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PIMA Members Visit Oak Ridge National Laboratory as Part of Mid-Year Meeting

Posted By Alex Wellman, Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Earlier this month, PIMA members gathered in Knoxville, TN for the association’s Mid-Year Meeting. As part of the educational session, attendees traveled to Oak Ridge National Laboratory for a tour of the facility. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was founded in 1943 and served as one of the facilities that conducted much of the initial research for the Manhattan Project that lead to the development of the first atomic bomb. Now, Oak Ridge Laboratory is renowned for its scientific work in many subjects, including extensive research on high-performance building materials. PIMA members have a long history of working with ORNL, beginning in the early 1990s with a project to develop a new polyiso blowing agent free from harmful CFCs.

The tour included:  

  • The world’s largest entirely 3D printed structure. The project used vacuum panel insulation embedded in the polyurethane based wall/roof assemblies to achieve high levels of energy efficiency and thermal performance. According to an article published by Dezeen, “the building envelope comprises approximately 80% opaque panels and 20% glazing, resulting in a highly efficient enclosure. Solar panels are integrated into the roof and feed a battery under the building, which in turns powers the structure at night. The 3D-printed vehicle generates its own power, too, using a hybrid electric system.”
  • The X-10 Graphite Reactor, the second nuclear reactor ever built. The reactor was instrumental in producing nuclear isotopes that lead to the development of the first atomic bomb. Members were able to see the original reactor face where fuel rods were inserted by rotating crews working in 15 minute shifts to reduce radiation exposure. After World War II, the reactor operated in a peacetime capacity producing nuclear material for medical and educational purposes until it was shut down permanently in 1963. 
  • Oak Ridge’s supercomputing facility where PIMA members saw the one of the fastest, non-classified supercomputers in the world. While the supercomputer at ORNL is used for many scientific applications, it is frequently used by building scientists to: study the energy use of entire cities using satellites, neighborhood surveys; assess air leakage and thermal performance; and calculate the effects of building energy codes on large swaths of buildings.

PIMA and its member companies have a long history of working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop building products that improve the quality and comfort of our built environment. PIMA will continue to support the work being done at the laboratory, especially as continue to we deal with the impacts of climate change. 

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