Friday, January 12, 2018

New Los Alamos boss insists US national security remains top focus for the lab

Terry Wallace, LANL photo.

Geophysicist Terry Wallace has become the 11th director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. With a budget of $2.5bn, Los Alamos currently has almost 12,000 employees and contractors. Taking up office on 1 January, he succeeds nuclear physicist Charles McMillan, who announced his plan to retire last September.

Wallace, 61, completed a BSc in geophysics and mathematics at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology before doing a PhD in geophysics from California Institute of Technology. (Full Story)

Supercomputers tackle antibiotic resistance

Gnana Gnanakaran and the efflux pump model, LANL photo.

Understanding antibiotic resistance starts with understanding bacteria. Bacteria have evolved ways to keep out harmful foreign substances. Many so-called Gram-negative bacteria, which have two cellular membranes, have evolved protein structures called efflux pumps that are lodged between the membranes and expel toxins out of the cell.

One type of efflux pump, which until recently had only been studied piecemeal, was modeled in its entirety and simulated using supercomputers at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The work harnessed the laboratory’s extensive modeling and supercomputing simulation capabilities developed in support of its national security mission. (Full Story)

Astronomers are using AI to study the vast universe — fast

Axios illustration. 

The next generation of powerful telescopes will scan millions of stars and generate massive amounts of data that astronomers will be tasked with analyzing. That’s way too much data for people to sift through and model themselves — so astronomers are turning to AI to help them do it.

The large telescopes that will survey the sky will be looking for transient events — new signals or sources that "go bump in the night," says Los Alamos National Laboratory's Tom Vestrand. (Full Story)

Engineered quantum dots could help lower solar power cost

Double pane solar window, LANL image.

A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory began by incorporating ions of manganese into quantum dots. The ions served as highly emissive impurities and were activated by the light absorbed by the quantum dots. Following activation, the manganese ions emitted light at energies below the quantum-dot absorption onset. This allowed for almost complete elimination of losses due to self-absorption by the quantum dots.

To transform a window into a tandem LSC, the researchers deposited a layer of highly emissive manganese-doped quantum dots onto the surface of the front glass pane, and a layer of copper indium selenide quantum dots onto the surface of the back pane. The front layer absorbed the blue and UV portions of the solar spectrum, while the rest of the spectrum was absorbed by the back layer. (Full Story)

Momentum builds for US exascale

Trinity at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

An important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of the U.S. exascale program is the number of computing systems that are being procured, tested and optimized by the ASCR and ASC programs as part of the buildup to exascale.

The NNSA has the 14.1 petaflops Trinity system at Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). Up to 20 percent of these precursor machines will serve as testbeds to enable computing science R&D needed to ensure that the U.S. exascale systems will be able to productively address important national security and discovery science objectives. (Full Story)

An argument for space fission reactors

A 10-kilowatt Stirling Power Conversion Unit, NASA Glenn photo.

Critics had said it was impossible to perform an affordable, simple nuclear-powered test in today’s regulatory environment — but the Demonstration Using Flattop Fission experiment, conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with NASA in 2012, showed that it is possible.

The Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) experiment, scheduled for completion in early 2018, will show that a flight-like space reactor can be designed, fabricated, and tested for only a few tens of millions of dollars. (Full Story)

Oregon's secret Manhattan Project physicist

Raemer Schreiber assembling an atomic bomb, from the Oregonian.

A key member of the Manhattan Project, Oregon native Raemer Schreiber was among only a handful of nuclear-weapons pioneers who could actually build the bombs being conceived by the top scientific minds in the world.

"Oppenheimer could conceive it," retired Los Alamos National Lab historian Roger Meade says in the documentary. "Teller could conceive it. Bethe could conceive it. But those guys couldn't build it. They couldn't put their hands on it. They couldn't assemble it." (Full Story)

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Los Alamos group hopes bacterial sensor will help doctors better treat infections

Jessica Kubicek-Sutherland demonstrates the process, New Mexican photo.     

Harshini Mukundan’s research team at Los Alamos is working to develop a bacterial sensor to allow doctors to quickly determine the type of infection that is ailing a patient. “Immediate diagnostics that can guide decision-making at that point are unavailable,” Mukundan said.

Because different classes of bacteria are best treated with different types of antibiotics, she added, such a device could ensure speedier and more effective treatment of diseases. “I think we can actually make an impact on health care,” she said. (Full Story)

New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency

Double-pane solar windows that generate electricity, LANL image.

