Friday, July 22, 2016

Tide-triggered tremors give clues for earthquake prediction

1906 San Francisco Earthquake, USGS photo.

The triggering of small, deep earthquakes along California's San Andreas Fault reveals depth-dependent frictional behavior that may provide insight into patterns signaling when a major quake could be on the horizon, according to a paper released this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study, which was led by the U.S. Geological Survey and Los Alamos National Laboratory, reports that the deepest part of California's 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault is weaker than expected and produces small earthquakes in response to tidal forces. (Full story)

Bracing for fire

Las Conchas fire, NASA image.

This summer, throughout the West, higher temperatures and decreased precipitation brought on by climate change have ramped up the frequency of wildfires — big, catastrophic fires — while a century of fire suppression feeds the flames with a thick tangle of fuel in our overgrown forests.

We can’t stop all fires — and we shouldn’t. Healthy ecosystems depend on them. But understanding what drives big fires and predicting their behavior helps the fire community prepare for the next blaze through appropriate land management, emergency plans and firefighting strategies. (Full story)

Los Alamos National Laboratory
working on 2020 Mars Rover

Roger Wiens on KRQE-TV.

Technology that New Mexico scientists helped develop is roaming Mars right now. LANL scientists are working on what they call the SuperCam. It will be placed inside the Mars 2020 Rover.

“NASA calls it a Swiss Army Knife kind of instrument because it does so many different things,” said Roger Weins, Principal Investigator for the Chem Cam Instrument on the Curiosity Rover and SuperCam Instrument for the Mars 2020 Rover. (Full story)

Mars 2020 mission brings EDL microphones to hear Mars sounds

Mars 2020 rover, NASA image.

The Mars 2020 mission has declared that JPL-provided Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) microphones, and a microphone included in the SuperCam science instrument, will soon fly on board their rover. It will be led by Roger Wiens at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in partnership with CNES, the French Space Agency.

The Mars microphones will enable the scientists to finally add a second human sense to the visual imagery they have captured from the Mars planet, The Planetary Society reported. (Full story)

LANL discovery could launch next generation of solar power

Aditya Mohite working on perovskite
crystals. LANL photo.

Scientists from two universities and Los Alamos National Laboratory have made a breakthrough that could launch a new generation of solar-energy production and make hydrogen fuel-cell technology a practical reality.

The findings from the team of LANL scientists and researchers from Rice and Northwestern universities were published this month in the scientific journal Nature. The breakthrough centers on a class of crystals called perovskites, which have enthralled chemists around the world for the ease with which they can be made and their short-but-impressive history of rapid innovation. (Full story)

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Science on the Hill: Burning questions in study of wildfire

Las Conchas Fire of 2011, NPS photo.               

We can’t stop all fires — and we shouldn’t. Healthy ecosystems depend on them. But understanding what drives big fires and predicting their behavior helps the fire community prepare for the next blaze through appropriate land management, emergency plans and firefighting strategies.

Beyond those benefits, a deeper understanding of wildfires prompts important insights into tactics for using prescribed fire as well as insight into larger regional environmental issues, including how fires change river flows and the availability of water for drinking, agriculture and energy production. (Full Story)

How a pinch of dirt can tell you everything about a nuclear test

Site of the first nuclear detonation, LANL image.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have just discovered a fascinating new way to reconstruct past nuclear tests even decades after detonation.

This feat of nuclear forensics was spearheaded by Susan Hanson, a nuclear chemist at Los Alamos. Her team developed a way to piece together what were previously overlooked chemical fingerprints to reconstruct a detailed picture of past nuclear explosions—far beyond what scientists thought possible. (Full Story)

Flipping crystals improves solarcell performance

Three types of solar cells made of two-dimensional perovskites. LANL image.

In a step that could bring perovskite crystals closer to use in the burgeoning solar power industry, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Northwestern University and Rice University have tweaked their crystal production method and developed a new type of two-dimensional layered perovskite with outstanding stability and more than triple the material's previous power conversion efficiency.

This research is part of Los Alamos’ mission, which includes conducting multidisciplinary research to strengthen the security of energy for the nation. That work includes exploring alternative energy sources. (Full Story)

Knights Landing will waterfall down from on high

Trinity supercomputer, LANL image.

