Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Robot wing to reveal hummingbird hover tricks

Robot hummingbird wings inside their test stand.

B.J. Balakumar's robotic hummingbird wing isn't as pretty as the real thing. It lacks jewel-like colors and the iridescent glint of hummingbird feathers.

But what the unadorned metal wing does have is the ability to help researchers understand how the tiny fliers manage to dart, hover and dive even in gusty winds.

The work is still in the preliminary stages, Balakumar, a researcher in the Extreme Fluids Lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory, told LiveScience. However, the researchers hope that the findings will eventually be used in robotics. (
Full Story)

Where have the baby black holes gone?

Artist’s concept of a baby black hole. From Discovery News.

Chris Fryer of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico told New Scientist that the most powerful supernovae are usually triggered by lower-mass stars. The larger stars -- the ones that create black holes -- are usually of lower energy than the supernovae that produce neutron stars. (Full Story)

High magnetic fields coax new discoveries from topological insulators

The 100 Tesla magnet at Los Alamos National Laboratory. LANL photo.

But even after removing hundreds of billions of electrons, "we still didn't have an insulator," James Analytis said.

That's when he turned to Ross McDonald and the pulsed magnets at the Pulsed Field Facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory's branch of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.

With McDonald's help, Analytis used one of Los Alamos' multi-shot pulsed magnets, so called because they deliver their full field strength in pulses lasting thousandths of a second. (
Full Story)

Z Machine conducts successful materials experiment for NNSA

The Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratory. SNL photo.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that Sandia National Laboratories successfully performed an experiment with Los Alamos National Laboratory on the properties of plutonium materials on the Z machine on Nov. 18. (Full Story)

LANL debuts hybrid 'green' garbage truck

LANL’s green garbage machine picks up a dumpster. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has begun using a diesel-hydraulic hybrid truck for daily garbage pickup, improving fuel efficiency by 30 percent and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by even more.

The truck employs a system that stores energy from braking and uses that pressure to help the truck accelerate after each stop - a key feature in the stop-and-go life of a garbage truck. (Full Story)

See the Lab’s new environmentally friendly garbage truck in action on YouTube.

And learn about the Lab’s Holiday Giving Program, also on YouTube

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Researcher takes ‘mosaic’ approach to new HIV vaccine

HIV is not only a different kind of beast; it's a different beast every day.

"We're in the evolutionary fast lane studying HIV," said Bette Korber, a Los Alamos National Laboratory researcher who led a team that designed a vaccine expressly to counter the genetic diversity of the virus.

"As soon as the body makes an immune response, HIV wiggles out of it," she said (full story).

LANL pledges $2.5M to United Way

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees are donating $1.5 million to United Way and other nonprofit programs this year.

That’s up from $1.3 million pledged by employees last year.

Los Alamos National Security LLC, which operates the laboratory, will provide $1 million in matching funds, bringing total contributions this year to $2.5 million (full story).

Los Alamos scientists develop sensors, simulators that could make turbines energy-efficient, wallet-friendly for wind farmers

When a turbine blade breaks, it's no easy fix.

Just ask the wind-farm owner who has to front the $250,000-plus price tag for bringing in the crane — and has to shell out the additional bucks to fix or replace the blade.

That's just one hurdle that keeps wind energy trailing coal in cost-effectiveness. Right now, wind costs about 5 to 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, while you can get a kilowatt-hour of coal power for about half that price.

The Department of Energy's goal is to close that cost gap and increase wind power by 20 percent over the next 20 years. But Washington, D.C., isn't the only place where people are getting serious about alternative energy — a team of interdisciplinary scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a project that could help make turbines more affordable and efficient for wind-farm owners (full story).

LANL physicist among Early Career honorees

Physicist Eric D. Bauer of Los Alamos National Laboratory is among the recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recently announced by the Obama Administration.

This is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are early in their independent research careers (full story).

National lab in NM names 5 Fellows

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Five scientists have been named Fellows at Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico.

They are Brenda Dingus of the neutron science and technology group; William Louis of the subatomic physics group; John Sarrao, director of Los Alamos's Office of Science Programs; Dipen Sinha of the sensors and electrochemical devices group; and Giday Woldegabriel of the computational earth sciences group (full story).

Temperature breakthrough for hydrogen storage

A compound first made in 1923 releases hydrogen at a lower temperature than ammonia borane, one of the most studied materials for hydrogen storage (full story).

Brain Research Fund Awarded $5K

The Mind Research Network has announced a $5,000 gift to the Domenici Discovery Fund from Los Alamos National Security LLC which manages and operates Los Alamos National Laboratory for DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration.

