Friday, January 12, 2018

New Los Alamos boss insists US national security remains top focus for the lab

Terry Wallace, LANL photo.

Geophysicist Terry Wallace has become the 11th director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. With a budget of $2.5bn, Los Alamos currently has almost 12,000 employees and contractors. Taking up office on 1 January, he succeeds nuclear physicist Charles McMillan, who announced his plan to retire last September.

Wallace, 61, completed a BSc in geophysics and mathematics at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology before doing a PhD in geophysics from California Institute of Technology. (Full Story)

Supercomputers tackle antibiotic resistance

Gnana Gnanakaran and the efflux pump model, LANL photo.

Understanding antibiotic resistance starts with understanding bacteria. Bacteria have evolved ways to keep out harmful foreign substances. Many so-called Gram-negative bacteria, which have two cellular membranes, have evolved protein structures called efflux pumps that are lodged between the membranes and expel toxins out of the cell.

One type of efflux pump, which until recently had only been studied piecemeal, was modeled in its entirety and simulated using supercomputers at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The work harnessed the laboratory’s extensive modeling and supercomputing simulation capabilities developed in support of its national security mission. (Full Story)

Astronomers are using AI to study the vast universe — fast

Axios illustration. 

The next generation of powerful telescopes will scan millions of stars and generate massive amounts of data that astronomers will be tasked with analyzing. That’s way too much data for people to sift through and model themselves — so astronomers are turning to AI to help them do it.

The large telescopes that will survey the sky will be looking for transient events — new signals or sources that "go bump in the night," says Los Alamos National Laboratory's Tom Vestrand. (Full Story)

Engineered quantum dots could help lower solar power cost

Double pane solar window, LANL image.

A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory began by incorporating ions of manganese into quantum dots. The ions served as highly emissive impurities and were activated by the light absorbed by the quantum dots. Following activation, the manganese ions emitted light at energies below the quantum-dot absorption onset. This allowed for almost complete elimination of losses due to self-absorption by the quantum dots.

To transform a window into a tandem LSC, the researchers deposited a layer of highly emissive manganese-doped quantum dots onto the surface of the front glass pane, and a layer of copper indium selenide quantum dots onto the surface of the back pane. The front layer absorbed the blue and UV portions of the solar spectrum, while the rest of the spectrum was absorbed by the back layer. (Full Story)

Momentum builds for US exascale

Trinity at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

An important, but sometimes overlooked, aspect of the U.S. exascale program is the number of computing systems that are being procured, tested and optimized by the ASCR and ASC programs as part of the buildup to exascale.

The NNSA has the 14.1 petaflops Trinity system at Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). Up to 20 percent of these precursor machines will serve as testbeds to enable computing science R&D needed to ensure that the U.S. exascale systems will be able to productively address important national security and discovery science objectives. (Full Story)

An argument for space fission reactors

A 10-kilowatt Stirling Power Conversion Unit, NASA Glenn photo.

Critics had said it was impossible to perform an affordable, simple nuclear-powered test in today’s regulatory environment — but the Demonstration Using Flattop Fission experiment, conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory in partnership with NASA in 2012, showed that it is possible.

The Kilowatt Reactor Using Stirling Technology (KRUSTY) experiment, scheduled for completion in early 2018, will show that a flight-like space reactor can be designed, fabricated, and tested for only a few tens of millions of dollars. (Full Story)

Oregon's secret Manhattan Project physicist

Raemer Schreiber assembling an atomic bomb, from the Oregonian.

A key member of the Manhattan Project, Oregon native Raemer Schreiber was among only a handful of nuclear-weapons pioneers who could actually build the bombs being conceived by the top scientific minds in the world.

"Oppenheimer could conceive it," retired Los Alamos National Lab historian Roger Meade says in the documentary. "Teller could conceive it. Bethe could conceive it. But those guys couldn't build it. They couldn't put their hands on it. They couldn't assemble it." (Full Story)

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Los Alamos group hopes bacterial sensor will help doctors better treat infections

Jessica Kubicek-Sutherland demonstrates the process, New Mexican photo.     

Harshini Mukundan’s research team at Los Alamos is working to develop a bacterial sensor to allow doctors to quickly determine the type of infection that is ailing a patient. “Immediate diagnostics that can guide decision-making at that point are unavailable,” Mukundan said.

Because different classes of bacteria are best treated with different types of antibiotics, she added, such a device could ensure speedier and more effective treatment of diseases. “I think we can actually make an impact on health care,” she said. (Full Story)

New double-pane quantum dot solar windows generate power with better efficiency

Double-pane solar windows that generate electricity, LANL image.

Double-pane quantum dot solar window research could lower the cost of solar power, according to lead researcher Victor Klimov, who said in a statement, “Because of the strong performance we can achieve with low-cost, solution processable materials, these quantum-dot-based double-pane windows and even more complex luminescent solar concentrators offer a new way to bring down the cost of solar electricity.” (Full Story)

Also from Daily Energy Insider

LANL year in review for 2017

This has been an eventful year for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Particularly of note was the announcement in September that Director Charlie McMillan would retire Dec. 31. Los Alamos National Security in early December appointed Terry Wallace to replace McMillan as LANL director and president of LANS, the company that manages and operates the Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration. Wallace, 61, told the Los Alamos Daily Post that as a native of Los Alamos there is no greater honor. Wallace becomes the 11th director in the Laboratory’s nearly 75-year history when he takes over the reins Jan. 1. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post in the past two weeks

LANL giving campaign nets $3 million for nonprofits

Employee Giving Champion Mary Hockaday, left, and Kathy Keith of Community Partnerships raise the thermometer for the annual fundraising campaign, Daily Post photo.

In the 2018 Los Alamos Giving Campaign, 1,716 Laboratory employees—more than ever before—have pledged more money than ever before; $2.6 million of this year’s contributions will stay in New Mexico and benefit organizations that improve the quality of life in the state. (Full Story)

Mexican spotted owl population holds steady on LANL property

Mexican Spotted Owl, LANL photo.  

Los Alamos National Laboratory released it’s annual survey earlier this month of three endangered species that live within the 38-square-mile boundaries of its property. The species surveyed included the Mexican spotted owl and others.

The 2017 survey found that a pair of Mexican spotted owls is living and breeding in Threemile Canyon and there is at least one Mexican spotted owl in Mortandad Canyon. There may also be siblings living in Acid Canyon, according to the survey. (Full Story)

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