Jim Lujan, HPC program manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory and project director for the “Trinity” system, had an interesting take on this idea. The Trinity system is part of the compute infrastructure for managing the nuclear stockpile for the US government under the control of the Department of Energy. The Trinity system has over 9,000 two-socket server nodes based on Intel’s “Haswell” Xeon E5 v3 processors and is already delivering cycles to the classified users of the machine. (Full Story)

Los Alamos computational scientist wins Young Investigator Award

Ludmil Alexandrov, LANL photo.

Ludmil Alexandrov, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Theoretical Biology and Biophysics group, is the winner of the 2016 Carcinogenesis Young Investigator Award. Given biennially by the journal Carcinogenesis: Integrative Cancer Research, published by Oxford University Press, and the European Association for Cancer Research, the award recognizes a recent significant contribution to carcinogenesis research by an investigator under the age of 40. (Full Story)

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Fireworks go green

Explosives chemist David Chavez, LANL photo.

As the toxicological profiles of pyrotechnic ingredients are studied further, the regulation of these materials will continue to increase. As an example, until recently red light–producing strontium hadn’t received the regulatory scrutiny of materials such as perchlorates or barium. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a preliminary determination to regulate this element in drinking water. Such regulations will continue to drive scientific research into environmentally friendly ingredients for both civilian and military pyrotechnics. So at places such as ARDEC and Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’re continuing to develop new materials and technologies with an eye toward reduced environmental impact while at the same time ultimately maintaining or improving the performance of military pyrotechnics and the fireworks one might see at Fourth of July celebrations of the future. (Full story)

2D perovskite offered for solar cell research

Perovskite crystal photovoltaic samples, LANL image.

Perovskite-structured materials are causing a stir in the world of solar power conversion, going from  just-working to exceeding the efficiency of some conventional materials in only a few years.
However, they have some serious drawbacks which are keeping them from practical application.
“The challenge has been to find something that works better than 3-D perovskites, which have remarkable photo-physical properties and power conversion efficiencies better than 20%, but are still plagued by poor performance in stress tests of light, humidity and heat,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory, suggesting that 2D perovkites might be more practical in solar cells. (Full story)

Nuclear bomb debris can reveal blast size, even decades later

Trinitite glass formed by the 1945 Trinity Test.

Chemist Susan Hanson and colleagues at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory looked at the element molybdenum in glassy debris created by the Trinity test. Stable molybdenum forms when zirconium from the bomb’s fireball radioactively decays. The relative abundance of different molybdenum isotopes created from this process differs from that found naturally. By measuring the overabundance of certain molybdenum isotopes, researchers can determine the original amount of zirconium created by the explosion. (Full story)

Role of amyloids in type II diabetes

Human amyloid (blue) partially
removing a lipid bilayer, LANL image.

A collaboration between Los Alamos, Yale University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute published research in the journal Langmuir that sheds light on pathological properties of amyloids identified in type II diabetes. Amyloids are unwanted aggregates of proteins in our bodies. Frequently they form fibers or plaques whose presence is correlated with the pathology for many diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and type II diabetes. (Full story)

Curiosity rover has observed high levels of manganese oxides in Martian rocks

Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL photo.

The only ways to make these manganese materials here on Earth involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes, explained Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at LANL and lead author on the study. ‘Now we’re seeing manganese-oxides on Mars and wondering how the heck these could have formed,’ remarked Lanza, who uses the ChemCam instrument on top of the Curosity rover to analyse the chemical make-up of rocks on Mars. The instrument, which can measure even trace elements, has analysed roughly 1,500 rock and soil samples in the less than four years since Curiosity landed on Mars. (Full story)

How heavier elements are formed in star interiors

NIF experiment simulating stellar nucleosynthesis
fusion reactions, LLNL photo.

"All of the stellar nucleosynthesis reactions - fusion reactions that happen inside stars - produce the elements, but we can't really see inside a star to tell how those reactions are proceeding," said plasma physicist Alex Zylstra of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). "Models of the production of nuclei in the cosmos depend on having accurate data to inform those models. And studying those reactions in conditions that are actually applicable to the interior of stars or to the universe during the Big Bang is very challenging. This experimental campaign is working toward doing that at relevant conditions that can only be achieved at NIF." (Full story)

Looking for meteorites in Antarctica

Antarctic meteorite, Antarctic Sun image.

