Friday, June 24, 2011

New math in HIV fight

Study focused on the HIV capsid, an inner shell of the virus. From WSJ interactive.

cientists using a powerful mathematical tool previously applied to the stock market have identified an Achilles heel in HIV. Bette Korber, an expert on HIV mutation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the study added "an elegant analytical strategy" to HIV vaccine research. (
Full Story)

Spacecraft goes from crash landing to mission accomplished

The Genesis spacecraft components. NASA illustration.

wo papers in this week's issue of Science report the first oxygen and nitrogen isotopic measurements of the Sun, demonstrating that they are very different from the same elements on Earth. These results were the top two priorities of NASA's Genesis mission.

The Genesis capsule contained a special instrument built by a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory to enhance the flow of solar wind onto a small target to make possible oxygen and nitrogen measurements. (
Full Story)

Obama: We need more manufacturing jobs

President Barack Obama

resident Obama is in Pittsburgh Friday to highlight American manufacturing, which he hopes to boost with a series of appearances and a program called the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

Proctor & Gamble, for example, has agreed to share software it developed with help from the Los Alamos National Laboratory to reduce manufacturing costs. The partnership also hopes to foster more efficient factory processes and cultivate advanced materials. (
Full Story)

LANL scientists earn R&D 100 Awards

NanoCluster Beacons—one of LANL’s 2011 R&D 100 Award winners—light up when they bind with specific nucleic acid targets. LANL photo.

he National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Wednesday applauded its laboratories and production sites for receiving 10 of R&D Magazine’s 2011 R&D 100 Awards. NNSA-funded research also led to two additional R&D 100 Awards. (subscription required to view
entire article)

Los Alamos resumes criticality experiments

The LANL criticality team. LANL photo.

cientists said they recently successfully replicated a nuclear experiment last conducted at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 2004.

n the experiment, a small amount of nuclear material was brought into a chain reaction using the Planet criticality assembly machine at the Nevada National Security Site, Los Alamos officials said Friday in a news release. (
Full Story)

New study reveals how the immune system responds to hepatitis “A” virus

Hepatitis at 20x Magnification. From MicroscopyU.

A surprising finding in a study comparing hepatitis C virus (HCV) with hepatitis A virus (HAV) infections by a team that includes Alan S. Perelson, Ph.D., of the Los Alamos National Laboratory sheds new light on the nature of the body’s immune response to these viruses.

Understanding how hepatitis C becomes chronic is very important because some 200 million people worldwide and 3.2 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with HCV and are at risk for progression to cirrhosis and liver cancer. (
Full Story)

LANL names fund recipients

os Alamos National Laboratory has selected Manhattan Isotopes Technology, LLC and Vista Therapeutics, Inc. as recipients of $100,000 awards from the Los Alamos National Security, LLC Venture Acceleration Fund.

The Venture Acceleration Fund invests in innovative Northern New Mexico companies seeking to commercialize technology and take it to market faster. (subscription required to view
entire article)

Science superstar to speak at J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Lecture

Paul Nurse. Nobel photo

arry Deaven, a retired biologist from Los Alamos National Laboratory and chairman
of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee, said this week that the selection of Paul Nurse, a genetic biologist from a humble English background who became a Nobel Laureate in 2001, was based as usual on scientific accomplishment and the ability to speak to a general audience. (Full Story)

LANL’s Student Sustainability Challenge enters fourth year

growing interest in sustainability has fueled the 4-year-old program, which aligns with LANL's efforts at improving sustainability and implementing the Department of Energy’s Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. (subscription required to view
entire article)

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Los Alamos National Laboratory announces selection of Venture Acceleration Fund recipients: Hundred-thousand-dollar awards to pair of firms

Los Alamos National Laboratory has selected Manhattan Isotopes Technology, LLC and Vista Therapeutics, Inc. as recipients of $100,000 awards from the Los Alamos National Security, LLC Venture Acceleration Fund. . . .

