Friday, December 8, 2017


LANL biologist ‘cautiously’ optimistic about HIV vaccine

Bette Korber, LANL photo.

Bette Korber, a theoretical biologist from Los Alamos National Laboratory, has designed a “mosaic” vaccine that is about to become one of only a handful of HIV fighters ever tested for its effectiveness in humans.

Researchers will spend the next few years studying a test population of 2,600 women in sub-Saharan Africa to see if the mosaics can indeed slow or prevent HIV infection in humans.

The search for an HIV vaccine has always been difficult, in part because the virus has the ability to mutate rapidly, creating multiple strains in different parts of the world. (Full story)


Computer simulations reveal roots of drug resistance

Efflux pumps are a mechanism for
removing toxins, including antibiotics. LANL image.

New supercomputer simulations have revealed the role of transport proteins called efflux pumps in creating drug-resistance in bacteria, research that could lead to improving the drugs’ effectiveness against life-threatening diseases and restoring the efficacy of defunct antibiotics.

“By understanding how the pump moves and dynamically behaves, we can potentially find a way to deactivate the pump—and antibiotics that haven’t worked in a long time may be useful again,” said Los Alamos biophysicist Gnana Gnanakaran. (Full story)


Better biofuels by design


Computing systems that emulate the biological neural networks of animal and human brains can potentially save both money and time as scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory seek to convert nonfood biomass into new engine fuels. These fuels could be used in existing transportation infrastructure and engine technologies—and meet government regulations. Researchers are using these artificial neural networks to estimate the combustion characteristics of biofuel constituents and new fuel molecules. (Full story)


NASA testing space-rated fission power unit
Moving the Kilopower prototype, NASA photo.

“The reactor technology we are testing could be applicable to multiple NASA missions, and we ultimately hope that this is the first step for fission reactors to create a new paradigm of truly ambitious and inspiring space exploration,” adds David Poston, Los Alamos’ chief reactor designer.

“Simplicity is essential to any first-of-a-kind engineering project – not necessarily the simplest design, but finding the simplest path through design, development, fabrication, safety, and testing.” (Full story)


Friday, December 1, 2017



Terry Wallace named new director of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Terry Wallace, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory will soon be under direction of a home town boy — Terry Wallace, who grew up in Los Alamos, worked at the lab as an undergraduate student and has held various high-ranking positions at LANL since 2003.

The lab announced Tuesday that Wallace will become the 75-year-old lab’s 11th director — and the first actually from Los Alamos — as of Jan. 1, succeeding retiring director Charles McMillan. (Full Story)



Tiny license plates could help us steer clear of our space junk

Prototype laser-powered license plate to fit on satellites headed for space, LANL photo.

With so many new flying objects being sent into orbit and beyond, many scientists say, we could be in for some dangerous collisions. One group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is trying to fix that with something ubiquitous among cars, but currently nonexistent for space mobiles: A license plate.

But don’t things just float around up there like a giant game of bumper cars? Not even close, explains David Palmer, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos. While there have only been two really substantial space crashes, he says, one crash is all it takes to trigger catastrophe. (Full Story)



NIH and partners launch HIV vaccine efficacy study

An HIV-infected T cell. NIAID image.

NIAID provided funding for preclinical and early phase clinical development of the mosaic-based vaccine, which was initially developed by the laboratory of Dan H. Barouch, M.D., Ph.D., at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, together with Janssen and other partners. The mosaic immunogens incorporated in the vaccine were designed by the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In preclinical studies, regimens with mosaic-based vaccines protected monkeys against infection with an HIV-like virus. Findings from two early-stage human clinical trials suggest that these vaccines are well-tolerated and can generate anti-HIV immune responses in healthy adult volunteers. (Full Story)



NASA, DOE testing ‘Kilopower’ space nuclear reactor

Kilopower demonstration unit. NASA photo.

Patrick McClure, project lead on the Kilopower work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said that a space nuclear reactor could provide a high-energy density power source with the ability to operate independent of solar energy or orientation, and the ability to operate in extremely harsh environments, such as the Martian surface.  Additionally, the Kilopower team believes the technology could be applicable to multiple NASA missions.

“We ultimately hope that this is the first step for fission reactors to create a new paradigm of truly ambitious and inspiring space exploration,” said David Poston, chief reactor designer at Los Alamos. (Full Story)



All missions on board for NASA heliophysics research

Illustration of space-based sensors.  From PhysOrg.

