Friday, January 27, 2012

Los Alamos un-crackable cyber technology close to commercialization

Quantum cryptography is not a household term — but very soon it could change the way your smartphone, your ID card and other electronics are protected from hackers.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has been working on this technology for the past 18 years and is working on a patent.

Current cybersecurity technology has relied on “hard math problems,” said Jane Nordholt, a technical staff member in Applied Modern Physics at Los Alamos (full story).

A similar story appeared in Government Security News

Biofuels expert to share vision

Sayre’s experience in the field includes his current position as director of the Biofuels Project at the New Mexico Consortium, working in conjunction with Los Alamos National Laboratory, and a former member of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center where he served as director of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels between 2008 and 2011 (full story).

Carbon nanotubes offer prospects for novel thin-film solar cells

A research group from the Los Alamos National Laboratory has shown for the first time that bundles of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) can not only generate electron-hole pairs (excitons) when exposed to light but also separate these charge carriers.

This latter feature is critical in the PV context, as to create a current, the electrons and holes must be separated in the brief time before they combine and are absorbed back into the material (full story).

LANL posts ‘banner year’

In a year when Los Alamos National Laboratory was closed for more than a week while narrowly escaping the Las Conchas Fire, the laboratory completed its most profitable year yet, earning nearly $84 million in fees (full story).

LANL achieves wastewater milestone

Millions of gallons of industrial wastewater will be recycled at Los Alamos National Laboratory as the result of a long-term strategy to treat wastewater rather than discharging it into the environment.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, which issues permits for industrial and sanitary wastewater discharges, recently approved the removal of four more outfalls from the Laboratory’s permit (full story).

Energy plan could boost small reactor research at SRS

A new funding initiative unveiled last week by Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu could accelerate efforts by private companies to build small modular nuclear reactors at Savannah River Site. . . .

“There is no test model yet,” said Forrest Rudin, vice president of business operations for Denver-based Hyperion Power Generation Inc., one of several companies that have expressed interest in using SRS as a research and development site. . . .

But, Rudin said, the pre-conceptual design, aided by research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, is about 95 percent complete. “So we’re now at the stage where we start true engineering, doing drawings from the Los Alamos design, and actively seeking commercial investment.” (full story)

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Friday, January 20, 2012

LANL could have role in creating nuclear fuel from old warheads

Glove box operations at TA-55. LANL photo.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is considering Los Alamos as an alternative for disposing of the plutonium pits that once served as primary cores for some 17,000 now-discarded nuclear weapons.

After the Rocky Flats facility in Colorado discontinued nuclear weapons production in 1992, LANL became the only place in the country where plutonium pits can be made. (Full Story)

Nanotube bundles could boost solar cells

Photon hitting a carbon nanotube. From Physics World.

Thin-film solar cells could be made far more efficient with the addition of bundles of carbon nanotubes, so say researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Research shows that the bundles can be used to adeptly perform the two important steps for generating an electric current. It is first time this has been demonstrated in a single thin-film photovoltaic material. (
Full Story)

Dawn offers first look at giant asteroid's chemistry

Computer model of Vesta's surface. NASA

The NASA Dawn spacecraft's close-up study of the giant asteroid Vesta is offering researchers their first look at the elemental composition of this ancient protoplanet.

Dawn's Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) -- built by Los Alamos National Laboratory -- will determine the chemical composition of Vesta, providing new information about how Vesta formed and evolved. (Full Story)

Nanotube 'glow sticks' transform science tool kit

Artist's concept of nanotubes on the liquid surface. LANL illustration.

Many physical and chemical processes necessary for biology and chemistry occur at the interface of water and solid surfaces. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory publishing in Nature Nanotechnology have now shown that semiconducting carbon nanotubes — light emitting cylinders of pure carbon — have the potential to detect and track single molecules in water. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Five honored as LANL Fellows for 2011

Five scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bruce Carlsten, Mike Leitch, Michael MacInnes, RichardMartin, and Amit Misra, have been honored by Laboratory Director Charles McMillan as Laboratory Fellows.

