Friday, September 26, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Sept. 22-26

Supercomputer race: Tricky to boost system speed
The Top500 list is always climbing to new heights

Every June and November, with fanfare lacking only in actual drum rolls and trumpet blasts, a new list of the world's fastest supercomputers is revealed. Vendors brag, and the media reach for analogies such as "It would take a patient person with a handheld calculator x number of years (think millennia) to do what this hunk of hardware can spit out in one second."

The latest Top500 list, released in June, was seen as especially noteworthy because it marked the scaling of computing's then-current Mount Everest -- the petaflops barrier. Dubbed "Roadrunner" by its users, a computer built by IBM for Los Alamos National Laboratory topped the list of the 500 fastest computers, burning up the bytes at 1.026 petaflops, or more than 1,000 trillion arithmetic operations per second. (Read the whole story!)

Parallel “Nano-Soldering” Technique Selected as Top Nano50 Awards

You should have so much patience to solder nanowires to nanoelectrodes. Talk about fine work. (A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.)

That’s why a new electroplating process that simultaneously joins many silicon nanowires to many
prepatterned electrodes was selected for a 2008 Nano 50 Award by Nanotech Briefs.

The process removes many difficulties.

“All of the electroplating is done in parallel,” says Sean Hearne, a Sandia National Laboratories researcher at the Center for Integrated Technologies (CINT). “Everywhere there’s a metal contact, the electroplated nickel grows over the nanowire, capturing it.”

CINT is a DOE Office of Science nanotechnology center led by Sandia and Los Alamos National
Laboratory. (The entire story is here.)

Bradbury to celebrate Museum Day Saturday

The Bradbury Science Museum will join cultural institutions across the country to participate in the Smithsonian Institution’s fourth annual Museum Day on Saturday.

The national event is sponsored by Smithsonian magazine as a celebration of culture, learning, and the dissemination of knowledge. Museum Day follows the free-admission policy of the Smithsonian Institution’s Washington, D.C., museums. (See the entire Monitor story here.)

Stupak: Security Improved at Los Alamos, But Not Other Labs

Homeland Security. Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said today he was "optimistic, but guarded," that security conditions at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are slowly improving. But he criticized the Energy Department for allowing security at other national labs to slip. At a hearing on security at national defense labs, Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said the department had taken steps to improve physical security and cybersecurity. He added that labs are still vulnerable to hackers, in some cases foreign nationals with access to a lab's intranet. GAO Information Security Issues Director Gregory Wilshusen countered that the National Nuclear Security Administration "may not have enough staff or the proper training" to provide proper security at Los Alamos.

Los Alamos Medal recipients selected

Laboratory Fellow Robert Cowan and former Laboratory Director Sig Hecker have been selected as recipients of the 2008 Los Alamos Medal, the institution’s most prestigious award.

Established in 2001, the Los Alamos Medal is the highest honor the Laboratory can bestow upon an individual or small group. Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio will present the medals to Cowan and Hecker during a formal awards ceremony and reception. (Read the entire NewsBulletin story here.)

ASPECT plane deployed to areas hit by hurricanes

lying over storm-damaged refineries and chemical factories, a twin-engine plane carrying the ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology) system was on duty throughout the recent hurricanes that swept the Florida and Gulf Coast areas.

ASPECT is a project of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Decontamination Team. The Laboratory leads a science and technology program supporting the EPA and the ASPECT aircraft. (The whole NewsBulletin story is here.)

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for September 15 - 19

Sting operation
Scientists use bees and wasps to sniff out
the illicit and the dangerous

A honeybee receives a fragrant reminder of its
Target scent each morning and responds by

sticking out its proboscis --LANL Photo

It's the ultimate way to pull off a sting: Teach a group of ordinary honeybees to ignore flowers and, instead, focus on vapors from explosives used in bombs. Then send the bees off in teams to sniff out terrorists. Or track the molecular trail of illicit drugs, or even point police to a rotting corpse.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, researchers are putting bees to work in a portable system that, like a trained police dog, could sniff out drugs and bombs at airports, border
crossings, military installations and schools. Get the whole buzz here.

How weapons labs aid business

Nanomaterials - National labs such as Sandia and Los Alamos have pioneered nanotechnology.

Commercial Application: Seattle-based CNT Technologies is using technology from Los Ala
mos to spin carbon nanotube fibers into "super threads" to make superstrong artificial limbs, sporting goods, aircraft parts, and more.

