July marks beginning of Thomas Zacharia’s new role as ORNL director

Thomas Zacharia, who built Oak Ridge National Laboratory into a global supercomputing power, has been selected as the laboratory’s next director by UT-Battelle, the partnership that operates ORNL for the U.S. Department of Energy.

The UT-Battelle board conducted an open, competitive search for a new director after Thom Mason announced he would be leaving to join Battelle after 10 years leading ORNL. Among the goals Zacharia outlined if he were chosen as director: leading ORNL to be the world’s premier research institution; building on the lab’s original sense of mission – winning World War II while pushing the boundaries of research – to reshape its creative energy for the future; celebrating a science and technology culture that encourages individuals to be the best in their fields; and pursuing institutional excellence that advances US leadership in neutron science, computing, materials, and nuclear science and engineering.

Thomas Zacharia (Credit: ORNL)

Zacharia’s appointment as director became effective July 1, after Mason was appointed senior vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, Ohio.

“Thomas has a compelling vision for the future of ORNL that is directly aligned with the U.S. Department of Energy’s strategic priorities,” said Joe DiPietro, chair of the UT-Battelle Board of Governors and president of the University of Tennessee.

Zacharia came to ORNL in 1987 as a postdoctoral researcher after receiving his Ph.D. in engineering science from Clarkson University in New York. He also holds a master’s in materials science from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from the National Institute of Technology in Karnataka, India.

When UT-Battelle became ORNL’s management and operating contractor in April 2000, Zacharia was director of the Computer Science and Mathematics Division. In 2001, he was named associate laboratory director for the new Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate, and over the next eight years he built a scientific enterprise that brought more than 500 new staff to Oak Ridge and opened the nation’s largest unclassified scientific computing center, the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, a user facility of DOE’s Office of Science.

Zacharia was named ORNL’s deputy for science and technology in 2009, responsible for the lab’s entire research and development portfolio. During his tenure, the lab has strengthened its translational energy programs, establishing the Nuclear Science and Engineering Directorate and the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate.

In 2012, Zacharia took a leave to serve as executive vice president of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, overseeing research in energy and the environment, information and computing technology, life sciences and biomedical research, and social sciences, as well as leading the country’s science and technology park, which is home to more than 40 multi-national companies including GE, Microsoft and Siemens. He returned to ORNL in 2015, where he previously served as Deputy Lab Director for Science and Technology.

Tennessee technology suppliers ready to meet fuel efficiency standards

Technology suppliers in Tennessee are ready to help pave the way to develop and manufacture high-efficiency, low-carbon technologies for big trucks, buses and other large vehicles. It’s all in an effort to meet new national standards for fuel efficiency in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles on America’s roadways.

In the first-ever attempt to gauge the scope of the United States’ high-efficiency technology supplier sector for heavy-duty trucks and buses, CALSTART looked over businesses and identified and mapped 255 companies.  The firms range from vehicle manufacturers to component suppliers to technology developers. Of those companies, 4 of them are in Tennessee.

  1. Hankook Tire in Clarksville develops three new tires that maintain the best driving performance while also keeping in mind climate change due to global warming.
  2. Bridgestone in Nashville creates new tire designs with narrower treads, larger diameters and higher inflation pressure to reach maximum fuel efficiency thanks to “ologic” technology.
  3. Spicerparts located in Gordonsville makes driveshaft technology in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles that are light-weight, lower cost and last longer on the open road with vibration control.
  4. Magneti Marelli in Pulaski offers advanced solutions for diesel engines while respecting the environment. The company creates a Multijet system which reduces pollutants and noise, a system that’s catching on around the world.

Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles make up about 20 percent of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions and oil use for U.S. transportation but are only about 5 percent of the vehicles on the road.

Proterra, Inc. battery electric buses are jumpstarting Nashville’s zero-emission mass transit system. (Courtesy: Proterra, Inc. & Cleantechnica)

Proterra, Inc. battery electric buses are jumpstarting Nashville’s zero-emission mass transit system. (Courtesy: Proterra, Inc. & Cleantechnica)

Businesses that rely on large trucks and buses know that more efficient vehicles save money, and reduced fuel use is a fundamental driver for heavy-duty efficiency technologies. But as the report makes clear, many companies support strong national standards because they help signal future technology needs, provide clear goals and reduce risk for making investments.

For example, Proterra, Inc. has been working alongside Nashville’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) since February 2014. MTA announced last year it purchased nine 35-foot Proterra EcoRide™ electric buses, which will help with Nashville’s zero-emission mass transit system. Proterra, Inc. is a leading provider in making zero-emission, battery-electric buses.

Proterra, Inc. buses can last for up to 12 years and during that time it’ll save Nashville around $462,000 compared to diesel, making them 64% more cost-effective to operate than diesel.