Manhattan Isotope Technology, LLC is a Los Alamos start-up company that will supply the active pharmaceutical ingredient strontium-82 to radiopharmaceutical companies for heart-imaging purposes. . . .

Vista Therapeutics Inc. has developed NanoBioSensor™ technology that will revolutionize the measurement of biomarkers, such as proteins produced in response to trauma or disease. While existing biomarker measurement systems rely on occasional "snapshots" and expensive and time-consuming analysis, Vista's system will enable screening and immediate test results for large numbers of people, as well as continuous bedside monitoring (full story).

Nanofoams are promising materials for radiation shielding

Radiation damage to materials is a major issue for builders of nuclear power plants as well as spacecraft engineers. The former have to worry about material failure due to the destructive radiation created within the reactor; the latter are concerned about the exposure to space radiation of both materials and humans during long-term space missions.

NASA says that the risks of exposure to space radiation are the most significant factor limiting humans' ability to participate in long-duration space missions. A lot of research therefore focuses on developing countermeasures to protect astronauts from those risks.

"There is a consensus that interface engineering is the way to go to improve resistance to extreme conditions in general and to reach radiation tolerance in particular – interfaces are places where defects created by energetic collision in solids can annihilate each other and thus render the material immune to irradiation" Jose Alfredo Caro, a researcher in the Structure/Property Relations Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, tells Nanowerk (full story).

Martinez chooses science adviser

Christina Behr-Andres has been selected to serve as science adviser to Gov. Susana Martinez, according to a news release from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Behr-Andres, who began her career at Los Alamos in 2004, has more than 20 years' experience in management of national laboratory research, academics and consulting. She now serves as deputy division leader of Los Alamos' Intelligence and Space Research Division (full story).

UC Berkeley to lead in training future nuclear security scientists

The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded a five-year, $25 million grant to a consortium of academic organizations, headed by the University of California, Berkeley. The group will train graduate and undergraduate students for work in nuclear security and nonproliferation.

The students will participate in nuclear security R&D projects at the DOE-owned Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia national weapons laboratories.

Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nonproliferation, said the UCB collaboration beat out several bids submitted by other university teams in response to NNSA's request for proposals.

The consortium will train students in nuclear physics and chemistry, radiation chemistry, nuclear engineering, instrumentation, and public policy (full story).

Scientists advance toward low-cost, platinum-free fuel cell catalysts

One of the biggest roadblocks to adoption of environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cells for automotive propulsion is the high cost of the platinum-based catalysts that operate at the electrodes of the cell. At the cathode in particular, considerable quantities of the precious-metal coatings are needed to promote the relatively slow electrochemical reduction of atmospheric oxygen to produce water.

But with a market value greater than the price of gold—more than $1800 an ounce—platinum is a non-starter.

Not surprisingly, chemists and materials engineers have been working for decades to replace prohibitively expensive platinum catalysts in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Recently, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have done just that (full story).

Lab program helps small businesses overcome challenges

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program is ready to help small New Mexico enterprises overcome technical challenges. The free program, run jointly by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, leverages the laboratories’ expertise and capabilities to promote regional economic development.

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program is ready to help small New Mexico enterprises overcome technical challenges. The free program, run jointly by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, leverages the laboratories’ expertise and capabilities to promote regional economic development (full story).

Also this week in the Monitor:

A mineral is born: Terrywallaceite

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering has been granted the unusual and prestigious honor of having a mineral named after him.

On June 2, the International Mineralogical Association Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification officially added “Terrywallaceite” to its roster of known minerals.

Terrywallaceite is an extremely rare silver-based mineral that was discovered in 2005 about 180 miles southeast of Lima, Peru, by William Pinch and characterized by a University of Arizona mineralogy team led by Robert Downs (full story).