See the BusinessWeek photo gallery here.

Abrupt climate change focus Of U.S. national laboratories

Abrupt climate change is a potential menace that hasn’t received much attention. That’s about to change. Through its Climate Change Prediction Program, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research recently launched IMPACTS –Investigation of the Magnitudes and Probabilities of Abrupt Climate Transitions – a program led by William Collins of Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division that brings together six national laboratories to attack the problem of abrupt climate change, or ACC. . .

Most people think of climate change as something that occurs only gradually, however, with average temperature changing two or three degrees Celsius over a century or more; this is the rate at which ‘forcing’ mechanisms operate, such as the accu
mulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to the burning of fossil fuels or widespread changes in land use.

Collins, who heads the Climate Science Department in ESD, is the principal investigator for
IMPACTS, which will bring together the work of experts in physical, chemical, and biogeochemical climate processes and in computer simulations of the whole Earth system. Argonne, Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, and Pacific Northwest are the participating national laboratories. . . .

Under the direction of Bill Lipscomb of Los Alamos National Laboratory, IMPACTS researchers including Rob Jacob from Argonne National Laboratory will undertake the difficult task of realistically modeling the processes of ice-shelf melting, the retreat of a shelf’s underwater grounding line, and the calving of icebergs. . . .Re
ad the whole story here.

How green is your supercomputer?

With the 31st edition of the Top 500 listing announ
ced in June, IBM's "Roadrunner" hybrid Opteron-Cell machine - created for the U.S. government's Los Alamos National Laboratory - was the first supercomputer in history to break the one petaflop barrier. That's 1 quadrillion floating point operations per second. It was also the first time that the systems' power consumption data was made available. And so, in this energy-crazed 21st century, you can now peruse the Green 500 list (, which sorts the Top 500 by flops per watt.

The listing is interesting, in that trends you wouldn't think about become clear. Among the top 10
machines in the original list, the average machine consumes 1.32 megawatts and has a power efficiency of 248 megaflops per watt. (Roadrunner, at 437 megaflops per watt, is bringing up the class average – big time). But across the 50 biggest machines on the list, average power consumption falls to 908 kilowatts and average power efficiency falls to 193 megaflops per watt. And across the whole list of 500 machines, average power consumption falls to 257 kilowatts and efficiency falls further to 122 megaflops per watt. See the story here.

Science and Education

Scientists lay foundations for exascale computing

Having crashed through the petaflop barrier of a thousand trillion calculations per second back in June, scientists are continuing work into achieving the next benchmark in supercomputer performance - exascale computing. Georgia Institute of Technology's Professor Karsten Schwan is one of two scientists working in the field to receive a 2008 HP Labs Innovation Research Award to further research into solving the problems thrown-up by computing on this scale.

Exa is the prefix for quintillion, or 10^18, or a million trillion. That's a lot of calculations per
second. Sustained performance of 1.02 petaflops was achieved by a system built by IBM for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (dubbed Roadrunner) a few months back. This put the machine well ahead of BlueGene/L (with a performance of 478.2 teraflop/s) which comes in at number two on the list of top supercomputer sites.

In looking to go beyond these formidable numbers, researchers will have to develop new ways to build and run these monstrous machines. Roadrunner is built on "hybrid" computing architecture that combines different types of processors, an approach also taken by Schwan. Read the
exascale story here.

Nostalgia for a more innovative era? Not from this bunch

IBM’s Stretch computer, completed in 1961. IBM photo

ven a cursory glance at history reminds us that real innovation is often a messy, unpredictable and costly

At the Computer History Museum in California the
subject is the IBM Stretch program, a bold effort in the mid-1950s to take big computers into the transistor era and ladle in all sorts of computer design and software advances.

Stretch was designed for pioneering computer tasks. Its first customer was Los Alamos National Laboratory, which wanted more computing firepower fo
r atomic research. Read the story here.

Visualizing the unseen forces of turbulence

Supercomputers are giving researchers a new look at the problem

o really understand the chaotic force governing the flow of
gases and liquids, though, we have to see how it works, and until a few years ago, researchers lacked both the computing firepower and the tightly focused programs to produce a clear picture of turbulent motion.

Supercomputing hubs have been roughly doubling their number of processing cores every few years, and the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories now boast four of the
top five supercomputers in the world.

Earlier this year, IBM's Roadrunner computer at Los Alamos
National Laboratory topped the petaflop computing benchmark for the first time ever. See the story here.