Fellows are honored for their sustained, high-level achievements in programs of importance to the laboratory either a fundamental or important discovery that has led to widespread use or and having become a recognized authority in the field, including outside recognition and an outstanding record of publications. (Full Story)


Eight researchers named APS Fellows

The American Physical Society (APS) has selected eightLANL scientists as 2011 Fellows. The APS is a nonprofit organization working to advance the knowledge of physics. (Full Story)

Finally, from the Monitor:

LANL’s Anderson-Cook honored

Christine Anderson-Cook. LANL photo.

Christine Anderson-Cook of Los Alamos National Laboratory was recently selected as a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, or ASQ.

Anderson-Cook, who works in the Statistical Sciences Group at LANL, was recognized for research in quality in the areas of design of experiments and reliability, for interdisciplinary collaboration and training of statistical thinking and quality ideas, and for dedicated service to the growth and practice of the quality profession. (Full Story)

Enlarged quantum dots could yield light source for biomedical imaging

The study is the result of collaboration between UT Dallas and researchers from the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and the Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Killing the killer asteroid with a nuclear bomb: Yes we can

Computer model describes using a nuclear power source to destroy an asteroid. LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) scientists say it would be possible to blast away a killer asteroid approaching Earth with a nuclear bomb even with short notice.

As many asteroids are granular in nature and held together by gravity, a one ton nuclear blast would propagate through the asteroid blowing it into much smaller pieces that would pose no danger if they struck earth as meteors. (Full Story)

Chinese supercomputer aids climate scientists

Sunway-Bluelight Supercomputer. CNSC photo.

China finished building the Sunway-Bluelight Supercomputer last September, just one year after the debut of the Tianhe-1A, which was known as the world's fastest computer before beingsurpassed by Japan's K computer in June 2011.

Steve Wallach, a consultant to the DOE ASC program at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the most impressive part of the computer is the fact that “most of the technology, especially the microprocessors, was homegrown.” (Full Story)

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Nanotube “glow sticks” transform surface science tool kit

Many physical and chemical processes necessary for biology and chemistry occur at the interface of water and solid surfaces. Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory publishing in Nature Nanotechnology have now shown that semiconducting carbon nanotubes—light emitting cylinders of pure carbon—have the potential to detect and track single molecules in water (full story).

Who’s in the lead? Algae around the world

In New Mexico, Dr. José Olivares, an analytical chemist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is head of the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB), a consortium funded by the Department of Energy to develop innovative technologies that will help bring algal biofuels to a commercial reality.

Biofuels Digest writer Jonathan Williams sat down recently with Dr. Olivares after he had completed a wide-ranging tour of some of the algal hot spots around the globe (full story).

Quantum dot research named among top ten advancements at Los Alamos

Research by Los Alamos scientists published in the journal Nature documented significant progress in understanding the phenomenon of quantum-dot blinking. The efficiency of the dots is greatly reduced by blinking, but the problem can be controlled and even completely suppressed electrochemically, researchers discovered, as they developed a novel spectro-electrochemical experiment that allowed them to controllably charge and discharge a single quantum dot while monitoring its blinking behavior (full story).

Video: Visualizing the Los Alamos asteroid killer

How do you mitigate a meteor? Our Video Sunday feature continues with this feature describing how LANL scientists used a Cray supercomputer to model effects of nuclear energy source on an Earth-threatening asteroid.

The newest supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Cielo, is currently working on classified nuclear weapons physics problems. However, it is sometimes used to do fascinating unclassified science when a computer model is so large that it can’t be run on a smaller platform (full story).

Scientists studying how the brain ‘sees’

Garrett Kenyon, a neurophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who is studying the way the brain processes visual information. “If we could help computers understand what underlies the ‘aha!’ moment when we recognize something, we would be able to communicate better.” (full story)

Researcher's tool maps malware in beautiful 3D models

Security researchers face a tough problem: Computer viruses, unlike their biological counterparts, can’t be seen under a microscope. Even common reverse engineering tools merely render malware as thousands of lines of garbled text more legible to machine than man.

