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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Friday, November 16, 2012

The smarter, safer, stronger, far-out materials of the future

The nation’s 104 nuclear power plants rely heavily on steel for many of their components, including the pressure vessels that contain uranium. But eventually, the steady barrage of radiation can degrade steel, making it susceptible to fractures.    

Researchers at Caltech and Los Alamos National Laboratory have created nano–laminate composites, materials that could better disaster-proof future reactors. The laminates could be incorporated into steel to replace aging parts in existing plants. (Full Story)

Need for welders spurs new programs at SFCC

Student welder at SFCC.  From NM Business Weekly.

The need for welders at Los AlamosNational Laboratory and Caterpillar Inc. have spurred the creation of two new programs at Santa Fe Community College.

The school is now offering an associate in applied science degree in welding, beginning in the spring semester of 2013. A certificate program in welding will also be offered.

School officials said the new programs are not only due to the local demand, but a nationwide need for qualified welders. (Full Story)

Scholarships available

Students interested in returning to formal education after a break for military service or personal reasons areeligible for scholarships from the Los Alamos Laboratory Foundation.

The Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund provides $1,000 awards to candidates from Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, San Miguel, Taos, Mora and Sandoval counties. (Full Story)

NAGC incorporated, looking for partners

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) announced the incorporation of the National Agricultural Genotyping Center (NAGC). Structured as a non-profit initiative for the purpose of agricultural development, the NAGC will leverage the benefits of high-throughput genotyping with the support of two of the nation’s most prominent organizations in the fields of science and agriculture. With incorporation complete, the NAGC now seeks partners looking to become a part of this project. (Full Story)

For more information on the NCGA click here

Preparing Sequoia for national security missions

Sequoia at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Researchers from NNSA's three nuclear weapons laboratories are testing Sequoia's power and versatility by running unclassified science codes relevant to NNSA missions.            

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers will run asteroid and turbulence simulations, and Sandia National Laboratory scientists will explore the properties of tantalum on Sequoia. (Full Story)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fastest of them all?

Roadrunner, the first to the petaflop.

The unveiling of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan Cray XK7 supercomputer knocks every other computer in the world down one notch in the Petaflop Hall of Fame.  

The Top500 notes that there are now 23 systems with performance better than a petaflop per second, “just four-and-a-half years after the debut of Roadrunner, the world’s first petaflop/s supercomputer.” (Full Story)

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Inside the largest simulation of the universe ever created

Simulating Matter Distribution Across The Cosmos, Argonne National Laboratory.

“Dark energy is confusing because the universe isn’t just expanding -- we knew that already -- but that expansion is also accelerating, which is very unexpected,” says Salman Habib, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the principal investigator for the Multi-Petaflop Sky Simulation at Argonne. “The cause of this acceleration is what people call ‘dark energy,’ but that’s just a technical shorthand for saying ‘we have no idea what’s going on.’” (Full Story)

Cancer data in the ‘cloud’ could lead to more effective treatment

  Johns Hopkins researchers are now using “cloud” technology to collect detailed information from thousands of cancer cell samples. Early data is being stored on computers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The goal is to help doctors make better predictions about how a patient's illness will progress and what type of treatment will be most effective. (Full Story)

LANL team comes up with Japan cleanup idea

Smoldering destroyed reactor building at the Fukushima plant in the aftermath of the tsunami.

The cleanup at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may take years, but researchers from Los AlamosNational Laboratory think they’ve found a way to speed up the process.

Konstantin Borozdin of Los Alamos’ Subatomic Physics Group said in a press release that, in the weeks following the disaster, the muonradiography team began investigating the use of a muon scattering method developed at LANL to gather images of nuclear material within the reactor cores. Additional study has confirmed the method would work and could be applied at Fukushima Daiichi. (Full Story)

Curiosity’s CheMin X-Ray instrument first results

CheMin co-investigator David Vaniman explains how crystalline structure models help geologists understand mineral composition.

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has completed initial experiments with its CheMin instrument showing the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils on the edge of Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii.

 In this video from Los Alamos National Laboratory, co-investigator David Vaniman explains how CheMin works, what kinds of minerals scientists are looking for on Mars andwhy, and talks about how the Laboratory's collaborative culture made CheMin possible. (Watch the Video)

Laboratory to demolish excavation enclosures at Material Disposal Area B near DP Road

One of the enclosures used to safely excavate and clean up the lab’s oldest waste disposal site near DP Road in Los Alamos. LANL Photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is about to begin demolishing the metal enclosures used to cover the excavation and cleanup of a decades-old waste disposal site at the historic Technical Area 21.

Pre-demolition activities are beginning this week and the work should be completed by the end of March 2013. The project brings the Laboratory closer to transferring the six-acre tract of land to Los Alamos County. (Full Story)

Los Alamos Lab awards grants

Northern New Mexicans wanting to return to college for a certificate or two-year program are eligible for $1,000 awards from the Los Alamos Employees Scholarship Fund.

The awards go to students from Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, San Miguel, Taos, Mora or Sandoval counties who are returning to a formal education after a break, such as business, the military or personal reasons. (Full Story)

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