Friday, April 28, 2017

Antarctica has a network of meltwater rivers that is much larger than previously thought

Reuters image.     

The effects of warming global temperatures are already being felt in the Antarctic, says Stephen Price, a meltwater researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

"Ice shelves are very flat, and essentially lie at sea level. So a small increase in temperature at sea level can translate to an increase in temperature over a very large area of an ice shelf," Dr. Price tells the Monitor via email. "If temperatures at sea level are already near the melting point, then small increases in temperature could lead to huge areas of the surface of ice shelves that were previously frozen becoming melted, for at least part of the year." (Full story

Seven amazing women in tech you need to know

Sara Del Valle, LANL image.

Sara Del Valle, Computational Epidemiologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory – We use mathematical equations to describe how diseases spread. Then we use computer science to create simulations like what you see in computer and video games. We can ask, “What happens if there’s a virus in an airport? Or in a school?” then simulate how the virus spreads. Usually we rely on code from existing packages, but sometimes we write our own from scratch.

Even though I'm a mathematician, I lead a team of computer scientists, software developers, and statisticians. The software developers build the simulations and add new capabilities to the code.  (Full story)

Evidence that dark matter emits gamma rays weakened

Cluster of galaxies EMSS 1358+6245 about 4
billion light years from Earth, NASA image.      

New evidence shows that radiation of gamma rays from dark matter is less convincing, as other parts of galaxies also emit excessive gamma ray. This leaves the dark matter to remain the biggest mystery.

“What I see in the control regions looks just like what I see in the galactic center,” Astrophysicist Andrea Albert of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico who also participated in the analysis said. “That's a bummer.”

Gamma rays radiation was previously believed was emitted by dark matter as its signature of activities. However, this finding has weakened the case of dark matter. (Full story)

Researchers hope breakthrough will lead to better test for bovine TB


Scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory say they have made a breakthrough that could lead to a quick blood test for bovine tuberculosis. Harshini Mukundan, leader of the lab’s biomedical applications team, said they came up with the idea after speaking with local ranchers.

"It is kind of incredible that when one cow is potentially infected the whole herd may have to be culled," she said. "If you could have a process that you could run on all of the animals and say, 'yes, this one has been infected' and 'no, this has not,' then obviously a lot of that time and economic burden could be reduced." (Full story)

Managing disease spread through accessible modeling

Influenza A.           

A new computer modeling study from Los Alamos National Laboratory is aimed at making epidemiological models more accessible and useful for public-health collaborators and improving disease-related decision making.

"In a real-world outbreak, the time is often too short and the data too limited to build a really accurate model to map disease progression or guide public-health decisions," said Ashlynn R. Daughton, a graduate research assistant at Los Alamos and doctoral student at University of Colorado, Boulder. She is lead author on a paper out last week in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal. (Full story)

Jaqueline L. Kiplinger to receive award for pioneering contributions to chemistry

Jaqueline Kiplinger, LANL photo.       

Jaqueline Kiplinger, Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow within the Inorganic, Isotope and Actinide Chemistry Group, is the recipient of the 2017 Violet Diller Professional Excellence Award given triennially by Iota Sigma Pi (the National Honor Society of Women in Chemistry). The award recognizes contributions to chemistry that have had widespread significance to the scientific community or society on a national level.

Kiplinger is an internationally recognized leader in f-element chemistry, the study of lanthanides and actinides.  Kiplinger came to Los Alamos as the first Frederick Reines Postdoctoral Fellow in 1999.  (Full story)

Friday, April 21, 2017

New asteroid study suggests Hollywood is wrong about ocean impacts

Asteroid impacts far from a shoreline are unlikely to travel far, LANL image.

When an asteroid hits the middle of the ocean in Hollywood movies, it creates devastating waves that wipe out coastal cities. But new simulations reveal that real asteroids don’t make such a splash. That’s because the crash releases most of its energy hurling water up into the atmosphere, and very little on making waves.

"The folklore has been that tsunamis from impactors will be the danger," Galen Gisler, who studies the physics of geological processes at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference. "The splash wave can be very dangerous — out to tens of kilometers — but beyond that, they fall away more sharply.” (Full Story)

Detection of ghostly particles could unmask illicit nuclear weapons

North Korea's Yongbyon facility in 2008, from SciAm.

