powders to attract and hold the CO2 until it is released where it will not enter the atmosphere. Read More…

Qing Cao

Sensors and Smarts – Qing Cao

Qing Cao’s research makes our smart phones even smarter.
Every day, everywhere, mobile devices quietly gather all kinds of information in quantities previously unimaginable. While some of the data reflects what individuals actively do with a particular device, other data comes from sensordetected context, such as location and time. If the various streams of data can be accurately characterized and analyzed in real time and full context—as is the ambitious aim of Qing Cao’s work—their “fusion” would allow us to infer patterns of activity that enable even smarter applications. Read More…

Edmund Perfect

Deep Thaw – Edmund Perfect

Edmund Perfect’s research hones predictions about future climate change.
Vast expanses of Arctic permafrost hold the key to projecting future warming scenarios as our climate changes. What will befall our world as these great, hulking masses of permafrost thaw? How do we learn enough on such a grand scale to really understand what may happen? The collaboration led by Ed Perfect and ORNL’s Richard Mills pairs a deeper knowledge of the physical processes involved in ground freezing and thawing with massively parallel computation on leadership-class supercomputers to model the impact of global warming. Read More…

Aimée Classen

Carbon Bandits – Aimée Classen

Aimée Classen’s research identifies how fungi affect the atmosphere.
Plants and fungi share an ancient symbiotic bond. Soil fungi living in and among root structures receive carbon from the plant, which they use to grow and multiply. In return, they supply the plant with soil nutrients and moisture. Recent studies, however, show mycorrhizal fungi will sometimes cheat the plant, stealing its carbon without giving back adequate nutrients. Sometimes they even scavenge carbon from the soil, says Aimée Classen. The project’s PhD student, Jessica Bryant, is trying to determine if this switch from symbiont to free-living—from carbon sink to carbon source—might significantly affect atmospheric carbon levels. Read More…

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