On November 16 we took a field trip to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. The lab not only holds a key component to our future, but a strong hold to our past. We began our tour by taking a look at Everest. Everest is a display wall that spans 30.5′ x 8.5′ and consists of projection displays arranged in a 6 x 3 format. The next part of the tour was a look at the powerful world of supercomputing. This meant exploring Titan, one of the world’s largest super computers. We learned a variety of intriguing details regarding Titan and its importance in the realm of science and research. We also learned of ORNL’s next supercomputer, Summit, that will be hopefully be introduced in 2018. To end our time at ORNL, we travelled to the Spallation Neutron Source. This facility’s sole purpose is to aid scientific research by providing the “most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world.” The second part of this field trip was a tour of the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (associated with ORNL). This facility is focused on creating and demonstrating new manufacturing techniques, such as three-dimensional printing.
The foundation of the Neutron Spallation facility is formed from the ideas of chemistry and the periodic table. Spallation occurs when you collide a heavy nucleus with a proton. The nucleus emits neutrons after a short period of vibration because the nucleus is too large to be stable. In layman’s terms, a beam of protons are shot towards a target, typically being mercury. This results in the producing of neutrons in a useful and efficient manner. The facility also uses spectroscopy, an analysis of the way in which atoms absorb and emit light. While taking a look at Everest the tour guide showed us 3D models of one of the most expensive and complex science experiments ever conducted. The experiment, professionally referred to as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), is also being dubbed as a sun on Earth. It is an attempt to recreate nuclear fusion, the merging of nuclei that results in the release or absorption of energy. If successful, nuclear fusion would be a never-ending supply of cheap, clean energy. As a whole, this field trip was a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness firsthand how important science and engineering are to the future our world.