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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