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ORNL collaborates with Utah State University to understand plant-microbe interactions in aspen forests as well as with researchers at the University of Utah who study fundamental physics questions. ORNL works closely with Mazak Megastir through a unique manufacturing research group and with Petersen through its critical supply role for the international ITER project.

Value of contracts awarded $1.7M
42% Percentage to small businesses
22% Percentage to educational institutions
Publications authored with Utah institutions 100
Technology licenses issued to organizations 1
ORNL User Facilities Users in Utah
Building Technologies Research and Integration Center 1
Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility 7
Spallation Neutron Source 3

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.


ORNL scientists and researchers from Utah State University are partnering with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service to study plant-microbe interactions in aspen forests near Fish Lake. The research is helping scientists understand how aspens’ beneficial microbiome may change over time and in response to disturbances, such as wildfire. One of the experimental sites includes the Pando aspen clone, which started from a single seed sometime after the last ice age, has grown to include more than 40,000 trees and covers more than 106 acres. Parts of the Pando clone have started dying off.


Learn more about biological science at ORNL.


Carleton DeTar of the University of Utah received hundreds of thousands of computing hours on the Summit supercomputer from 2020–2021. DeTar’s team is using Summit to study the interactions of quarks and to refine the Standard Model of Particle Physics by reducing uncertainties in its predictions. The Standard Model is scientists’ current best theory to describe the most basic building blocks of the universe.


Learn more about computer science at ORNL.


A welding group within the national laboratory system, based at ORNL, is collaborating with Mazak MegaStir on solid-state joining methods. These methods lower costs and reduce emissions for the transportation sector. In auto manufacturing, different materials are needed in different places throughout a vehicle to support specific functions, such as making an engine less heavy or protecting passengers. Lightweight aluminum materials reduce fuel consumption, heavy steel materials offer strength, and carbon fibers offer both at a higher cost. Expertise in solid-state joining is critical to manufacturing, making it possible to join materials with unique properties.


Learn more about physical science at ORNL.


A 60-foot tall superconducting magnet fabricated in the United States will ignite the plasma for ITER, the renowned fusion project involving scientists and engineers from 35 countries. The 1,000-ton magnet requires a support system that can withstand 210 meganewtons of force—roughly six times the thrust of the first stage of a Saturn V rocket. Petersen Incorporated has fabricated and delivered more than $6 million in massive finely-machined stainless-steel magnet-support blocks for ITER. ORNL manages the US ITER project.


Learn more about fusion research at ORNL.

Listen to ORNL’s Sound of Science podcast episode “Fusion: Energy at the Extreme.”

ORNL video: “How the Heart of ITER Will Electrify Plasma.”

For more information, contact news@ornl.gov.