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Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Oak Ridge National Laboratory logo.svg
Established: 1943
Director: Thom Mason
Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Budget: $1.4 billion
Mission: ORNL has six major mission roles:
neutron science, energy,
high-performance computing,
systems biology, materials science,
and national security
Staff: 4,300
Campus: ORNL occupies about 10,000 acres
of the approximately 35,000-acre
Oak Ridge Reservation
Operated by: UT-Battelle
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 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. ORNL is the DOE's largest science and energy laboratory.[1] 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 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.


Research Programs

ORNL conducts research and development activities that span a wide range of scientific disciplines. The laboratory's major research areas are described briefly below.

The Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) is a recently completed accelerator-based neutron source that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific and industrial research and development. With its eventual suite of up to 25 best-in-class instruments, SNS will give researchers detailed snapshots of smaller samples of physical and biological materials than previously possible. The diverse applications of neutron scattering research will provide opportunities for experts in practically every scientific and technical field.

The 85-MW High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) provides one of the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any research reactor in the world. HFIR fulfills four missions: isotope production, materials irradiation, neutron activation, and neutron scattering, which is the focus of this report. The neutron scattering instruments at HFIR enable fundamental and applied research into the molecular and magnetic structures and behavior of materials. HFIR has 15 instruments planned or in operation. A new cold neutron source installed during a HFIR refurbishment in 2006–2007 greatly enhances the reactor’s research capabilities, particularly in the biological sciences.

  • High-performance computing The National Center for Computational Sciences (NCCS) provides the most powerful computing resources in the world for open scientific research. It is a research environment that supports advances in understanding how the physical world works and using that knowledge to address national and international concerns. The NCCS was founded in 1992 and is managed by the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The Center is home to two massively parallel computer systems manufactured by Cray. Jaguar, the more powerful system, is devoted to open scientific research, has a peak performance of 2.3 petaflops and is the world's fastest system[2]. To support its concentration of computing power, the NCCS has installed high-speed fiber-optic networks to expedite data movement, a scientific visualization center that enables researchers to analyze their simulation results quickly and comprehensively, and a high-performance data archiving and retrieval system.

NCCS hosts only those projects capable of producing groundbreaking results[3]. Each year a few research efforts that require enormous computing resources to realize their promise are given allocations of computing time that reach as much as several million processor-hours. Such unprecedented levels of computational power are key to investigating areas, such as designing fusion reactors that could provide carbon neutral, sustainable energy; engineering proteins to provide new therapies for diseases or release energy from biomass efficiently; studying climate change; and designing new materials with specialized properties.

  • 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 bioenergy (including the laboratory's new BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) dedicated to the study of cellulosic ethanol), comparative 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.
  • 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.
  • Population - ORNL provides federal, state and international organizations with a gridded population database, called Landscan, for estimating ambient population. LandScan is a raster image, or grid, of population counts, which provides human population estimates every 30 x 30 arc seconds, which translates roughly to population estimates for 30 x 30 meter window or grid cell around the globe. Though many population datasets exist, LandScan is the best spatial population dataset, which also covers the globe. Updated annually (although data releases are generally one year behind the current year) offers continuous, updated values of population, based on the most recent information. Landscan data are accessible through GIS applications and a USAID public domain application called Population Explorer.

Facts and Figures

ORNL is managed by a limited liability partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute known as UT-Battelle.

ORNL has a staff of over 4,300 full-time staff members, including 1500 scientists and engineers[1]. 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 exceeds $1.4 billion[2] annually; 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 $8 million in support of math and science education, economic development and other projects in the greater Oak Ridge region.

The laboratory occupies about 4470 acres (1809 hectares) of the 34,000-acre (13,759-hectare) Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR), which it shares with the East Tennessee Technology Park, the Y-12 National Security Complex, the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, and the developing Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park. Twenty thousand acres (8094 hectares) of the ORR, the Oak Ridge National Environmental Research Park, is an outdoor laboratory and a national user facility. It supports DOE-sponsored research in carbon cycling, ecosystem dynamics, global climate change, and remediation studies, as well as the research of numerous colleges, universities, and other state and federal agencies.


Workers load uranium slugs into the X10 Graphite Reactor - now a National Historic Landmark, and part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

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 Clinton Laboratories then 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 electromagnetic separation of U-235. K-25 was a gaseous diffusion plant designed to separate U-235 from U-238 and was also home to the S-50 liquid thermal diffusion plant.

Working under assumed names, in 1943 Enrico Fermi and his colleagues developed the X-10 Graphite Reactor, the world's first production nuclear reactor, to demonstrate the production of plutonium. This built on work done by Fermi and his colleagues at the University of Chicago in 1942 which created the world's first experimental nuclear reactor Chicago Pile-1 and the first sustained nuclear reaction on December 2, 1942. The plutonium production piloted at X-10 was carried out on a much larger scale at the Hanford Site, which produced the plutonium used in the "Fat Man" atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in August 1945.

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.

See also


External links


General Information

Research Programs

Research Facilities

Research Divisions


Related Organizations and Facilities

Additional resources

Coordinates: 35°56′00″N 84°19′00″W / 35.933333°N 84.316667°W / 35.933333; -84.316667


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