Friday, July 3, 2015

Space particles are helping map the inside of Fukushima

Welding storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, from Wired.

A group of scientists at Los Alamos National Lab have figured out how to see through just about anything—including the radioactive disaster zone inside the Fukushima reactor core—using subatomic particles from outer space.

“Any industrial process is subject to flow-accelerated corrosion,” says Matt Durham, lead author of a new paper detailing the process, called muon tomography. Inside a pipe, whichever side that’s in contact with a fluid tends to get eaten up. The difficulty of disassembling a pipe for inspection means that comprehensive checks rarely happen. But using muons, “you don’t have to tear it apart,” says Durham. “You just have to zap it from the outside.” (Full Story)

Giving buildings a cosmic CT scan

CT-like scans generated by subatomic particles, from Science.

Because muons are massive but don’t interact too strongly with other materials, they can penetrate hundreds of meters of rock and soil, says Matt Durham, a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and lead author of the study. In comparison, lighter electrons stop in material almost immediately, where heavier protons and atomic nuclei interact with them so strongly that they disintegrate into showers of particles. Muons' ability to penetrate makes them ideal for peering into objects. (Full Story)

Also from Homeland Security Newswire

Supercomputing the vortex

A simulation of vortex-induced motion, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory mechanical and thermal engineering researchers’ efforts to solve the complex problem of how ocean currents affect the infrastructure of floating oilrigs and their computational fluid dynamics (CFD) numerical simulations received recognition from ANSYS, a company that provides computer-based engineering simulation capabilities. (Full Story)

One woman’s quest for healthy beer

Kombucha maker Ayla Bystrom-Williams, right, with Rena Glasscock and scientist David Fox, from The Guardian.

Like many scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, David Fox cannot reveal the full details of his current research. In his case, it’s not a matter of national security. Though the bioengineer works at a site best known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, he is spending much of this summer analyzing something less hazardous – a special hybrid beer.

The fermented beverage under his microscope might have probiotic and other health benefits not normally associated with one of the world’s oldest intoxicants. (Full Story)

The solar cells of the future look very pretty up close

You’re looking at a perovskite. Not an Eastern European bird of prey, nor an exotic toy to play with in the wind, but a potential future of solar power. And that's what you can see here: neat chunks of defect-free crystals manufactured at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Cheap compared to silicon crystals, these kinds of perovskites are even beginning to rival them in efficiency terms because the lack of defects ensure that photons are neatly converted into electrons with few losses. (Full Story)

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Supercomputing flow of carbon emissions in deep oceans

A three-dimensional spatial structure of mixing in an idealized ocean simulation, LANL image.

A new computer model developed by scientists at LANL increases global climate simulation accuracy through a better representation of the vast eddies that swirl across hundreds of miles of open ocean.

"The model enables us to study the important processes of ocean storms, which move heat and carbon from the atmosphere into the deep ocean,” said Todd Ringler, who leads the Accelerated Climate Model for Energy (ACME) ocean science team at Los Alamos. “This happens very slowly, but over the next 1,000 years, much of the fossil fuel carbon emissions will end up in the deep ocean; ocean eddies make that happen.” (Full Story)

Organs the size of a smartphone screen

Prototype ATHENA device, LANL image.          

National laboratory and university researchers are honing the software and analytics capabilities of a surrogate human, of sorts, that will be able to step into the testing process for new drugs.

The Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer (ATHENA) project has created interconnected, surrogate human organs, researchers said in a new video. The system could revolutionize the way biologists and medical personnel screen new drugs or toxic agents, according to a statement from Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Veteran spacecraft reaches 60,000th lap around Mars, no pit stops

Gale Crater, from the THEMIS camera on the Mars Odyssey orbiter. NASA image.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft reached a major milestone today when it completed its 60,000th orbit  since arriving at the Red Planet in 2001.

Odyssey’s three-instrument Gamma Ray Spectrometer (GRS) suite detected significant amount of hydrogen on the planet — interpreted as water ice hidden beneath the surface.

Two GRS instruments are still active: the neutron spectrometer from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the high-energy neutron detector from the Russian Space Research Institute. (Full Story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory names new leadership

Craig Leasure, left, and Bob Webster, LANL image.

Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan announced today that after nationwide searches, Robert (Bob) Webster has been selected to be the Laboratory’s next PADWP, and Craig Leasure has been selected as the new PADOPS.

"Webster is a 26-year veteran of the Weapons Program here at Los Alamos and a national leader in Stockpile Stewardship,” McMillan said. “He brings a clear vision for mission-science integration, insights on tackling key challenges, and strong relationships with key internal and external stakeholders that are critical to sustaining our mission vitality.”

“Leasure has an extensive understanding of the breadth and depth of the Laboratory and the intersections of mission, science and operations,” McMillan said. “His work during the past two years as acting principal associate director for Weapons Programs adds to his extensive portfolio of experience.  I value his leadership as we take our operations to the next level." (Full Story)

Update focuses on partnerships

McMillan at the breakfast, LANL image.           

Kim Davis Lebak, manager of the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office praised LANL’s investment in the Community Commitment Plan.

“LANL has gone well beyond what’s required, and we’re appreciative of the lab’s active engagement and community and strategic partnerships.”

Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan touched upon partnerships with various scientific communities, the unions and the business community, but emphasized the importance of educational partnerships at this time. (Full Story)

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Friday, June 19, 2015

NNSA, NASA to begin Planetary Defense collaboration

Model of a nuclear device’s effects on a granular asteroid, LANL image.

