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Student Projects

Design of Novel Polymeric Materials Using Computer Simulation

In everyday life, we encounter systems that consist of huge numbers of molecules. For example, 1 gm or water (H20) contains 3.3x1022 molecules. These molecules interact with each other in a very complex fashion. The complex interactions between molecules make everything around us (including life) possible.

For larger molecules (usually all polymers, also known as macromolecules) the interactions are so complex that one cannot possibly understand the basics of their motions and stability of the materials. The macromolecules often self-assemble to form natural materials like protein, DNA, rubber etc. Also, we could mimic nature and produce different kinds of materials artificially our comfort. For example, tires, plastics, and medicines are artificially made materials which we use in our daily life. To design these materials, expensive experimental techniques are used. These experiments, however, may not produce results always and lack the basic understanding of physics.

With the help of computers, we can predict materials that can be easily produced and also understand the basic physics behind it. It is well known that the particles follow Newtonian mechanics at a classical level, i.e., they follow F=ma, where F is the force on each particle, m is the mass and a is the acceleration, which is related to the position coordinate of a particle. Therefore, if we know the force acting on a particle at a given time, we can predict, by using basic physics (Newton’s equation of motion), what is going to happen in a future time. The process is even more complicated for macromolecules because of bonds, intra-molecular interactions. For this, we feed the computer with the ‘virtual’ macromolecules and instruct the computer to find out the final product following Newtonian mechanics. Hence, the designing of novel polymeric materials on a computer can be achieved.

In this project we will try to understand how these molecules interact using computer simulation. What are the forces that bind them together? Why do they self- assemble in a particular form? What is the temperature and density range that should be used to achieve the best material design? Our goal in this project is to engage the students in a thought process where they can understand how research can be conducted, so that they can contribute to the scientific discovery.

ORNL Division: Computer Science and Mathematics

Mentor: Monojoy Goswami and Bobby Sumpter

Students: Amanda Carlin, Crystal Gore, Zeyu Hao, Levi LaPrairie, Thomas Prunty, James South

Effect of Nanoparticles on the Mechanical Properties of Elastomers

Elastomers have myriad applications that require enhanced mechanical properties. Their strength enhancement upon addition of carbon black particles is well known in the application of automotive tires. Nanoparticles have been proposed as novel additives to further enhance the mechanical strength of elastomers. ORNL researchers have incorporated nanoparticle additives into elastomeric materials to probe the effect of nanoparticles on the mechanical properties of the resulting composite. This ARC project will investigate the mechanical strength of elastomeric composites via tensile testing and determine the optimum composite composition.

Hosting Division: Materials Science and Technology

Mentor: Amit Naskar, Marcus Hunt, and Ronny Lomax

Students: Bradford Absher, Shawn Hoose, Corbett Hylton, Trey Johnson, Pooja Patel, Megan Viera

Robotic Systems and Engineering Development

Robots are used in industry to do things while protecting humans from hazardous environments, or to protect humans from highly repetitive work that requires high precision. The objectives of this project are to (1) expose students to robotics projects underway at ORNL and (2) provide hands-on experience in designing, constructing and programming a small robot. The project involves two groups of students and will be conducted within the Remote Systems Group of ORNL's Fuel Cycle and Isotope Division. The focus of this project is on developing the mechanical and programming skills that are needed to design, build and operate a robot. The student will build a robot that can navigate an obstacle course using various sensors (light, ultrasonic and/or touch). The students will decide which sensors are best suited for which purposes, and what logic is appropriate for controlling the robot's trajectory. Students will use the Lynxmotion Tri-Track Robot and AL5A Robotic Arm for building and testing.

ORNL Research Division: Fuel Cycle and Isotopes

Research Mentor: Venugopal Varma, Adam Aaron and Adam Carroll

Research Facilitators: Carl Mallette and Ken Swayne

Students: Christopher Campbell, Kyle Colosimo, Ryan Crean, Anissa Duckett, Kelli Ferrell, Joshua Lee, Clint Lytle, Joel Murtaugh, Acacia Robertson, Cody Tatum

Build a Supercomputer

Students will build a supercomputer! Well, almost. Supercomputers typically use thousands of processors running in parallel to solve problems in science, finance, and other areas. Students will build a smaller supercomputer to gain insight and understanding in how supercomputers are organized and then how to program them. Students will build a Beowulf cluster using ordinary computers. Students will then write a parallel program, compile the program, and execute that program on the cluster. Areas that will be covered during this project are:

  • Computing basics
  • Computer networking
  • Linux operating system
  • Computer programming

Project review and summary

Students will be required to answer the research question: “In what year would the supercomputer we build be considered the world's fastest supercomputer?” Students will be introduced to Extreme Programming concepts such as pair programming.