Illustration: turbulence in a jet engine

The guy with the motorcycle on the poster

e's not exa
ctly an unsung hero anymore, but only because he's been sung a few times before. Two years ago, De Colores, Inc., the organization that sponsors the Hispanic Cultural Festival named Jerry Romero one of their "unsung heroes" at their annual banquet in Albuquerque.

And now he is the guy with the motorcycle on Los Alamos National Laboratory's "Million Reasons to Give" poster for the 2009 Employee Giving Campaign. There's a quote: "You ask, 'Where's the love?' Open your heart. It's all around you." There are also a million reasons to read this story here.

NM Small Business Administration honors minority businesses

As part of the 2008 Minority Enterprise Development Week, the New Mexico district office of the Small Business Administration recognized small business owners for their achievements Wednesday.

Winners were announced during the fourth annual Service Disabled and Veter
an Owned Small Business Conference. . .

Los Alamos National Laboratory was honored as the Regional Business Advocate. See the story here.

Anastasio addresses University of California Board of Regents

Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio (foreground) addressed the University of California Board of Regents Wednesday at the UC Irvine campus.

Anastasio spoke to regents in his role as president of Los Alamos National Security, LLC and as Los Alamos's director. Seated next to Anastasio is Bruce Darling, UC executive vice president. See this and many other stories in the Laboratory's NewsBulletin.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Sept. 8-12

Los Alamos and Sandia: R&D treasures

How the famous weapons labs, Los Alamos and Sandia, are aiding corporations and
spinning off startups

rocter & Gamble is joining the go green" bandwagon. The problem, says Thomas J. Lange, the company's director of modeling and simulation: "Natural materials may not be as pure, as strong, or as stable over time" as petro-plastics. And developing replacements for them takes deep science that is beyond the ken of most companies.

Enter Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. That's right, the fabled weapons-research centers in New Mexico that spawned America's nuclear arsenal.

In a partnership that has lasted 14 years, P&G is tapping the labs' supercomputers and immense brain trusts to create new eco-friendly materials for consumer products. "These are the only places I can go in the world that have such a range of world-class physicists, chemists, biologists, production engineers, and computational scientists," says Lange. "These labs are national treasures." (Read the full story.)

World’s most powerful magnet under construction

Using the strongest materials known to man, scientists are building the most powerful electromagnet in the world—one that won't blow up a split second after it's turned on. The entire magnet will be a combination of coil sets weighing nearly 18,000 pounds and powered by jolts from a massive 1,200 megajoules motor generator.

Once activated, the new magnet should be about
two million times more powerful than the average refrigerator magnet. Eventually the magnet will be placed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Find this story strangely attractive? Read it all here!)

Radioisotope shortage could force delays in medical tests

Thousands of patients in the USA may face delays in getting key medical tests because of a global shortage of radioactive tracers, which are used to perform bone scans and to assess blood flow to the heart, experts say.

In some cases, cancer patients may safely delay the tests for a few days or weeks. But others, such as those who have had heart attacks, may not be able to wait and may have to have more invasive procedures, such as angiograms, says Robert Atcher of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. (Check out the source of this whole story.)

Naked-eye gamma-ray burst was aimed squarely at Earth

Unparalleled data from satellites and observatories around the globe show that the jet from a powerful stellar explosion on 19 March was aimed almost directly at Earth. The event, called a gamma-ray burst, became bright enough for human eyes to see.

The Swift satellite detected the explosion and pinpointed its position in the constellation Bootes. Swift is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and is controlled by Penn State.

Swift was built and is being operated in collaboration with Penn State, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and General Dynamics in the U.S.; the University of Leicester and Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory in the United Kingdom; Brera Observatory and the Italian Space Agency in Italy; plus partners in Germany and Japan. (The entire story comes into view here.)

Biologists on the verge of creating new form of life

"What we're looking at is the origin of life in one aspect, and the other aspect is life as a small nanomachine on a single cell level," said Hans Ziock, a protocellular researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Life's function, as a simple nanomachine, is just to use energy to marshal chemicals into making more copies of itself. "You need to organize yourself in a specific way to be useful," Ziock said.

"You take energy from one place and move it to a place where it usually doesn't want to go, so you can actually organize things." (Read more here!)

Journey to the center of the Earth

You want to cool your house? Start with hot rocks a few miles down

Deep underneath your feet is a hellish stone soup, kept hot by a torrent of radiation from poisonous isotopes of uranium, thorium and potassium in the Earth's superheated mantle.

