Friday, July 25, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for July 21 - 25

Ancient Galactic Magnetic Fields Stronger Than Expected

This realization brings a new focus on the broader question of how galaxies form. Instead of the com- monly held view that magnetic fields have little relevance to the genesis of new galaxies, it now appears that they are indeed important players.

Mining the far reaches of the universe for clues
about its past, a team of scientists including Philipp Kronberg of Los Alamos National Laboratory has proposed that magnetic fields of ancient galaxies like ours were just as strong as those existing today, prompting a rethinking of how our galaxy and others may have formed. See the story here.

Broader Agenda For Weapons Labs

Top officials at the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories are planning a shift in research focus that will result in 50% of the labs' work being unrelated to nuclear weapons. That reduces nuclear-weapons-related work by 20 to 30% of current levels at most of the labs.

Photo: D'Agostino briefs reporters in Washington, D.C.

The labs expect that the majority of the new research will come from projects within other parts of the federal government, explained Thomas P. D'Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. He was joined last week by the directors of Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as the head of the Nevada Test Site, in briefing reporters in Washington, D.C., and in testifying before a House Armed Services subcommittee. See the story here.

Green 500 List Puts IBM Supercomputers
at the Top

When it comes to supercomputing energy efficiency, IBM cannot be beaten--that's according to the findings of the latest Supercomputing 'Green 500 List' announced by The No fewer than the top 15 positions in the ranking of energy efficiency
are held by supercomputers built on IBM high performance computing technology.

Ranking the recently announced world's fastest Los Alamos National Laboratories petaflop
supercomputer at number three for energy performance--the list is topped by IBM's own Boeblingen Lab supercomputer which is used for development of IBM blade computing systems. Read the MarketWatch report here.

Magnetic slingshot creates aurora on Earth

Reconnecting magnetic fields, situated Roughly a third of the distance to the Moon, can fire particles towards Earth to create the aurora. NASA Illustration

A fleet of satellites has pinpointed the sequence of events that lead to magnet
ic "substorms" near Earth. These are frequent occurrences that cause auroras and may unleash radiation that can damage satellites. Although these substorms have been observed for decades, no one was sure exactly how they were created.

Now, researchers with NASA's THEMIS mission say they have the answer. The substorms begin far out in space, roughly a
third of the way to the Moon, where magnetic fields from the Earth are thrown together and reconnect to sling charged particles back toward the planet, they say. Other researchers are impressed by the study.

"I think this is a very important result," says magnetosphere modeler Joachim Birn of Los
Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. "It's certainly going to trigger more systematic studies in the area." See the story here.

Halfway there: Lab pays tribute to work done

Los Alamos National Laboratory
's new Rad Lab topped out Tuesday at five stories with a traditional ceremony for the workers involved in the project.

"It's a long-time tradition in the construction industry, when the building reaches its highest point," said Rick Holmes, the project division leader for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement (CMRR) project.

"We hung a flag and put up a piñon tree, which means the building was constructed safely and signifies good luck for the occupants." Laboratory
Director Michael Anastasio and Deputy Director Jan Van Prooyen also offered remarks for the occasion.

Math and Science Academy recognized by DOE

Duncan McBranch, left, of Science, Technology &

shakes hands with KSL Services GM
David Whitaker after the ceremony.

"Today is a special day of celebration for our Northern New Mexico Math and Science Academy (MSA) program," said Dave Foster of the Laboratory's
Education and Postdoc Office.

Foster, whose office oversees the Laboratory‚s MSA program, was excited for good reason. The ceremony July 17 at San Juan Elementary School in Española marked not one but two outstanding milestones for the MSA.

The Math and Science Academy was recently given the 2007 Secretary of Energy EEO & Diversity Best Practices Award in recognition of outstanding service to the community. Read the Newsbulletin story here.

2008 Hazmat Challenge featured on YouTube

Teams of Hazardous Material Response professionals compete to clear a course of leaking pipes, potential toxic fumes and other scenarios. Watch the YouTube video

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News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for July 14 - 18

Detecting flu viruses in remote areas of the world

Researchers in Ohio and New Mexico are reporting an advance in the quest for a fast, sensitive test to detect flu viruses -- one that requires no refrigeration and can be used in remote areas of the world where new flu viruses often emerge. Their new method, the first to use sugar molecules rather than antibodies, is in the July 2 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly publication.

In the new study, Jurgen Schmidt [Los Alamos National Laboratory], Suri Iyer, and colleagues point out that conventional tests for flu viruses - including bird flu - rely on antibodies, proteins produced by the immune system, to recognize viruses. But antibody-based tests can be expensive and require refrigeration to remain stable. See the story here.