ORNL Division: National Center for Computational Sciences

Mentor: Robert Whitten

Assistant: Jerry Sherrod, Terry E. Martin, Jr., Linda McLin and E. Jay Foster

Students: Jamie Binns, Austin Cantu, Bethany Cato, Adam Chandler, Jeremy Graves, Robert Henry II, Nala Kirtdoll Colliers, Jessica Melton, Summer Pierce, Justin Snodgrass

Visualization of 3D Molecular Structures Using X-Ray and Neutron Scattering

X-Ray and Neutron scattering techniques are very powerful tools in the study of the structure and function of important chemical and biological molecules. ORNL has several important facilities for these studies: the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) for neutron scattering as well as several x-ray scattering instruments. Both single crystal (diffraction) and solution (small angle scattering) experiments can be performed. The resulting molecular structures from these experiments can be viewed by computer graphics techniques to give rotatable models as well as short movie files. Once analyzed, the 3 dimensional computer graphic models are suitable for publication and deposition in data banks such as the Protein Data Bank (PDB). Our group will prepare protein (chicken egg white lyzozyme) crystals, observe them with a polarizing microscope and mount them on a goniometer head to determine whether the crystals grown diffract X-rays.

Division: Neutron Scattering Science

Mentor: Flora Meilleur

Facilitator: Brian Hingerty

Students: Keiara Holley, Chelsea King, Elizabeth Lawrence, Lindsay Terlikowski, Kymberlyn Wilson

Teacher Projects

Nanoparticles – Production, Characterization and Uses

This research project will be conducted in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) and is designed to allow participants to better understand processes required to conduct a research project on nanoparticles. The teachers will research a nanotechnology project and be trained on processes and safety procedures used for nanoparticles research. They will then work with a research scientist to prepare samples of nanoparticles, evaluate analytical data characterizing the nanoparticles, and draw conclusions from the data they collect. The teachers also will learn potential applications of some of the nanoparticles being produced and investigated at ORNL. During the two-week program, the teachers will meet other researchers within the laboratory community and learn about nanoparticles-related projects currently being researched at ORNL.

ORNL Division: Chemical Sciences Division

Mentor: M. Parans Paranthaman

Facilitator: James R. Davis

Teachers: Garnett Coy, Angela Goad

Forest Inventory

There is a need for additional and substantive plant community-related data for the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR). Currently there is a forest inventory being conducted on the ORR. This forest inventory is producing some of the data required to list plant communities found in ORR natural areas. High school teachers involved in the 2011 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) summer program will make use of the forest inventory data to compile this forest community information.

The focus of the research will be one of the ORR natural areas, the White Cedar Area (NA14). Other natural areas may be studied as time allows. Teachers will use the dominant trees recorded at established forest inventory survey points to make a preliminary determination of the plant community type. The system of plant communities developed by NatureServe will be used. Additional information needed to determine plant community types will be obtained during daily field trips to the natural area. Exotic invasive plants that propose a threat to native plant communities may also be removed during these field trips. The ARC teachers will create a report and a PowerPoint presentation summarizing their work.

ORNL Division: Environmental Sciences

Mentor: Neil Giffen

Assistant: Bill Johnston

Facilitator: Larry Pounds

Teachers: Daniel Cornwell, Anne Lynch, Maggie Miklos

Retained Austenite Measurements using Molybdenum X-rays

This project is a continuation of work done by previous teacher groups. Data from this study will be combined with data collected by previous teams of ARC/ORNL Summer Institute teachers to prepare a manuscript which will be submitted for publication in the open literature, with all the participants as co-authors.

The project involves the use of NIST standard steel samples having known amounts of retained austenite. The previous groups have used the same samples utilizing x-rays generated by CU and Fe targets which are well known and used laboratory x-ray wavelengths. This group will collect data using the same samples but with x-rays generated by use of a MO target which is another well used x-ray source. The data will then be analyzed by use of well known computer software for profile fitting of the complete spectrum for each data set.

No one has done as complete a study of these materials as this embodies. Since different laboratories possibly utilize different x-ray sources, we desired to check the possible statistical variations and repetitive fractions using various experimental conditions.

ORNL Division: Materials Science and Technology

Mentor: Tom Watkins

Facilitator: Burl Cavin

Teachers: Marian Marley, Edward Wall

Cosmic Explosions and Exotic Detectors

Stellar Explosions are the most violent events in the cosmos, and simultaneously serve to create and disperse the elements of life. In this two-component project, a group of ARC/ORNL Summer Institute Teacher participants will (a) learn how researchers use exotic detection systems to make laboratory measurements of reactions that occur when stars explode, and (b) learn how researchers input this information into computer simulations of these catastrophic events.

In Part (a), they will be introduced to various detectors used at HRIBF and receive hands-on training with the Versatile Array of Neutron Detectors at Low Energy (VANDLE) which will be used to detect gamma- rays and neutrons from nuclear reactions, as well as cosmic rays from space. They will use VANDLE to measure the attenuation of these exotic particles as they pass through a variety of materials such as stainless steel, lead, water, and plastic.

In Part (b), they will run explosion simulations to determine which thermonuclear reactions have the largest impact on our predications of element creation in these explosions. They will also be given information on how to use these simulations in a variety of classroom activities.

ORNL Division: Physics

Mentors: Michael Smith and William Peters

Teachers: Tina Simpson and Alton Dunn