Friday, November 16, 2018

Using sound to ‘see’ through solid objects

Guest column's author, Christian Pantea, LANL image.

To foil supervillains, Superman relies on his X-ray vision to see through shielded objects to expose dangerous items, such as explosives laced with kryptonite. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, a team of scientists in the Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices group have invented a technology that works somewhat like Superman’s X-ray vision.

Instead of eye beams, this new technology, known as ACCObeam (Acoustic Collimated Beam), uses a new type of sound beam to pierce through physical barriers such as cement, rock and metal and produce high-resolution images of what lies beyond, be it an explosive hidden in a suitcase or an unstable oil well deep in the earth that could fracture and collapse at any given moment. (Full Story)

Los Alamos, NNSA and Cray deploy Arm supercomputer

Cray XC50, Cray image.

“For too long, the community has been driving for peak operations per watt, while mission-critical, national security applications have extracted fewer usable operations per peak FLOPS (floating-point operations per second) even after spending enormous time and energy revamping applications to mate to machines on this peak FLOPS quest,” Gary Grider, leader of the HPC Division at Los Alamos, said.

“Our focus is on fostering efforts and systems that enable efficient mission-focused computing at extreme scale. The simulations run at Los Alamos use highly irregular data structures that require high-fidelity, multi-physics applications that utilize petascale datasets and workflows for the security of the nation.”(Full Story)

The secret history of plasma weapons

Pre-prototype proof-of-concept PIKL laser, 1992, from Popular Mechanics.

Twenty-five years ago, inside a classified facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory, researchers test-fired a new type of laser. The target: a piece of wet chamois leather meant to simulate human skin. The intense laser pulse lasted just a few microseconds, but created a brilliant flash and a loud bang, as though the leather had been hit by an explosive projectile.

Those early 1990s tests were part of the Pentagon's plan to develop a more effective nonlethal way to engage a target—an area where the services have experienced chronic shortcomings. (Full Story)

Quantum computing companies to watch

Super-cooled quantum chip, Rigetti photo.

Founded in 2013, Berkeley startup Rigetti Computing offers a “hybrid quantum computing platform” that’s available now – well, as an invite-only beta. So what have people been doing on the Rigetti platform? Los Alamos National Lab also used the Rigetti platform to learn a quantum algorithm primitive called the SWAP test. It’s detailed in a paper titled “Learning the quantum algorithm for state overlap” which also makes mention of “IBM’s quantum computers." (Full Story)

Physicist Donald Sandoval is a master of the loom

Donald Sandoval is a fifth generation weaver, LANL photo.

Donald Sandoval, of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Primary Physics group, stands before a loom made by his father and weaves a tapestry. The weaving process itself is not too complicated but does take time, so Sandoval’s mind tends to wander. His thoughts often venture to his day job as a mechanical engineer supporting the Lab’s national security mission. Sandoval said he has often solved complicated engineering and mathematical problems while working at the loom. (Full Story)

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Science Daily Levitating particles could lift nuclear detective work

laser tweezers
Los Alamos scientists Alexander Malyzhenkov
and Alonso Castro demonstrate levitating uranium
particles with laser beams. LANL photo.

Laser-based 'optical tweezers' could levitate uranium and plutonium particles, thus allowing the measurement of nuclear recoil during radioactive decay. This technique provides a new method for conducting the radioactive particle analysis essential to nuclear forensics

"Our idea relies on trapping a particle using 'optical tweezers,' a technique which is the subject of this year's Nobel prize in Physics," said Alonso Castro of the Lab's Actinide Analytical Chemistry group. (full story)

APS physicsDetecting nuclear decay with recoil

levitating particles

Small particles levitated in an optical trap can recoil from radioactive decays in a way that identifies their nuclear composition, a new theoretical study suggests. Alonso Castro and colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, propose a novel way to identify isotopic compositions of nuclear material by measuring the recoil of radioactive particles suspended in laser beams.

In nuclear decay, an unstable atom transmutes into a stable daughter atom and emits a gamma ray, an alpha particle, or a beta particle. The emission carries with it some momentum, and so the daughter atom responds by moving in the opposite direction. (full story)

federal computer weekNational Labs bring emerging tech to bear on grid security

grid sunset

Federal researchers are looking to leverage quantum computing, artificial intelligence and dedicated networks to help shield electric grid networks from remote cyber attackers as well as physical exploits involving unauthorized access to infrastructure.

"Fiber systems are relatively easy to tap. You put a bend in a cable, and the photons shoot right of there," Alia Long, lead development researcher in cyber-physical systems in Los Alamos National Lab's Advanced Research in Cyber Systems group. (Full story)

next platformARM is the NNSA’s new secret weapon

cray xc50
Cray XC-50, Cray image.

Los Alamos has invested heavily recently in standard Intel-based machines recently without the bells and whistles of other leadership class national lab machines in order to stay focused on mission versus tuning to exotic systems, and while that has changed with the introduction of Marvell (formerly Cavium) 64-bit ThunderX2 into the NNSA supercomputer fleet, Deputy Division Leader on the HPC side at LANL, Gary Grider, tells us that the jump to Arm was far easier than one might imagine, even with some of the world’s most complex simulation codes. (Full story)

vectorThe Melting Arctic: And why it’s important to the rest of society

arctic ice melt aerial

The Arctic is turning green. It is not snowing or getting colder—instead, plants are growing in the cold tundra. A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory recently conducted research that supports that areas of the Arctic, which were once frozen for thousands of years, are now thawing. Along with signs of green life flourishing in the region, increasing amounts of permafrost are beginning to melt.

According to Dr. Cathy Wilson of the Los Alamos lab, the melting of permafrost happens “as insulating snow accumulates atop tall shrubs, it boosts significant ground warming.” But why is the melting Arctic important to the rest of society? (Full story)

ABQ biz firstNew management team takes over at LANL

Thom Mason 01
Laboratory Director Thom Mason,
LANL photo.

On Nov. 1, Los Alamos National Laboratory began operating under the purview of Triad National Security LLC, a limited liability company consisting of Battelle Memorial Institute, the regents of the University of California and the regents of Texas A&M University. Fluor Federal Services, Huntington Ingalls Industries/Stoller Newport News, Longenecker & Associates, TechSource, Strategic Management Solutions and Merrick & Co. will support Triad National Security LLC in the performance of this contract. (Full story)

ABQ Journal LogoLANL group gives $70K in grants to 5 nonprofits

lanl msc

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Major Subcontractors Consortium, in partnership with New Mexico Community Foundation and Los Alamos National Security, has awarded a total of $70,000 in 2018 grants to five economic development nonprofits in the northern part of the state.

LANL MSC is a collaboration of 36 major LANL subcontractors that pool funds to support economic development projects serving the counties of Rio Arriba, Los Alamos, Mora, San Miguel, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos, as well as the Pueblos in those counties. (Full story)