Research Highlights

July 27, 2020

Like veteran detectives investigating a crime scene, a team of expert biophysicists and neutron researchers has been called in to assist in a scientific case. Their task is to discover how the deadly SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, after it breaks into a human cell, begins causing massive inflammation that leads to the most severe cases of COVID-19 infections. The investigation is being conducted at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

ORNL researcher Minh Phan prepares samples to be exposed to E-proteins like those of
the SARS-CoV-2 virus to determine if certain drugs can reduce inflammation

UT physicists and colleagues develop novel method for tracking turbulence

June 3, 2020

Anyone who has ever flown is probably familiar with the concept of turbulence. Yet understanding turbulent flow—how it develops, its intensity, and its properties—remains somewhat elusive. UT’s physicists have helped develop a new technique using excimers created by neutron capture to observe turbulence around macroscopic objects (an airplane, for example, or a ship). Their technique enables measurements of how turbulence behaves over space and time, and can be scaled to work in three dimensions. The work was published in Physical Review Letters (PRL) and was designated an Editor’s Suggestion.


March 27, 2020

A team at ORNL trained an artificial neural network to analyze scattering data for quantum materials discoveries

“Humans can never go through all the scenarios, because there’s always ones you’ve
never thought about. But a computer can go through hundreds of thousands of
scenarios and summarize the information for you. And so it becomes kind of dependable
—it solves one of your big problems.”
~Anjana Samarakoon, ORNL postdoctoral research associate

Scientists seek to use quantum materials—those that have correlated order at the subatomic level—for

FEBRUARY 25, 2020

Nuclear power accounts for roughly 20 percent of the electricity produced in the US, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Watts Bar Nuclear Plant

Thanks to the presence of the Tennessee Valley Authority, that number is even higher in the region it serves, with a third of TVA customers relying on nuclear energy.

Keeping nuclear power plants running requires materials that can withstand factors like radiation, pressure, and heat, so any advancement that better addresses those issues is of benefit to the plants and their customers.

“Alloys and materials used in

OCTOBER 2, 2019

The strength of 3-D-printed products could be improved through a new technique developed by scientists at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Credit: University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The new process, which uses UV irradiation, could strengthen bonds of 3-D-printed materials to withstand 200 percent more transverse stress, according to a study published in Macromolecules.

Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is a popular technique in the  and is used regularly in

Contact: John Z. Larese (UTK)  

A representative selection of the concentration profiles,
C(z) at nominal bilayer coverage in the z-direction for
cyclopentane molecules on MgO. The subfigures
in B and C are the MD snapshots from molecular
trajectories at 270K and 40K respectively.

Understanding the adsorption and wetting properties of molecules on solid surfaces is central to many scientific and technological challenges. Fundamental studies of the interaction between

Contact: Flora Meilleur (NCSU/ORNL)

Lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs) are copper containing enzymes produced by bacteria, fungi, insects and viruses to degrade polysaccharides, including cellulose and chitin. Since their discovery in 2010, LPMOs have generated immense interest and have been associated with i) cellulose degradation by fungi and insects, ii) viral pathogenicity (insect poxviruses) and iii) bacterial virulence (Listeria monocytogenes and Vibrio cholerae). However, precise details of the copper chemistry carried out by LPMOs to oxidize C—H bonds remains elusive. Elucidating how LPMOs function will have impacts on a broad range of applications that

Contact: Wei-Ren Chen (ORNL)

A direct mathematical connection between
the gyration tensor of an orienting deforming
object and its anisotropic scattering spectra
is recently developed by us.

Soft materials are indispensable building blocks in a wide variety of advanced materials. While it owes its name to its soft mechanical properties, the microscopic mechanisms controlling its flow and deformation have remained poorly understood to date. The imposed external deformation on a soft material drives its microstructure

Contact: Zi-Ling “Ben” Xue (UTK)

We have been using INS and QENS inside
magnetic fields to probe magnetic transitions
and molecular dynamics in SMMs.

Single-molecule magnets (SMMs) have been actively studied for their potential applications as a new generation of data storage materials. Chemical qubits are of intense interest for quantum computing. For SMMs, each molecule behaves as a magnet with a barrier for spin reversal. Heights of the barriers and spin-phonon couplings, leading to

Contact: Alan Tennant (ORNL)

We have been developing new machine learning approaches to
simulate quantum materials and analyze experiments.

Quantum materials encompass a vast array of materials whose properties can only be explained by quantum rules. Contemporary research has developed from a nexus of topology, quantum field theory, quantum information science combined with advances in materials’ science. Quantum materials could have fundamental and far reaching impact on