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)