Now one researcher hopes to show the malware that plagues PCs in all its evil elegance. At the Shmoocon security conference later this month, Danny Quist plans to demo a new three-dimensional version of a tool he’s created called Visualization of Executables for Reversing and Analysis, or VERA, that maps viruses’ and worms’ code into intuitively visible models.

Quist, who teaches government and corporate students the art of reverse engineering at Los Alamos National Labs, says he hopes VERA will make the process of taking apart and understanding malware’s functionality far easier.

Lab outlines priority cleanup goals

Lab officials are calling it the “LANL 3,706 Transuranic Waste Campaign.” Why the 3,706? Their goal is to remove 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste by June 30, 2014 from Technical Area 54 and Material Disposal Area G.

Dan Cox, the deputy associate director for Environmental Programs at the lab, told the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board that the waste is classified into three categories. Seventy percent of the waste is in oversized containers, 20 percent are in drums and 10 percent are in standard waste boxes (full story).

Also from the Monitor this week:

Hecker: N. Korea remains shrouded in mystery

Hecker is a former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory who now directs the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.

He is considered a leading expert on North Korea having made seven annual trips in a row to the isolated country through 2010 (full story).

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Artificial vision: Image and pattern recognition with lateral neural networking

Garrett Kenyon. LANL photo.

Digital images make a computer’s “eyesight” fantastic, but how well can software, even advanced neural networking programs, actually recognize and identify the contents of a photo? Not very well, currently, but a new paper published in the Public Library of Science may be changing that by modeling neural network functions after human visual abilities.

Decoded Science had the opportunity to ask co-author Garrett T. Kenyon of Los Alamos National Laboratory a few questions about this study. (Full Story)

Career profiles: Breakthrough behind the scenes

Photo from Science.

Kimberly Powers spent a year researching tobacco use prevention and control at the University of New Mexico. Then, at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she studied mathematical models that could explain the behavior of viruses within a host and helped scientists develop new models.

Now a postdoc at UNC, she's trying to clear one of treatment-as-prevention's major hurdles: understanding how HIV is transmitted during its so-called acute stage, which occurs before the infection is recognized. Her most recent findings suggest that targeting those early infections with drugs like HPTN 052 could deliver a serious blow to the HIVepidemic. (Full Story)

Survey of ‘leaders’ gives lab high marks

For the second straight year, the Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to get high marks from community leaders.

According to the latest survey released earlier this month, LANL “has maintained this high level of favorability as 78 percent of the community leaders say they currently have a favorable opinion of the lab. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

LANL chief McMillan hit the ground running

McMillan speaks at the post fire "thank you" event at Ashley Pond. Monitor photo.

Los Alamos lab director Charles McMillan had been on the job for about a month when June 26 rolled around. He had just taken over for Mike Anastasio, who retired.

McMillan will never forget where he was on June 26 when the Las Conchas Fire started. He will never forget because it also was his anniversary. (Full Story)

Top 7 ‘breakthrough’ military weapons

Inner configuration of the FEL. LANL image.

#3 The Free Electron Laser. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have announced that they’ve successfully built and tested a device that can produce the type of electrons needed to generate weapons-grade megawatt laser beams. A Navy ship armed with such a laser would be able to zap a barrage of incoming missiles. (Full Story)

June beetles conscripted into cyborg army

Honeybees are trained to sniff out explosives. LANL photo.

Cybugs can leverage insects’ highly evolved natural capabilities -- their natural sensors and power generation skills -- to provide cheap robot-like capabilities.

Take the honey bee. The Los Alamos National Laboratory has already demonstrated that olfactory training can exploit the bees’ fantastic sense of smell to turn them into effective explosives detectors. (Full Story)

Century of statehood: Making history on the Hill

Santa Fe New Mexican photo.

In her 90 years, Mary Roeschke hasdone a little of it all: working at Los Alamos National Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, taking minutes for the Legislature, driving a school bus and raising two sons, one of whom was among the first children born in Los Alamos.

At Los Alamos Roeschke would catch little glimpses of what was going on in the new, secretive hilltop outpost, as she typed up memos and asked for the signatures of some of science’s biggest names. (Full Story)

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