Friday, July 20, 2018

Feeding plants to this algae could fuel your car

Amanda Barry of Los Alamos’s Bioenergy
and Biome Sciences group, lead author on
the study. LANL photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and partner institutions provided today the first published report of algae using raw plants as a carbon energy source. The research shows that a freshwater production strain of microalgae, Auxenochlorella protothecoides, is capable of directly degrading and utilizing non-food plant substrates, such as switchgrass, for improved cell growth and lipid productivity, useful for boosting the algae's potential value as a biofuel. (Full story)

Also from the LA Daily Post

Raspberry Pi supercomputers: From DIY clusters to 750-board monsters

The Los Alamos cluster, LANL photo.

The Los Alamos National Lab (LANL) machine serves as a supercomputer testbed and is built from a cluster of 750 Raspberry Pis, which may later grow to 10,000 Pi boards.

According to Gary Grider, head of its LANL's HPC division, the Raspberry Pi cluster offers the same testing capabilities as a traditional supercomputing testbed, which could cost as much as $250m. In contrast 750 Raspberry Pi boards at $35 each would cost just under $48,750, though the actual cost of installing the rack-mounted Pi clusters, designed by Bitscope, would likely be more. (Full story)


ScienceFest loaded with experiments

Ada Mjolsness works on connecting wires
between a hand crank and an electric motor.
Monitor photo.

At the Bradbury Science Museum booth, Ada Mjolsness, 7, was hooking wires to a small motor that she powered with a hand crank as mom and dad watched.

“It’s an amazing event. We’re shocked at how many things there are to do,” said Ada’s mother, Lora. “They can actually, touch, feel and experiment. To me that’s the key to getting kids interested in science. (Full story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Public gets first tour Manhattan Project sites

Built in 1944, the Battleship Bunker supported
implosion diagnostic tests for the Fat Man bomb.
NNSA photo.

The U. S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s Los Alamos Field Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory partnered with the U. S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, for a pilot tour of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos Thursday and Friday as part of  ScienceFest.

“I believe today’s tour provided a meaningful experience to all the participants and we look forward to planning the next one,” said Steve Goodrum, NNSA Los Alamos field office manager. (Full story)

Friday, July 13, 2018

To find life on Mars, we'll need new orbiters, more advanced rovers, and humans

LANL's Nina Lanza, LANL photo.

It’s a bright, hot June day at the InterPlanetary Festival in Santa Fe. Los Alamos National Lab is out vaporizing rocks for passers-by. On the stage, Nina Lanza, a staff scientist at Los Alamos, is talking Mars.

“There is methane currently in the atmosphere on Mars,” she says, “and it’s not just there constantly, it’s little puffs that appear to be seasonal.” Methane on Earth, she says, comes from volcanoes and life. “Methane doesn’t last long, it lasts on the order of a hundred years … so when we see methane on Mars, we know that something is making it now.” (Full Story)

Targeted radioactive treatment offers promise in cancer treatment

Hot cells at Los Alamos National Laboratory, LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory produces actinium-225 for use in targeted radiotherapy and it will soon be tested on volunteer patients. Early results elsewhere are promising.

A radioactive isotope may sound like something that could do more harm than good when it comes to potential cancer treatments, but actinium-225 has proven to be quite effective in the battle against cancer. Actinium-225 can attach to molecules that target only cancer cells, without harming neighboring health cells. In clinical trials treating late-stage prostate cancer patients, it wiped out the cancer in just three treatments. (Full Story)

From coal, a new source of rare earths

DOE scientists have developed technology that can extract rare-earth elements from aqueous solutions. NETL photo.

Demand for rare-earth elements, which include the lanthanides plus scandium and yttrium, has ticked upward over the past few decades, the Department of Energy (DOE) is investing millions of dollars in projects to develop a potentially sustainable domestic source from coal and coal waste products.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, researchers are investigating whether the separation technology used to extract actinides from uranium can be transferred to extract and recover lanthanide products from coal. (Full Story)

New insights into what might have smashed Uranus over onto its side

Uranus is seen in this false-color view from the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA image.

The gas/ice giant Uranus has long been a source of mystery to astronomers. In addition to presenting some thermal anomalies and a magnetic field that is off-center, the planet is also unique in that it is the only one in the Solar System to rotate on its side.