Third Green500 list released;
ranks energy efficient supercomputers

LANL's Roadrunner cited for race-car speed and Prius efficiency

The Green500 List debuted in November 2007 and ushered in a new era of energy-efficient supercomputing. The Green500 List is intended to serve as a ranking of the most energy-efficient supercomputers in the world and as a complementary view to the Top500 List. . . .

The first sustained petaflop supercomputer, Roadrunn
er developed by the U.S. Department of Energy Los Alamos National Laboratory, exhibits extraordinary energy efficiency. Roadrunner, the top-ranked supercomputer in the TOP500, is ranked third on the Green500. . . .

"The Roadrunner supercomputer is akin to having the fastest Formula One race car in the world but with the fuel efficiency of a Toyota Prius," Feng added. See the story here.

House Subcommittee hears testimony on modernizing nuclear weapons complex

Thomas D'Agostino (pictured below), administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, focused on complex transformation during testimony that he presented to the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing Thursday in the Rayburn Building, Washington, D.C.

D'Agostino was joined on a discussion panel by Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio (pictured right, center), the directors of Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories, and site and plant managers from the NNSA nuclear complex.

Like the others on the panel, Anastasio provided a written statement to the subcommittee, chaired by U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA).

NNSA seeks more long-term contracts

Administrator says relationships developed
would help increase nation's safety

It doesn't take a nuclear weapons physicist to figure out that a steady, long-term contract provides a lot more stability than several unpredictable short-term ones.

But for the nation's nuclear weapons labs, a lot of work outside their core nuclear weapons mission is defined by short-term contracts that come up whenever a
government agency realizes it needs something, Thomas D'Agostino (pictured, right) head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a news conference Wednesday. . . .

Building long-term relationships with other agencies will help national labs like Los Alamos and Sandia create more effective science and technology projects and will help them diversify as
the nation's nuclear arsenal continues to shrink, he said.

And the long-term relationships with the other agencies, in turn, should also help make the nation more safe, said Michael Anastasio, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Read the New Mexican's story here.

LANL: Re-visioning its mission

While the director was in Washington talking about some new directions at the nuclear weapons labs Wednesday, Los Alamos National Laboratory managers were engaged in a plenary workshop developing an institutional strategy on energy security.

Coincidentally timed, the two events were nevertheless related. Both represented steps into a future that is becoming increasingly defined by smaller budgets for nuclear weapons. LANL Director Michael Anastasio participated in a press conference in Washington, D.C., led by Thomas D‚Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. See the story here.

Deal on Verifying North Korean Disarmament

Negotiators in the North Korean nuclear talks agreed Saturday to a blueprint for verifying North Korea‚s nuclear disarmament as part of a deal under which it would dis
able its main Yongbyon nuclear weapons complex by the end of October in exchange for energy and economic aid.

The accord, announced by China in a joint communiqué among the six nations involved in the talks, gives new momentum to the negotiations, yet leaves many difficult issues unresolved in what has been a long and halting process to rid North Korea of its nuclear arsenal. No timetable has been set for full disarmament.

[Los Alamos National Laboratory provided the sole technical support from the Department of
Energy at the Six-Party Talks in Beijing on implementation of the North Korean denuclearization commitments.] See the whole story here.

Nanostructuring firm bought

Terry Lowe of LANL explains to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
how nano-titanium is manufactured.

Manhattan Scientifics, a publicly-traded investment firm
with ownership stakes in several New Mexico firms, has purchased Metallicum, a Los Alamos National Labs spinout with a process for "nanostructuring" metals.

The company aims to build a manufacturing plant here to build new strong and light metals for medical uses and the manufacturing of vehicles, such as trucks and aircraft. See the
story here.

LANL will help two companies in deal

Los Alamos National Security, LLC, has developed mentor-protégé agreements with two Northern New Mexico businesses under the auspices of a U.S. Department of Energy program. Under the agreements, Los Alamos National Laboratory will help North Wind Inc. in project planning and management in the areas of environmental management and facility operations. It also will help North Wind develop subcontracts with other government and private agencies.

With Performance Maintenance Inc., the Laboratory will help the janitorial company develop best practices in materials and property management, as well as its computer systems networking and capabilities, among other things.

These are the second and third mentor-protégé agreements worked out through Los Alamos National Security LLC. The first was with Tsay Construction and Services LLC, a small business owned by Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo.

Lab gets $17 million for cleanup

The U.S. Department of Energy has cleared $17 million for environmental cleanup work at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The supplemental funding raises the lab's environmental cleanup budget for this fiscal year to more than $169 million. Read the story here.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for July 7 - 11

Gamma-Ray Burst Afterglows
Brighter Than Expected

The model of a gamma-ray burst’s near light-speed Plasma jets, shown here in an artist’s conception, may need retooling based on a new study. Dana Berry. Skyworks Digital

A new study casts doubt on a long-standing belief about the power behind gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe.

