Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Mars? The allure (and challenge) of colonizing the red planet

Roger Wiens, ChemCam program leader, LANL image.

I have been fortunate to lead a joint French-American team using a laser-based sensor, ChemCam, which was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and is now aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover. When ChemCam fires its extremely powerful laser pulse at a Martian rock, it vaporizes an area the size of a pinhead. The system’s telescope peers at the flash of glowing plasma created by the vaporized material and records the colors of light contained within it. These spectral colors are then interpreted by a spectrometer, allowing us to determine the elemental composition of the vaporized material. (Full Story)

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Perovskite solar cells self-heal in the dark

From left, Aditya Mohite, Jean-Christophe Blancon and Wanyi Nie, LANL photo.               

A new study has found both the cause and a solution for the pesky tendency of perovskite solar cells to degrade in sunlight, a research breakthrough potentially removing one roadblock to commercialization for this promising technology. In a key finding, researchers at Los Alamos National  Laboratory have found those degraded devices exhibit self-healing powers when given a little time in the dark. (Full Story)

Perovskite solar cells heal in the dark

A perovskite crystal, LANL image.

Researchers led by Aditya Mohite of the Los Alamos National Lab in the US are now saying that the materials are unstable because the photocurrent they produce gradually decreases over time. Thanks to capacitance measurements on devices made from the perovskites and time-resolved photoluminescence measurements on the thin films of the materials, the researchers were able to observe that the photocurrent reduces because meta-stable charge trap states activated by light form at relatively low energies deep in the perovskite bandgap. (Full Story)

Also from Energy Matters

Rare-earth-free magnet made from cheap materials

The material's crystalline structure, from Electronics Weekly.

Researchers have created a powerful permanent magnet out of iron and nitrogen, two plentiful cheap materials, as part of a programme to cut the need for ‘rare earth’ metals.

“To the best of our knowledge, this could be the first experimental evidence of the existence of a giant saturation magnetisation, an obviously large coercivity, with a magnetic energy product of up to 20 MGOe, in a bulk-type FeN sample.” said the team from the University of Minnesota, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Five NM firms win Venture Fund awards

Five Northern New Mexico businesses will receive Venture Acceleration Fund awards. The awards are funded primarily by Los Alamos National Security, LLC and administered by the Regional Development Corporation.

The Venture Acceleration Fund helps companies through marketing and technology development activities. The awards are structured as zero-interest loans, with repayment required only under certain circumstances. (Full Story)

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Science on the Hill: Gravitational waves open new window on universe

A simulation of two merging black holes, LIGO image.

Now that gravitational waves have been found, what can be done with them? Lots, it turns out, as these waves open a new window on the very large and very small workings of the universe.

Members of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics at Los Alamos National Laboratory have worked for years to develop computer models of neutron stars and black holes, potential sources of the gravitational waves. Others in the Laboratory’s Space Science & Applications group and the Space & Remote Sensing group worked on instruments for observing related electromagnetic signals in research that followed the detection. (Full story)

Machine learning accelerates discovery of new materials

Researchers recently demonstrated how an informatics-based adaptive design strategy, tightly coupled to experiments, can accelerate the discovery of new materials with targeted properties, according to a recent paper published in Nature Communications.

"What we've done is show that, starting with a relatively small data set of well-controlled experiments, it is possible to iteratively guide subsequent experiments toward finding the material with the desired target," said Turab Lookman, a physicist and materials scientist in the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

MRI to serve rural communities

Portable MRI prototype, LANL image.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a portable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine for use in remote and underserved locations such as in the battlefield and in remote hospitals that lack large medical facilities found in rural areas in New Mexico.

The newly developed Battlefield MRI (bMRI) uses Ultra-Low Field (ULF) MRI to create images of injured soft tissues, such as the brain. Today, scientists are studying whether ULF MRI’s actually produce images with better contrast. (Full story)

Sen. Heinrich visits high tech startup Descartes Labs
From left, Harry Burgess, Steven Brumby, Sen.
Martin Heinrich, Susan O'Leary and Tim Glasco,
Daily Post photo.