Scientists have been studying the near-Earth environment for the better part of a century, but many mysteries -- like where the energetic particles that pervade the area originate and become energized -- still remain. In a new type of collaborative study, scientists combined data from 16 separate NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory spacecraft to understand how a particle phenomenon in the magnetic environment around Earth occurs. These events, called substorms, can cause auroras, disrupt GPS communications and, at their most intense, damage power grids. (Full Story)



 Quantum dots amplify light with electrical pumping

Quantum dot laser, LANL image.

Los Alamos achieves light amplification with electrically stimulated quantum dots, critical step towards solution-processible laser diodes

In a breakthrough development, Los Alamos scientists have shown that they can successfully amplify light using electrically excited films of the chemically synthesized semiconductor nanocrystals known as quantum dots. (Full Story)



How a meteor-like shock turns silica into glass

Shocked silica glass, SLAC image.

"We were able for the first time to really visualize from start to finish what happens in a material that makes up a major portion of the Earth's crust," said Arianna Gleason of the DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the principal investigator for the study, which was published Nov. 14 in Nature Communications. (Full Story)




Scalable clusters make HP R&D easy as Raspberry Pi


Trinity supercomputer, LANL image.

Housed at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Trinity is the third-fastest supercomputer in the world, by one measure. But the Department of Energy and the lab didn’t design it to top the speed list. They wanted it to solve specific – and huge – physics problems that would bring any other machine to its knees while sucking in megawatts of power from the electric grid.

Trinity came fully on line in 2017 as the latest in a string of world-class supercomputers supporting Los Alamos’s mission of ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. (Full Story)




Los Alamos National Laboratory Trinity supercomputer lands on two top-10 lists

The Trinity Supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory was recently named as a top 10 supercomputer on two lists: it made number three on the High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG) Benchmark project, and is number seven on the TOP500 list. (Full Story)



Research group finds thick skin of atomic nucleus


Crab Nebula in the constellation Taurus, NASA image.

Calcium-48 is a quirky material, with this particular study taking Washington University chemists Robert J. Charity and Lee G. Sobotka from Duke's Triangle Universities Nuclear Laboratory to the Department of Energy's Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory.

"The Los Alamos experiment was critical for the analysis we pursued. In the end—because it has this additional set of neutrons—it gets us to information that helps us to further clarify the physics of neutron stars, where there are many more neutrons relative to protons,” said co-author Willem H. Dickhoff. (Full Story)

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Friday, November 17, 2017



Earthbound antimatter mystery deepens after scientists rule out pulsar source

HAWC sees the pulsars Geminga and PSR B0656+14 as broad beacons of gamma rays, HAWC image.

Particles like positrons that carry an electric charge are difficult to detect on Earth since they can be deflected by the planet's magnetic field. But scientists have a workaround. The particles also interact with the cosmic microwave background — an ever-present stream of low-energy photons left over from the birth of the universe. "The high-energy electron, or positron, [will] kick the low-energy photon ... so this the photon becomes a high-energy gamma-ray," Zhou said. "These gamma-rays, which have no electric charge, can pass right through the magnetic field and make it all the way to Earth's surface. (Full Story)

Also from Science News



Stellar explosion rocks the universe

Merger of two equal mass neutron stars is simulated using a 3-D computer code, LANL image.

Astrophysicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory were enjoying a typical Friday evening with friends and family on Aug. 25, 2017, when they began hearing excited chatter about a major new astronomical observation pouring in over the phone and social media.

Breaking news doesn’t happen that often in astronomy, and this was big. LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, had detected another gravitational-wave signal, just the fifth announced by the LIGO team since the observatory began operating two years ago. (Full Story)





Scalable clusters make HPC R&D easy as raspberry pi

Gary Grider at the SC17 news conference, LANL photo.

A quest to help the systems software community work on very large supercomputers without having to actually test on them has spawned an affordable, scalable system using thousands of inexpensive Raspberry Pi nodes. It brings a powerful high-performance-computing testbed to 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,” said Gary Grider, leader of the High Performance Computing Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, home of the Trinity supercomputer. “The Raspberry Pi modules let developers figure out how to write this software and get it to work reliably without having a dedicated testbed of the same size, which would cost a quarter billion dollars and use 25 megawatts of electricity.” (Full Story)

Also from The Register



NASA's space nuclear reactor could be the key to colonising Mars

NASA illustration of a Kilopower spacecraft.

