Friday, July 8, 2016

Fireworks go green

Explosives chemist David Chavez, LANL photo.

As the toxicological profiles of pyrotechnic ingredients are studied further, the regulation of these materials will continue to increase. As an example, until recently red light–producing strontium hadn’t received the regulatory scrutiny of materials such as perchlorates or barium. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a preliminary determination to regulate this element in drinking water. Such regulations will continue to drive scientific research into environmentally friendly ingredients for both civilian and military pyrotechnics. So at places such as ARDEC and Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’re continuing to develop new materials and technologies with an eye toward reduced environmental impact while at the same time ultimately maintaining or improving the performance of military pyrotechnics and the fireworks one might see at Fourth of July celebrations of the future. (Full story)

2D perovskite offered for solar cell research

Perovskite crystal photovoltaic samples, LANL image.

Perovskite-structured materials are causing a stir in the world of solar power conversion, going from  just-working to exceeding the efficiency of some conventional materials in only a few years.
However, they have some serious drawbacks which are keeping them from practical application.
“The challenge has been to find something that works better than 3-D perovskites, which have remarkable photo-physical properties and power conversion efficiencies better than 20%, but are still plagued by poor performance in stress tests of light, humidity and heat,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory, suggesting that 2D perovkites might be more practical in solar cells. (Full story)

Nuclear bomb debris can reveal blast size, even decades later

Trinitite glass formed by the 1945 Trinity Test.

Chemist Susan Hanson and colleagues at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory looked at the element molybdenum in glassy debris created by the Trinity test. Stable molybdenum forms when zirconium from the bomb’s fireball radioactively decays. The relative abundance of different molybdenum isotopes created from this process differs from that found naturally. By measuring the overabundance of certain molybdenum isotopes, researchers can determine the original amount of zirconium created by the explosion. (Full story)

Role of amyloids in type II diabetes

Human amyloid (blue) partially
removing a lipid bilayer, LANL image.

A collaboration between Los Alamos, Yale University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute published research in the journal Langmuir that sheds light on pathological properties of amyloids identified in type II diabetes. Amyloids are unwanted aggregates of proteins in our bodies. Frequently they form fibers or plaques whose presence is correlated with the pathology for many diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and type II diabetes. (Full story)

Curiosity rover has observed high levels of manganese oxides in Martian rocks

Mars Curiosity Rover, NASA/JPL photo.

The only ways to make these manganese materials here on Earth involve atmospheric oxygen or microbes, explained Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at LANL and lead author on the study. ‘Now we’re seeing manganese-oxides on Mars and wondering how the heck these could have formed,’ remarked Lanza, who uses the ChemCam instrument on top of the Curosity rover to analyse the chemical make-up of rocks on Mars. The instrument, which can measure even trace elements, has analysed roughly 1,500 rock and soil samples in the less than four years since Curiosity landed on Mars. (Full story)

How heavier elements are formed in star interiors

NIF experiment simulating stellar nucleosynthesis
fusion reactions, LLNL photo.

"All of the stellar nucleosynthesis reactions - fusion reactions that happen inside stars - produce the elements, but we can't really see inside a star to tell how those reactions are proceeding," said plasma physicist Alex Zylstra of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). "Models of the production of nuclei in the cosmos depend on having accurate data to inform those models. And studying those reactions in conditions that are actually applicable to the interior of stars or to the universe during the Big Bang is very challenging. This experimental campaign is working toward doing that at relevant conditions that can only be achieved at NIF." (Full story)

Looking for meteorites in Antarctica

Antarctic meteorite, Antarctic Sun image.

"This is really a cost-effective way to sample throughout the solar system," said Nina Lanza, a researcher at Los Alamos National Lab. "We're able to sample all of these planetary bodies without leaving home. That's a real bargain in terms of planetary science."

There's never been a space mission that brought back samples from the planet Mars and of the handful of meteorites that scientists identified as originating from the red planet, the vast majority were discovered as Antarctic meteorites. (Full story)

Trinity wrestles with Knights Landing programming challenge

Trinity installation, LANL photo.

Seventy-one years ago, on July 16, 1945, an incredible explosion lit up the New Mexico night sky. This was the Trinity Test, the world’s first nuclear detonation, and it marked the beginning of the Nuclear Age. It also ushered in the age of supercomputers, which essentially began with weapons science at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

Now a new Trinity, a next generation Cray XC supercomputer is about to take center stage to help the national security labs achieve their primary mission – to provide the nation with a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent. (Full story)

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