Heinrich and staff stopped by the office of one of LDRD’s most recent success stories, Descartes Labs, a venture-backed start-up spun out of Los Alamos National Laboratory in December 2014.

Now ensconced in Los Alamos County’s model “smart house,” overlooking Los Alamos Canyon, Descartes Labs has quickly become a high-flyer in what co-founder Steven Brumby calls the “living map” business. (Full story)

What would happen if GPS failed?

GPS III Satellite, NASA Image.

Security officials have been concerned about the susceptibility of G.P.S. to spoofing since at least the early two-thousands. Fourteen years ago, a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, built a spoofer by modifying a G.P.S.-signal simulator (a legal device that tests receivers’ accuracy) and aiming it at a stationary receiver more than a mile away. The receiver’s display revealed that it believed it was zipping across the desert at six hundred miles per hour. (Full story)

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Friday, May 6, 2016

How a bunch of supercomputers in the desert are keeping you safe

Trinity, the newest supercomputer at Los Alamos. LANL photo.

The Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation houses one of the largest supercomputing centers on the planet where calculation, modeling, simulation, and visualization of complex nuclear weapons data in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program is carried out.

Among those allowed inside the fence are Randal Rheinheimer, deputy division leader for High Performance Computing at LANL, and Josip Loncaric, HPC Technology Futures Lead at LANL. "I'm the big-picture guy and Josip Loncaric is the detail-orientated one," Rheinheimer explains. (Full Story)

New Mexico scientists develop tiny, artificial lung

PuLMo artificial lung module, LANL image.     

New Mexico researchers are creating a new device to test what people are breathing into their bodies and how harmful it could be. It is an artificial lung, known as PuLMo for Pulmonary Lung Model.

“We want to provide a bridge between animal tests and human clinical trials,” said LANL Scientist Jennifer Harris. “In animal testing, we don’t always get the information that we need before drugs are used in humans." (Full Story)

Watch the YouTube video

Hunting for the signatures of cancer
Cancer cells attack, from Huff Post. 

Can we find common mutations across individuals with the same cancer? And how many of these mutational patterns that are common across individuals can we attribute to particular exposures and/or biological processes? Distinguished postdoctoral researcher Ludmil Alexandrov, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been working on this problem since his he was a PhD student at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

“It’s like lifting fingerprints,” Alexandrov explains. “The mutations are the fingerprints, but now we have to do the investigative work and find the ‘perpetrator’, i.e., the carcinogens that caused them.” (Full Story)

The best data visualizations of the year are absolutely incredible

Ocean currents are invisible to the naked eye, but this simulation by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows their intricate global reach. LANL image.

The winners of the inaugural Data Stories Competition, which highlights some of the most creative and fascinating scientific data visualizations of the past year, have just been announced. Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, entries ranged from planetary science and oceanography to neuroscience and climate change. (Full Story)

LANL scientists study impact of ‘climate-driven disturbances’ on water supplies

While the impact of higher temperatures on rivers and reservoirs is widely studied, it’s trickier to know how massive changes in vegetation patterns and landscapes will affect water supplies, now and in the future. It’s likely that the impact of wildfires, drought, and forest die-offs are “much more significant” than warming temperatures alone. That’s according to Richard Middleton, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Often, people think about climate change as something that’s still 50 years away, but Middleton says it’s a much shorter-term problem. And in some ways, New Mexico is the “canary in the coal mine.” (Full Story)

Novel model illustrates the finer details of nuclear fission

Density profile of the 240Pu fission process, from PhysOrg.      

In the first study of its kind, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Washington, Warsaw University, and PNNL, have developed a novel model to take a look at what happens during the last stages of the fission process.

Using the model, they determined that fission fragments remain connected far longer than expected before the daughter nuclei split apart. Moreover, they noted the predicted kinetic energy agreed with results from experimental observations. (Full Story)

Rubik’s Cube that solves itself wins supercomputing award

The wining team, LANL photo.