"A space nuclear reactor could provide a high energy density power source with the ability to operate independent of solar energy or orientation, and the ability to operate in extremely harsh environments, such as the Martian surface," Patrick McClure, project lead on the Kilopower work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a statement.

David Poston, the reactor's chief designer said that the technology could also be used in NASA's other space exploration missions. However, the pioneering project will require that scientists keep it simple. (Full Story)



First observations of how a meteor-like shock turns silica into glass

The process that turns silica into shocked glass, LANL image.

The experiments took place at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, a DOE Office of Science User Facility whose ultrafast pulses can reveal processes taking place in millionths of a billionth of a second with atomic resolution.

“We were able for the first time to really visualize from start to finish what happens in a material that makes up a major portion of the Earth’s crust,” said Arianna Gleason of the DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the principal investigator for the study, which was published Nov. 14 in Nature Communications. (Full Story)



X-rays reveal the anatomy of an explosion

Scientists have used X-rays to study how an explosion rips through material in a confined space.

Explosives release energy as they burn, but exactly how the energy is released when the explosive material is enclosed is not well understood. Laura Smilowitz and her colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico used X-rays to peer into aluminium canisters packed with an explosive and heated to ignition. The team recorded high-resolution X-ray movies showing how the burning explosives morphed from solid to gas. (Full Story)




Researchers take next step toward fusion energy

Experimental apparatus, from Texas A&M.

The sun makes energy by fusing hydrogen atoms, each with one proton, into helium atoms, which contain two protons. Helium is the byproduct of this reaction. Although it does not threaten the environment, it wreaks havoc upon the materials needed to make a fusion reactor.

Working with a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Michael Demkowicz of Texas A&M University investigated how helium behaves in nanocomposite solids, materials made of stacks of thick metal layers. (Full Story)



SLAC knows how the universe works

Newer parts of SLAC are built of gleaming metal. C-Net photo.

A $1 billion upgrade at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center called LCLS-II is turning the 2-mile-long accelerator into the world's most powerful X-ray laser. X-rays this powerful can be used like a super-intense camera flash

Often, repurposing is significantly more cost-effective than building from scratch," said John Sarrao, an associate director at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, another Energy Department-funded facility that has its own linear accelerator. (Full Story)




LANL Foundation brings science to classrooms

Bryan Maestas, coordinator of the LANL Foundation Inquiry Science Education Consortium, Monitor photo.

A huge warehouse in Chimayo holds a treasure trove – boxes filled with materials needed to teach young students lessons about energy, matter, or other science topics.

Operated by the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, a nonprofit with programs fostering educational opportunities in communities in the shadow of the national laboratory in Los Alamos, the 7-year-old program offers science education modules or “kits” for northern New Mexico elementary classrooms. (Full Story)

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

How particle physics is shining new light on ancient secrets

Illustration by ScanPyramids

When muons pass through stone and other solid matter, they lose energy. Some come to a stop. Detectors strategically placed in various locations underneath a thick structure — in this case a pyramid some 460 feet tall — can be used to generate a three-dimensional map showing spots where muons are flying through empty space.

“You’re making what looks like an X-ray,” said Christopher Morris, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who was not involved in the discovery. (Full story)


First-ever U.S. experiments at new x-ray facility may lead to better explosive modeling

The detonation of carbon-rich high explosives yields
solid carbon as a major constituent, LANL image.

For the first time in the U.S., time-resolved small-angle x-ray scattering (TRSAXS) is used to observe ultra-fast carbon clustering and graphite and nanodiamond production in the insensitive explosive Plastic Bonded Explosive (PBX) 9502, potentially leading to better computer models of explosive performance.

“Carbon clusters are produced during the chemical process of detonation in high explosives,” said Dana Dattelbaum of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Explosive Science and Shock Physics Division. (Full story)

Also from R&D Magazine and the Los Alamos Daily Post


NASA Mars 2020 23 eyes and other payload revealed

Mars 2020 cameras, from NASA.

SuperCam, an instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy. The instrument will also be able to detect the presence of organic compounds in rocks and regolith from a distance. The principal investigator is Roger Wiens, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico. This instrument also has a significant contribution from the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales,Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Plane’tologie (CNES/IRAP) France. (Full story)