Weapons-grade fuel in a nuclear reactor emits a steady rate of telltale antineutrinos that could be detected by a newly designed portable device.

Patrick Jaffke, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the new proposal, suggests a small version that could be placed close to a reactor to determine the type of nuclear fuel within by analyzing the activity of antineutrinos. His design would measure the spectrum and shape of the initial Cherenkov flash and thus the energy of the progenitor antineutrinos from the positrons. (Full Story)

 What is the universe made of?

European Southern Observatory, from HuffPo.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we have 70-plus years of research in nuclear physics. This, coupled with our ongoing mission to maintain the safety and integrity of the nation’s nuclear stockpile, the lab has a vested interest in knowing everything about the subatomic world, from now to way back then. Experiments on subatomic particles here have led physics deep into the realm of the tiny, where quantum mechanics governs the rules of the game. (Full Story)

Inert nuclear gravity bomb passes first F-16 flight test

F-16, USAF photo.                

An Air Force F-16 aircraft released an inert B61 nuclear bomb in a test recently, demonstrating the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon and testing the functioning of the weapon’s non-nuclear components.

The non-nuclear bomb assembly used for the flight test was designed and manufactured by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories as federally funded research and development centers operating under NNSA. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Los Alamos named tops in diversity

Los Alamos National Laboratory was named a top employer by four diversity magazines: Woman Engineer Magazine and Minority Engineer Magazine named the Lab as a top 20 government employer; Winds of Change (the American Indian Science and Engineering Society) recognized Los Alamos as one of the top 50 science, technology, engineering and mathematics workplaces for Native American professionals; and Latino Leaders Magazine named Los Alamos one of the top 20 best companies for Latinos in technology. (Full Story)

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Science on the Hill: If these (Martian) rocks could talk

ChemCam fires its laser in this NASA illustration.

It’s all about answering a simple question: Could past or present conditions on Mars support life?

To help find out, Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with the French Space Agency CNES, developed an instrument called ChemCam. Although Los Alamos isn’t often associated with space exploration, the Lab has been building and operating instruments since the early 1960s to monitor the space radiation environment and on other missions, as well. (Full story)

Wanna go to Mars? Or at least remotely control a science buggy up there?

Nina Lanza, LANL photo.

Nina Lanza is a staff scientist in the Space and Remote Sensing group at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a member of the ChemCam instrument team for the Curiosity Mars rover. I always love talking to her because her enthusiasm for her work is like that of a kid who’s gotten turned on to science and wants everyone else to share in the discovery. We talk today about what a geologist can do on Mars without going there, how Mars looks a lot like New Mexico, and whether people–maybe even Nina herself–might go there some day. (Full story)

Looking for clues for past life on Mars

Curiosity Rover, NASA image.

On August 6, 2012, the NASA Curiosity rover landed on Mars at the base of Mount Sharp, a mountain the size of Kilimanjaro (roughly 19,000 feet) in the middle of Gale Crater. Nina Lanza, space scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, remembers the day well. As part of the team that built ChemCam, one of the ten instruments on the rover, she spent three months at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, living on “Mars time” to follow Curiosity’s first “steps.” (Full story)

Asteroids are bad at making waves

Ocean asteroid impacts far from a shoreline are unlikely to travel far, LANL image.

"The folklore has been that tsunamis from impactors will be the danger," Galen Gisler, who studies the physics of geological processes at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference last month in The Woodlands, Texas. (Gisler also presented the work at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in December 2016.) He ran 3D simulations that modeled wave formation from falling rocks of various sizes, as shown in this video, and found that the waves formed by smaller asteroids resemble landslide tsunamis on Earth. (Full story)

On-the-range detection technology could corral bovine TB

Mycobacterium bovis causes bovine tuberculosis, LANL photo.

A research breakthrough allowing the first direct, empirical, blood-based, cow-side test for diagnosing bovine tuberculosis (TB) could spare ranchers and the agriculture industry from costly quarantines and the mass slaughter of animals infected with this easily spread disease.

“We have adapted an assay originally developed for human TB to bovine TB, a particular challenge because the bovine disease is caused by a different species of the pathogen,” said Harshini Mukundan, leader of the Chemistry for Biomedical Applications team at Los Alamos National Laboratory (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

UbiQD announces record efficiency from its cadmium-free quantum dots

Prototype quantum dot window, UbiQD photo.