"The LANS contribution brings MRN closer to our goal of delivering tools for more accurate and earlier diagnoses of brain disease and disorders," said John Rasure, MRN president and CEO. "LANL has been a critical partner since MRN's founding, and we appreciate their confidence in our mission." (full story)

FBI exec takes over LANL counterintel

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - The assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division has accepted a position as counterintelligence head at Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Full-body scanners: we reveal all

The recent release of pictures taken by full-body scanners has outraged the travelling public and focused attention on the risks the devices may carry. New Scientist deals with the concerns:

Are there health concerns surrounding millimetre-wave scanners?

In theory, these ought to be safer than X-rays because millimetre photons do not have enough energy to break chemical bonds. Last year, however, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico suggested that these low energy photons could damage DNA in an entirely novel way. . . . (full story)

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Friday, November 12, 2010

What makes one city better than another?

A research team has concluded that in terms of size, New York is just an average city rather than an exceptional one. However, San Francisco is exceptional.

The research team includes Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt. West and Bettencourt are theoretical physicists affiliated with both the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and Los Alamos National Laboratory. (
Full Story)

Laboratory lauds leaders for innovation

agdish Laul’s work will save an estimated $5 million per year in surveillance and maintenance costs at six nuclear and non-nuclear laboratory sites. Laul, a principal safety engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, received a 2009 Distinguished Performance Award for developing the technical bases that justified establishing lower hazard designations for the six sites. (
Full Story)

Buckman direct diversion: study shows Rio Grande pollutants at safe levels for drinking

The Rio Grande as seen from Los Alamos’ Overlook Park.

Water flowing into the Rio Grande from canyons below Los Alamos National Laboratory won't be a health risk when Santa Fe starts diverting river flows next year into the municipal drinking-water system, according to an independent analysis. (Full Story)

Last building demolished at LANL’s DP West site

Building 21-150 was the last remaining structure in the DP West cluster of buildings at TA-21. LANL photo.

he last of 14 buildings at the historic DP West site at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Technical Area 21 (TA-21) was demolished last Friday, completing a reduction of the lab’s footprint by more than 100,000 square feet.

The demolition was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and is part of $212 million in Recovery Act funds the Lab received for environmental remediation. (
Full Story)

Lab develops transparent solar panel material

Scanning electron microscopy image and zoom of conjugated polymer (PPV) honeycomb.

ould your window be a solar panel? The answer appears to be yes, thanks to new results from scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The group, led by physical chemist Mircea Cotlet, developed a material made of a polymer "doped" with soccer-ball shaped molecules made up of carbon atoms called fullerenes. (
Full Story)

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Solar film holds big promise
Thin material could lead to cheaper energy

Some day, in the not too distant future, your home's windows could double as power producers thanks to a thin solar film created by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Thinking broadly, the film could turn a car hood, a patio table, or just about anything else the sun touches into little photovoltaic powerhouses. Or, it could be used in large solar arrays (full story).

The advance by Los Alamos and Brookhaven received extensive coverage, including:

Material could collect sunlight from roof and windows
Story here

New transparent, light-harvesting material could lead to power generating windows
Story here

Semiconductors + fullerenes = power-generating windows

We've covered transparent solar cells here before, but when there's a cool new entry to the field it deserves some attention (full story).

Story here

Transparent film could enable large-scale solar applications
Story here

N.M. labs likely to gain from treaty push

Nuclear weapons program managers have taken another look at key elements of the nuclear weapons modernization effort, according to Vice President Joe Biden, including weapons refurbishment and new multibillion-dollar uranium and plutonium buildings in Tennessee and at Los Alamos.

Based on those new reviews, Biden wrote, "We expect that funding requirements will increase in future budget years." (full story)

Buckman study says no risk from lab

A just-released independent review says radioactive materials related to Los Alamos National Laboratory activities present "no health risk" to a Rio Grande diversion project that will provide drinking water to Santa Fe city and county residents.

A summary of the report released Monday by ChemRisk found "LANL contributes very little, if any, chemicals and radionuclides to the Rio Grande during normal flow conditions" and also doesn't present a risk during stormwater runoff (full story).

Uncovering hidden order

At low temperature the uranium compound URu2Si2 exhibits a transition to a mysterious phase. The origin of this phase has not yet been uncovered, even after 25 years of intensive investigations, and it has therefore become known as the "“hidden order."

In a Physical Review B paper, Swedish researchers and collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory and in the Netherlands, report state-of-the-art electronic structure calculations that offer fresh insight into the nature of the electrons that are responsible for the hidden order (full story).

Physics experiment suggests existence of new particle

The existence of sterile neutrinos could help explain the composition of the universe, said William Louis, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who is involved in the MiniBooNE experiment.

MiniBooNE is a collaboration among some 60 researchers at several institutions and was conducted at Fermilab to check the results of the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which started in 1990 (full story).

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