Friday, June 15, 2018

TNT could be headed for retirement after 116 years on the job

Explosives chemist David Chavez, LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland have developed a novel "melt-cast" explosive material that could be a suitable replacement for Trinitrotoluene, more commonly known as TNT.

"The Army and the Laboratory, through the Joint Munitions Program, have been looking for a TNT replacement," said David Chavez, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos. "Something with non- or low-toxicity that has the right melting point so it can be liquified and cast, for use in a variety of munitions." (Full Story)

Also from Laboratory Equipment

How satellite imagery could combat infectious diseases around the world

When researchers at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the country’s most important national security labs, were looking to study how to forecast dangerous infectious diseases like dengue, they knew they had a few tools at their disposal.

The idea, recalls Sara Del Valle, a leader of LANL’s epidemiological forecasting team, is that people often go online to check symptoms they may be feeling before they visit a doctor. “Because dengue is one of the common diseases in Brazil,” Del Valle says, “we could see a lot of interest in dengue on Google, [people searching] about 25 different terms, like ‘mosquito,’ ‘dengue,’ the names of mosquitoes,” and so on. (Full Story)

Seafloor cables that carry the world’s Internet traffic can also detect earthquakes

Fiber optic cables shuttle internet and telecom traffic between continents. From Science.

A technique described online in Science this week promises to take advantage of more than 1 million kilometers of fiber optic cables that criss-cross the ocean floors and carry the world's internet and telecom traffic. By looking for tiny changes in an optical signal running along the cable, scientists can detect and potentially locate earthquakes.

By filling in the "seismic desert" in the ocean crust and showing where seafloor earthquakes occur and how often, the method could illuminate new fault structures and regions where tectonic plates are colliding or rifting apart, says Charlotte Rowe, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

Powering an outpost on Mars or the moon
Kilopower control room, LANL photo.

New concepts for nuclear reactors that would have the ability to generate power for long-term space missions stalled in the 1970s, according to David Poston, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Designs hit roadblocks due to high costs or complicated mechanics.

In the most advanced testing any model has reached in four decades, scientists from LANL and NASA recently put their Kilopower reactor – a small system they say opens doors for astronaut outposts on the moon or Mars, as well as quicker, more efficient scientific missions into deep space – through its paces. (Full Story)

 Get with the program

LANL astrophysicist Mark Galassi, SF Reporter photo.

The world of children’s computer programming is brimming with toy-like interfaces that allow the user to build an ice cream cone or make a tortoise walk across the monitor to pleasing visual effect.

"And it gets you no closer to the real business of programming," says Mark Galassi, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Lab. This is part of why he runs a 10-hour, one-weekend crash course at the Santa Fe Public Library called Serious Computer Programming for Youth. (Full Story)

Scientists go deep to quantify perovskite properties

Perovskite structure, LANL illustration.

Scientists led by Rice University and Los Alamos National Laboratory have discovered electronic properties in quantum-scale devices that are likely to impact the growing field of low-cost perovskite based optoelectronics.

In an open-access Nature Communications paper, researchers led by Los Alamos scientists Aditya Mohite and Jean-Christophe Blancon, both of whom will join Rice this summer, studied the behavior of excitons trapped in quantum wells made of crystalline, halide-based perovskite compounds. (Full Story)
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Friday, June 8, 2018


Cosmic ray showers crash supercomputers. Here's what to do about it

Neutron detectors for the supercomputing center. LANL photo.

After Seymour Cray first built this computer, he gave Los Alamos National Laboratory a six-month free trial. But during that half-year, a funny thing happened: The computer experienced 152 unattributable memory errors.

Los Alamos has had to adapt since the Cray 1, having its engineers account for space particles in its hard- and software. “This is not really a problem we’re having,” explains Nathan DeBardeleben of the High Performance Computing Design group. “It’s a problem we’re keeping at bay.” (Full Story)

Evidence Builds for a New Kind of Neutrino

MiniBoone photodetectors, Fermilab photo.

Physicists have caught ghostly particles called neutrinos misbehaving at an Illinois experiment, suggesting an extra species of neutrino exists. If borne out, the findings would be nothing short of revolutionary, introducing a new fundamental particle to the lexicon of physics that might even help explain the mystery of dark matter.

