Friday, July 11, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for July 7 - 11

Gamma-Ray Burst Afterglows
Brighter Than Expected

The model of a gamma-ray burst’s near light-speed Plasma jets, shown here in an artist’s conception, may need retooling based on a new study. Dana Berry. Skyworks Digital

A new study casts doubt on a long-standing belief about the power behind gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe.

Researchers have found that short gamma-ray bursts - those that last a couple of seconds or less - have brighter afterglows than the simple, reigning model of afterglow emission predicts.
If it holds up, the result could mean that researchers were wrong about the progenitors of short bursts.

But Chris Fryer, a theoretical astrophysicist at Los
Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, says it is more likely that the standard afterglow model needs revision. Read the whole story here.

Along with beauty, fireworks create a beastly mix of pollutants

Photo by Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

In the late 1990s, Disney approached the Los Alamos National Laboratory with a request to develop cleaner fireworks to reduce smoke at Disneyland, which was prompting complaints to the AQMD from neighbors in Anaheim.

Instead of carbon-based materials, scientists there experimented with nitrogen atoms, which produced far less soot and smoke.

"In addition, because the high-nitrogen materials burn more cleanly, you could use less col
oring agents. We were able to get much nicer colors with . . . less metals," said David Chavez, a materials chemist at Los Alamos. Based on those experiments, Los Alamos chemists Michael Hiskey and Darren Naud took an entrepreneurial leave and founded DMD Systems. Read the LA Times story here.

Water Found on the Moon

In a study published today in Nature, researchers led by Brown University geologist Alberto Saal found evidence of water molecules in pebbles retrieved by NASA's Apollo missions.

Critically, telltale hydrogen molecules were concentrated at the center of samples rather than their surfaces, assuring Saal's team that water was present in an infant moon rather than added by recent bombardment.

"That was not known," said William Feldman, a Los Alamos National Laboratory geophysicist who was not involved in the study. "Volatile elements play a fundamental role in planetary formation through their influence on melting," said Feldman. "Melting temperatures are lower, you get different kinds of volcanic flows and magma crystallization. It's important for a lot of the processes that determine surface mineralogy." More about lunar water here.

R&D Magazine honors LANL scientists

R&D Magazine recognized Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers with two of its R&D 100 Awards, which will be presented Oct. 16 in Chicago. The winning lab projects were for the 3-D Tracking Microscope and Laser-Weave technology. The awards go to the top 100 industrial innovations around the world. Technical experts judge the submissions. Read New Mexico Business Weekly here.

Labs Pass Hurdle in U.S. Senate

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a spending plan that would prevent deep budget cuts at New Mexico's nuclear laboratories, setting up a potential clash with the U.S. House in the months ahead. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee budget approved Tuesday retains almost $600 million for nuclear weapons programs and almost $300 million for nuclear weapon maintenance that House appropriators suggested slashing last month. With a subscription you can read the Journal's budget story here.

You can also see the press release from Senator's Dominici's office here.

Energy Days II to shed light on Lab’s role in energy security R&D

A series of town hall meetings and workshops designed to answer questions about the Laboratory’s current and future role in developing breakthrough science and technology to solve challenges in sustainable nuclear energy, concepts for clean energy, and climate change impacts begins July 16 at the Laboratory.

Called Energy Days II, the event is a continuation of 2006’s Energy Days workshops at Los Alamos that began a discussion about the role of energy R&D in Los Alamos’s national security mission. Read the LANL NewsBulletin story here.

To subscribe to Los Alamos Report, please e-mail and include the words subscribe los alamosreport in the body of your email message; to unscubscribe, include unsubscribe losalamosreport.

Please visit us at