Friday, July 7, 2017

Designing a Safer Explosive

This Fourth of July, as you and your family settle on a sandy beach or grassy lawn to watch a fireworks display, you’re probably not thinking about the science behind the explosives you’re witnessing. In fact, you probably are not even thinking of them as explosives. But that’s exactly what they are—-and there’s a lot of science that goes into creating that dazzling display of fire and colors.

Fireworks often comprise mixtures of oxidizers and fuels that are ready to participate in combustion chemical reactions. When given enough energy to begin the reaction process, the oxidizers and fuels react to generate heat, smoke and reaction products such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water vapor and nitrogen. The heat generated can be used to excite “coloring agents,” or metal ions, that then emit the colored light we are accustomed to seeing in fireworks. The metal ions commonly used in pyrotechnics are sodium (yellow-orange), calcium (red-orange), barium (green), strontium (red) and copper (blue). (Full story)

How Hollywood and the Army are shaping the future of fireworks

In pursuit of a better bang, two unlikely industries are working to develop greener, cleaner-burning pyrotechnics. Hollywood wants less smoke — and the military doesn't want to contaminate its training sites.

But the new formulations are pricy, and America’s commercial fireworks industry — which made $1.1 billion in revenue last year — is still a long way from changing their decades-old recipes. When the industry’s ready, or when environmental regulations become more stringent, fireworks manufacturers will at least know where to start, says Jesse Sabatini, a scientist with the US Army Research Laboratory who has worked extensively on pyrotechnics. “You’ve got formulations now that are out there, that the companies can take.” (Full story)

‘Halos’ left by water on Mars discovered

The Curiosity rover on Mars took this "selfie" at the foot of the planet's Mount Sharp, which is within the 96-mile-diameter Gale Crater. (Courtesy of NASA)

Water running through the subsurface of Mars lasted longer than previous estimates, according to observations made using the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s “ChemCam” on the Red Planet.

The ChemCam – for chemistry and camera – was developed at Los Alamos in cooperation with the French space agency and is located on NASA’s Curiosity rover. Its laser shoots rocks and analyzes the vaporized materials to discover what elements lie within.

Last year, the rover’s equipment found boron within rock veins in the planet’s huge Gale Crater, evidence of a history of habitable groundwater on Mars. (Full story)

Post-It note art installation supports LGBTQ+ employees

National lab promotes workplace inclusion through an interactive activity supporting LGBTQ+ employees

At Los Alamos National Laboratory—one of the nation’s premier Department of Energy national security laboratories tucked in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains in northern New Mexico—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) employees and their supporters created the Lab’s first Post-It note window art installation on June 6.

In a visible display promoting diversity, hundreds of people jotted words of support on Post-Its. Six windows of the Lab’s centrally located Otowi building third-floor breezeway were transformed into the six vibrant stripes of the iconic gay pride rainbow flag. (Full story)