Friday, December 21, 2012

Spreading cheer

Some 1,031 holiday gifts from Los Alamos National Laboratory employees are being readied for Northern New Mexico children and seniors. The gifts are being delivered to partner agencies in Northern New Mexico. 

Some of the partners include: Wings for Hope, Santa Fe; Los Alamos Family Council; Taos Housing Authority; Boys and Girls Club Del Norte; Chimayo and Abiquiu; State Children, Youth and Families Department offices in EspaƱola, Las Vegas, Raton and Santa Fe. (Full Story)

LANL Top science news of 2012

Los Alamos National Laboratory made its scientific mark in a wide variety of areas, and the stories that caught the public’s attention and that of the science community reflect those broad capabilities.

Top science stories for the year traveled from the canyons of Mars to the high desert forests of New Mexico, from cosmic particles to the structure of proteins and enzymes.

Computer models of wildfires, and nuclear magnetic resonance signatures of plutonium, it all was fascinating for those following Los Alamos’ science news. (Full Story)

LANL to donate $3M to nonprofits

LANL employee P.J. Timmerman outside the EspaƱola Valley Animal Shelter. LANL photo.

Los Alamos’ employees pledged a record $2.13 million to United Way and other eligible nonprofits, according to a news release. Los Alamos National Security LLC, which operates the laboratory, will use its $1 million match to bring the total to $3.1 million this holiday season.

“I am again touched by the generosity of our employees,” said LANL Director Charlie McMillan. “In a challenging year for the laboratory, they have come through for Northern New Mexico. It speaks to their pride in where they work and live.” (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Lab, NNSA donate $3.1 million

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have again demonstrated concern for their communities and those in need by pledging a record $2.13 million to United Way and other eligible nonprofit programs. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Apply now for LANL Foundation scholarships

Northern New Mexico students aiming to pursue four-year college degrees are eligible for tuition help ranging from $1,000 to $30,000 from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund. (Full Story)

NNSA sees significant achievements, important improvements in 2012

At NNSA’s three laboratories – LLNL, LANL and Sandia – innovation continued to impress the world’s scientific communities. NNSA’s labs and production sites received 12 of R&D Magazine’s 2012 R&D 100 awards. (Full Story)

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Friday, December 14, 2012

US conducts non-nuclear underground explosive experiment

A view towards the experimental room at the U1a complex in Nevada. LANL Photo.

Scientists successfully completed an underground experiment that detonated high explosives around plutonium to test the effectiveness of the nation's nuclear weapons, an official with the National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday.

There was no nuclear reaction and no radioactivity wasreleased with the subcritical experiment, dubbed Pollux, site spokesman Darwin Morgan said.

The detonation was conducted Wednesday in a vault about 1,000 feet beneath the Nevada National Security Site by researchers from the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories in New Mexico, Morgan said. (Full Story)

Video of the experiment available here.

New Mexico small businesses helped by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists

Harshini Mukundan. LANL Photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Harshini Mukundan of the Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy group and Mark E. Smith of the Chemical Diagnostics and Engineering group received Principal Investigator Excellence (PIE) Awards from the New MexicoSmall Business Assistance program (NMSBA) for assisting several New Mexico small businesses. Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the NMSBA and Northern New Mexico Connect sponsored the recognition event. (Full Story)

LANL’s Piotr Zelenay wins research sward

Piotr Zelenay. LANL Photo.

Piotr Zelenay of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Sensors and Electrochemical Devices group has won the 2012 Research Award presented by the Energy Technology Division of The Electrochemical Society.

The award recognizes Zelenay’s “outstanding and original contributions to the science and technology of energy-related research areas that include scientific and technological aspects of fossil fuels and alternative energy sources, energy management and environmental consequences of energy utilization.” (Full Story)

Students Can Get Tuition From LANL

Northern New Mexico students aiming to pursue four-year college degrees are eligible for tuition help ranging from$1,000 to $30,000 from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund.

The fund, which has awarded $3.3 million since 1998, is administered by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Funding comes from donations by LANL employees, contractors and a matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC, which is contracted to run the lab.  (Full Story)

County, NNSA modify fire protection agreement

Los Alamos Site Office Manager Kevin Smith, left, LAFD Chief Troy Hughes, center, and County Administrator Harry Burgess.  From the Monitor.

The National Nuclear Security Administration and the Los Alamos Fire Department have come to terms on a modified Cooperative Fire Protection Agreement to ensure emergency responsecapabilities for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County.          

County Administrator Harry Burgess and Kevin Smith, manager of NNSA’s Los Alamos Site Office, signed the agreement last Thursday afternoon. The modifications will be in effect for the next nine months. (Full Story)

DOE, national labs reveal sweeping cloud strategy

The Department of Energy and its national laboratories released a wide-ranging cloud computing strategy and overview that for the first time pulls together the disparate cloud computing efforts of the agency's 22 national laboratories.

