Sunday, October 26, 2008

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Oct. 20-24

Cosmic rays detect hidden nuclear cargo

Here's a question for you. How would you find a nuclear bomb in the millions of trucks and cargo containers that come into the United States every year? The answer worries anti-terrorism experts a lot. Nobody knows. Cosmic rays may help.

Engineers and scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are building a new sensor that uses cosmic rays to detect uranium or lead used to shield it. In case you've forgotten, cosmic rays are streams of particles that bombard the earth all the time from space. (Read the entire story here.)

Satellite will explore mysterious region of space

The satellite, called IBEX, or the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, launches today at 11:45 a.m. from an island in the Pacific Ocean. It is a joint project between LANL, the Southwest Research Institute in Texas and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

What it will do is map out the area between the heliosphere and interstellar medium and give us a "global view" of what's going on there, said Herb Funsten, a LANL scientist on the project. (Read all about it!)

W76-1 first production unit delivered
Security milestone for the nation

The Stockpile Stewardship program achieved another major technical milestone late month with the production of the first life extended W76-1 Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile warhead. This culminates more than a decade of work by scientists and engineers at the Laboratory and across the nuclear weapons complex.

The achievement relied on many of the newest tools of the stockpile stewardship, including the Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DARHT) at Los Alamos, Site 300 at Lawrence Livermore, supercomputers at both physics laboratories, the environmental testing capability at Sandia National Laboratories, and a series of successful flight tests with the U.S. Navy. (Read the entire NewsBulletin story here.)

Dogs' DNA gives glimpse into their evolution

Why does a lifelong cat-lover become one of the world's experts on dogs' DNA and their evolutionary history?

Maybe because he's a scientist. Scientists reputedly need a degree of detachment from their subjects, and Thomas Leitner of Los Alamos National Laboratory has that. He's never owned a dog in his life, he told the Journal. Yet he's involved in a years-long study of canine DNA and how they evolved from wolves not so very long ago. "It's an interesting study.

From a scientific point of view, this study uses the same mathematical tools as my main work, studying the evolution of viruses, especially HIV," Leitner said. (Read it all here.)

DOE selects projects to advance nanomanufacturing
Projects will improve nanomaterials production, scale-up manufacturing processes

Nanotechnology, the understanding and control of matter at the atomic or molecular level, has the
potential for major improvements in energy applications. Over the past 7 years, the U.S. Government has invested $8.3 billion in nanotechnology and made great strides in gaining fundamental knowledge at the nanometer scale.

The selected projects will advance the state of nanomanufacturing by improving the
reliability of nanomaterials production and scaling-up manufacturing processes that use nanomaterials.

Areas of interest [include]:

Ultratough Thermally Stable Polycrystalline (TSP) Diamond/Silicon Carbide Nanocomposites for Drill Bits (Los Alamos National Laboratory)—The thermomechanical performance of bulk diamond compacts will be enhanced by applying an advanced nanosynthesis process to manufacture superhard and ultratough diamond/silicon carbide nanocomposites with nanofiber reinforcement. The development of advanced nanocomposites with exceptional ability to resist thermal degradation and impact fracture will have significant technological implications. (Read the entire story here.)

V-Site captures national preservation award

The National Trust for Historic Preservation recognized today the restoration of a modest building where the world’s first plutonium bombs were assembled At the 2008 National Preservation Conference, meeting in Tulsa, Okla., the trust named the V-Site project at Los Alamos National Laboratory as one of 21 national award winners.

“The V-Site is architecturally humble but historically significant,” said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in an announcement. “Thanks to an innovative preservation partnership, the centerpiece of a crucial time in history will not be lost.” (See coverage in the Los Alamos Monitor here and in the Santa Fe New Mexican here.)

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