. . . omitted from last week’s report:

Saturday chat: 'Stellar' scientist overcomes disorder, keeps publishing scholarly work

Dimitri Mihalas has at least three claims to fame, not counting a Ph.D. in physics, math and astronomy from the California Institute of Technology.

One is that he has written eight textbooks and edited five, either by himself or with a co-editor, and has authored 150 scientific papers.

At the relatively young age of 42, Mihalas gained another distinction: election to the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of three NAS members currently connected with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He also stands out because he has achieved these accomplishments despite having spent much of his life in the grip of bipolar disorder, a relatively common, frequently debilitating physical condition characterized by mood swings that can range from suicidal depression to manic euphoria (full story).

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Friday, June 10, 2011

U.S. and Russian laboratory directors meet, plan future collaboration

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation (Rosatom) announced the successful completion of the first meeting of the U.S. and Russian laboratory directors since 2004, an important step toward improving nuclear security and scientific collaboration.

The two-day meeting provided an opportunity for U.S. and Russian laboratory directors, and representatives of Rosatom and NNSA to craft the next set of steps toward scientific and technical cooperation in areas that include non-proliferation, fundamental and applied research, energy and the environment, and nuclear medicine.

The meeting was held near NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and included a series of site visits to NNSA’s national laboratories, including LLNL, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories (full story).

‘Produced water’ used to grow algae for biofuels

Scientists recently conducted the first pilot-scale test of algae growth using water from an oil-production well in Jal, New Mexico. This impure water, called "produced water," is pumped to the surface concurrently with the extraction of oil, gas, and coal bed methane from underground formations.

Water is the largest quantity resource other than land that will be required for algal biofuel production. LANL’s biofuels research aims to show that algae cultivation need not impinge upon limited fresh-water resources, particularly in arid regions. Alternate resources, such as produced water, which has more salinity than fresh water, can be used (full story).

Experts Call For Guidelines On Use Of “HIV Fingerprinting” In Criminal Cases

In a letter to Nature, several experts in “HIV fingerprinting,” also called HIV phylogenetic analysis, have called for guidelines on how the technique should be used in criminal HIV investigations. According to the authors, scientific experts should make it clear to juries that the technique has limitations and cannot prove direct transmission of HIV from one person to another.

“We stress that there are limitations to what can be done, and that it is important that this type of analysis is done properly, and that the court is made aware of what can and cannot be inferred,” said Thomas Leitner, a scientist in HIV phylogenetics at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author of the letter, in correspondence with The AIDS Beacon (full story).

Meet the new lab director

Los Alamos resident Charlie McMillan took the LANL reins June 1

Twenty years ago, Charlie McMillan never envisioned being a laboratory director.

McMillan remembers telling his family when they were in California how much fun it was just being a scientist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

“I took the kids to the lab site and we were going home at the end of the day,” McMillan said. “My son said to me, you have the perfect job. Why would you give it up? (full story)

Behr-Andres named science advisor to Gov. Martinez

Christina B. Behr-Andres of Los Alamos National Laboratory will serve as science advisor to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Behr-Andres will help develop and promote science and technology policies aimed at creating economic and educational opportunities in New Mexico, said Charles McMillan, who became LANL director on June 1, in a news release (full story).

Lab says it’s ready in case of fires

As Northern New Mexico communities experience the impacts from Arizona and New Mexico fires blowing smoke into the region, they can take some comfort in actions taken at Los Alamos to prevent and fight fires.

For the past three years, the Los Alamos Site Office and Los Alamos National Security have worked closely to establish a wildland fire management program to improve readiness and reduce risk exposure at Los Alamos National Laboratory. . . .

At the DOE facilities in Los Alamos, establishing a fire-fighting center, conducting frequent emergency exercises, using fire-prediction technologies, and thinning dry foliage are among the activities undertaken locally to address the threat of fire (full story—subscription required).

Robots tackle tornado-damaged nuclear reactor

Sandia National Lab held the fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo on two weeks ago. The Robot Rodeo is a four-day, 10-event technical competition for bomb squads and other public safety organizations that use hazardous duty robots.

