Friday, November 7, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Nov. 1–7

Star struck

The endless race for fusion energy pits a giant reactor in France against two upstarts in North America. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are working on a compression-ignition program, and they think the idea has merit.

T. Kenneth Fowler, a professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at UC, Berkeley who helped plan ITER, was impressed when he looked closely at Laberge's concept at the request of venture firms. "A lot of people would say this is like the last Rube Goldberg machine that came into my office," says Fowler. "But this has something to it." (Entire story here.)

Blacker than black

Nothing's cooler than black - and nothing converts more of the sun's energy into useable electric current. A cutting-edge technology called ENABLE, the focus of a new collaboration between Los Alamos National Laboratory and RoseStreet Labs Energy, Inc., targets converting more of the sun's energy into usable electrical current than previously thought possible using a process that grows thin films the color of night. (Entire story here.)

Dispatches from the bio frontier

The time is ripe for the general public to become conversant with the basic ingredients of modern biology and particularly about structural genomics, one of its promising branches.

By now intellectually curious adults and precocious children will surely have noticed at least one of those colorful swirling ribbons that are used to represent a protein.

“Proteins are little molecular machines,” said Thomas Terwilliger, a biochemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and one of the world’s leaders in developing methods for developing three-dimension pictures of proteins. (Entire story here.)

Contractor awards $3M to lab foundation

Los Alamos National Security LLC has given the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation a $3 million grant to provide educational enrichment and educational outreach funding for education programs in Los Alamos, Mora, Rio Arriba, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos.

The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration and LANS have focused on regional science education and outreach to strengthen the economic diversification of northern New Mexico. (Read the story here.)

Time's Top 50 innovations for 2008
18. The New Mars Rover

The last two rovers the U.S. sent to Mars are still running more than four years later. The next one, the Mars Science Laboratory, is even tougher. Launching in 2009, it is 9 ft. (2.7 m) long, runs on a chunk of plutonium [actually a Radiological Thermoelectric Generator made at Los Alamos National Laboratory] and carries 176 lb. (80 kg) of scientific instruments, including a neutron gun - for firing at the ground to detect permafrost, not at hostile Martians. [The rover will also carry Chem-Cam, a LANL designed laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument (illustrated in use at right) to measure the chemical content of the target samples.] (Entire story here.)

Lab assuming services contract, employees

os Alamos National Laboratory is on track to assume the management of the services now provided by its major subcontractor KSL.
KSL Services has been LANL’s site services subcontractor since 2003, when the partnership of KBR Shaw and Los Alamos Technical Associates, was awarded a five-year contract worth about $800 million, with an option for an additional five years. (Read story here.)

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