Friday, March 16, 2018

SMART cables: A new undersea look at earthquakes

Seismic stations record earthquake
activity around the world, LANL image.

An international joint task force is exploring the use of special underwater telecommunications cables to gather geophysical data. Currently, more than 600,000 miles of underwater cables crisscross the ocean floor, but they are deaf, dumb, and blind in the sense that they carry massive amounts of data (such as financial transactions and internet) from end to end, but do little else in between.

The task force, of which Los Alamos National Laboratory is a part, is proposing the next generation of cables, called Science Monitoring and Reliable Telecommunication (SMART) cables, which would be outfitted with scientific sensors every 50 miles or so. (Full story)

Researchers study fundamental interactions in soil communities

Bacteria dot the surface of strands of
fungal hyphae, USDA image.            

An international team of researchers is looking at how bacteria and fungi interact in soil, fundamental scientific research that could lead to advances in plant productivity and bioenergy. The work is led by Patrick Chain, lab research manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and includes researchers from the national lab’s Bioscience Division and the Center for Integrated NanoTechnologies; Vanderbilt University; and the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, and University of Houston. (Full story)

National Science Foundation awards UbiQD Phase II SBIR Grant

UbiQD team members measure the
electrical output of a window prototype,
UbiQD photo.

UbiQD, Inc., a New Mexico-based nanotechnology development company, announced today that it was recently awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

UbiQD is a nanotechnology company based in Los Alamos, New Mexico that manufactures high-performance cadmium-free quantum dots and composite materials. The company’s primary focus is on sunlight-harvesting applications. (Full story)

My internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Frances Zengotita (left) with Dr. Hilary
Emerson, from FIU News.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Frances Zengotita researched the role of Chromohalobacter (a bacterium that can thrive in high salt concentrations) and its potential effect on the transportation of hazardous material in the environment.

She was awarded the internship by the Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM) through the FIU DOE Fellows Program that is housed within the Applied Research Center.

Additionally, as an FIU McNair Fellow the program guided and supported Zengotita by preparing for research via workshops (GRE, NSF proposals, how to apply for graduate school, how to write research reports) and requiring weekly reports to ensure that she was on track. (Full story)

Friday, March 9, 2018

Los Alamos National Lab unveils 21st Century radioactivity sensors

Jonathan Dowell with a Gamma Lighthouse Detector mounted on a HAZMAT robot, LANL photo.

For the future of radioactivity detection, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory looked to nautical history of past centuries.

The “lighthouse detectors,” which are a product of more than six years of development by inventor Jonathan Dowell and colleagues at Los Alamos, adapted the concept of the old-time nautical warning system. But instead of warning sailors away from the hazards of shore, the advanced new tools can alert the presence and direction of radioactivity.

The detectors, which have been honed in size by 80 percent, are now about the size of a peanut butter jar, said officials. (Full Story)

“Let’s Talk Exascale” podcast looks at co-design center for particle-based applications

Tim Germann.

In this Let’s Talk Exascale podcast, Tim Germann from Los Alamos National Laboratory discusses the ECP’s Co-Design Center for Particle Applications (COPA).

“The Co-Design Center for Particle Applications (COPA) is focused on four sub-motifs: short-range particle-particle (e.g., MD and SPH), long-range particle-particle (e.g., electrostatic and gravitational), particle-in-cell, and additional sparse matrix and graph operations of linear-scaling quantum MD. COPA serves as centralized clearinghouse for particle-based methods, and as first users on immature simulators, emulators, and prototype hardware. Deliverables include “Numerical Recipes for Particles” best practices, libraries, and a scalable open exascale software platform.” (Full Story)

Catalysts: high performance lies on the edge

Single iron atoms (bright dots) on nanostructured carbon (dark purple), ORNL photo.

Platinum is not an abundant element, but it is a popular catalyst. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory synthesized a catalyst made from iron, nickel, and carbon. No platinum. The catalyst had the highest activity to date for a platinum group metal (PGM)-free material used in fuel cells. Experiments showed that the iron-nitrogen reactive sites were predominantly located at the surface-exposed edges, or steps, of the carbon. The reactive sites were not inside the carbon as previously predicted.

Atomic-level microscopy offers insight into the success of a PGM-free alternative. It’s based on cheap, abundant elements—iron, nitrogen, and carbon. The insights are guiding future research and development of high-performance PGM-free catalysts. (Full Story)

Students test robot-building skills

Members of the Española Middle School SumoBot team. SUN photo.

