Friday, July 22, 2011

Researchers find potential key for unlocking biomass energy

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have found a potential key for unlocking the energy potential from non-edible biomass materials such as corn leaves and stalks, or switch grass.

Biomass is a desirable renewable energy source because fermentable sugars within the cellulose network of plant cells can be extracted with enzymes and then converted into ethanol—if only it were so simple (full story).

Dawn spacecraft enters orbit around Vesta

After almost four years traveling through space, the NASA Dawn spacecraft reached its destination and entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta.

Vesta is now providing the first opportunity to study an asteroid at close quarters over an extended period of time. Dawn is also carrying ... the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) instrument, built by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Researchers devise new stress test for irradiated materials

Tests are often stress-inducing. But when it comes to stress-testing irradiated materials, sometimes, those stressful tests can actually make for safer situations . . . and perhaps make everyone a bit less stressed.

Researchers at the DOE's Office of Science Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory who, with their counterparts at UC Berkeley and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have devised a new way to determine the strength of irradiated materials (full story).

Fire protections outlined at TA-21

Effective safety procedures in place at Los Alamos National Laboratory would have provided protections in the event that the Las Conchas fire had spread to the site of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project located in TA-21 off DP Road.

“Our procedures not only placed the waste excavation site, Materials Disposal Area B (MDA-B), into a safe posture so it was well protected during the fire, but also allowed us to resume work quickly,” said Project Director Al Chaloupka (full story).

Also in the Monitor this week:

LANL's Pet Supply Drive underway

When the Los Alamos National Laboratory reopened after the Las Conchas Fire earlier this month, director Charlie McMillan wanted to set up a social media approach for a volunteer program that would get out the word about fire recovery.

A Facebook page called “LANL Vecinos Volunteers Las Conchas Fire Recovery” was set up.

One of the ideas born out of the Facebook page was a pet supply drive, to help the Santa Fe and Espanola shelters replenish after taking care of scores of pets that were displaced by the fire (full story).

Monitoring continues around Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos

NMED found "no detectable activity" above natural background levels. According to an Environment Department report, Taos housed two air monitoring locations. Other Northern New Mexico monitoring locations included Embudo, Dixon, Las Vegas and ChimayĆ³.

Sampling from June 29-30 showed "no detectable activity" in levels of plutonium and americium at any monitoring stations; samples taken in Taos and elsewhere July 1-2 found no detectable activity in levels of a radioactive form of cesium (full story).

Old Dominion U. professor is trying to save Internet history

A computer science professor and colleagues at Old Dominion and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a sort of Internet time machine called Memento.

When attached to a browser, it enables the user to search for a Web site as it appeared on some past date, if an archived page exists (full story).

Schools get LANL Foundation grant

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation gave Santa Fe Public Schools a $821,448 grant in June to continue an inquiry-based science curriculum in three schools — Amy Biehl Community School, Aspen Community Magnet School and Salazar Elementary School — and add a fourth in the coming year (full story).

Also in the New Mexican this week:

Letter to the Editor: LANL's role is varied, often mischaracterized

"Time to reassess LANL," the July 10 letter to the editor from Anne deBuys, questions the goals of Los Alamos National Laboratory and is filled with errors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory's goal is national security science. We are innovators of a possible HIV vaccine. We provide climate change science to policymakers. We created the power source for the Cassini mission to Saturn as well as a laser instrument aboard Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory lander launching this winter. We train troops to identify and analyze homemade explosives. And yes, we perform the science to ensure that the nation's nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective (full story).


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