Double-pane quantum dot solar window research could lower the cost of solar power, according to lead researcher Victor Klimov, who said in a statement, “Because of the strong performance we can achieve with low-cost, solution processable materials, these quantum-dot-based double-pane windows and even more complex luminescent solar concentrators offer a new way to bring down the cost of solar electricity.” (Full Story)

Also from Daily Energy Insider

LANL year in review for 2017

This has been an eventful year for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Particularly of note was the announcement in September that Director Charlie McMillan would retire Dec. 31. Los Alamos National Security in early December appointed Terry Wallace to replace McMillan as LANL director and president of LANS, the company that manages and operates the Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Wallace, 61, told the Los Alamos Daily Post that as a native of Los Alamos there is no greater honor. Wallace becomes the 11th director in the Laboratory’s nearly 75-year history when he takes over the reins Jan. 1. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post in the past two weeks

LANL giving campaign nets $3 million for nonprofits

Employee Giving Champion Mary Hockaday, left, and Kathy Keith of Community Partnerships raise the thermometer for the annual fundraising campaign, Daily Post photo.

In the 2018 Los Alamos Giving Campaign, 1,716 Laboratory employees—more than ever before—have pledged more money than ever before; $2.6 million of this year’s contributions will stay in New Mexico and benefit organizations that improve the quality of life in the state. (Full Story)

Mexican spotted owl population holds steady on LANL property

Mexican Spotted Owl, LANL photo.  

Los Alamos National Laboratory released it’s annual survey earlier this month of three endangered species that live within the 38-square-mile boundaries of its property. The species surveyed included the Mexican spotted owl and others.

The 2017 survey found that a pair of Mexican spotted owls is living and breeding in Threemile Canyon and there is at least one Mexican spotted owl in Mortandad Canyon. There may also be siblings living in Acid Canyon, according to the survey. (Full Story)

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Friday, December 22, 2017

Satellite ‘license plates’ could prevent a disaster in low earth orbit

Space junk, from ESA.           

As of a couple of years ago, more than 1,300 active satellites orbited Earth, in addition to tens of thousands of dead satellites, discarded rockets and other bits and pieces that have accumulated in space in the 60 years since Sputnik, ranging in size from softballs to school buses.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory our mission is to find scientific solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems—that includes keeping our satellites and spacecraft safe. So we’re developing an optical “license plate” that we hope will one day travel aboard every object that goes into outer space. (Full story)

Breathing new life into pulmonary research

The PuLMo artificial lung, LANL image

A team of scientists and bioengineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a tissue-engineered artificial lung called PuLMo, for Pulmonary Lung Model, that simulates the response of the human lung to drugs, toxins, particles and other agents. As an artificial organ that you can see inside, the laptop-sized device is a unique technological scaffold for building all kinds of life-improving research and technology.

Resembling an amped-up computer board sprouting tubes, wires, and clamps and using real human cells, PuLMo consists of a bronchiolar unit and an alveolar unit. They work the way a lung is supposed to work — PuLMo breathes. (Full story)

While Earthlings take a break, the Mars rover keeps working

Curiosity rover raised robotic arm with
drill pointed skyward, NASA image.

There’s no holiday on Mars. While many of us earthlings will spend the final days of 2017 taking a break from work and relaxing on couches or ski slopes, the ChemCam instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will keep busy—all on its own. Using its autonomous target-selection software, ChemCam will pick rocks to “zap” for chemical analysis.

“This is the first time ChemCam will operate over the holiday break,” said Steve Johnstone, operations lead of ChemCam at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The onboard software debuted in the summer of 2016, but recent upgrades have made it more capable of selecting different types of targets and different positions relative to the rover. (Full story)

From inner to outer space, Los Alamos science goes big in 2017

With a top-story list populated by breakthroughs in supercomputing, accelerator science, space missions, materials science, life science, and more, Los Alamos National Laboratory put its Big Science capabilities to wide, productive use in 2017.

“No discipline left untouched—that’s the story from Los Alamos in 2017,” said Alan Bishop, Principal Associate Director for Science, Technology and Engineering at Los Alamos. “In a remarkably productive year, Laboratory researchers have grabbed headlines for their research in everything from physics to explosives modeling to HIV vaccine developments. (Full story)

Nuclear fusion company says it will make carbon-free energy a reality

Scott Hsu.