Solving a Rubik’s Cube is challenging enough. Creating a three-dimensional simulation of a Rubik’s Cube on a computer, then writing a program that makes it solve itself is a much bigger challenge.

But that’s exactly what a group of Los Alamos students did, and their accomplishment earned the top prize in this year’s New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge, designed to help students learn how to use computers as a tool for computer modeling and scientific inquiry to analyze and solve real-world problems. (Full Story)

10 cool things to see at the Bradbury Science Museum

The Bradbury Science Museum, LANL photo.

During WWII, as the Manhattan Project to build nuclear weapons got underway, Los Alamos, New Mexico, suddenly no longer existed. If you knew someone there, you had to write to P.O. Box 1663. It was only in 1945 that the place was restored to official maps and records.

Eight years later, Robert Krohn, then in charge of the weapons program at Los Alamos National Laboratory, decided it was time to let people know the significance of the work done there. In 1954, a former ice house at Ashley Pond, with a vault door for security purposes, opened to the public as the Bradbury Science Museum, with unclassified exhibits and various WWII documentation. (Full Story)

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Tissue-engineered artificial lung

The PuLMo alveolar unit is readied for
testing, LANL image.

Nicknamed "PuLMo" for Pulmonary Lung Model, the device consists of two major parts, the bronchiolar unit and the alveolar unit—just like the human lung. The units are primarily made from various polymers and are connected by a microfluidic "circuit board" that manages fluid and air flow.

"When we build our lung, we not only take into account the aspects of different cell types, the tissues that are involved, we also take into account that a lung is supposed to breathe, so PuLMo actually breathes," said Pulak Nath of Applied Modern Physics, who leads engineering efforts for the project. (Full story)

Unique water telescope detects Black Hole flicker

Gamma ray source TeV J1930+188 is far
more complicated than originally thought.
HAWC data.

“This is our deepest look at two-thirds of the sky, as well as the highest energy photons we’ve ever seen from any source,” Brenda Dingus of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who presented the map at the American Physical Society. “We’re at the high energy frontier.”

HAWC is not your typical telescope. The detector is made up of 300 water tanks, each filled with 200,000 liters of purified water. When high-energy particles pass through the water, they emit a blue light called Cherenkov radiation, and physicists then use that light to reconstruct where the particles originated. (Full story)

How ‘killer electrons’ in space can wreak havoc on Earth

Twin Van Allen Probes in orbit. NASA image.

A group of scientists from academia and government met in Santa Fe, New Mexico, earlier this month to compare notes and move the field of space weather research to the next level. The SHIELDS workshop, under the patronage of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, covered multiple disciplines including plasma physics, computational science, and engineering. (Full story)

Los Alamos students take first place in Supercomputing Challenge

Right to left, Ming Lo, Phillip Ionkov, Andy
Corliss and his brother Max Corliss, LANL photo.

Andy Corliss of Aspen Elementary, Max Corliss of Los Alamos Middle, Phillip Ionkov of Aspen Elementary, and Ming Lo of Aspen Elementary won first place for their project, “Solving the Rubic’s Cube 2.0,” on Tuesday at the 26th New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Supercomputing Challenge is sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the State of New Mexico, and generous industry partners across the country. (Full story)

Education standouts

Arasely Rodriguez (right) of Taos High School, Solomon Sindelar of the New Mexico Military Institute and Katherine Wang (left) of Los Alamos High School are recipients of the 2016 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund Gold scholarships. They are among the 95 students from seven Northern New Mexico counties receiving scholarships, which are funded through pledges from Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and a $250,000 matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC. (Full story)

LANL projects rosy job numbers

Director McMillan, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan assured local leaders in Santa Fe Tuesday that the lab is going to continue to be a strong community and regional partner. LANL plans to hire more than 2,000 people over the next four years, McMillan said.

He said the laboratory will be taking advantage of the retirement wave “to shape the future workforce of the lab,” he said, adding that they’ve already begun the recruitment process through social media, resume workshops and job fairs across the region. (Full story)

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