For Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL), 2006 has been a busy one, as new buildings have been completed that enhance cutting-edge research.
New fronts in research likely leading to medical and biotechnology applications are expected to arise from within the walls of new ORNL facilities.
The new developments at ORNL include the Multiprogram Research Facility (MRF), the new nanoscience center, new technology park, and new Spallation Neutron Source (SNS). UT-Battelle manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy.
The new 214,000-square feet MRF is primarily purposed for the Department of Energy's goal to use science and technology to address national security needs. While much of the facility will be dedicated to projects such as cyber security research and development and weapons of mass destruction analysis, the MRF will also have biological laboratories. The MRF is expected to be fully operational by the spring.
In addition, this September, ORNL opened the doors to the new state-of-the-art nanoscience research center, the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS). Nanoscience, one of the rapidly growing research areas in the 21st century, extends science into the miniscule realm of the nanometer, or one billionth of a meter.
Among the world-class resources acquired for the nanoscience research center are cutting edge microscopes, lasers, and scanning probes. Nanobiology research projects that have promising leads for medical application are already being conducted. In addition, the CNMS has attracted top-notch postdoctoral researchers. Among the nearby ORNL resources that will be valuable for nanoscience research are the National Leadership Computing Facility (NLCS) and the SNS, or Spallation Neutron Source.
Building of the $65 million nanoscience research center was started in 2003 and finished this September.
Other basic nanoscience research will focus on work such as better fuel solutions and innovative materials including catalysts. Since opening, the center resources have been used already by approximately 100 international scientists and have attracted researchers from around the Southeast.
Local contractors such as Engineering Services Group, GEM Technologies Inc., Hicks & Ingle, Temperature Control Inc., Adman Electric and Siemens, made major contributions during the installation of the equipment into the building. Work by ORNL as well as local contractors, labor unions and ORNL staff also helped complete construction of the nanoscience research center.
In addition, this year, ORNL completed its Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), a $1.4 billion neutron science facility which puts ORNL on the map for top level materials research.
On the medical front, research being done at SN S will provide a foundation for such applications as time-released drugs that localize to a specific organ. In addition, the newest instruments acquired by the SNS will facilitate research on biological tissues as well as other materials. Other possible applications include creating improved batteries and fuel cells and developing new, more lightweight and stronger materials for airplanes.
This $1.6 billion SNS facility is the culmination of a cooperative effort between six Department of Energy laboratories across the United States, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory. The building of SNS puts the ORNL center on the map as one of the top neutron research facilities in the world.
"To bring a project of this scale and cost to completion on budget and ahead of schedule represents a model for all future large scale scientific projects to emulate," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, director of the DOE Office of Science. "All of us owe all who have contributed to this achievement sincere thanks and appreciation for the opportunities you have now created for our world. It's a great moment for science."
SNS will serve as a user facility available for international researchers to come to in order conduct materials research.
Another exciting development at ORNL is the new Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park. The park sits on the ORNL campus on land provided by the Department of Energy. This park has been transferred to Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET), which will manage the technology park. CROET president Lawrence Young said the transfer "represents a perfect example of how federal and local partners can work together for the benefit of economic growth."
The new technology park was created to attract new private companies that can partner with ORNL researchers. In addition, it will create a home for companies spun off directly from ORNL research discoveries.
"Oak Ridge National Laboratory each year develops some of the world's most important new technologies," said Gerald Boyd, manager of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge Office. "One of our priorities is to help make those technologies available for new companies and new jobs."
The Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park will be organized according to standards developed by the Association of University Research Parks (AURP). An example of an AURP-modeled technology park is the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, N.C. The ORNL-associated technology park is the first in the nation to be a university-related research park on a national laboratory campus.
"In the years ahead, I expect this park will be home to universities, large established companies, and small start-up companies," said ORNL director Jeff Wadsworth. "Each can benefit from the unique resources we have in Oak Ridge."
On yet another new front, ORNL is the new home for the United States headquarters of the ITER, an international fusion project. The ITER office has been moved from Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) to ORNL. The United States ITER office will remain a collaboration between PPPL and ORNL, despite the relocation of the ITER to East Tennessee. ITER is an international collaboration which researches new ways to provide a plentiful, affordable, and environment-friendly energy source.