Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the Department of Energy’s largest science and energy laboratory. Managed since April 2000 by a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle, ORNL was established in 1943 as a part of the secret Manhattan Project to pioneer a method for producing and separating plutonium. During the 1950s and 1960s, ORNL became an international center for the study of nuclear energy and related research in the physical and life sciences. With the creation of DOE in the 1970s, ORNL’s mission broadened to include a variety of energy technologies and strategies. Today, the laboratory supports the nation with a peacetime science and technology mission that is just as important as, but very different from, its role during the Manhattan Project.
ORNL is one of the world’s premier centers for research and development on energy production, distribution, and use, as well as the effects of energy technologies and decisions on society. ORNL’s unique facilities are used both for technology development and for fundamental investigations in the basic energy sciences that underpin the technologies.
The lab has a staff of more than 4,800 and annually hosts approximately 3,000 guest researchers who spend two weeks or longer in Oak Ridge. Annual funding exceeds $1.65 billion. As an international leader in a range of scientific areas that support the Department of Energy’s mission, ORNL has six major mission roles: neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology, materials science at the nanoscale, and national security. ORNL’s leadership role in the nation’s energy future includes hosting the U.S. project office for the ITER international fusion experiment and the Office of Science − sponsored BioEnergy Science Center.
With more than $2 billion in new facilities completed since 2003, ORNL has one of the world’s most modern campuses for the next generation of scientific discovery. The Spallation Neutron Source, located alongside the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences, combines with one of the nation’s largest research reactors to continue ORNL’s reputation as a leader in the study of materials. ORNL’s Center for Computational Sciences houses one of world’s most powerful supercomputers capable of 2,300 trillion calculations per second. Each of these facilities works closely with ORNL’s BioEnergy Science Center to develop a new form of cellulosic ethanol derived from non-food crop biomass. The lab also houses three state-funded joint institutes for computational sciences, biological sciences, and neutron sciences, which represent the collaborative partnership between ORNL and the University of Tennessee.
ORNL researchers are applying this unique collection of scientific facilities to some of the most important scientific challenges of our time. Working across scientific disciplines, ORNL researchers are developing breakthrough technologies that will provide alternative sources of carbon-free energy while reducing the amount of energy used in transportation, homes, and businesses. With a research staff representing nearly 80 countries, ORNL’s outreach literally spans the globe, from helping utilities find ways of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in Tennessee to aiding the cause of nuclear nonproliferation in nation-states of the former Soviet Union.