Undeterred by the fact that no one agrees on what the observations actually mean, experts gathered at a neutrino conference this week in Germany are already excitedly discussing these and other far-reaching implications. (Full Story)

Mysterious neutrino surplus hints at the existence of new particles

MiniBoone photodetectors, Fermilab photo.

A particle detector has spotted a puzzling abundance of the lightweight subatomic particles and their antimatter partners, antineutrinos.

The new study was conducted with a neutrino detector called MiniBooNE, while the previous neutrino excess was found with a different apparatus, the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector, which operated in the 1990s at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “We have two very different detectors … and we have the same results,” says MiniBooNE physicist En-Chuan Huang of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

A major physics experiment just detected a particle that shouldn't exist

LSND, LANL photo.

Back in the mid-1990s, the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND), an experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, found evidence of a mysterious new particle: a "sterile neutrino" that passes through matter without interacting with it. But that result couldn't be replicated; other experiments simply couldn't find any trace of the hidden particle. So the result was set aside.

Now, MiniBooNE -- a follow-up experiment at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located near Chicago -- has picked up the hidden particle's scent again. (Full Story)

Big news from the magnetosphere

Twin Van Allen probes in orbit, NASA image.

It’s an exciting time for space weather research. NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes have recently completed their third circuit of Earth measuring the radiation and charged particles that stir up space weather. Data from the mission has upended our understanding of the Van Allen Radiation Belts and the particles zipping around in them.

So far, the big news has been that the Van Allen belts are not always, as scientists once thought, two concentric, well-formed donuts wrapping around Earth. Since the 1960s, scientists have believed that only the outer belt interacted with solar storms and coronal mass ejections, and only the worst of those. (Full Story)

Double oxadiazole could replace TNT

The new melt-castable explosive, ARL photo.

Trinitrotoluene (TNT) has been a standard explosive used in munitions for more than 100 years, but the military is looking to phase out its use due to its toxicity. A new 24-atom molecule has ignited the interest of chemists as a possible TNT replacement.

David E. Chavez of Los Alamos National Laboratory and Jesse J. Sabatini, of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory via the Joint Munitions Program, created bis(1,2,4-oxadiazole)bis(methylene) dinitrate based on a similar molecule they’d previously made that had one fewer nitrogen atom in each of the compound’s rings. (Full Story)

New route to +3 oxidation state of neptunium

Neptunium halide complex, illustration from the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Scientists based in the US have made a neptunium complex that can act as a precursor for neptunium(III) chemistry. The complex is made from a readily available aqueous stock solution of neptunium(IV) so saves the need to use scarce neptunium metal.

Andrew Gaunt, at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Suzanne Bart, at Purdue University, and their co-workers have made a complex that can provide new insights into the redox behaviour of neptunium in an organic solvent. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory Employees Donate $400,000 Toward Scholarships for Local Students

Viviana Martinez Espiricueta, 2018 graduate of The MASTERS Program will attend St. Edwards University. LANL Foundation photo.

For 20 years, employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory have taken the lead in funding scholarships for students in surrounding communities.

This year during the recent internal fundraising campaign, more than 800 LANL employees pledged $400,000 for scholarships, and the numbers continue to grow. LANS again made a $250,000 contribution for a total of $650,000 in new funding.

“A contribution to the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund is an investment worth making,” said Kathy Keith, Director of the Community Partnerships Office at LANL. “When employees and the surrounding communities come together to support scholarships, we strengthen Northern New Mexico.” (Full Story)

In the Lab: High-impact, hands-on materials scientist

Thompson is a team leader in Materials Science in Radiation and Dynamics Extremes. LANL photo.

George “Rusty” Thompson Gray III is a tactile person. As a Los Alamos materials scientist, he uses high-powered gas guns to subject materials to dynamic forces, examining the resulting damage patterns to understand why materials fail.

“I sometimes wonder what my life would’ve been like in academia. But I wanted to defend the country and contribute to national security as well as publish papers and do research,” said Gray, a team leader in Materials Science in Radiation and Dynamics Extremes (MST-8). “I like science, engineering and being able to lead science that helps the Lab.” (Full Story)

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Pair of Los Alamos scientists monitoring eruption from a distance

Kilauea lava flow, from the SF New Mexican.

If you are a scientist interested in the ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano you don’t have be there ducking the dangerous lava “splatter bombs” and avoiding toxic gases to almost get the full effect.

