Friday, October 30, 2015

Targeted therapy for gastric cancer possible

New research shows that stomach cancer
can be treated with platinum drugs and/or

molecular inhibitors. LANL image.

Gastric cancer, otherwise known as stomach cancer, does not respond well to existing treatments and it is currently the third leading cause of cancer death in the world (after lung and liver cancer). Researchers have discovered that certain drugs, currently used to treat breast, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, could also be used to treat certain gastric cancers with a particular pattern of mutations (genomic molecular fingerprint).

What do you get when two neutron stars merge?
Illustration of a binary neutron star system
in the process of merging, NASA image.

Led by Chris Fryer of the University of Arizona and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a group of researchers undertook a highly collaborative study to better understand the fates of neutron star mergers.

The merger of two neutron stars (a NS–NS merger) is suspected to be the most likely source of short-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) — powerful explosions that can be seen from billions of light-years away. But whether a GRB is launched is dependent on what remnant is created by the merging NSs. Do they form another NS? Or a black hole (BH)?

Tiny magnets could work in sensors, information encoding

Researchers have created a nanoscale, artificial
magnet, LANL image.

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and collaborators have realized a nanoscale, artificial magnet by arranging an array of magnetic nano-islands along a geometry that is not found in natural magnets.

"Each nano-island is similar to a refrigerator magnet, with a north and a south pole at its tips," said Los Alamos physicist Cristiano Nisoli. "Unlike a refrigerator magnet, however, it can change its magnetization by flipping north and south, through use of either applied fields or thermal fluctuations.

UNM, LANL researchers team up to beef up fuel cell performance

An artist’s rendering of a nanogold cluster. ACS image.

Better batteries and more efficient fuel cells are two holy grails of energy development.  Fuel cells convert hydrogen or biogas into electricity while emitting only heat and water, making them the darlings of a new energy economy that seeks to reduce pollutants from petroleum-fed cars.

Scientists from The University of New Mexico and Los Alamos National Laboratory have combined their research expertise to create a micro sandwich of gold, DNA and carbon tubes that they think could eventually beef up fuel cell performance.

LANL team receives NNSA awards for exceptional work

Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz (ret.), center, presents team leader Ward Hawkins, second from left, with the NNSA Silver Award for Distinguished Service, and team members Richard Kelley, far left, and Aviva Sussman, second from right, with the NNSA Bronze Award for Excellent Service. Liz Miller, far right, is a member of the IFE14 team.

National Nuclear Security Administrator Lt. Gen. (retired) Frank G. Klotz presented five Los Alamos National Laboratory members awards for their exceptional work in a large-scale, on-site field exercise held in Jordan to evaluate progress in the development of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

Friday, October 23, 2015

How do you find plutonium? Go to nuclear inspector school

TA-66, LANL photo.

IAEA Inspectors must learn everything about plutonium — the civilian kind, which is used in some power reactors, and also the kind used in nuclear weapons. Los Alamos has plenty of both.   Behind barbed wire and security checkpoints, the eight inspectors are working in an anonymous-looking building known as "Technical Area 66."

Peter Santi, who is heading the training for Los Alamos, takes me across the classroom to pick up some pure plutonium oxide. It’s sealed in a metal container about the size of a paint can. (Full Story)

Big quakes can trigger other shakes thousands of miles sway

Geologic fault system in Utah. From Smithsonian.

On April 11, 2012, an 8.6 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean shook the Sumatran coast. Only a day later—3,900 miles (6,230 km) away—seismologists detected a set of smaller temblors rattling the eastern coast of Japan.

But this was no aftershock, those smaller rumblings that usually occur in the aftermath of an intense seismic event. Yet the two quakes may still have been related, according to a team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"In any kind of fault, you have everything from fractured rock to granular material," says Andrew A. Delorey, a geophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who led the recent study. (Full Story)

Researchers find cascading elastic perturbation likely contributed to small earthquakes in Japan

Seismicity in Japan detected with inter-station seismic coherence. By Andrew Delorey.

A team of researchers with members from Los Alamos National Laboratory, MIT and the University of Tokyo, has found evidence that suggests elastic disturbance caused by one earthquake may be one of the causes of another earthquake occurring in a far distant location.

In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the team describes their study of seismic activity in Japan following an earthquake that occurred in the Indian Ocean, just days before. (Full Story)

Also in R&D Magazine

Rings of fire: New explosives provide enhanced safety, high energy

Explosives chemist David Chavez, LANL Photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory explosives chemist David Chavez has synthesized a pair of novel molecules, one possessing a unique fused three-ring structure. These materials could usher in a new class of explosives that provide high-energy output with enhanced safety.