Based as it is on Los Alamos National Lab’s Infrastructure on Demand platform, YOURcloud shows that the agency will likely lean on itsnational labs to execute any centralized elements to its cloud strategy. (Full Story)

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Lab names weapons program heads

Bob Webster has been named associate director for Weapon Physics and John Benner has been named associate director for Weapon Engineering and Experiments. Both have been in their positions as acting associate directors since March 2012. (Full Story)

U.S., South Korea participate in nuke deterrence exercise

U.S. and South Korean defense and diplomatic experts will conduct a tabletop exercise examining nuclear deterrence on the Korean Peninsula beginning tomorrow, a Pentagon official told reporters today.

Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will host 40 U.S. and South Korean officials for the extended deterrence exercise, which will look at deterrence methods in response to a nuclear threat scenario. (Full Story)

Bid to preserve Manhattan Project sites in a park stirs debate

Pond Cabin.  LANL image.

Scientists used the remote Pond cabin in the seclusion of Los Alamos, N.M., as the administrative base for a critical experiment to see if plutonium could be used to fuel the bomb. Early in 1944, sensitive measurements unexpectedly showed that the silvery metal underwent a high rate of spontaneous fission — a natural process of atoms splitting in two. 

The plan for a Manhattan Project National Historical Park would preserve that log cabin and hundreds of other buildings and artifacts scattered across New Mexico, Washington and Tennessee. (Full Story)

Manhattan Project sites part of proposed park

A quonset hut on the grounds of the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico where "Fat Man" was assembled in World War II. LANL photo.

Congress is considering whether to turn three top-secret sites involved with creating the atomic bomb into one of the country's most unusual national parks.   

The Manhattan Project — the U.S. program to design and build the first atomic bomb during World War II — largely took place at three sites: Los Alamos, N.M.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; and Hanford, Wash. (Full Story)

AAAS honors UC scientists

Seventy-six University of California scientists have been elected as fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Los Alamos National Laboratory — Jennifer S. Martinez, chemistry; Mary P. Neu, chemistry; Basil I. Swanson, chemistry; William Hamilton Woodruff, chemistry. (Full Story)

Resource fair for business owners

Business owners can learn more about doing business with Los Alamos National Laboratory or other government agencies at the Northern New Mexico Resource Fair.

At the resource fair, attendees can learn how to register their business with various state government agencies, how to become more successful in bidding for contracts, and more. (Full Story)

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Proposed nuclear reactor could power future space flights

Nuclear powered deep space probe. LANL illustration.

A team of NASA and Department of Energy researchers has shown that a reliable nuclear reactor based on technology that's been around for decades could be used in spaceships, according to a news release from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where some of the researchers are based.

Stirling engines, which were initially developed in the 19th century, are relatively simple, closed-loop engines that convert heat energy into electrical power using a pressurized gas to move a piston. (Full Story)

Los Alamos Lab demonstrates a reactor for space travel

Prototype nuclear space engine.  LANL image.        

For spacecraft, you really can’t beat the efficiency and simplicity of a nuclear power supply. From the Pioneer probes to the Mars rover Curiosity, a nuclear battery allows a slow drip of electricity where solar power would be impractical or impossible.

The nuclear engineering wizards at Los Alamos National Laboratory have an alternative: Uranium-powered nuclear fission reactors that convert heat into electricity. (Full Story)

Scientists test novel power system for space travel

John Bounds of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Advanced Nuclear Technology Division makes final adjustments on the DUFF experiment. LANL photo.

The research team recently demonstrated the first use of a heat pipe to cool a small nuclear reactor and power a Stirling engine at the Nevada National Security Site's Device Assembly Facility near Las Vegas. The Demonstration Using Flattop Fissions (DUFF) experiment produced 24 watts of electricity. A team of engineers from Los Alamos, the NASA Glenn Research Center and National Security Technologies LLC (NSTec) conducted the experiment. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in many other news outlets including the Albuquerque Journal, Wired Magazine, New Mexico Business Weekly, and the Daily Mail

Cobalt could replace precious metals as industrial catalyst

Artwork depicts the substitution of cobalt for precious metals in catalysis. LANL illustration.

Cobalt, a relatively common mineral, may hold promise as an industrial catalyst with potential applications in such energy-related technologies as the production of biofuels and the reduction of carbon dioxide.

In the international edition of the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists report the possibility of replacing the normally used noble metal catalysts with cobalt. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in PhysOrg

The next frontier of disease prevention

Hong-Gellar. New Mexican Photo.

Elizabeth Hong-Geller, a bioscience investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is exploring ways to translate recent insights into the fundamental genetic structure of the cell and put the so-called “useless” or “junk DNA” to work as a line of defense against infectious diseases.

“There have been some drugs made post-2000 but they haven’t turned out to be as effective, and as a result they haven’t replaced the older drugs,” said Hong-Geller. “We wanted to try to figure out some other biological models we could use as a target for drug development.” (Full Story)

How climate change could affect entire forest ecosystems

Droplets caused by fog collect on the needles of this Bishop pine tree on Santa Cruz Island. Photo by Mariah Carbone.