For a look at the Heavy-Duty High Efficiency Technology Suppliers interactive map and it’s influence in Tennessee, click here.

Alcoa, Inc. receives conditional Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing’s (ATVM) loan program enables the domestic manufacturing of advanced technology vehicles and components. To date, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has helped accelerate the resurgence of American auto manufacturing by issuing more than $8 billion in direct loans, which supported the production of more than 9 million cars and approximately 35,000 direct jobs across eight states.

Recently, DOE announced a conditional commitment for a $259 million loan to Alcoa Inc. This conditional commitment is the first issued by DOE under the ATVM loan program since Secretary Moniz announced a number of improvements to the program last year, and is the first step toward issuing a final loan to Alcoa. If finalized, the loan would support the company’s Alcoa, Tenn., manufacturing facility, where the company will produce high-strength aluminum for North American automakers looking to lightweight their vehicles.

According to U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the ATVM loan program can play an important role in helping to finance expanded domestic manufacturing of fuel-efficient technologies that will support the next generation of advanced vehicles.

The loan is good news for Alcoa, and for Tennessee. More than one-third of Tennessee manufacturing jobs are auto-related, and investment in advanced manufacturing is an important part of how our state will continue to attract good-paying jobs, said Senator Lamar Alexander.

The automotive sector in Tennessee represents what may be the single largest opportunity to expand the use of advanced energy technologies. The industry is looking to a number of these technologies to improve fuel efficiency demanded by government and consumers. Alcoa is an example of a company creating new materials that will make possible significant reductions of vehicle weight and improvements in gas mileage.

Alcoa estimates that its expanded production is expected to create an additional 200 permanent full-time jobs, in addition to 400 jobs at the peak of construction.

For more information on the ATVM loan program and Alcoa’s loan, click here.

Renewable Algal Energy has won four Small Business Innovation Research awards

TAEBC member Renewable Algal Energy (RAE) was featured in a two-part series on Teknovation.biz for its successful use of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to scale its business model.

RAE’s CEO, Jeff Kanel, has been very focused and purposeful in using the SBIR program to strategically advance the company.

Kanel describes his keys for success in submitting and winning the awards: utilization of solid project management tools, inclusion of well-defined milestones and deliverables, and a clear understanding of the critical success factors.

RAE has created what is describes as “novel breakthrough technology to produce a sustainable, economically viable product from micro algae.” Those offerings range from algal oil as a feedstock for renewable diesel fuel to protein, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids for animal and human nutrition.

“Our model is to be a technology licensor,” said Kanel. “We are trying to make algae a profitable endeavor that also solves a lot of global problems.”

Three of the four SBIRs that Kanel submitted were directly related to evolving RAE’s technology. The fourth, also focused on algae, was submitted by Kanel before RAE was founded.

Over a roughly six-year period, RAE has successfully won Phase I, II and III awards that have proven the viability of the technology, helped fund work to validate the financial model and scalability of the technology, and deploy a semi-works facility.

Today, RAE has strategic relationships, customers, and a technology proving ground in Arizona as well as a North-American developer with a site that is permitted for the deployment of RAE Technology.

“By going through the SBIR Phase I, we matched-up a proof on concept (that showed) what we were doing had a chance of success,” Kanel said. The proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2007. The award and work were conducted in 2008.

Phase II, again funded by DOE, ran from 2009 to 2012, with RAE collecting considerable amounts of data to show financial viability and technology scalability.

“We were moving the proof of concept to commercialization,” Kanel says in describing that period.

Phase III, which ran from 2012 into 2014, was an accelerator period when RAE deployed the technology in a semi-works scale effort designed to reduce the technology risk. This final phase helped RAE to secure contracts with interested partners.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series on the Teknovation.biz website to learn more about why and how SBIRs had a solid impact on RAE’s development.

ORNL unveils new crowdsourcing website for building technologies

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the nation’s homes and buildings, lower energy costs, and enhance U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing, the Energy Department launched the new Buildings Crowdsourcing Community website last week. Administered by TAEBC member Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the new site, buildings.ideascale.com, will help technology innovators collect, share and evaluate input from customers and other stakeholders about next-generation building technologies.

Innovators including start-ups, designers, buildings scientists, and students can use the website to share ideas that could develop into new energy efficient technologies for homes and buildings.  Those interested in participating can register through the ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community or they can vote on their favorite entries. The best ideas will be recognized during the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office Industry Day hosted at ORNL in September.

The ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community is now accepting new idea submissions, comments, and votes and submissions. The website will stay open until May 31, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Site members and users can still view the submissions, comments, and votes after May 31, but participation on the site will end after the submission timeframe expires.

For more information, click here.