"There is a general trend that the higher the performance of an energetic material, the more sensitive the material is to insults such as impact, spark and friction," Chavez said. (Full Story)

Also in the Los Alamos Daily Post

Lab directors speak at 20-year stockpile stewardship anniversary event

Oct. 20, LANL Director Charlie McMillan, along with the directors of LLNL and Sandia, spoke at an event marking the 20th anniversary of the nation’s stockpile stewardship program. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz also gave remarks.

With funding from ASCI, the computer industry has already installed three computer systems, one at Sandia National Laboratories (built by Intel), one at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) (an SGI-Cray computer), and another at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) (an IBM computer), that can sustain more than 1 teraflops on real applications. (Full Story)

Penguin Computing to build 7-9 petaflops of open compute clusters for NNSA

Penguin Tundra server sled, from Inside HPC

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced a contract with Penguin Computing for a set of large-scale Open Compute HPC clusters. With 7-to-9 Petaflops of aggregate peak performance, the systems will be installed as part of NNSA’s tri-laboratory Commodity Technology Systems program. Scheduled for installation starting next year, the systems will bolster computing for national security at Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories. (Full Story)

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Science on the Hill: Jumpstarting the carbon capture industry

Amount and type of CO2 emissions vary across the
United States. LANL graphic.

Carbon capture, utilization, and storage can provide a crucial bridge between our current global energy economy and a cleaner, more diversified energy future. Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Ohio State University and the National Energy Technology Laboratory have demonstrated that this approach is technically feasible and poised for full-scale roll-out.

Carbon capture involves diverting and compressing byproduct carbon dioxide gas (CO2) at the flue of coal-fired power plants and other emitters and subsequently transporting it in dedicated pipelines for injection into deep geologic reservoirs.

Los Alamos lab releases new HIV-1 vaccine design insights

Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory recently developed a computational model to transform how researchers evaluate possibilities for vaccines for HIV-1.

The new mathematical model examines the way that broadly neutralizing antibodies coevolve alongside HIV. The scientists stimulated several viral strains as well as antibody populations into co-evolution to demonstrate how the antibodies develop late after the infection is settled in the body. The late development is because of competition with the highly specific antibody response against the dominant viral species.

NM labs crucial in tech transfer

Jetta Wong, Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Sen.Tom Udall,

listen to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, during a roundtable
 discussion. Journal photo.

The U.S. Department of Energy is markedly stepping up efforts to promote commercialization of new technologies from DOE laboratories nationwide, and New Mexico’s labs are playing a critical role in the process.

Jetta Wong, acting director of the DOE’s new Office of Technology Transitions, was in New Mexico on Wednesday with three senators — Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and New Mexico Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich — to participate in meetings and tours at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

Funding for Native American ventures gains traction — fourth round is launched

Native American businesses and entrepreneurs around New Mexico stand to benefit from the latest round of funding from the Native American Venture Acceleration Fund (NAVAF) — a fund overseen by Los Alamos National Laboratory’s parent company, Los Alamos National Security LLC.

According to Kathy Keith, director of community programs at LANL, applications for the fourth round of funding are being accepted through Nov. 13 and awards will be made in late December and early January 2016.

'The Martian' might be the most realistic space movie ever made

Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay for "The Martian," grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico — a town that was literally built around Los Alamos National Laboratory and is populated "entirely [by] rocket scientists," according to Goddard. At a panel discussion following a screening of the movie in New York, Goddard spoke about how the book captured the reality of the scientific culture that he recognized from his upbringing.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Mars once had stable, liquid water lakes

Gale Crater, NASA image.

Remote observational data suggest that large bodies of standing water existed on the surface of Mars in its early history. This would have required a much wetter climate than that of the present, implying greater availability of water on a global basis and enhanced potential for global habitability.

Co-authors include Roger Wiens, Space Remote Sensing, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and David Vaniman, retired LANL scientist.

Our observations suggest that individual lakes were stable on the ancient surface of Mars for 100 to 10,000 years, a minimum duration when each lake was stable both thermally (as liquid water) and in terms of mass balance. (Full Story)

Also from KRQE-TV

Mars water discovery's New Mexico connection

Roger Wiens, LANL photo.

This week’s announcement of the discovery of flowing water on Mars has thrilled space-lovers world-wide. And this discovery has a New Mexico connection. Roger Wiens leads a team at Los Alamos National Lab that developed ChemCam, an instrument aboard Curiosity that allows the rover to rapidly identify what Martian rocks and soil are made of. Roger and his team are hard at work on an even more powerful instrument, the SuperCam, to be installed on a rover that will be launched in 2020. (Listen Here)

Scientists in New Mexico confirm droughts kill large trees first

Nathan McDowell, LANL image.

After studying records of forests across the world, researchers in New Mexico have confirmed a long-held hypothesis among scientists that larger trees are the first ones to die during droughts.

