ORNL: U.S. Secretary of Energy Granholm tours ORNL’s world-class science facilities

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm visited Oak Ridge National Laboratory on Nov. 22 for a two-hour tour, meeting top scientists and engineers as they highlighted projects and world-leading capabilities that address some of the country’s most complex research and technical challenges. The visit featured ORNL’s computational capabilities, basic energy science and bioenergy research, innovations in grid and electrification and novel advanced manufacturing solutions.

Granholm was joined on her tour by U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann and Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch. Granholm virtually visited ORNL on Sept. 28. This is the secretary’s first in-person visit to the lab.

“We are honored to welcome Secretary Granholm to the Oak Ridge Corridor and to introduce her to some of the researchers and facilities that enable our world-changing discoveries and innovations,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “During her visit, the secretary saw how ORNL is driving clean energy solutions and deploying technology, such as materials for better batteries and wireless charging, to address climate change.”

Since she was sworn in on Feb. 25, Granholm has been pushing for solutions to climate change through efforts such as reducing carbon emissions through electrification. Under her leadership, the department also supports fundamental science research that drives the development of advanced carbon mitigation technologies.

The tour showcased some of ORNL’s brightest scientific and technical minds and featured select research activities at the lab’s world-class user facilities, starting with the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility.

Granholm received a preview of the Frontier supercomputer, which is being installed at ORNL and is anticipated to debut as the world’s first exascale supercomputer for open science. Frontier will join ORNL’s Summit machine, currently the nation’s most powerful supercomputer that recently retained its number two spot on the TOP500 list that ranks the world’s super-systems by computing speed and power.

The group moved on to the Advanced Plant Phenotyping Laboratory, a unique plant phenotyping system that provides high-resolution data to accelerate fundamental science investigations. They also discussed the lab’s leading role for DOE’s Center for Bioenergy Innovation, which focuses on solutions for a cleaner, greener bioeconomy, including sustainable aviation fuel.

Next, they toured the Spallation Neutron Source, a DOE Office of Science user facility, to learn more about the lab’s forthcoming Second Target Station, which will expand the lab’s existing neutron scattering capabilities to meet emerging science challenges. Granholm also visited the adjacent Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, another of ORNL’s top-flight DOE Office of Science user facilities, which offers state-of-the-art equipment for a broad range of nanoscience research.

Zacharia led Granholm and the group to the lab’s satellite campus at Hardin Valley to visit DOE’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL. The MDF houses integrated capabilities that drive the development of new materials, software and systems for advanced manufacturing, providing solutions to revitalize manufacturing in the United States.

The tour concluded at Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center, or GRID-C, which combines multiple electrification research activities across utility, buildings and vehicles. GRID-C’s unique, multipurpose research environment allows scientists and partners access to state-of-the-art capabilities and world-class expertise to mutually develop innovative technologies for grid security, resilience and reliability.

In her remarks after the lab tour, Granholm noted the direct impact technologies developed by ORNL will have on the nation’s future. She highlighted ORNL’s efforts in battery science and wireless charging as examples of technologies that will accelerate decarbonization.

“Batteries for the transportation sector (along with) the ability to build infrastructure that makes it so easy to transfer energy from charging pads, while driving along the road, to a vehicle is going to bring us even closer to more widely adopting electric vehicles,” she said.

Granholm later traveled to Chattanooga for a roundtable discussion on electric vehicle transitions with Fleischmann and Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly.

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