This year, teams competed in a simulation of a tornado-damaged nuclear reactor. Tasks included quickly locating and moving simulated fuel rods, stopping the flow of radioactive water from running into the storm drain system, and minimizing radioactive contamination on the robot.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

New LANL chief emphasizes science

Charlie McMillan, LANL director. LANL photo.

As he took over the helm at Los Alamos National Laboratory on Wednesday, Charles McMillan reflected on the legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the legendary physicist who created the lab nearly 70 years ago.

Oppenheimer left his mark, McMillan said, in his emphasis of the importance of science
to the laboratory’s mission. “I see science as at the core of how we do our job as a laboratory,” McMillan said Wednesday in a telephone interview. (Full Story - requires you to view an ad or have a subscription)

New Los Alamos director is weapons veteran

he new director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Charles McMillan, is a career weapons scientist and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained physicist.

McMillan is said to be well-respected among lab scientists. He's certainly plugged in to its top management, having come to Los Alamos in 2006 as part of the team that won the contract to manage the Department of Energy (DOE) lab as part of a for-profit company. (Full Story)

New head for US nuclear-weapons lab

physicist with more than 25 years' experience in nuclear-weapons science and technology has become the 10th director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Charles McMillan, 56, succeeds physicist Michael Anastasio, who had been lab boss since 2006. Established in 1943, Los Alamos now has an annual budget of about $2bn and employs nearly 10,000 staff. (
Full Story)

Laws of the rings

LANL image.

Polymerization is the random bonding of initially isolated monomers to form polymer chains or clusters. Bonds may also be severed, leading to fission. Eli Ben-Naim of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Paul L. Krapivsky of Boston University add a new twist to this venerable subject by restricting clusters to be ring-shaped. (Full Story)

Kickstart for fuel cells

The carbon and polyaniline compound is exposed to heat to form layers of analine and metals (yellow) around the carbon (grey). DTE graphic.

latinum is a precious metal used as a catalyst in fuel cells. But the high cost of platinum restricts fuel cells’ contribution to global energy solution.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a catalyst made of cheap and easily available materials like polyanaline (PANI), iron and cobalt. (
Full Story)

New Global Bio Lab under way

A new Global Bio Lab at UCLA is currently under construction. Its goal is to improve responses to epidemics like tuberculosis and malaria. Daily Bruin photo.

CLA has introduced a new Global Bio Lab, which is currently under construction on campus.

The facility is housed in the California NanoSystems Institute and represents a collaboration between the UCLA School of Public Health and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (
Full Story)

Quantum computing: The power of discord

iscord [is] an obscure measure of quantum correlations first proposed8 in 2000 by Wojciech Zurek, a quantum physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Discord quantifies how much a system can be disrupted when people observe it to gather information. (
Full Story)

LANL sends waste to WIPP facility

os Alamos National Laboratory has shipped more than 100,000 plutonium-equivalent curies of transuranic waste from Cold War-era nuclear operations to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad — about one-third of the lab's total. (
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Supercomputing exhibit opens at Bradbury

On Thursday, The Road to Roadrunner opened at the Bradbury Science Museum. The new exhibit updates the supercomputing exhibit, and explores milestones in computing from FERMIAC to Roadrunner, the world’s first computer to operate at speeds exceeding one petaflop – a million billion calculations per second. (Full story - subscription required)

See a LANL YouTube video about the new exhibit!

Also from the Monitor this week:

Local bomb squad places in competition

A Los Alamos Police Department hazardous devices robot pulls hose from a reel during competition at the fifth annual Robot Rodeo. SNL photo.

he Los Alamos Police Department-Los Alamos National Laboratory Bomb Team came in fourth in this year’s robot rodeo, which wrapped up Friday. This was the fifth annual Western National Robot Rodeo, held at Sandia National Laboratories. (
Full story - subscription required)

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