NeuroNET Research Center

ORNL Facilities

User Facilities

  • CFTF - Carbon Fiber Technology Facility
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory is home to the Department of Energy's (DOE) Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF)—a 42,000 sq. ft. innovative technology facility. The CFTF offers a highly flexible, highly instrumented carbon fiber line for demonstrating advanced technology scalability and producing market-development volumes of prototypical carbon fibers, and serves as the last step before commercial production scale.
    The facility, with its 390-ft. long processing line, is capable of custom unit operation configuration and has a capacity of up to 25 tons per year, allowing industry to validate conversion of their carbon fiber precursors at semi-production scale.
  • CNMS - Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences
    The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) integrates nanoscale science with neutron science; synthesis science; and theory, modeling, and simulation. Operating as a national user facility, the CNMS supports a multidisciplinary environment for research to understand nanoscale materials and phenomena.
  • CSMB - Center for Structural Molecular Biology
    The Center for Structural Molecular Biology at ORNL is dedicated to developing instrumentation and methods for determining the 3-dimensional structures of proteins, nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) and their higher order complexes. The tools of the CSMB will help understand how these macromolecular systems are formed and how they interact with other systems in living cells. The focus of the CSMB is to bridge the information gap between cellular function and the molecular mechanisms that drive it. The suite of tools being developed by the CSMB includes:

    • Bio-SANS, a Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) facility for biological samples, has been completed at the ORNL High-Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR). The CSMB is also closely aligned with researchers at the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS).
    • Isotope Labeling Laboratories for cloning, gene expression, purification and characterization of labeled biological macromolecules are planned; our Bio-Deuteration Lab is currently operational and accepting proposals.
    • Computational Techniques have been developed for the study of macromolecular complexes by SANS. Combined with selective Deuterium-labeling, it is now possible to develop detailed structural models that will enable the understanding of function.

    Another computation technique developed for the study of calculates solution small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering intensity profiles by ORNL-SAS. This makes it possible to develop from a wide variety of structures, including atomicresolution models of proteins and protein complexes, low-resolution models defined in any manner, or combinations of both.

    Neutron diffraction, spectroscopy and scattering are excellent tools for studying biological systems because neutrons interact differently with hydrogen and its isotope deuterium. As a result, it is possible to:

    • pinpoint individual hydrogen positions in proteins
    • probe the structure and dynamics of proteins, nucleic acids and membranes
    • characterize higher order complexes

    These studies use neutrons to address questions that have not - or cannot - be answered by other techniques.

    SANS can be used to study biological systems under near physiological conditions, providing insight into interactions within complexes and conformational changes in response to stimuli. Through the use of specific deuterium labeling SANS makes it possible to highlight and map components within larger complexes (e.g. viruses, ribosome). The SANS instruments at ORNL's High Flux Isotope Reactor and Spallation Neutron Source will open new opportunities for studying conformational changes and molecular processes on biologically relevant timescales.
  • HFIR - High Flux Isotope Reactor
    Scientific investigation with neutrons gives researchers unprecedented capabilities for understanding the structure and properties of materials important in biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. ORNL provides two of the most powerful neutron science facilities in the world—the High Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation Neutron Source. The HFIR produces one of the brightest steady-state neutron streams on Earth, and the SNS produces the world's most intense pulsed neutron beams. Through materials research, scientists are discovering remarkable ways to address our energy needs, such as superconducting power cables that eliminate power-transmission losses and prevent outages, liquid transportation fuels produced from biomass, and magnetic refrigerators that use half the energy of conventional appliances.

    To bring such technologies into common use, researchers need to be able to view materials from the atom-to-atom scale to a full systems view. Developing these advanced materials requires manipulating the properties of alloys at the atomic level, and neutron scattering is a key tool in this quest.

    Neutrons show where atoms are and what they are doing at scales smaller than the best electron microscopes. They let researchers see in real time how the atomic lineup in a material shifts with changes in temperature, pressure, and magnetic or electronic fields. They trace the electron motions that give materials properties such as magnetism or the ability to conduct electricity—all essential information in the quest for energy savings.

    Satisfying the world's growing hunger for energy requires finding ways to use power more frugally and developing methods for sustainably producing additional energy. Neutron scattering aids the creation of new materials engineered for both purposes.
  • MDF - Manufacturing Demonstration Facility
    As the nation's premier research laboratory, ORNL is one of the world's most capable resources for transforming the next generation of scientific discovery into solutions for rebuilding and revitalizing America's manufacturing industries. Manufacturing industries engage ORNL's expertise in materials synthesis, characterization, and process technology to reduce technical risk and validate investment for innovations targeting products of the future.

    DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, established at ORNL, helps industry adopt new manufacturing technologies to reduce life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions, lower production cost, and create new products and opportunities for high paying jobs.
  • OLCF - Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility
    Computational science plays a very important role in many things that we see in our daily life. There's the design of aircraft, for instance, or the fundamental elements of industrial design. The virtual environment provides a much quicker way for us to improve our understanding of older problems and break ground in our understanding of new phenomena with ramifications for how we live our lives. Machines like Titan and activities like the Titan project will be the vehicles that allow us to explore these fundamental things in computational science. They will provide a framework for better product design, new and innovative technologies, and new materials. And they will enable new insights into how very complex, nonlinear systems work; that, again, has implications for a lot of the technologies that we take for granted.

