KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Department of Energy has extended the contract for the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute to co-manage Oak Ridge National Laboratory for another five years, a decision that will significantly impact UT Knoxville.
UT-Battelle, a joint venture between the two institutions, first won the management contract for the lab on April 1, 2000. The contract was renewed in April 2005. DOE has consistently given top grades for UT-Battelle’s management of the lab. ORNL was the only DOE lab to receive marks of “A” in all eight evaluation categories for the 2009 annual report card.
Officials at the lab and the University anticipate that the partnership between UT Knoxville and ORNL will continue to grow during the new contract. In January, the legislature approved the creation of a new interdisciplinary center that will house a new joint graduate degree program in energy sciences, and that will greatly facilitate collaborative education and research between UT Knoxville and ORNL. The center is expected to add hundreds of joint faculty appointments between UT Knoxville faculty and ORNL staff and attract a large number of top graduate students to the new program.
In addition, UT Knoxville is home to seven of the eight UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs.
Battelle is the world’s largest, independent scientific research and technology development organization. It manages seven national laboratories for the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security.
Under UT-Battelle management, the lab has grown from 3,700 to 4,700 employees. Research funding has increased from $640 million to $1.6 billion. In 2009, UT-Battelle received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding worth more than $338 million that has enabled construction of a new chemical material sciences building and upgrades to the Jaguar supercomputer.
Physically, ORNL has vastly changed in appearance from a site that included Quonset huts and chain link fences to state-of-the-art research buildings in a campus-style setting. With support from DOE and the state of Tennessee, ORNL has been transformed into one of the most modern labs in the DOE system.
ORNL’s modernization included a major upgrade in science and technology facilities. The most prominent is the $1.4 billion Spallation Neutron Source, the world’s most powerful pulsed neutron accelerator used in the study the structure of materials at the molecular level.
During UT-Battelle’s tenure, Oak Ridge has become the world’s leading center for high-performance computing. ORNL’s Jaguar supercomputer is the world’s most powerful. UT Knoxville’s Kraken supercomputer, housed at ORNL, is the world’s fastest academic computer and third-fastest overall.
Under UT-Battelle, the lab also has become a national leader in climate and bioenergy. A collaboration among ORNL, UT and the state has combined breakthrough research in cellulosic ethanol with a new state-funded biorefinery in Vonore, Tenn., built through a partnership with DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol.
UT’s relationship with the lab dates to the 1940s, when Oak Ridge was part of the Manhattan Project. In the following years, the UT-ORNL partnership continued and expanded.
The University’s partnership with ORNL today includes approximately 60 faculty members with joint appointments and more than 100 students working at the lab.
Joint research endeavors reached more than $90 million in 2009. The University and ORNL have five joint institutes, and eight distinguished scientists have been appointed as UT-ORNL Governor’s Chairs.
UT-Battelle contributed more than $2 million toward an effort to rebuild Oak Ridge High School, believing a modern high school is vital in attracting more young scientists to the lab.
The new program is designed to increase the number of doctoral students in science, technology, engineering and math, and will add about 200 Oak Ridge researchers to the UT Knoxville faculty.