"This is really a cost-effective way to sample throughout the solar system," said Nina Lanza, a researcher at Los Alamos National Lab. "We're able to sample all of these planetary bodies without leaving home. That's a real bargain in terms of planetary science."

There's never been a space mission that brought back samples from the planet Mars and of the handful of meteorites that scientists identified as originating from the red planet, the vast majority were discovered as Antarctic meteorites. (Full story)

Trinity wrestles with Knights Landing programming challenge

Trinity installation, LANL photo.

Seventy-one years ago, on July 16, 1945, an incredible explosion lit up the New Mexico night sky. This was the Trinity Test, the world’s first nuclear detonation, and it marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age. It also ushered in the age of supercomputers, which essentially began with weapons science at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Now a new Trinity, a next generation Cray XC supercomputer is about to take center stage to help the national security labs achieve their primary mission – to provide the nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. (Full story)

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Friday, July 1, 2016

The rocks on Mars suggest it used to look like Earth. What happened?

Wind ripples in Gale Crater on Mars.  NASA/JPL photo.

A vast shallow sea shimmered beneath oxygen-rich skies. The rocky crests of cliffs and hills reflected in the still water below. The landscape would have been familiar, except for its eerie desolation; nothing on the entire planet moved but the sands shifting in the wind.

This was Mars, circa maybe 4 billion years ago. Or at least, it's one vision of Mars painted by Nina Lanza, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

Mars' atmosphere was likely more oxygen-rich long ago

Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL photo

Ancient Mars was even more Earth-like than scientists had thought, a new study suggests.

NASA's Curiosity rover has detected high concentrations of manganese oxide minerals in Red Planet rocks, suggesting that the Martian atmosphere contained more oxygen billions of years ago than it does today, researchers said.

"The only ways on Earth that we know how to make these manganese materials involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes," study lead author Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Mars may have been more like Earth than previously thought

Planetary scientist Nina Lanza, LANL image.

Manganese oxide in Martian rocks was discovered using an instrument called "ChemCam" – developed at the Los Alamos Lab – that sits on top of the NASA rover. The instrument "zaps" Martian rocks and then analyzes their chemical makeup. The instrument on top of the NASA rover has analyzed about 1,500 rock and soil samples from the surface of Mars in the past four years.

"These high-manganese materials can't form without lots of liquid water and strongly oxidizing conditions," said Nina Lanza, the lead author of the study in the AGU journal and a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also reported in the Daily Mail  and Nature World News

How to make fireworks and other explosives safer

Explosives chemist David Chavez ignites a small quantity of Hi-N explosive. LANL image.

This Fourth of July, as you and your family settle on a sandy beach or grassy lawn to watch a fireworks display, you’re probably not thinking about the science behind the explosives you’re witnessing. In fact, you probably are not even thinking of them as explosives. But that’s exactly what they are—and there’s a lot of science that goes into creating that dazzling display of fire and colors. (Full Story)

New model predicts once-mysterious chemical reactions

Mark Zammit, Curtin Photo.

A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Curtin University in Australia developed a theoretical model to forecast the fundamental chemical reactions involving molecular hydrogen (H2), which after many decades and attempts by scientists had remained largely unpredicted and unsolved. (Full Story)

LANL Scientist Robert Atcher Named SNMMI Fellow

Robert Atcher, from the Post.

The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging has announced the creation of an SNMMI Fellowship recognizing distinguished service to SNMMI as well as exceptional achievement in the field of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging at its 2016 Annual Meeting, June 11-15 in San Diego, Calif.

Robert  Atcher, PhD, MBA, a communication specialist in the Community and Public Affairs Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the UNM/LANL Professor of Pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy at the University of New Mexico is among the 35 new SNMMI Fellows. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

DOE honors LANL’s small business program

Doug McCrary, second from left holding a plaque, with Chris Fresquez, far left, Jim Carrigan, center, and James Kloeppel, far right, along with John McKinstry of RG Construction Services, second from right. LANL photo

Los Alamos National Laboratory and RG Construction Services LLC in Rio Rancho received the fiscal year 2015 Mentor of the Year and Protégé of the Year awards, respectively, from the Department of Energy.

The awards were announced recently at DOE's Small Business Forum and Expo in Atlanta. The awards recognize the Lab and Los Alamos National Security, LLC's contributions toward DOE's mission and small business goals. (Full Story)

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