    OLCF is a user facility that recognizes that its products are scientific discovery and technical innovation, and we will achieve this vision working with strong partners. These partnerships will be developed through our calls for proposals and our outreach efforts to the scientific, technology, and industrial communities. To broaden the scope of leadership computing, we need to engage through our networks, through our relationships, and encourage users from new communities that can take good advantage of these resources to move us forward in scientific discovery, industrial competitiveness, and sustainability. Partnerships and alliances are a big part of what is important about our research. In terms of challenges, clearly we're at a cusp in technology moving to hybrid architectures. This implies a lot of hard work by a lot of people. But it also is a game changer.
  • SNS - Spallation Neutron Source
    SNS is an accelerator-based neutron source in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA. This one-of-a-kind facility provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development.
    The 80-acre SNS site is located on Chestnut Ridge and is part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
    Although most people don't know it, neutron scattering research has a lot to do with our everyday lives. For example, things like medicine, food, electronics, and cars and airplanes have all been improved by neutron scattering research.
    Neutron research also helps scientists improve materials used in a multitude of different products, such as high-temperature superconductors, powerful lightweight magnets, aluminum bridge decks, and stronger, lighter plastic products.
    To support SNS's unprecedented capability, a world-class suite of instruments is being developed that makes optimal use of SNS and that is suited to the needs of users across a broad range of disciplines. Instruments are available to researchers with varying degrees of experience, from new graduate students and first-time neutron users to experienced users with an interest in instrument design.


  1. Advanced Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Spectroscopy
    • Zeiss Merlin VP SEM
      This SEM features variable-pressure capability to optimize studies of nonconductive samples or samples with low vapor pressures. Equipped with BF-STEM detector, surface profile backscatter imaging, and EDS spectroscopy.
      More info …
  2. Advanced Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM), Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy (EELS), and Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS)
    • Soft Matter TEM (Zeiss Libra 120 TEM)
      This TEM features variable voltage (60 to 120 kV) and offers enhanced capabilities for studies of soft nanomaterials while maintaining precision needed for work in catalysts and other "hard" nanomaterials. The instrument is equipped with in-line EELS, providing real-time energy filtered imaging, high angular resolution nano-diffraction, and has cryogenic specimen-loading capabilities.
      More info ...
    • Hitachi HF3300 high-resolution TEM-STEM
      Instrument combines high-resolution TEM structure imaging (<1.2Å) with high-resolution STEM (HAADF and BF) detectors and a secondary electron (SE) detector for SEM imaging. Primary operation is conducted at 300 kV. Microscope features a Gatan Quantum EELS/GIF and a Bruker silicon drift detector (SDD) for EDS spectrum imaging. Specialized in-situ holders are available for heating (up to 1200°C Protochips Aduro), cryo-transfer (Gatan CT3500), Hitachi 360° rotation micropillar tomography, nanoindenter (Hysitron), and liquid flow cell (Hummingbird).
      More info ...
    • Nion UltraSTEM 100 (U100) dedicated aberration-corrected STEM Instrument features a 3rd-generation C3/C5 aberration corrector, 0.5 nA current in atomic-size probe, ~1.0-1.1Å HAADF-STEM imaging resolution at 60 kV and 100 kV operating voltages. The Nion U100 features a Gatan Enfina EELS and a cold FEG for energy resolutions <350 meV at 100kV. This instrument has an unparalleled combination of atomic-resolution imaging and spectroscopy at mid- and low-voltages, and is especially valuable for the characterization of 2-dimensional materials (graphene, BN, transition metal dichalcogenides, etc.), catalysts, and other beam-sensitive materials.
      More info ...
    • FEI Titan S aberration-corrected TEM-STEM
      Probe-corrected microscope features a Gatan Quantum EELS and Gatan Imaging Filter (GIF), with dual-EELS and fast spectrum imaging capabilities, an 'extreme Schottky' high-brightness field emission gun (X-FEG), and variable operating voltages (60, 120, and 300 kV). Instrument is equipped with high-angle annular dark field (HAADF), annual dark field (ADF), and bright field (BF) STEM detectors for sub-Å imaging.  Specialized in-situ holders are available for experiments requiring heating (up to 1200°C – Protochips Aduro), biasing (Protochips PE), Nanofactory AFM/STM, liquid cell electrochemistry (Protochips Poseidon 500), electron tomography (both high-tilt and 360° rotation), and LN2-cooling.
      More info ...
  3. Instruments for Atom Probe Tomography (APT)
    • Cameca Instruments Local Electrode Atom Probe (LEAP) 4000X HR
      Advanced LEAP features a 1 MHz laser and 250 kHz high-voltage pulse generator, reflectron energy compensating lens, and a crossed delay line, single atom, position-sensitive detector. Instrument is used for the atomic level 3-dimensional compositional characterization of a wide range of materials, including metallic conductors, semi-conductors, oxides, and nanostructured materials.
      More info ...
    • FEI Nova 200 dual beam focused ion beam (FIB)-SEM
      The FIB is dedicated to precision preparation and annular milling of needles required for APT, and is equipped with an annual STEM detector for site-specific FIB-milling, a Kleindiek nano-manipulator, and EDS.
      More info ...
  4. Helium-ion Microscopy
    • Zeiss Orion NanoFab
      The Zeiss Orion Nanofab helium-ion microscope (HIM) features three primary capabilities: imaging, detailed ion-milling/patterning using He-ions, and high-rate milling using heavier Neon ions. It is located in the CNMS cleanroom to facilitate clean transfer of samples.