Researchers have found that short gamma-ray bursts - those that last a couple of seconds or less - have brighter afterglows than the simple, reigning model of afterglow emission predicts.
If it holds up, the result could mean that researchers were wrong about the progenitors of short bursts.

But Chris Fryer, a theoretical astrophysicist at Los
Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, says it is more likely that the standard afterglow model needs revision. Read the whole story here.

Along with beauty, fireworks create a beastly mix of pollutants

Photo by Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

In the late 1990s, Disney approached the Los Alamos National Laboratory with a request to develop cleaner fireworks to reduce smoke at Disneyland, which was prompting complaints to the AQMD from neighbors in Anaheim.

Instead of carbon-based materials, scientists there experimented with nitrogen atoms, which produced far less soot and smoke.

"In addition, because the high-nitrogen materials burn more cleanly, you could use less col
oring agents. We were able to get much nicer colors with . . . less metals," said David Chavez, a materials chemist at Los Alamos. Based on those experiments, Los Alamos chemists Michael Hiskey and Darren Naud took an entrepreneurial leave and founded DMD Systems. Read the LA Times story here.

Water Found on the Moon

In a study published today in Nature, researchers led by Brown University geologist Alberto Saal found evidence of water molecules in pebbles retrieved by NASA's Apollo missions.

Critically, telltale hydrogen molecules were concentrated at the center of samples rather than their surfaces, assuring Saal's team that water was present in an infant moon rather than added by recent bombardment.

"That was not known," said William Feldman, a Los Alamos National Laboratory geophysicist who was not involved in the study. "Volatile elements play a fundamental role in planetary formation through their influence on melting," said Feldman. "Melting temperatures are lower, you get different kinds of volcanic flows and magma crystallization. It's important for a lot of the processes that determine surface mineralogy." More about lunar water here.

R&D Magazine honors LANL scientists

R&D Magazine recognized Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers with two of its R&D 100 Awards, which will be presented Oct. 16 in Chicago. The winning lab projects were for the 3-D Tracking Microscope and Laser-Weave technology. The awards go to the top 100 industrial innovations around the world. Technical experts judge the submissions. Read New Mexico Business Weekly here.

Labs Pass Hurdle in U.S. Senate

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a spending plan that would prevent deep budget cuts at New Mexico's nuclear laboratories, setting up a potential clash with the U.S. House in the months ahead. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee budget approved Tuesday retains almost $600 million for nuclear weapons programs and almost $300 million for nuclear weapon maintenance that House appropriators suggested slashing last month. With a subscription you can read the Journal's budget story here.

You can also see the press release from Senator's Dominici's office here.

Energy Days II to shed light on Lab’s role in energy security R&D

A series of town hall meetings and workshops designed to answer questions about the Laboratory’s current and future role in developing breakthrough science and technology to solve challenges in sustainable nuclear energy, concepts for clean energy, and climate change impacts begins July 16 at the Laboratory.

Called Energy Days II, the event is a continuation of 2006’s Energy Days workshops at Los Alamos that began a discussion about the role of energy R&D in Los Alamos’s national security mission. Read the LANL NewsBulletin story here.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for June 30 - July 3

Three national laboratories are testing how well commercial airframes can survive a terrorist bombing-research that U.S. officials say could someday change what airport screeners look for and how they look for it. Preliminary test results are not expected from the labs, Lawrence Livermore in California and Sandia and Los Alamos in New Mexico, until the fall, but officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which commissioned the studies, say the findings could have long-range effects on security-and even on aircraft design. [full text not yet online]

Manhattan Scientifics Acquires Metallicum, Inc.

Advanced Metals Technologies from Los Alamos National Laboratory;
Aluminum as Strong as Steel

Metallicum . . . will produce and license the super strong metals using nano-technology developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in conjunction with their colleagues in Russia. See the full story here.

(L to R) NM Senator Jeff Bingaman and Congressman Tom Udall join LANL's Terry Lowe in an interview with Albuquerque Journal business reporter Andrew Webb following the Metallicum news conference Wednesday in Albuquerque. The news conference was to announce the successful commercialization of the patented nanostructured metals technology developed first in the former Soviet Union,and then improved at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the post-Cold War era of U.S.-Russian scientific cooperation. (LANL photo-Kevin Roark)

The Tunguska Mystery-100 Years Later

Finding a piece of the elusive cosmic body that devastated a Siberian forest a century ago could help save Earth in the centuries to come

What scientists call the Tunguska event, the largest impact of a cosmic body to occur on the earth during modern human history. [created] a raging conflagration some 65 kilometers (40 miles) from ground zero, [and] the effects of the blast rippled out far into northern Europe and Central Asia as well. . .

