Friday, June 17, 2011

Los Alamos National Laboratory announces selection of Venture Acceleration Fund recipients: Hundred-thousand-dollar awards to pair of firms

Los Alamos National Laboratory has selected Manhattan Isotopes Technology, LLC and Vista Therapeutics, Inc. as recipients of $100,000 awards from the Los Alamos National Security, LLC Venture Acceleration Fund. . . .

Manhattan Isotope Technology, LLC is a Los Alamos start-up company that will supply the active pharmaceutical ingredient strontium-82 to radiopharmaceutical companies for heart-imaging purposes. . . .

Vista Therapeutics Inc. has developed NanoBioSensor™ technology that will revolutionize the measurement of biomarkers, such as proteins produced in response to trauma or disease. While existing biomarker measurement systems rely on occasional "snapshots" and expensive and time-consuming analysis, Vista's system will enable screening and immediate test results for large numbers of people, as well as continuous bedside monitoring (full story).

Nanofoams are promising materials for radiation shielding

Radiation damage to materials is a major issue for builders of nuclear power plants as well as spacecraft engineers. The former have to worry about material failure due to the destructive radiation created within the reactor; the latter are concerned about the exposure to space radiation of both materials and humans during long-term space missions.

NASA says that the risks of exposure to space radiation are the most significant factor limiting humans' ability to participate in long-duration space missions. A lot of research therefore focuses on developing countermeasures to protect astronauts from those risks.

"There is a consensus that interface engineering is the way to go to improve resistance to extreme conditions in general and to reach radiation tolerance in particular – interfaces are places where defects created by energetic collision in solids can annihilate each other and thus render the material immune to irradiation" Jose Alfredo Caro, a researcher in the Structure/Property Relations Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, tells Nanowerk (full story).

Martinez chooses science adviser

Christina Behr-Andres has been selected to serve as science adviser to Gov. Susana Martinez, according to a news release from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Behr-Andres, who began her career at Los Alamos in 2004, has more than 20 years' experience in management of national laboratory research, academics and consulting. She now serves as deputy division leader of Los Alamos' Intelligence and Space Research Division (full story).

UC Berkeley to lead in training future nuclear security scientists

The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded a five-year, $25 million grant to a consortium of academic organizations, headed by the University of California, Berkeley. The group will train graduate and undergraduate students for work in nuclear security and nonproliferation.

The students will participate in nuclear security R&D projects at the DOE-owned Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia national weapons laboratories.

Anne Harrington, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nonproliferation, said the UCB collaboration beat out several bids submitted by other university teams in response to NNSA's request for proposals.

The consortium will train students in nuclear physics and chemistry, radiation chemistry, nuclear engineering, instrumentation, and public policy (full story).

Scientists advance toward low-cost, platinum-free fuel cell catalysts

One of the biggest roadblocks to adoption of environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel cells for automotive propulsion is the high cost of the platinum-based catalysts that operate at the electrodes of the cell. At the cathode in particular, considerable quantities of the precious-metal coatings are needed to promote the relatively slow electrochemical reduction of atmospheric oxygen to produce water.

But with a market value greater than the price of gold—more than $1800 an ounce—platinum is a non-starter.

Not surprisingly, chemists and materials engineers have been working for decades to replace prohibitively expensive platinum catalysts in proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. Recently, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have done just that (full story).

Lab program helps small businesses overcome challenges

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program is ready to help small New Mexico enterprises overcome technical challenges. The free program, run jointly by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, leverages the laboratories’ expertise and capabilities to promote regional economic development.

The New Mexico Small Business Assistance (NMSBA) program is ready to help small New Mexico enterprises overcome technical challenges. The free program, run jointly by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, leverages the laboratories’ expertise and capabilities to promote regional economic development (full story).

Also this week in the Monitor:

A mineral is born: Terrywallaceite

Los Alamos National Laboratory’s principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering has been granted the unusual and prestigious honor of having a mineral named after him.

On June 2, the International Mineralogical Association Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature and Classification officially added “Terrywallaceite” to its roster of known minerals.

Terrywallaceite is an extremely rare silver-based mineral that was discovered in 2005 about 180 miles southeast of Lima, Peru, by William Pinch and characterized by a University of Arizona mineralogy team led by Robert Downs (full story).

. . . omitted from last week’s report:

Saturday chat: 'Stellar' scientist overcomes disorder, keeps publishing scholarly work

Dimitri Mihalas has at least three claims to fame, not counting a Ph.D. in physics, math and astronomy from the California Institute of Technology.

One is that he has written eight textbooks and edited five, either by himself or with a co-editor, and has authored 150 scientific papers.

At the relatively young age of 42, Mihalas gained another distinction: election to the National Academy of Sciences. He is one of three NAS members currently connected with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

He also stands out because he has achieved these accomplishments despite having spent much of his life in the grip of bipolar disorder, a relatively common, frequently debilitating physical condition characterized by mood swings that can range from suicidal depression to manic euphoria (full story).

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