Materials science is a core research capability at ORNL, with contributions and impacts that span nearly all research organizations and programs. Scientists and engineers focus on the discovery and design of new materials and chemical processes that occur at interfaces, along with the development of new characterization, computational, and materials processing capabilities to achieve unprecedented performance in new materials and energy technologies. This research portfolio is the basis of the majority of both open literature publications and technology transfer at ORNL.
The Physical Sciences Directorate (PSD) at ORNL provides capability leadership for Advanced Materials research and is home to three materials-related research divisions:
Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS)
Materials Science and Technology
These PSD research divisions provide core capabilities in materials synthesis, chemistry, characterization, testing, processing, and theory and are complemented by science and technology development activities in all directorates across ORNL. ORNL is home to the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) and the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), and our materials program works with the Neutron Sciences staff at these world-leading neutron scattering facilities to elucidate key structural and dynamic information in materials and systems ranging from single crystals to batteries. Similarly, high performance computing experts within Computing and Computational Sciences contribute to understanding and predicting materials and processes across broad length and time scales—from the atomic to systems scales, from fractions of a second to years. Such capabilities allow us, for example, to understand how radiation causes defects in materials to evolve in the first fractions of a second and how structural materials will perform for decades in nuclear reactors. This information is critically important for applications in Nuclear Science and Engineering, where materials science plays important roles in fission and fusion materials and nuclear fuels. Advanced materials and associated capabilities in characterization and theory form the basis of many technologies developed in collaboration with Energy and Environmental Sciences staff for a wide range energy technologies.
Advanced Materials research is supported by a wide range of sponsors. Fundamental science is supported by three DOE Office of Basic Energy Science programs, including the BES Divisions of Materials Science and Engineering Program, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Program and User Facilities (including the CNMS, ShaRE, SNS and HFIR). Other sponsors of materials research at ORNL include EERE (Vehicle Technology, Office of Electricity, Advanced Manufacturing); ARPA-E, Fossil Energy, Fusion Energy, Nuclear Energy. In addition, ORNL’s materials portfolio includes research funded by over Work For Others and Cooperative Research Agreements with over 80 companies.