Ever since the [1908] Tunguska event, scientists and lay enthusiasts alike have wondered what caused it. Although most observers generally accept that some kind of cosmic body, either an asteroid or a comet, exploded in the sky above Siberia, no one has yet found fragments of the object or any impact craters in the affected region. The mystery remains unsolved, but our research team, only the latest of a steady stream of investigators who have scoured the area, may be closing in on a discovery that will change our understanding of what happened that fateful morning. . .

Using satellite observations of meteoric "flares" in the atmosphere ("shooting stars") and acoustical data that record cosmic impacts on the surface of the earth, Peter Brown and his co-workers at the University of Western Ontario and Los Alamos National Laboratory estimated the rate of smaller impacts. The researchers have also extrapolated their findings to larger but rarer incidents such as the Tunguska event. See the story here.

10 Audacious Ideas to Save the Planet

To rescue the Earth, we need bold engineering ideas that go beyond simple recycling

Pulling Gas from Thin Air The Vision A modified nuclear reactor that produces 17,000 barrels of gasoline a day-enough to fuel 54,000 Honda Civics. The Plan Air contains hydrogen and carbon, the building blocks of gasoline. So why not turn it into fuel? That's the thinking behind a plan from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory to transform carbon dioxide into a renewable resource using nuclear plants. Read the story here.

Lab technologies win prestigious
R&D 100 awards

Cutting-edge innovations garnered Los Alamos researchers two of R&D Magazine's prestigious R&D 100 Awards. The awards, which will be presented October 16 in Chicago, recognize the top 100 industrial innovations worldwide in 2008. Winning Laboratory projects are the 3-D Tracking Microscope and Laser-Weave technology. See the Daily NewsBulletin story here.

LANL scientist chosen for elite fellowship

President Bush's 2008-2009 class of White House Fellows includes David Loaiza, technical staff member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The president announced the 14 appointments this week, each selected by the president's Commission on White House Fellowships, to participate in one of the nation's most prestigious fellowship programs for leadership development and public service. See the Los Alamos Monitor story here.

President Bush Appoints 2008-2009 Class of White House Fellows

The White House announced today the President's appointment of 14 White House Fellows, selected by the President's Commission on White House Fellowships, to participate in America's most prestigious fellowship program for leadership development and public service. The 2008-2009 class [includes] David Loaiza, a technical staff member at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, who serves as an advisor to the Department of Energy's Office of Dismantlement and Transparency. See the White House news release here.

ng Fireworks Green

A growing spinoff company out of Los Alamos National Laboratory, DMD Systems, makes low-smoke, low-pollutant fireworks for indoor events, like those put on by World Wrestling Entertainment. Courtesy Photo.

A hidden substance lurks inside those spectacular bursts of red, white and blue decorating the skies on the Fourth of July-one you might not want seeping into your groundwater. It's perchlorate, a chemical used to add oxygen fuel into many explosives and fireworks.

Perchlorate is also a hazardous chemical that can cause
problems in pregnant women and a medical drug used to reduce thyroid production. In every big fireworks display, some of it floats from the explosion back to the ground, where it waits for a good rainstorm to help it seep into the groundwater. A growing spinoff company out of Los Alamos National Laboratory, called DMD Systems, thinks one day it could prevent some of that contamination. See the Santa Fe New Mexican story here.

Greener rockets take off

The challenge for scientists-even explosives chemists such as
Darren Naud and Michael Hiskey, who have worked at the government's laboratory in Los Alamos,N.M.-has been to create fireworks that are relatively smoke-free as well as free of potassium perchlorate, an oxidant. See the Washington Times story here.

Roadrunner strives to lead supercomputer race

A handful of engineers have assembled what they expect will become-at least for a while-the world's most powerful computer. IBM Corp.'s Roadrunner likely will go down in history as the first computer to consistently crank out 1 petaflops-a quadrillion floating-point operations per second. Some 3,240 compute modules are slotted together and linked on a two-tier Infiniband network.

Each Roadrunner module consists of two AMD dual-core
Opteron processors and four PowerXCell 8i CPUs-65nm versions of the Cell processor developed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba for the PlayStation. The completed system will consume 4MW and fit into a 6,000-square-foot room. . Once fully tested by IBM, the system will be packed up and shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. See the story here.

Center among competitors in race for turning algae into biofuel

The race is on, and Carlsbad's Center for Excellence for Hazardous Materials Management plans to be the first at the finish line in producing a biofuel from algae oil.

In 2006, when CEHMM began working to extract oil from micro algae and turn it into a biofuel, it was the only group in that field. Today, several research universities and private industries in the U.S. and abroad are competing, said Ned Elkins, who heads the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Carlsbad office.

LANL and New Mexico State University Agriculture Science Center are partnering with CEHMM in the research and development project. CEHMM has a leg up over others because it has the three components in its backyard needed for algae to thrive and generate a new industry in Carlsbad. See the story here.

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