"The finding that summer fog strongly impacts carbon cycling highlights the need for improved understanding of whether we should expect coastal summer cloud behavior to change in a warmer world," said co-author A. Park Williams of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"A change in summer fogginess could produce temperature, moisture, and carbon feedbacks in coastal ecosystems that easily swamp out the effects expected from increased greenhouse gases alone," said Williams. (Full Story)

Thermal imaging takes on color

U.S. Army photo.

The University of New Mexico is creating a new generation of chips for infrared cameras that could change today’s black-and-white thermal images to color. 

That could greatly enhance the ability of infrared imaging to detect and distinguish things, improving their use in medical, industrial and military applications.  Collaborators include Raytheon, Los Alamos and Sandia. (Full Story)

Los Alamos site office manager promoted

Kevin Smith.

The National Nuclear Security Administration and the federal Office of Environmental Management have promoted the manager of the Los Alamos Site Office.

Kevin Smith will become the manager of the Office of River Protection, where he will focus on technical issues related to high-level waste, and other contaminants, in Washington State. (Full Story)

Climber takes precautions on trips

Jason Halladay - Los Alamos Mountaineers Photo.

Jason Halladay climbed to within 3,000 feet of the summit of Mount McKinley (Denali) last June with the plan of snowboarding down the side of the mountain. When he got to an elevation of 17,200 feet and realized that trail conditions prevented him from going any further, he re-evaluated his plan to snowboard down the mountain… Halladay, a 38-year old systems administrator at Los Alamos National Laboratory who lives in Los Alamos, has climbed all 59 14,000-foot-plus mountains in Colorado twice in the past decade during all seasons of the year. (Full Story)

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Drought lies in the throat of the thirsty

Forest researcher Park Williams. From the Journal.

If your measure of drought is the combined stress of rising temperatures and lack of moisture on Southwestern forests, the drought of the past decade is significantly worse than the droughts of 1898 or the 1950s, according to an analysis by Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher Park Williams. Ditto if your measure is the amount of water flowing through the Colorado River Basin, providing vital supplies to New Mexico, six other western U.S. states and Mexico. (Full Story)

Los Alamos research and leadership prizes awarded

Left to right, Garzon, Batista, and Beyerlein.  LANL photos.

Commendations for exemplary scientific research and leadership have been bestowed upon three Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers, Fernando Garzon, Cristian Batista and Irene Beyerlein, by the Laboratory Fellows organization.

"This year's prizes again show the depth and breadth of the scientific talent at Los Alamos," said Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan. "I'm proud that Los Alamos continues to be a home for such creative and innovative work. Congratulations to Fernando, Cristian, Irene, and their collaborators." (Full Story)

LANL names 2012 Laboratory Fellows

Left to right, Farrar, Elliot, and Shashkov.  LANL photos.

Three members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory scientific staff are being honored with appointment as Laboratory Fellows for 2012. The new Los Alamos Fellows are Charles Farrar, Steven Elliott and Mikhail Shashkov.

"Chuck, Steven, and Mikhail have made exceptional contributions in their fields and to national security,” said lab Director Charlie McMillan. “To be honored by their peers is a testament to their work. I congratulate the 2012 Laboratory Fellows and thank them for their service.” (Full Story)

Now Big Brother is REALLY watching you

The first part of the project involves a program called PetaVision. This initiative is a cooperative effort between Los Alamos National Laboratory and Portland State University with the support of the National Science Foundation. The goal of this initiative is to “Achieve human-level performance in a ‘synthetic visual cognition’ system,” in other words, create a computer program that will duplicate a human’s ability to see and recognize objects, specifically faces. (Full Story)

Nano insights could lead to improved nuclear reactors

Scanning electron microscope image of a copper and iron nano pillar. The arrow points to the interface between the two metals. From Caltech.

In order to build the next generation of nuclear reactors, materials scientists are trying to unlock the secrets of certain materials that are radiation-damage tolerant.

Scientists from Caltech, Sandia National Laboratories, UC Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratory have taken a closer look at radiation-induced damage, zooming in all the way to the nanoscale. (Full Story)

LANL leads effort in nuclear disarmament

A section of the Aries disassembly line at TA-55.  LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Lab are working to help the U.S. meet the goals of a 2007 treaty with Russia to decrease the two nations’ nuclear weapons stockpiles.

On Thursday, the National Nuclear Security Association said LANL, in its second year of production, has managed to disable weapons pits and create 200 kilograms of plutonium oxide that cannot be used for weapons. (Full Story)

NNSA delivers W76-1 units to Navy for 2012

W76-1.  SNL photo.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it delivered all of its scheduled W76-1 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile warhead units to United States Navy in FY 2012.

The W76-1 Life Extension Program involves engineers, scientists and technicians from NNSA’s Pantex Plant, the Y-12 National Security Complex, Savannah River Site, Kansas City Plant, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

New companies get boost from Los Alamos National Security

Two local biotech start-ups, a water and power company and a hardware inventor are the latest recipients of $165,000 in Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) awards from Los Alamos National Security, LLC.

“Although the program was originally intended to commercialize Lab technologies, VAF frequently funds companies with no tie to LANL or research institutions,” says David Pesiri, the Laboratory’s Technology Transfer Division leader. (Full Story)

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