UbiQD, LLC, a New Mexico-based quantum dot manufacturer, announced today that it has achieved greater than 80 percent quantum yield, or optical efficiency, for its quantum dots over a broad spectrum from the visible to the near infra-red.

Licensing technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UbiQD envisions a future where quantum dots are ubiquitous in a wide spectrum of applications. (Full story)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Risk analysis for CO2 sequestration at enhanced oil recovery sites

Schematic of the water-alternating-gas process for enhanced oil recovery, LANL graphic.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an attractive displacing agent for enhanced oil recovery. Because a large portion of the injected CO2 remains in place in depleted reservoirs after enhanced oil recovery, this method could also be an option for permanently sequestering CO2 to mitigate global warming. Los Alamos scientists and collaborators have developed a generic multi-scale statistical framework for CO2 accounting and risk analysis in CO2-enhanced oil recovery sites. This analysis method provides information to aid decision-making for applications of oil recovery and CO2 sequestration. Environmental Science & Technology published the research. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg this week:

Researchers obtain Bose-Einstein condensate with nickel chloride

Research by an international collaboration recently produced the equivalent of a Bose-Einstein condensate using the chemical compound nickel chloride. More importantly, theoretical treatment of the data enabled the researchers to obtain a set of equations that can be applied to other materials that are not characterized as Bose-Einstein condensates.

The investigation proceeded through collaboration with several foreign institutions, such as the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (NHMFL) in Los Alamos, USA, and the similarly named French facility in Grenoble (LNCMI), among others. (Full Story)

More than 100 students receive scholarships from Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund

2017 Gold Scholar Charlyna Gonzales. LANLF photo.

Charlyna Gonzales of Peñasco High School, Khaled Khweis of Taos High School and Wilbur Wang of Los Alamos High School are recipients of the 2017 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund top-level Gold Scholarships. They are among 111 student winners from the seven-county Northern New Mexico region selected to receive 117 scholarships totaling $660,250. (Full Story)
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Friday, March 31, 2017

The mysterious origin of our galaxy’s gold

Many astronomers now believe that the space-quaking merger of two neutron stars can forge the universe’s supply of heavy elements. 

In our galaxy, neutron star mergers could happen as rarely as once every hundred million years, or as often as once every 10 thousand years—rates that differ by a factor of 10,000. “The thing that shook me is: The people who were saying neutron star mergers are going to explain the r process (rapid neutron capture causing nuclei to form heavy elements including uranium and gold) were also taking this highest rate,” said Christopher Fryer, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

When Fryer and colleagues used more moderate guesses about how often neutron star mergers occur and how much r-process material they yield, they found that neutron star mergers can explain only 1 percent of the r-process elements observed in the universe. (Full story)

Research could pave way for novel solar cells

Solar cells and photodetectors could soon be made from new types of materials based on semiconductor quantum dots, thanks to new insights based on ultrafast measurements capturing real-time photoconversion processes, according to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Our latest ultrafast electro-optical spectroscopy studies provide unprecedented insights into the photophysics of quantum dots, and this new information helps perfect the materials’ properties for applications in practical photoconversion devices,” says lead researcher Victor Klimov, a physicist specializing in semiconductor nanocrystals at the national lab. (Full story)

Chemists discover new oxidation state of plutonium

Electron micrograph of single crystalline
plutonium, LANL image.

The chemistry of plutonium — a transuranic radioactive chemical element with symbol Pu and atomic number 94 — has been extensively studied at Los Alamos as part of its essential national security mission since the Manhattan Project of the 1940s, revealing its chemistry to be among the most complex of all elements.

Six oxidation states are known and have been verified: 0 (metallic form) and +3, +4, +5, +6, +7 in molecular systems.

The current work demonstrates that a seventh formal oxidation state (+2) has now been accessed and verified, representing an unexpected new chemical form of plutonium. (Full story)

LANL installs pod for breastfeeding moms, first of its kind in New Mexico

A Mamava unit was installed at the Laboratory,
the first of its kind in New Mexico.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has found a new, more accommodating way to support its breastfeeding employees.

The Mamava pod was installed in the Oppenheimer Study Center last week and LANL already plans to install another in the coming weeks in a more secure area. (Full story)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Breaking the ‘speed limit': Simulation shows monster black holes' rapid growth

Quasar halo simulation containing a supermassive black hole. LANL image.