Los Alamos National Laboratory seismologist Charlotte Rowe has studied volcanoes around the world and has visited Kilauea twice. What’s happening there this month, she said, is riveting, even for scientists thousands of miles away.

“I’m liking the fact that I can — just like everybody else in the world — I can see these phenomena in near real-time without having to physically go there and dodge out of the way of falling debris,” Rowe said with a chuckle in a telephone interview. (Full Story)

Using digital technology to detect vector-borne diseases

Nick Generous, LANL photo.

Infectious Disease Advisor spoke with Nicholas Generous, MPH, a digital epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, who has co-authored numerous journal articles on the topic, about this emerging field and findings from recent publications.

Nicholas Generous: Traditional public health surveillance systems rely heavily on clinician submitted data on infectious diseases. These data are often considered the gold standard in epidemiology and are used to monitor levels of disease and to determine if there is an outbreak. (full Story)

Muons: Helping probe the impenetrable

Muon detector, from SciAm

The particle, a heavy version of the electron that rains down on every square centimetre of Earth, is little known outside particle physics. Volcanologists and nuclear engineers are finding new uses for a technique called muography, which harnesses muons to probe the innards of dense structures.

In the United States, trials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have found that similar technology can spot where fuel rods have been removed from casks of spent fuel. (Full Story)

Learn about observing the highest energy light

The HAWC observatory in central Mexico.

Join astrophysicist Dr. Brenda Dingus to learn about an observatory made of water located at an elevation of 14,000 feet in central Mexico.

This unique observatory is called HAWC and it detects the highest-energy light ever observed. This planetarium show is at 7 p.m. Friday, June 1 at the Los Alamos Nature Center.

HAWC observations of extreme astrophysical sources, such as supermassive black holes and rapidly spinning neutron stars, are key to understanding the origin of the cosmic rays that are continuously bombarding the earth from above. (Full Story)
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Friday, May 25, 2018

Muons: the little-known particles helping to probe the impenetrable

Deviation muography, Nature illustration.

The muon is going mainstream, last year it helped archaeologists to make a stunning discovery of a previously unknown chamber in Egypt’s Great Pyramid. An international a meeting in May called Cosmic-ray Muography was sponsored by the Royal Society and held in Newport Pagnell, UK.

In the United States, trials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have found that similar technology can spot where fuel rods have been removed from casks of spent fuel. Just four stolen fuel rods would provide enough plutonium to build a primitive nuclear weapon, Los Alamos physicist Christopher Morris told the conference. (Full story)

Game-changing neutrino experiments

Illustration from Symmetry.

Neutrinos are known to oscillate between three known types, or flavors, as they move through space: electron, muon and tau. But in 1995, physicists working on the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector, or LSND, at Los Alamos National Laboratory stumbled upon clues that there may be an extra flavor hiding on the sidelines. They called it a “sterile neutrino,” a neutrino flavor that would not interact like the others. (Full story)

Los Alamos thankful for its ability to serve

Lab Director Terry Wallace

The U.S. government announced May 10 its recommended alternative for expanding the nation’s production of plutonium pits – the core of a nuclear weapon. They decided to maintain full-scale pit production at Los Alamos National Laboratory to produce 30 pits per year, with a surge capability for more, and to create additional capability at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina to produce an additional 50 pits by 2030. This is the result of the government’s long-term analysis to determine how best to meet the recently released Nuclear Posture Review’s requirement to produce no fewer than 80 pits per year by 2030 in support of the nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

This represents a big vote of confidence in Los Alamos National Laboratory by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the government agency that runs our national laboratories and other sites across the nation’s nuclear weapons enterprise. To fulfill its mission, the laboratory will need to continue its close partnership with NNSA, its sister laboratories including Sandia and Lawrence Livermore, and the entire nuclear security enterprise – and we are committed to doing just that. (Full story)

NASA looks to send a small nuclear reactor to the moon and Mars

Kilopower, NASA illustration.

The scientists said the results showed the system not only works but can withstand multiple induced failures.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said David Poston, the chief reactor designer at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Kilopower project uses nuclear fission — the process in which an atom is split, releasing a tremendous amount of heat energy. Fission is used in nuclear power plants, although the space reactor is not large. (Full story)