ORNL staff based at NTRC offer an unusually broad set of technical expertise to bear on the research problems users address. Included on the facility’s roster are staff members from a range of engineering and physical science disciplines, urban planners, statisticians, mathematicians, geographers, and specialists from a dozen other fields of endeavor. They represent several principal ORNL research centers and groups for advancing transportation systems.
The Center for Transportation Analysis (CTA) researchers are focused on improving the safety, efficiency, and security of the nation's transportation systems. Their areas of study include not only passenger and freight transportation systems, but also aviation safety and air traffic management, and a range of issues related to planning, simulation, and intelligent transportation systems. Research at the facility centers around four transportation-related areas: congestion and delay, energy and environment, asset management and logistics, and safety and security.
The Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center (FEERC) researchers help identify ways to increase automotive efficiency and reduce emissions by performing research on engines and other automotive components, basic chemistry, materials, and fuels. The relationships between fuel properties, engine performance, and emissions are studied with fuels from conventional and unconventional fossil-based sources and nonpetroleum fuels from synthetic and renewable sources such as ethanol and biodiesel.
The Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Research Laboratories (PEEM), part of ORNL’s Power Electronics and Electrical Power Systems Research Center (PEEPSRC), are based at NTRC where researchers develop and prototype the next generation of power electronics and electric machines that will increase hybrid vehicle efficiency, reliability and durability while reducing component cost, weight and volume. Major areas of research include development of advanced power electronics packaging and topologies, high-performance motor technology that does not use permanent magnets, and ongoing evaluations of hybrid drivetrains.
In addition to the user research facilities at NTRC, ORNL’s Packaging Research Facility (PRF) is located in the building and conducts research for DOE National Nuclear Security Administration, as well as for commercial customers. The facility specializes in testing packaging systems for the transportation of nuclear fuel. Once a package design has been successfully tested, it can then be certified by one of several regulatory authorities, usually DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration, or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for use on the road.
The Vehicle Systems Integration (VSI) Laboratory offers unique capabilities to evaluate and simulate engines, electric motors, and transmissions in conventional and hybrid powertrain configurations for vehicles ranging from light-duty cars to Class 8 trucks. The VSI Lab is changing the pace of powertrain development by performing prototype research and characterization of advanced systems on a component level. Housed at NTRC, the VSI Lab comprises a powertrain test cell with twin AVL 500 kW AC transient dynamometers and a component test cell – both share energy storage system emulation and dSPACE hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) real-time platform capabilities. The VSI Lab also features “X”-in-the-loop hardware evaluation of powertrain components and/or subsystems in virtual vehicle environments, where “X” represents any experimental component or subsystem.
The Battery Manufacturing Facility (BMF) with a dual dry room operation
complements ORNL's existing energy storage concentration on materials testing and characterization. Housing equipment of nondestructive evaluations and inline quality control, the lab's focus includes developing and refining new technologies for materials processing and battery assembly to innovate manufacturing procedures. This is the largest open research dry room-cell assembly lab in the DOE system.
The Transportation Analysis and Visualization Laboratory (TRAVL) is a state-of-the-art, 32-seat facility designed to showcase ORNL-developed transportation modeling and simulation tools. With enough processing power for 15 high-definition 3-D graphics panels, the TRAVL lab facilitates researchers' requirements for the most advanced real-time simulation modeling collaborations and visual sharing of findings and results. The TRAVL Lab is maintained by the Center for Transportation Analysis.
ORNL’s Sustainable Transportation Program is also based at NTRC. Program staff members work closely with scientists and engineers across research disciplines to integrate transportation research taking place at NTRC and at the main ORNL campus. These research efforts include studies of vehicles and fuel, the mobility of passengers and freight, the nation’s transportation infrastructure, and energy distribution systems that support transportation. The program supports a number of federal and private research organizations that fund research at the laboratory, including DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Vehicle Technologies, Biomass, and Fuel Cell Technologies programs; the Department of Transportation; the Department of Defense; the Department of Homeland Security; the Environmental Protection Agency; various industries; and other partners.