Thanks to a new study led by researchers from Durham University that includes Los Alamos National Laboratory, the reason for these mysteries may finally have been found. With the help of NASA researchers and multiple scientific organizations, the team conducted simulations that indicated how Uranus may have suffered a massive impact in its past. (Full Story)

New Mexico nuclear weapons laboratory marks 75 years

When J. Robert Oppenheimer invited top scientists, engineers and technicians to New Mexico in 1943 to build the world's first nuclear weapon, no one really knew what the results would be.

The once-secret city of Los Alamos is marking 75 years of discovery at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which still plays a key role in maintaining the United States' nuclear weapons cache. The facility also still conducts research on everything from renewable energy technology to public health concerns and the effects of insects on stressed forests. (Full Story)

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Friday, July 6, 2018

So Long TNT, There's a New Explosive in Town

Courtesy photo.

The chemistry of explosives is a delicate matter. A little less carbon, a little more nitrogen, and the right amount of oxygen can transform a relatively inert substance into quite the showstopper.

For more than 100 years, TNT has been the premier mixture of chemicals for blowing things up, and it's even used as a metric to measure the yield of nuclear explosions and other monumental blasts. But new research out of Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Army Research Laboratory has discovered a new chemical, bis-oxadiazole (C6H4N6O8), that has many of the advantages of TNT, is thought to be less toxic to produce, and makes a bigger bang.

"It would be about 1.5 times the power of TNT," says David Chavez, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos who worked on the new molecule. "So fairly energetic, quite a nice improvement compared to TNT." (Full story)

Making Outer Space Smell Like Fresh Cut Grass

Credit: NASA.

Nina Lanza expected Antarctica to be cold. After all, she and her seven fellow meteorite hunters weren’t allowed to board their transport in New Zealand until they’d proved they’d packed all the necessary gear. And she’d been warned about the endless daylight at their location smack dab in between McMurdo Station and the South Pole. But, as she says, “People try to tell you what it’s like, but it’s hard to describe because it’s so different from your everyday life.”

Lanza, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory who works on the Mars Curiosity rover team, was in Antarctica with this group as part of NASA’s Antarctic Search for Meteorites Project. Antarctica is like the solar system’s asteroid landfill. Pieces of the Moon, Mars, the asteroid Vesta, and fragments of the solar system’s formation are buried under the ice. For five weeks, Lanza would hunt for meteorites, sleeping in close-quarter tents around a group of like-minded explorers. (Full story)

Bringing ‘Doctor Atomic’ to the Birthplace of the Bomb

The test bomb in the Santa Fe production will
not be an exact replica of the original, but a
reflective sphere. Credit: NYT.

The lights of Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, can be seen at night from the idyllic open-air theater of Santa Fe Opera. So around here, John Adams and Peter Sellars’s “Doctor Atomic,” about the bomb and its creators, is not just a meditation on the invention of a weapon that changed the world.

It is also very much a local story — a complicated one.

“One of the most powerful things about doing ‘Doctor Atomic’ here is to make a history from New Mexico,” said Mr. Sellars, who assembled the opera’s libretto from historical sources, directed its premiere in 2005 and is rethinking aspects of it for the new Santa Fe production he is creating, which opens on July 14 and runs through Aug. 16. (Full story)

LANL marks 75 years of discovery

Laboratory Director Terry Wallace
speaks at the 75th Anniversary celebration.
Credit: Los Alamos Monitor.

When J. Robert Oppenheimer invited the world’s top scientists, physicists, engineers and technicians to Los Alamos in 1943 to build the world’s first nuclear weapon, no one really knew what the results were going to be.

What they did know however, was that they had to succeed at all costs, as intelligence reports told them the Axis Powers were working toward the same goal. Seventy-five years later, just yards away from where plans for the first nuclear bomb were developed, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 11th director, Terry Wallace, talked about what Oppenheimer’s plans meant to the world, and New Mexico’s future.