"I think fusion is kind of the holy grail of energy," said Scott Hsu, a fusion researcher at the U.S. government's Los Alamos National Laboratory. On top of creating an immense amount of energy, Hsu noted that fusion also doesn't suffer from the many drawbacks of existing energy sources. Fusion runs on seawater (the source of hydrogen), doesn't leave behind radioactive fuel rods, and produces no carbon gases — the source of Earth's warming. (Full story)

LANL employees share big-hearted holiday spirit

Volunteers help pack more than 1,000 gifts
donated by Lab employees, Daily Post photo.    

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Motorcycle Safety Committee and members of the Los Alamos Fire Department gathered Friday afternoon at the LANL Community Partnerships Office at 15th Street and Central Avenue to help transport the more than 1,000 gifts donated by Lab employees to less fortunate children as part of their annual Holiday Gift Drive.  (Full story)

LANL Foundation pays for teacher certification

LaDonna Phillips is a teacher
participating in the certification.  RG Sun photo.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation is working with EspaƱola School District administrators to ensure the District has well-qualified educators by paying for several teachers to obtain their National Board Certification.

The Certification is offered by National Board of Professional Teaching Standards Certification, a nonprofit created by educators to help create accomplished teachers. It is considered by many, the top teaching credential in the country and is accepted nationwide. (Full story)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Smoke from wildfires may be surprisingly deadly, scientists report

The hills above Santa Barbara, Calif., are shrouded in smoke from the Thomas Fire. From WaPo.

“What burns matters,” said Manvendra Dubey, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who is also working on the problem of wildfire smoke and its consequences. Dubey underscored the complex chemistry of the smoke that emanates from different types of fires at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

So there is much more to learn about the dangers of wildfire smoke — but based on the little we know so far, it sounds like a serious threat, and one that could grow even worse in the future. (Full Story)

Raspberry Pi modules combine to let developers test supercomputer software

Raspberry Pi module.

Software developers who write (or want to write) software for supercomputers just got a huge holiday present: a way to test their software for bugs without having to use a supercomputer. It’s an affordable, scalable device consisting of thousands of inexpensive Raspberry Pi nodes and serves as a powerful high-performance-computing testbed for system-software developers, researchers, and others who lack machine time on the world’s fastest supercomputers.

“It’s not like you can keep a petascale machine around for R&D work in scalable systems software,” says Gary Grider, leader of the High Performance Computing Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Trinity supercomputer. (Full Story)

Also from Machine Design this week:

Electrically stimulated quantum dots amplify light

Quantum dot laser, LANL photo.       

Los Alamos scientists have shown they can amplify light using electrically excited films of quantum dots (i.e., chemically synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals). The films are put into devices much like the now-ubiquitous light-emitting diodes (LEDs), but, in this case, they are designed to sustain the high current densities required for achieving the optical-gain regime.

Laser diodes are common and can be found in laser pointers, barcode readers, and the like. A key element of such devices is an optical-gain medium, which amplifies incident light rather than absorbing it. (Full Story)

10 surprising ways machine learning is being used today

Illustration from InformationWeek. 

About 10,000 people die in earthquakes each year, so researchers are always on the hunt for ways to predict earthquakes and their magnitude. A pair of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have taken a crucial first step in that direction.

The researchers created a laboratory earthquake simulation: a model consisting of blocks separated by a chasm, or “fault line.” They then trained a machine learning algorithm to detect acoustic emissions from the model. In other words, by learning what an earthquake “sounds” like just before it happens, the model knew how to “listen” for future earthquakes. (Full Story)

Four scientists win Los Alamos Medal

The Los Alamos Medal was established in 2001, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory will award four former researchers with the Los Alamos Medal for their scientific contributions. Scott Cram, Larry Deaven, Robert Moyzis and Howard Menlove will receive the award, the highest honor bestowed by the Laboratory.

The team of Cram, Deaven, and Moyzis are recognized for their work sequencing the human genome and Menlove for his work on methods and instruments used for treaty verification.

The Laboratory will hold an award ceremony in early 2018 to honor the recipients. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post

Chamisa students compete in electric car challenge

With support from Los Alamos National Laboratory, two teams of Chamisa Elementary School 6th graders participated in the New Mexico Electric Car Challenge and proudly brought home a 3rd place trophy.

Susan Hettinga, a teacher at Chamisa Elementary School, was the “ringleader” of the eight students who participated - Victoria Raven, Lia Rushton, Maya Carpenter, Rosario Dodd, Seth Javernick, Owen Wylie, Julianna McCabe and Ella Javernick. (Full Story)

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