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Illinois is home to a breadth of advanced technological industries and scientific institutions, and ORNL’s projects in the Prairie State reflect that range. As DOE sister laboratories, ORNL, Argonne National Laboratory, and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory team up to drive innovations and new technologies, helping answer some of our most pressing needs. ORNL has transferred lab-produced technologies to several companies in the state including Caterpillar and Starfire Industries. Caterpillar is a world-leading manufacturer of construction equipment, engines, industrial turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives. Starfire Industries specializes in manufacturing plasma sources, neutron generators, and high-voltage power supplies for a range of industries.

Value of contracts awarded $55M
31% Percentage to small businesses
7% Percentage to educational institutions
Publications authored with Illinois institutions 1,531
Organizations that sponsored research with ORNL 10
Technology licenses issued to organizations 3
ORNL User Facilities Users in Illinois
Building Technologies Research and Integration Center 9
Carbon Fiber Technology Facility 4
Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences 10
High Flux Isotope Reactor 7
Manufacturing Demonstration Facility 4
Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility 147
Spallation Neutron Source 22

ORNL’s user facilities offer a diverse set of tools for experiments across a range of fields, including biology, materials and energy sciences, physics, engineering, and chemistry. Learn more about ORNL’s user facilities. Data reflects fiscal year 2020 except for scientific publications, which covers 2016–2020. Partner stories reflect work conducted from 2016 to present.


Like ORNL, Argonne National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science multiprogram laboratory borne of the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. These institutions have partnered on numerous projects throughout the decades. Argonne, pictured at left in Lemont, boasts a wide range of scientific capabilities, from high-energy physics and materials science to biology and advanced computer science. Fermilab, located in Batavia, is a DOE Office of Science laboratory focused on particle physics that partners with ORNL on computing, particle accelerator technology, and quantum science.


As the sole producer of californium-252 in the Western world, ORNL provides Argonne with this highly valuable isotope for experimental use in the Argonne Tandem LINAC Accelerator System, or ATLAS. ATLAS is the world’s first superconducting linear accelerator that can be used for certain types of heavy ions that are best suited to study the properties of the nucleus, the core of matter, and the fuel of stars. Learn more about isotope production at ORNL. 


An international team of researchers that included scientists from Northwestern University achieved a new discovery for materials that are at the forefront of research in quantum computing. Through a series of experiments at ORNL’s world-leading research reactor, the High Flux Isotope Reactor, and at the Institut Laue-Langevin in Grenoble, France, the international team brought the world one step closer to improving superconductors use in future quantum computers.  Learn more about neutron science at ORNL. 


LanzaTech and Northwestern University are working closely with ORNL on the clostridium Foundry for Biosystems Design, or cBioFAB. Ultimately, this project seeks to develop an integrated set of technologies for producing fuels and chemicals from renewable organic material that comes from plants and animals, or biomass. cBioFAB integrates modeling, genome design, high-resolution systems biology data, and cell-free technologies for engineering strains of the clostridium bacteria. Learn more about biological science at ORNL.


A team of international researchers, including scientists at the University of Illinois Chicago, used neutron scattering and supercomputing resources at ORNL to discover a remarkably promising feature of hydrogen atoms that might open new doors for superconductivity. This newly discovered feature, which is found in the hydrogen atoms in a certain type of metal, could facilitate superconductivity at or near room temperature and pressure. Superconductivity, or the ability to carry electricity for long distances without losing any energy to resistance, will revolutionize energy efficiency for consumers and industry alike.  


Learn more about neutron and computational sciences at ORNL.  


At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ORNL-produced mercury-202 is used for research with mercury stable isotopes.  


Learn more about isotope production at ORNL. 


ORNL is collaborating with the Morton Arboretum to analyze patterns in root traits from around the world compiled in the Fine-Root Ecology Database, or FRED. FRED brings together 150,000 observations from different ecosystems and is publicly available at no charge. Modelers use information from FRED to help predict the future of the planet and advance our understanding of how the hidden structure of plants belowground may interact with life aboveground.  


Learn more about biological science at ORNL. 

Listen to ORNL’s the Sound of Science podcast episode “Meet FRED—Your Friendly Root Resource.” 


ORNL is collaborating with Taylor Commercial Foodservice, headquartered in Rockton, to develop climate-friendly refrigerants for food processing and dispensing machines in quick-service restaurants and food retail. Machines such as these are broadly available and typically run 24 hours a day, making them tremendous consumers of energy. This collaboration will potentially advance energy efficiency for more than three million refrigerated food and beverage processing, dispensing, and vending machines in the United States.  


Learn more about energy research at ORNL.  

ORNL news release: ”ORNL, Industry Collaborate to Advance Building Equipment Efficiency, Develop New Refrigerants” 

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