Huddled around a series of laptops arranged on two tables pushed together, 13 students from Española Middle School watched as fellow seventh-grader Marcos Johnson Cuevas adjusted a line of code that would change the behavior of the robot they had been working on since the beginning of the semester.

Each Friday, since the beginning of January, Matthew Williams, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and former member of the Los Alamos Public Schools Board of Education, came to Espinoza’s and Abergos’s classes to help them design and build their robot. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Kilowatt nuclear reactor could play role in powering manned missions on Mars

LANL’s Dave Poston on News 8.

“Power is really the lifeblood exploration,” said Dr. David Poston, Chief Reactor Designer, Los Alamos National Laboratory. As humans prepare to venture out farther into the final frontier, the name of the game is nuclear fission.

"We had to show NASA that we could do this affordably within a schedule that's reasonable for them, and that's the whole basis of this project," Dr. Poston said.

"Completely throughout the Martian day, completely through a dust storm, you would never have to worry about either the astronauts or anyone, or making fuel, that lack of power that might disrupt things," said Patrick McClure Los Alamos Laboratory project lead. (Full story)

Space has weather, too

NASA is studying how high-energy particles warp certain layers of Earth's atmosphere, NASA illustration.

An extra-extra-large sun burp could induce electrical currents in the ground on Earth. That means hyper-charged power lines and blown out transformers, effectively causing blackouts like Quebec’s in 1989, which lasted 12 hours.

“A worst-case scenario could be potentially really, really bad,” says Geoff Reeves, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “Billions of dollars, much of the country without power for weeks or months. It could be kind of what we’re seeing in Puerto Rico with the hurricane damage.” (Full story)

Computers learn to imagine the future

Predicting the future comes natural for people, not so for computers, from Discover.

Humans can tell a moving car from the static background and predict where the car will be in the next half-second. Challenges like these, and far more complex ones, expose the limitations in our ability to make computers think like people do. But recent research at Los Alamos National Laboratory is changing all that.

Brain neuroscientists and computer scientists call this field neuromimetic computing – building computers inspired by how the cerebral cortex works. The cerebral cortex relies on billions of small biological “processors” called neurons. (Full story)

Flu season may have peaked but activity remains "elevated"

Influenza virus.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, says they've found social media to be helpful in their forecasting — although they still conduct one forecast using traditional methods and one that adds social media input (this year, they are using Google health trends).

For this year, David Osthus, leader of the LANL's forecasting team, says their short-term forecast for the peak week was: 40% Feb. 3, 40% Feb. 10, and 10% Feb. 17. "Looks like the forecast was correct," he says. (Full story)

Researchers discover novel exciton interactions in carbon nanotubes

Spectroscopic characterization of
carbon nanotubes, LANL photo.

Nanotechnology researchers studying small bundles of carbon nanotubes have discovered an optical signature showing excitons bound to a single nanotube are accompanied by excitons tunneling across closely interacting nanotubes.

"Observing this behavior in carbon nanotubes suggests there is potential to detect and control a similar response in more complex, multi-layered semiconductor and semiconductor-metal heterostructures," said Stephen Doorn, of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos and a coauthor of the study. (Full story)

Catalysts: High performance lies on the edge

Dispersion of single iron atoms (bright dots)
supported on nanostructured carbon (dark purple). ORNL image.

Platinum is not an abundant element, but it is a popular catalyst. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory synthesized a catalyst made from iron, nickel, and carbon. No platinum. The catalyst had the highest activity to date for a platinum group metal (PGM)-free material used in fuel cells. Experiments showed that the iron-nitrogen reactive sites were predominantly located at the surface-exposed edges, or steps, of the carbon. The reactive sites were not inside the carbon as previously predicted. (Full story)

Remembering really fast

Interactions of terahertz pulses (pink)
with a vertically aligned nanocomposite,
LANL graphic.

Electronics could work faster if they could read and write data at terahertz frequency, rather than at a few gigahertz. Creating such devices would be eased with materials that can undergo a huge change in how easily they conducted electricity in response to a magnetic field at room temperature.

Scientists believe thin films of perovskite oxides hold promise for such uses. However, such behavior has never been seen at these frequencies in these films. Until now. Via terahertz pulses, scientists at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos and in the United Kingdom discovered colossal changes in electricity’s flow at the desired frequencies and temperature. (Full story)