      This instrument has the ability to image, in the manner of an SEM, at unprecedented resolution and with high surface sensitivity; and the ability to pattern through direct ion-milling and exposure of lithographic resists, down to feature sizes of about 5 nm. The instrument is complementary to a Focused Ion Beam (FIB), but capable of feature sizes 10-20 times smaller. Scientifically, the instrument allows users to explore entirely new types of devices and engineered nanostructures that cannot be fabricated with other techniques.
      More info ...
  5. X-ray Diffraction
    • 2-circle X-ray diffraction
      - X-ray powder diffraction with temperature-controlled sample environment. 77K to 1200K at 1 Bar, 273K to 1200K up to 10 Bar. Reactive gasses such as H2, CO for varying chemical composition in sample environment.
    • • 4-circle X-ray diffraction
      4-circle plus translation stage, high temperature, in-plane thin film diffraction. Also texture, reflectivity, microdiffraction, reciprocal space mapping.
    • • Small-angle X-ray scattering, SAXS
      Anton Paar SAXSess instrument for small-angle scattering to obtain nanoscale structural information. Also equipped for grazing-incidence measurements on nanomaterial films.
  6. Neutron Scattering
    • Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) users are encouraged to take advantage of the world-class neutron scattering facilities that are available at ORNL's High-Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) and the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS). Beamlines of particular relevance to CNMS Scientific Themes include the small-angle scattering and diffractometry instruments on the HFIR cold source, HFIR thermal neutron diffraction and spectroscopy capabilities, and instruments at the SNS including the backscattering spectrometer and the liquids and magnetism reflectometers. Please visit the ORNL Neutron Sciences website for more information about these neutron scattering facilities.

      CNMS users who would like to incorporate neutron scattering as a supporting component in their user proposals may request neutron beamtime by checking the appropriate box on the CNMS proposal form and attaching the 2-page Neutron Scattering appendix to provide details of their beamtime request. However, if the primary thrust of the proposal is to obtain access to neutron scattering, prospective users must submit the proposal directly to the neutron scattering user program.

Biosciences Microscopy

  • Live Cell Zeiss LSM 710 High Resolution Confocal Microscopy
    A Carl Zeiss 710 confocal microscope with an environmentally controlled stage is available for live cell multi-channel imaging of biological samples.
  • Zeiss Elyra Super-resolution Confocal Microscope
    Structured Illumination Microscopy (SR-SIM) and Photo-activated Localization Microscopy (PAL-M) offer sub-diffraction limited resolution imaging of biological and material samples.
  • Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy
    A Leica TCS SP2 MP scanning laser confocal laser system for multiphoton excitation and Red (HeNe, 633 nm/10mW), Green (HeNe, 543/1.2mW) and Blue (Ar 458/5mW; 476nm/5 mW; 488nm/20mW; 514nm/20mW) laser systems and a 6-channel Acousto Optical Tunable Filter for laser line selection and attenuation. The optical system is uv compatible. The inverted stage system is equipped with transmitted light detection for recording bright field images and a 50W mercury arc lamp for epifluorescent illumination. Heated sample holders and perfusion systems are in hand.
  • Epifluorescent Microscopy
    The Zeiss Axioskop 2 FS plus fluorescence microscope is equipped with epifluorescent (top) illumination, Nomarski phase contrast optics (bottom) and either top or bottom illumination using 12W halogens lamps. A 12 bit Retiga color CCD camera is mounted on the microsope for image collection. A Burleigh PCS-5000 Series Patch Clamp Micromanipulator and ceramic objectives for electrophysiology measurements.
  • Combined SPM / Fluorescence Imaging System
    A Molecular Imaging PicoPlus scanning probe microscope system is available. This system contains small (10 µm) and large (100 µm) closed-loop multipurpose scanners with low-coherence lasers and a Picoscan 3000 controller. The closed loop motion control allows for reproducible positioning and lithography on the nanometer scale. Liquid cells, flow cells and temperature control equipment are included. The system contains magnetic and acoustical cantilever oscillation modes and the PicoTrec system that allows for simultaneous topography and chemical recognition. A video imaging system allows for sample viewing from above and through the scan head. Alternatively, the system is mountable onto a Zeiss Axiovert 135 epifluorescent microscope.


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