“Old trees, big trees, do a lot of the heavy lifting for ecosystems in many ways,” said study co-author Nate McDowell, a forest ecologist and plant physiologist for Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Alternative energy key to a greener future

Rod Borup, left, and David Langlois simulate drive cycles on a fuel cell test station, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a Department of Energy - Fuel Cells Technologies Office-funded project to enhance the performance and durability of polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, while simultaneously reducing their cost.

“The cost and durability of current PEM fuel cells is a major barrier to their commercial use for stationary or transportation power generation,” said Rod Borup, director for the five-institution fuel cell consortium. (Full Story)

Also from the Los Alamos Daily Post

First stars may lurk in our galactic neighborhood

Some very old stars in the Milky Way, such as HE 0107-5240 (arrow), might be first-generation stars in disguise.

They’re hiding among us. Some of the first stars to appear in the universe might still be lurking in the Milky Way, masked by nearly 13 billion years of cosmic pollution.

Computer simulations indicate that relatively lightweight first-generation stars might be scattered throughout the galaxy. Observations have yet to turn up any but that’s because exposure to interstellar dust and gas make the few remaining first stars look younger than they are, Jarrett Johnson, an astronomer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, suggests in the Nov. 1 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. (Full Story)

New Mexico scientist says ‘The Martian’ mostly accurate

Nina Lanza, LANL photo.

Like thousands around the country, Nina Lanza was thrilled to get her ticket to see box office hit “The Martian” this weekend.

Lanza, a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Lab who studies Mars, was interested to see how much the movie would get right when it comes to the science. Lanza works on the ChemCam team. ChemCam is a laser instrument on board the Curiosity rover. (Full Story)

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Big trees first to die in severe droughts
Image from SciAm.

Physics and gravity are factors large trees have to deal with. Imagine trying to suck up water from a straw that is 5 feet tall versus a few inches, said Nathan McDowell, a researcher with the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“Being tall, it’s harder to suck water,” said McDowell, a co-author of the paper. In fact, he said, big trees do a lot for a forest ecosystem that their smaller counterparts cannot. Some species, such as the spotted owl, only live in big trees. Large trees provide shade for the forest ecosystem and keep the understory of forests cool and more humid. (Full story)

Also from Smithsonian Science News

Study reveals urban smoke absorbs sunlight, exacerbating climate warming
Downtown Los Angeles, from EPA.

The new measurements resolve carbon particles that are of several types, each with its own effect on climate,” said project leader Manvendra Dubey of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Black carbon, from both city-related biomass combustion, is the most sunlight absorbing. Brown carbon, from sources such as residential wood combustion and forest fires, is the component that is missing in most climate models and can be a significant absorber of sunlight, making it as bad for climate warming as black carbon,” Dubey said. (Full story)

Physicists observe weird quantum fluctuations of empty space—maybe
NASA image.

Empty space is anything but, according to quantum mechanics: Instead, it roils with quantum particles flitting in and out of existence. Now, a team of physicists claims it has measured those fluctuations directly.

"There are many experiments that have observed indirect effects of vacuum fluctuations," says Diego Dalvit, a theorist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who was not involved in the current work. "If this [new experiment] is correct, it would be the first direct observation of the field [of fluctuations] itself." (Full story)

Titan helps unpuzzle decades-old plutonium perplexities
Comparison of prediction (right) with
experimental observations (left) from ORNL.

Lead scientist Marc Janoschek of Los Alamos National Laboratory and his team performed neutron scattering experiments to obtain physical confirmation to prove once and for all that plutonium's dynamical magnetism wasn't just a theory. In his recent paper published in the journal Science Advances, Janoschek discussed the team's findings.

From the ARCS measurements, the team determined the fluctuations carry varying numbers of electrons in plutonium's outer valence shell. This determination also explained why abnormal changes occur in the differing phases of plutonium's volume. (Full story)

Why Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, and others are betting on fusion
Tri-Alpha Energy in Irvine, Calif., has reportedly
raised $140 million. Tri-Alpha photo 

At this point no one knows which—if any—of these private-sector ventures will prevail, and achieving fusion won’t be easy. Says Glen Wurden, a team leader at the plasma physics group at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“To get funding, small companies have to promise the moon. There’s a long history where promises have been made and not kept. When you hear a private company say it will have a technology in five years, you roll your eyes.” Critics also say these startups are building on technology that was rejected decades ago by government labs or that still hasn’t been proved. (Full story)

Enzymatic fuel cells are creeping slowly along thanks to gold nanoclusters
Gold clusters, LANL image.

Los Alamos tackled one key problem, which is the ability of the enzyme-active sites to accept and donate electrons. The problem is that the active sites are typically “buried” under the surface of the enzymes, making it difficult to transfer electrons back and forth to the electrode.

The solution was to develop a mediator or “relaying agent” that would enhance electron transfer, and more specifically, one that requires the least amount of energy input to get the job done. (Full story)

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