"It turns out that while supermassive black holes have a growth speed limit, certain types of massive stars do not," said Joseph Smidt, a researcher at the theoretical design division of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the first author on the new work. "We asked, what if we could find a place where stars could grow much faster, perhaps to the size of many thousand suns; could they form supermassive black holes in less time?"

The researchers compared their models to the most distant known energetic galactic center, called a quasar, and one of the most massive of those objects, which is also ancient, to see whether that method could have quickly grown them to full size. (Full Story)

Also from HPC Wire and Space Daily

Quantum dot solar inefficiency source found

Quantum dot solar cells could become more efficient, now that the Los Alamos Lab has uncovered a mechanism that has been holding them back.

The dots are made form electro-optically active materials whose size as well as composition controls the photon energy that they interact with, allowing their absorption (and emission) wavelength to be tuned by particle size. They can also be tuned to deliver multiple electron-hole pairs from one photon, which has allowed quantum dot solar cells to operate at 10% efficiency, according to Los Alamos. (Full Story)

Watch the video

'Flying saucer' quantum dots hold secret to brighter, better lasers

Spherical core of the quantum dot nanoparticle, UT image.

Fresh insights into living cells, brighter video projectors and more accurate medical tests are just three of the innovations that could result from a new way of fabricating lasers.

The new method, developed by an international research team from U of T Engineering, Vanderbilt University, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and others, produces continuous laser light that is brighter, less expensive and more tuneable than current devices by using nanoparticles known as quantum dots. (Full Story)

Uncovering the origins of cancer

Ludmil Alexandrov, New Mexican photo.        

“The question that bothers me and interests me the most is what causes cancer,” said Ludmil Alexandrov, 30, a J. Robert Oppenheimer fellow at Los Alamos, who will spend the next five years studying the mutational fingerprints of more than 5,000 cancer patients around the world.

“If you take any given cancer patient, can you say cancer is caused by A, B, C, D?” Alexandrov said, adding that is “a puzzle in my head that we are trying to solve.”

With the exclusion of cancer related to smoking, Alexandrov said, “Eight out of 10 cancers we cannot explain; we don’t know what caused them.” (Full Story)

Less radiation in inner Van Allen belt than previously believed

Van Allen Probes circle radiation belts, LANL illustration.

The inner Van Allen belt has less radiation than previously believed, according to a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Observations from NASA's Van Allen probes show the fastest, most energetic electrons in the inner radiation belt are actually much rarer and harder to find than scientists expected. This is good news for spacecraft that are orbiting in the region and can be damaged by high levels of radiation. The results will also help scientists better understand -- and detect -- effects from high-altitude nuclear explosions. (Full Story)

Also from the LA Daily Post

Can our grid withstand a solar storm?

When the last really big solar storm hit Earth in 1921, the Sun ejected a burst of plasma and magnetic structures like Zeus hurling a thunderbolt from Mount Olympus. Earth’s magnetic field funneled a wave of electrically charged particles toward the ground, where they induced a current along telegraph lines and railroad tracks that set fire to telegraph offices and burned down train stations.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has been studying space weather for more than 50 years as part of our national security mission to monitor nuclear testing around the globe, and part of that work includes studying how the radiation-saturated environment of near space can affect technology and people. (Full Story)

Scanning tunneling microscopy reveals unexpected optical phonon effect

Optical phonon condensate droplets, LANL image.         

"We did not predict this B-E condensate in our model. This is an absolutely new observation," said Alexander "Sasha" Balatsky of Los Alamos National Laboratory, a coauthor on the paper with a research team from Air Force Research Laboratory, The Pennsylvania State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Nordita Center for Quantum Materials, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University.

The new substance may be useful for phonon-based quantum computers, and it may also shed light on the conditions required to form biological Fröhlich condensates of collective modes. (Full Story)

Featured R&D 100 Award Winner PuLMo

Section of the Pulmonary Lung Model, LANL image.

To avoid lung disease complications, scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed PuLMo: Pulmonary Lung Model—a miniature, tissue-engineered lung platform that precisely mimics the response of human lungs to pharmaceuticals and other agents.

The principal application of PuLMo, a winner of a 2016 R&D 100 award, is to revolutionize the reliability of drug toxicity assessments and better predict the efficacy of a new drug in humans. Since PuLMo is the size of an actual human lung, such miniaturization makes it possible to evaluate multiple units at a time. (Full Story)

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