“Over a series of lectures, they came up with a plan, and that plan was to do something they had never done before,” Wallace said. “… They weren’t going to be just physicists, they weren’t going to be just chemists, they weren’t going to be just engineers they had to be able to have the world’s best technicians, they had to be able to have the world’s best craft to be able to build the facilities around us.” (Full story)

Monday, July 2, 2018

Study: Warm winters could aid spread of bark beetles

Warmer temperatures allow Bark Beetles to
expand their range. Courtesy photo.

It’s been more than a decade since a bark beetle epidemic wiped out swaths of piƱon trees around Santa Fe, but a growing body of research predicts that warming winters could spell trouble for beetle-prone conifers in the area — and beyond.

A new study by Los Alamos National Laboratory is the first large-scale analysis to demonstrate that higher temperatures allow the destructive beetle to multiply rapidly and expand its range. (Full story)

Researchers report first nanostructured material for broad mixing of light waves

Courtesy photo.

A multicolor laser pointer you can use to change the color of the laser with a button click—similar to a multicolor ballpoint pen—is one step closer to reality thanks to a new tiny synthetic material made at Sandia National Laboratories.

The metamaterial was made using processes borrowed from semiconductor device fabrication. This fabrication was conducted at several Sandia facilities including Sandia's Microsystems Engineering, Sciences, and Applications complex and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility jointly operated with Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

LANL: Exploring Carbon Nanotube Optics As Pathway For Quantum Information Processing

Depiction of a carbon nanotube defect site
generated by functionalization of a nanotube
with a simple organic molecule.

Researchers at Los Alamos and partners in France and Germany are exploring the enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes as single-photon emitters for quantum information processing. Their analysis of progress in the field is published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature Materials.

“We are particularly interested in advances in nanotube integration into photonic cavities for manipulating and optimizing light-emission properties,” said Stephen Doorn, one of the authors, and a scientist with the Los Alamos National Laboratory site of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT). “In addition, nanotubes integrated into electroluminescent devices can provide greater control over timing of light emission and they can be feasibly integrated into photonic structures. We are highlighting the development and photophysical probing of carbon nanotube defect states as routes to room-temperature single photon emitters at telecom wavelengths.” (Full story)


Friday, June 22, 2018

How scientists discovered a new way to produce actinium-225, a rare medical radioisotope

A single patient with end-stage prostate cancer. The first 
before treatment with actinium-225, the second after three 
doses, and the third after an additional dose.

Scientists have figured out how to harness actinium-225's power for good. They can attach it to molecules that can home in on only cancer cells. In clinical trials treating late-stage prostate cancer patients, actinium-225 wiped out the cancer in three treatments.

"There is no residual impact of the prostate cancer. It's remarkable," said Kevin John, a researcher at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Los Alamos National Laboratory. Actinium-225 and treatments derived from it have also been used in early trials for leukemia, melanoma, and glioma. (Full story)

Also from Newswise

Researchers investigate enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for quantum computing

A carbon nanotube defect site generated by functionalization 
of a nanotube with a simple organic molecule. LANL graphic.

Scientists at Los Alamos and partners in Germany and France are investigating the enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes to be used as single-photon emitters in quantum information processing. Their analysis of progress in the field has been reported in the recent edition of the journal Nature Materials.

“We are particularly interested in advances in nanotube integration into photonic cavities for manipulating and optimizing light-emission properties,” said Stephen Doorn, one of the authors and a scientist with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Beetles exploit warm winters to expand range, study confirms

Bark beetles have killed millions of trees, LANL photo.

Anew study by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and colleagues confirms that increasing minimum winter temperatures allow beetles to expand their range but reveals that overcrowding can put the brakes on population growth.

"It has long been predicted that warming winters will allow range expansion. This is the first large dataset that demonstrates that warmer winter temperatures are likely allowing mountain pine beetles to establish outside of their native range," said Devin Goodsman, a Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher and first author on the report. (Full story)

Also in the Daily Post

This ghostly subatomic particle could help us understand dark matter

LSND at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

The Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector, or LSND collaboration used a beam of neutrinos generated by the accelerator complex at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for their research. But what they found was that their measurement was inconsistent with the reports of other scientists. The only way they could make sense of their measurements was if there existed not three types of neutrinos participating in neutrino oscillations, but rather four or more. (Full story)

Using 1 trillion files helps scientist find a needle in a haystack

Bradley Wade Settlemyer.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist having trouble solving a stubborn research problem needed some help – his scientific simulations had generated a sea of data, but it took so long to search the data that he couldn’t find the information he needed. He found himself looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. At the same time, the lab’s storage research team had been hard at work on another classic big data problem: creating massive numbers of files as quickly as possible. The day the team met with the scientist, you could say that Big Science and Big Data put their heads together – and now they’re making history. (Full story)

Physical acoustics summer school hosted by UM

Demo at the 2018 Physical Acoustics Summer 
School. UM photo.