This is the heat that helps cause volcanoes, geysers and hot springs. And it is the heat that powers a modest number of electricity generators around the world, in Iceland, Idaho, Indonesia and elsewhere.

Research on geothermal power generators, which was first proposed by Los Alamos National Laboratories in the 1970s, was largely abandoned when oil prices fell. High energy prices and technological breakthroughs helped resurrect the idea. The Department of Energy is now offering $90 million for new research. (Dig up all the information here!)

Storage that really lasts

If you want to preserve data for the really long term, as in thousands of years, Norsam Technologies' analog HD-Rosetta disk may be your best bet

While we may never find out how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, thanks to Norsam Technologies, we now know how many pages of text can fit on the face of a nickel-plated silicon disk (up to 200,000).

If you've never heard of Norsam Technologies, or HD (High Density) Rosetta, the name of their archival preservation technology, you are not alone. Norsam, which holds the exclusive commercial license to the focused ion beam technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory used to etch text and images onto a Permafilm metal disk, has been working with Los Alamos since 1995, yet it was only last month that the first Rosetta disks made their debut, at a ceremony sponsored by the Long Now Foundation, Norsam's first customer and an organization
established to "creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years." (Read all about it here.)

Science Complex gets some PEP

Los Alamos National Laboratory took another step down the road toward finding a suitable home for a substantial portion of its science and engineering workforce.

The laboratory announced selection of Pacific Equity Partners Los Alamos Science Complex LLC (PEP) a development partnership, to carry the project forward into the next phase. (See the entire Los Alamos Monitor story.)

Latest issue of 1663 magazine now available

The August 2008 issue of 1663, the Laboratory’s science and technology magazine, is now available on the Web.

In the latest issue, Terry Wallace, principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering, illustrates the symbiotic relationship between mission requirements and applied science at the Laboratory.

Using an initiative to monitor nuclear weapons tests as an example, Wallace explains how “mission drove science, which led to discovery, which fed back into mission—a perfect weave.”

See the new issue of 1663 here.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for September 1 - 5

LANL partners with venture capital funds on tech transfer

Los Alamos National Laboratory will partner with Arch Venture Partners and the Verge Fund to push technology transfer.

Under the new Los Alamos Venture Acceleration Initiative, the lab could provide up to $1 million over three years for Arch and Verge investment professionals to help local entrepreneurs identify marketable LANL technologies and build startups to launch them.

More about this story from New Mexico Business Weekly.

Committee hears ins and outs of hydrogen fuel research

A legislative committee wrapped up two days of hearings Friday with an in-depth presentation on hydrogen technology research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

An ammonia-borane (right) molecule could be the key to storing enough energy to power a fuel cell automobile ... See the LANL fact sheet.

Committee Chairman Rep. John Heaton, D-Eddy said one purpose of hearings was to delve into the subject of energy alternatives that were important to the nation. “We’ve raised the bar,” he said, before the second session of the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee began at Fuller Lodge. Read the whole story in the Los Alamos Monitor.

LANL News Release

Los Alamos shares Nano 50 award for directed assembly

Ateam of scientists spanning three institutions, including Los Alamos National Laboratory, has discovered a more efficient way of fusing charge-carrying electrical contacts to tiny “nanowires” of silicon to create the nanotechnology at the heart of potential future advances in modern electronics, sensing, and energy collection. See the news release here.

New super-strong Russian metals for use in cars & airplanes

The proprietary nanometal technology was created by former Russian scientists working with U.S. scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The patented technology is owned by LANL and licensed to Manhattan Scientifics/Metallicum. Manhattan Scientifics has initiated commercializing the technology.

Read the rest of the story from Market Watch.

Cracking anthrax

Bacillus Anthracis,
the anthrax bacteria

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, for example, are investigating a vaccine that mimics the cell receptors targeted by anthrax bacteria.

The idea is to induce the bacteria to bind to the vaccine mimics rather than real cells. The body's immune system would then clear out the bacteria, no harm done.
Read the whole story here.

UC labs to receive $2.5 million in funding

Federal Funding to Help Speed Development
of Clean Energy Research Into Consumer Goods

The funding aims to speed the transition of post-research clean energy technology ideas from labs into the commercial marketplace, according to Drew Bond, the DOE's director of commercialization and deployment for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Los Alamos National Laboratory will receive close to $600,000. Read the Daily Cal here.

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