ORNL is in the final stages of a $350 million modernization project. A combination of federal, state, and private funds is supporting the construction of 13 new facilities, including the Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics, the Nanoscience Center, the Advanced Microscopy Laboratory, the Office of Science’s Leadership Computing Facility for unclassified high-performance computing, and the state-funded joint institutes for computational sciences, biological sciences, and neutron sciences.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by UT-Battelle, a limited liability partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute. ORNL is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville. Scientists and engineers at ORNL conduct basic and applied research and development to create scientific knowledge and technological solutions that build the nation's expertise in key areas of science; increase the availability of clean, abundant energy; restore and protect the natural environment; and contribute to national security.
ORNL also performs other work for the Department of Energy, including isotope production, information management, and technical program management, and provides research and technical assistance to other organizations.
ORNL conducts research and development activities that span a wide range of scientific disciplines. The laboratory's major research areas are described briefly below.
- Neutron scattering - The Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), when combined with the High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Oak Ridge Electron Linear Accelerator Pulsed Neutron Source, will make ORNL the world's leading center for neutron science. Future research will be supported by these facilities and by the Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences, which is being developed in cooperation with the University of Tennessee and the SNS Project to accommodate the thousands of users expected each year from universities, U.S. industry, and other laboratories.
- Nanotechnology - Basic nanoscience research at ORNL emphasizes discovery of new materials and phenomena and the understanding of underlying physical and chemical interactions that enables prediction of the composition and properties of next-generation functional materials.
- Biological systems - ORNL's initiative in complex biological systems draws on programs in comparative and functional genomics, structural biology, and computational biology and bioinformatics. This initiative focuses ORNL's expertise and facilities in a wide range of biological fields related to the challenges of observing and understanding the functioning of complex biological systems.
- Energy - ORNL is a major center for research and development on energy production, distribution, and use and on the effects of energy technologies and decisions on society. Clean, efficient, safe production and use of energy are goals for research and development. At ORNL, unique facilities for energy-related R&D are used both for technology development and for fundamental investigations in the basic energy sciences that underpin the technology.
- Advanced materials - Scientists at ORNL are involved in studies ranging from fundamental research to the latest applications of virtually all classes of materials. ORNL's unique strengths in materials synthesis, processing, and characterization are applied to all areas of emphasis. Thousands of guest scientists come to ORNL each year to make use of its world-class facilities.
- National security - ORNL provides federal, state and local government agencies and departments with technology and expertise to support national and homeland security needs. This technology and expertise is also shared with industry to enhance America’s economic competitiveness in world markets.
- High-performance computing The laboratory conducts research and development in computer and computational sciences in a variety of computational and experimental disciplines.
- Chemical sciences - ORNL conducts both fundamental and applied research in a number of areas, including catalysis, surface science and interfacial chemistry; molecular transformations and fuel chemistry; heavy element chemistry and radioactive materials characterization; aqueous solution chemistry and geochemistry; mass spectrometry and laser spectroscopy; separations chemistry; materials chemistry including synthesis and characterization of polymers and other soft materials; chemical biosciences; and neutron science.
- Electron microscopy - ORNL's electron microscopy program investigates key issues in condensed matter, materials, chemical and nanosciences.
- Nuclear medicine - The laboratory's nuclear medicine research is focused on the development of improved reactor production and processing methods to provide medical radioisotopes, the development of new radionuclide generator systems, the design and evaluation of new radiopharmaceuticals for applications in nuclear medicine and oncology.
- Physics - Physics research at ORNL is focused primarily on studies of the fundamental properties of matter at the atomic, nuclear, and subnuclear levels and the development of experimental devices in support of these studies.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to a number of highly sophisticated experimental research facilities. These research laboratories are designed to serve staff scientists and engineers, as well as researchers from universities, industry, foreign institutions, and other government laboratories. For more information about these facilities, see the laboratory's research facilities website.
Some ORNL research facilities have been designated as "user facilities" by the U.S. Department of Energy. Work at user facilities may be conducted on a nonproprietary or proprietary basis. More information on these facilities and how to gain access to them, is available on laboratory's user facilities website.
Facts and Figures
ORNL has a staff of more than 4,200, including 1500 scientists and engineers. The laboratory annually hosts approximately 3,000 guest researchers who spend two weeks or longer in Oak Ridge; about 25 percent of these visitors are from industry. ORNL receives 30,000 visitors each year, plus another 10,000 precollege students.
ORNL funding for FY 2006 exceeds $1 billion; 80 percent of that amount comes from the Department of Energy, and 20 percent is from other federal and private customers. UT-Battelle, the laboratory's management and operating contractor, has provided nearly $8 million in support of math and science education, economic development and other projects in the greater Oak Ridge region. The laboratory occupies about 58 square miles (150 km≤), and the replacement cost of its buildings is estimated to be about $7 billion.
The facility that later became Oak Ridge National Laboratory was established as part of the Manhattan Project in 1943, during World War II when American scientists feared that Nazi Germany was rapidly developing an atomic bomb. Both the laboratory and the nearby city of Oak Ridge were built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in less than a year on isolated farmland in the mountains of East Tennessee. Oak Ridge became a "secret city" that within two years housed more than 75,000 residents.
The goal of the Manhattan Project activities in Oak Ridge was to separate and produce uranium and plutonium for use in developing a nuclear weapon. This work was carried out in four facilities, code-named X-10 (later to become Oak Ridge National Laboratory), Y-12, K-25, and S-50. X-10 was a demonstration plant for the process to produce plutonium from uranium by nuclear bombardment. Y-12 was dedicated to the
ORNL's involvement with nuclear weapons ended after the war. The laboratory's scientific expertise shifted in the 1950s and 1960s to peacetime research in medicine, biology, materials and physics. During this period the Graphite Reactor was used to produce the world's first medical radioisotopes for treating cancer. Following the creation of the U.S. Department of Energy in 1977, ORNL's mission broadened to include research in energy production, transmission and consumption.
The end of the Cold War and the growth of international terrorism led to a further expansion of research into a range of national security-related technologies. As the laboratory entered the 21st century, new cross-disciplinary programs in nanophase materials, computational sciences and biology has led to the term "nano-info-bio" to describe the emerging synthesis in ORNL's research agenda.
- Spallation Neutron Source
- Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences
- National Transportation Research Center
- K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant
- Y-12 National Security Complex
- American Museum of Science and Energy
- Sandia National Laboratory
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