Sometimes the quickest introduction to cutting-edge physical acoustics is questioning why a whistling bottle rocket whistles.

That’s why Greg Swift, a member of the Condensed Matter and Magnet Science Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, held a bottle rocket – unlit – in a ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss earlier this month (June 3-8) during the 2018 Physical Acoustics Summer School, or PASS. (Full story)

Friday, June 15, 2018

TNT could be headed for retirement after 116 years on the job

Explosives chemist David Chavez, LANL photo.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory in Aberdeen, Maryland have developed a novel "melt-cast" explosive material that could be a suitable replacement for Trinitrotoluene, more commonly known as TNT.

"The Army and the Laboratory, through the Joint Munitions Program, have been looking for a TNT replacement," said David Chavez, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos. "Something with non- or low-toxicity that has the right melting point so it can be liquified and cast, for use in a variety of munitions." (Full Story)

Also from Laboratory Equipment

How satellite imagery could combat infectious diseases around the world

When researchers at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the country’s most important national security labs, were looking to study how to forecast dangerous infectious diseases like dengue, they knew they had a few tools at their disposal.

The idea, recalls Sara Del Valle, a leader of LANL’s epidemiological forecasting team, is that people often go online to check symptoms they may be feeling before they visit a doctor. “Because dengue is one of the common diseases in Brazil,” Del Valle says, “we could see a lot of interest in dengue on Google, [people searching] about 25 different terms, like ‘mosquito,’ ‘dengue,’ the names of mosquitoes,” and so on. (Full Story)

Seafloor cables that carry the world’s Internet traffic can also detect earthquakes

Fiber optic cables shuttle internet and telecom traffic between continents. From Science.

A technique described online in Science this week promises to take advantage of more than 1 million kilometers of fiber optic cables that criss-cross the ocean floors and carry the world's internet and telecom traffic. By looking for tiny changes in an optical signal running along the cable, scientists can detect and potentially locate earthquakes.

By filling in the "seismic desert" in the ocean crust and showing where seafloor earthquakes occur and how often, the method could illuminate new fault structures and regions where tectonic plates are colliding or rifting apart, says Charlotte Rowe, a seismologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Full Story)

Powering an outpost on Mars or the moon
Kilopower control room, LANL photo.

New concepts for nuclear reactors that would have the ability to generate power for long-term space missions stalled in the 1970s, according to David Poston, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Designs hit roadblocks due to high costs or complicated mechanics.

In the most advanced testing any model has reached in four decades, scientists from LANL and NASA recently put their Kilopower reactor – a small system they say opens doors for astronaut outposts on the moon or Mars, as well as quicker, more efficient scientific missions into deep space – through its paces. (Full Story)

 Get with the program

LANL astrophysicist Mark Galassi, SF Reporter photo.

The world of children’s computer programming is brimming with toy-like interfaces that allow the user to build an ice cream cone or make a tortoise walk across the monitor to pleasing visual effect.

"And it gets you no closer to the real business of programming," says Mark Galassi, an astrophysicist at Los Alamos National Lab. This is part of why he runs a 10-hour, one-weekend crash course at the Santa Fe Public Library called Serious Computer Programming for Youth. (Full Story)

Scientists go deep to quantify perovskite properties

Perovskite structure, LANL illustration.

Scientists led by Rice University and Los Alamos National Laboratory have discovered electronic properties in quantum-scale devices that are likely to impact the growing field of low-cost perovskite based optoelectronics.

In an open-access Nature Communications paper, researchers led by Los Alamos scientists Aditya Mohite and Jean-Christophe Blancon, both of whom will join Rice this summer, studied the behavior of excitons trapped in quantum wells made of crystalline, halide-based perovskite compounds. (Full Story)
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