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The University of Tennessee
Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education (UTK-ORNL)

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ITER 3D plasma equilibrium
This figure shows the ITER plasma surface and toroidal magnetic field coils.
An atomistic model of cellulose (blue) surrounded by lignin molecules (green) comprising of a total of 3.3 million atoms.
Global water vapor
The proper simulation of the distribution of water vapor in the climate system is essential to the accurate treatment of the hydrological cycle and the planetary radiation budget.

Energy Research Themes

The unique collaboration between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and The University of Tennessee, Knoxville provides students with the opportunity to tackle the 10 "big challenges" of critical importance to America's energy future.

Nuclear Energy

HFIR imageMeeting a growing demand for energy without increasing carbon emissions will require an expanded role for the nuclear industry. ORNL is developing reprocessing technologies that could enable up to 97 percent of spent fuel to be reused instead of permanently stored. New research tools, including ORNL's and UTK's supercomputers, are bringing the dream of fusion energy closer to reality. ORNL is leading the U.S. role in ITER, the international effort to build an experimental fusion reactor that could lead to an inexhaustible source of energy.


Bioenergy and Biofuels

Gas pump in fieldMany Americans seeking a substitute for gasoline prefer ethanol that is not made from valuable food supplies. ORNL's Bioenergy Science Center and Tennessee's Biofuels Initiative are developing new forms of cellulosic ethanol that can be grown on millions of acres of marginal land with little need for water or fertilizer.


Renewable Energy

Solar PanelsRenewable energy technologies are designed to replace fossil fuels with inexhaustible methods for generating energy. These technologies include wind power, tidal energy, hydroelectric power generation, water-splitting technology, and more.


Energy Conversion and Storage

WindmillNew ways of storing energy will be critical to efforts to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. ORNL's and UTK's expertise in advanced materials will play a leading role in developing a new generation of batteries that can store energy generated by solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars.


Energy Materials

Lightbulb with tree insideEnergy Materials is a broad theme that considers traditional and novel photovoltaics, materials for energy storage, impacts of additive manufacturing on energy, building materials, photocatalytic materials, and materials for improving efficiency.


Distributed Energy and Grid Management

SupercomputerORNL is testing high temperature superconducting cables that can carry up to 140 times more electric current without losses. Superconducting cables will reduce the number of power outages and lessen the need for additional power plants.



Environmental and Climate Sciences

CloudsWhat are the effects of global warming, and how can we respond to those changes, are among the most critical questions of the next decade. ORNL is marshaling a variety of resources, including environmental sciences and high-performance computing, in the quest for environmentally sound energy solutions. One aspect of reducing the volume of carbon emissions into the air involves understanding the potential alternative of placing the carbon underground and the resulting impact on the ecosystem. ORNL and UTK research will help form the basis for assessing strategies for ocean and soil-based carbon sequestration.


Transportation Sciences

Highway imageWith a goal of reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, ORNL researchers developed a new generation of composite materials that could greatly reduce the weight of cars and trucks. Combined with efforts to increase engine performance, cars of the future could achieve 100 miles per gallon with no compromise of safety or performance.


Cross-Cutting Energy Sciences

House iconReducing the energy consumption of homes, offices, and factories is a major goal of America's energy policy. Working with the Tennessee Valley Authority, ORNL has constructed five Habitat for Humanity homes with an electric bill of only 40 cents per day. Researchers hope to develop a zero-energy home by 2012.


Energy Geography

Energy Geography considers the spatio-temporal distribution of energy stocks and flows as well as the geophysical processes which underlie that distribution, the relationship between the spatial form of socio-ecological systems and energy availability, production, distribution, and use at various geographic scales, national and regional differences in the above, as well as how they relate to inter- and intra-regional distributions of political-economic power and social activities, the ways in which energy production and consumption mediates, and is mediated by, the environment-society relationship, the association of energy production and consumption with people-place interactions including geographical imaginaries and spatial identities / representations, and the geographical dimensions of the political tensions and scientific uncertainties that surround prevailing and future energy resource management decisions.




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Contact Information

Lee Riedinger
Professor of Physics

Mike Simpson
Professor of Material Sciences and Engineering
Assistant Director

Wanda Davis
Administrative Coordinator
Assistant to the Director
443 Greve Hall
821 Volunteer Blvd. University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996

Jessica Garner
418 Greve Hall
821 Volunteer Blvd.
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996

Fax: 865-974-9482