Friday, July 3, 2015

Space particles are helping map the inside of Fukushima

Welding storage tanks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, from Wired.

A group of scientists at Los Alamos National Lab have figured out how to see through just about anything—including the radioactive disaster zone inside the Fukushima reactor core—using subatomic particles from outer space.

“Any industrial process is subject to flow-accelerated corrosion,” says Matt Durham, lead author of a new paper detailing the process, called muon tomography. Inside a pipe, whichever side that’s in contact with a fluid tends to get eaten up. The difficulty of disassembling a pipe for inspection means that comprehensive checks rarely happen. But using muons, “you don’t have to tear it apart,” says Durham. “You just have to zap it from the outside.” (Full Story)

Giving buildings a cosmic CT scan

CT-like scans generated by subatomic particles, from Science.

Because muons are massive but don’t interact too strongly with other materials, they can penetrate hundreds of meters of rock and soil, says Matt Durham, a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and lead author of the study. In comparison, lighter electrons stop in material almost immediately, where heavier protons and atomic nuclei interact with them so strongly that they disintegrate into showers of particles. Muons' ability to penetrate makes them ideal for peering into objects. (Full Story)

Also from Homeland Security Newswire

Supercomputing the vortex

A simulation of vortex-induced motion, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory mechanical and thermal engineering researchers’ efforts to solve the complex problem of how ocean currents affect the infrastructure of floating oilrigs and their computational fluid dynamics (CFD) numerical simulations received recognition from ANSYS, a company that provides computer-based engineering simulation capabilities. (Full Story)

One woman’s quest for healthy beer

Kombucha maker Ayla Bystrom-Williams, right, with Rena Glasscock and scientist David Fox, from The Guardian.

Like many scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, David Fox cannot reveal the full details of his current research. In his case, it’s not a matter of national security. Though the bioengineer works at a site best known as the birthplace of the atomic bomb, he is spending much of this summer analyzing something less hazardous – a special hybrid beer.

The fermented beverage under his microscope might have probiotic and other health benefits not normally associated with one of the world’s oldest intoxicants. (Full Story)

The solar cells of the future look very pretty up close

You’re looking at a perovskite. Not an Eastern European bird of prey, nor an exotic toy to play with in the wind, but a potential future of solar power. And that's what you can see here: neat chunks of defect-free crystals manufactured at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Cheap compared to silicon crystals, these kinds of perovskites are even beginning to rival them in efficiency terms because the lack of defects ensure that photons are neatly converted into electrons with few losses. (Full Story)

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