An example of prior federal research comes from the Los Alamos weapons lab in New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb. An astrophysicist there, Robert Weaver, ran supercomputer simulations that the lab hailed in an article two years ago as exploratory steps for “Killing Killer Asteroids.” It quoted him as saying such research “will hopefully give policy makers a better understanding of what their options are.” (Full Story)

See the video on YouTube

Unlocking the mysteries of space

Formation of “magnetic flux ropes” within the the earth’s magnetosphere, LANL image.

Some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world are helping NASA scientists reveal the mysteries of the universe.

In support of the NASA Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, a multi-institution research team led by William Daughton of Los Alamos National Laboratory, is using Titan to study magnetic reconnection, a phenomenon associated with space weather that occurs when charged particles interact strongly with magnetic fields. (Full Story)

Also in PhysOrg

Earth plus Mars

Mars 2020 includes "SuperCam," LANL image.

New Mexico’s role in the next mission to Mars will also be part of a tri-national Earthly collaboration, officials say.

The new generation of the Red Planet rover touches down in 2020 and is set to again feature a partnership between Los Alamos National Laboratory, the French space agency and scientists in Spain.

Researchers and managers from LANL traveled along with NASA Mars project officials to a Paris space conference this month where they signed an agreement with the French Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales. (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Dally Post

Project ATHENA Creates Surrogate Human Organ Systems

Partially integrated ATHENA system, LANL image.

The development of miniature surrogate human organs, coupled with highly sensitive mass spectrometry technologies, could one day revolutionize the way new drugs and toxic agents are studied.

“By developing this ‘homo minutus,’ we are stepping beyond the need for animal or Petri dish testing: There are huge benefits in developing drug and toxicity analysis systems that can mimic the response of actual human organs,” said Rashi Iyer, a senior scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also in Medical Xpress News and Drug Discovery News

Analysis shows elements not acting in nature as previously modeled

Workers on a cleanup site at DOE's Hanford Site, DOE photo.

Knowing how a chemical in soil reacts and transforms over time in response to neighboring elements, weather and heat is essential in determining whether that chemical is hazardous. This is especially important when that chemical is radioactive.

In a collaborative, international effort led by Los Alamos National Laboratory, researchers determined the speciation of uranium and plutonium pulled from soil, concrete and water reservoir sediment from six locations in the U.S., Ukraine and Russia. (Full Story)

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Friday, June 12, 2015

Rapid diagnosis a new weapon against re-emerging TB

Harshini Mukundan, LANL photo.

Around the world, tuberculosis is making a comeback, owing to the increased incidence of HIV/AIDS and several other factors. The untreatable drug-resistant strains of the bacterium are rapidly increasing, causing grave concern. Drug resistance is a widespread global challenge today and could result in a post-antibiotic era, if unchecked. That and the global health concern of TB are two reasons why our team at Los Alamos National Laboratory has developed an innovative toolset for the early and accurate diagnosis of the disease. (Full Story)

Fusion researchers use Titan supercomputer to burst helium bubbles

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers simulate helium bubbles growing inside a fusion reactor, LANL image.

A Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)-based team made up of Luis Sandoval, Danny Perez, Blas Uberuaga, and Arthur Voter is working to understand more fully how tungsten behaves in such harsh conditions. The group hopes that by better understanding the interactions between helium bubbles and tungsten, they can predict the evolution of the material and maybe even mitigate concerns over tungsten in the reactor. (Full Story)

Working in atomic physics, Metropolis fashioned a musical tool

Nicholas Metropolis, LANL photo.     

June 11 marks the 100th birthday of mathematician Nicholas Metropolis (1915-99). An early recruit to the Manhattan Project who became a mainstay at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Metropolis was known for his work on the Monte Carlo method, initially used for problems of atomic physics too complicated for classical mechanics, but too particular for the broad solutions of calculus. (Full Story)

These giant robot arms handle highly radioactive materials

These enormous devices you can see in this fisheye photo are the main parts of remote manipulator arms at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s radiochemistry hot cell facility, where highly radioactive materials are used to produce isotopes for medical purposes.

The highly radioactive materials used to produce these critical isotopes can only be handled remotely inside hot cells, which are heavily shielded concrete containments with leaded glass windows to protect radiochemists from the radiation inside. (Full Story)

Education standouts

Chloe Keilers, Los Alamos High School, from the New Mexican.

Seventy-eight New Mexico students received $422,500 in scholarships from the Los Alamos Employees’  Scholarship Fund. Chloe Keilers of Los Alamos High School and Alexander Ortiz of Santa Fe High School each received the top awards of $20,000 as Gold Scholars.

Area students receiving $10,000 Silver Scholarships are Isabel Chavez, St. Michael’s High School; Eliza Harrison, Santa Fe Preparatory School; and Alexander Swart, Los Alamos High. (Full Story)

VISIBLE Team teaches teens the art and science of video games

Travis Burkett, right, and other members of Los Alamos National Laboratory's 'VISIBLE Team' (Virtual Simulation Base Line Experience) were at the Los Alamos Teen Center Friday to teach the art and science of creating video games. 'It's for serious purposes but we basically make video games at the Lab,' Burkett said. 'We're trying to get kids interested in artistic careers. This is a field that is only going to grow.' (Full Story)

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