Friday, July 29, 2011

Outfitting the next Mars rover

A rock-vaporizing laser. Miniaturized chemical analyzers. A flying crane. As NASA prepares to launch the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover that will “follow the water” and pursue potential signs of life on Mars, international teams are tricking it out with a new set of scientific instruments that can analyze data in real time as the rover moves across the surface.

ChemCam [Los Alamos]: A laser on the rover’s mast will vaporize rock up to 23 feet away, and a camera will zoom in to capture the light signature from the resulting plasma. Spectrographs in the rover’s body assess the chemical composition of the rock so scientists can determine whether the target is worthy of examination. . . . (full story)

From detonation to diapers: Los Alamos computer codes at core of advanced manufacturing technologies

Computational tools developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to help ensure the reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons deterrent in the absence of testing are helping industry giants ensure the reliability of their manufacturing processes.

These specialized computer codes are now available to U.S. industry as part of President Barack Obama's recently announced advanced manufacturing initiative, designed to help make American companies more competitive and create new jobs (full story).

LANL employees pledged $272,000 for scholarships

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $272,000 in LANL’s 2011 scholarship fund drive.

The drive encourages employees, retirees and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to students in northern New Mexico (full story).

What is so special about nano-structured metals for a new generation of orthopedic devices?

Metals have provided the strength, durability, and other characteristics that bone implants require since the inception of orthopedics. The ability of metals to exist in the human body without significant side effects or risk of rejection are via cobalt-chromium super alloys, stainless steels, and titanium alloys – the most commonly used materials in today’s orthopedic devices.

A more recent innovation in metals technology heralds a new era for metals in medical implants: nano-structuring. Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and several institutes in Russia worked together to develop a simple method to modify the internal structure of any metal at the nano-size scale.

This is the scale of a cluster of a few hundred, or a few thousand atoms, which is the scale on which many biological processes occur. Modifying metals at this scale allows them to better match and integrate with human bone tissue (full story).

Los Alamos lab tests confirm cellulose ammonia pretreatment

A liquid ammonia pretreatment process of cellulosic biomass under development at Michigan State University and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has been tested, and confirmed, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Our modeling showed, and the experimental evidence confirmed, that the pretreatment reduced the strength of hydrogen bonds in the cellulosic network,” said Los Alamos researcher Sandrasegaram Gnanakaran on the testing.

The liquid ammonia pretreatment process helps to break down the biomass when used at the right temperatures, allowing the enzymes used in the cellulosic ethanol process to be up to five times more effective, according to a recent paper published by Gnanakaran and others…(full story).

Hazmat Challenge is coming to LANL Aug. 2-5

Twelve hazardous materials response teams from Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma will test their skills at the 15th annual Hazmat Challenge Aug. 2-5 sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory. The challenge provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to network and learn new techniques under realistic conditions in a safe environment.

Held at the Laboratory’s Technical Area 49, the event challenges participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, transportation and industrial piping scenarios, simulated chemical releases, and a confined space incident, said Chris Rittner of the Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Division (full story).

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