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Originally appeared in Thursday, January 4, 2007 Oak Ridger
2006 saw ORNL move to the forefront of neutron science, open the Department of Energy's first nanoscience center, build the world's most powerful non-classified supercomputer, and assume leadership of the U.S. role in the international effort to build a fusion reactor.
"We have experienced a truly remarkable year at ORNL and have laid the groundwork for even greater scientific achievements in the future," said ORNL Director Jeff Wadsworth. "We will continue to build on this foundation for years to come."
The first neutrons at the Spallation Neutron Source — "spalled" at 2:04 p.m. April 28 — climaxed a seven-year $1.4 billion construction project and launched a new era of scientific research in Oak Ridge. The historic moment was witnessed by jubilant staff in the SNS control room and reported by media around the world.
Finished "on time, on budget and on scope" with an excellent safety record, the facility will eventually contain a suite of 24 instruments and greatly expand scientists' ability to study and manufacture lighter and stronger materials.
Complementing SNS is the High Flux Isotope Reactor's cold neutron source, which passed crucial systems tests in 2006 and will soon be one of the leading sources of "cold" neutrons for advanced materials research. Together, the two facilities will make ORNL the undisputed world leader in neutron science.
Located adjacent to the SNS, ORNL's NanoScience Center was officially completed and hosted 139 visiting researchers in 2006. The $65 million facility, also completed ahead of schedule and under budget, allows users to study and create materials 100,000 times smaller than a human hair.
This relatively new field of nanoresearch has endless potential, including technologies to improve the environment, better sensors for industry, nanoscale computer processors, renewable energy and lighter and more durable materials for vehicles of the future.
ORNL's National Center for Computational Sciences finished the year at No. 10 on the TOP500 Supercomputers list. A processor upgrade this summer pushed the Cray XT3 system at ORNL to 54 teraflops (54 trillion mathematical calculations per second) of computing power - the fastest peak processing of any non-classified supercomputer.
The TOP 500 list was released in November and does not include 68 new Cray XT4 cabinets that will enable ORNL to exceed 100 teraflops in early 2007 and reach 250 teraflops in 2008.
DOE's Leadership Computing Facility at ORNL is on a path to reach a petaflop, or 1 quadrillion mathematical calculations per second, by 2009. Working in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority, the facility received an additional 3.3 megawatts of power in 2006 to support the enlarged machines.
The U.S. Project Office for ITER, an international effort to build an experimental fusion reactor in Cadarache, France, was moved to Oak Ridge in 2006. The U.S. effort, led by Ned Sauthoff, hopes to benefit both from ORNL's considerable fusion expertise and the laboratory's successful experience with the SNS construction project.
ITER, Latin for "the way," seeks to explore the feasibility of power from fusion -- the process that heats the sun and stars. Several ORNL staff members have joined or are scheduled to join both the U.S. and International ITER teams.
ORNL also announced plans in 2006 for the Oak Ridge Science and Technology Park, the first private business office development to be located onsite at a national laboratory. The 12-acre park, with plans to expand to approximately 40 acres, will be occupied by university branch offices, start-up companies and outside industry, offering tenants better access to ORNL researchers, instruments and facilities.
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