Friday, July 29, 2011

Outfitting the next Mars rover

A rock-vaporizing laser. Miniaturized chemical analyzers. A flying crane. As NASA prepares to launch the Mars Science Laboratory, a rover that will “follow the water” and pursue potential signs of life on Mars, international teams are tricking it out with a new set of scientific instruments that can analyze data in real time as the rover moves across the surface.

ChemCam [Los Alamos]: A laser on the rover’s mast will vaporize rock up to 23 feet away, and a camera will zoom in to capture the light signature from the resulting plasma. Spectrographs in the rover’s body assess the chemical composition of the rock so scientists can determine whether the target is worthy of examination. . . . (full story)

From detonation to diapers: Los Alamos computer codes at core of advanced manufacturing technologies

Computational tools developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory to help ensure the reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons deterrent in the absence of testing are helping industry giants ensure the reliability of their manufacturing processes.

These specialized computer codes are now available to U.S. industry as part of President Barack Obama's recently announced advanced manufacturing initiative, designed to help make American companies more competitive and create new jobs (full story).

LANL employees pledged $272,000 for scholarships

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $272,000 in LANL’s 2011 scholarship fund drive.

The drive encourages employees, retirees and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to students in northern New Mexico (full story).

What is so special about nano-structured metals for a new generation of orthopedic devices?

Metals have provided the strength, durability, and other characteristics that bone implants require since the inception of orthopedics. The ability of metals to exist in the human body without significant side effects or risk of rejection are via cobalt-chromium super alloys, stainless steels, and titanium alloys – the most commonly used materials in today’s orthopedic devices.

A more recent innovation in metals technology heralds a new era for metals in medical implants: nano-structuring. Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory and several institutes in Russia worked together to develop a simple method to modify the internal structure of any metal at the nano-size scale.

This is the scale of a cluster of a few hundred, or a few thousand atoms, which is the scale on which many biological processes occur. Modifying metals at this scale allows them to better match and integrate with human bone tissue (full story).

Los Alamos lab tests confirm cellulose ammonia pretreatment

A liquid ammonia pretreatment process of cellulosic biomass under development at Michigan State University and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center has been tested, and confirmed, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

“Our modeling showed, and the experimental evidence confirmed, that the pretreatment reduced the strength of hydrogen bonds in the cellulosic network,” said Los Alamos researcher Sandrasegaram Gnanakaran on the testing.

The liquid ammonia pretreatment process helps to break down the biomass when used at the right temperatures, allowing the enzymes used in the cellulosic ethanol process to be up to five times more effective, according to a recent paper published by Gnanakaran and others…(full story).

Hazmat Challenge is coming to LANL Aug. 2-5

Twelve hazardous materials response teams from Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma will test their skills at the 15th annual Hazmat Challenge Aug. 2-5 sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory. The challenge provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to network and learn new techniques under realistic conditions in a safe environment.

Held at the Laboratory’s Technical Area 49, the event challenges participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, transportation and industrial piping scenarios, simulated chemical releases, and a confined space incident, said Chris Rittner of the Laboratory’s Emergency Operations Division (full story).

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Researchers find potential key for unlocking biomass energy

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center have found a potential key for unlocking the energy potential from non-edible biomass materials such as corn leaves and stalks, or switch grass.

Biomass is a desirable renewable energy source because fermentable sugars within the cellulose network of plant cells can be extracted with enzymes and then converted into ethanol—if only it were so simple (full story).

Dawn spacecraft enters orbit around Vesta

After almost four years traveling through space, the NASA Dawn spacecraft reached its destination and entered orbit around the asteroid Vesta.

Vesta is now providing the first opportunity to study an asteroid at close quarters over an extended period of time. Dawn is also carrying ... the Gamma Ray and Neutron Detector (GRaND) instrument, built by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (full story).

Researchers devise new stress test for irradiated materials

Tests are often stress-inducing. But when it comes to stress-testing irradiated materials, sometimes, those stressful tests can actually make for safer situations . . . and perhaps make everyone a bit less stressed.

Researchers at the DOE's Office of Science Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory who, with their counterparts at UC Berkeley and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have devised a new way to determine the strength of irradiated materials (full story).

Fire protections outlined at TA-21

Effective safety procedures in place at Los Alamos National Laboratory would have provided protections in the event that the Las Conchas fire had spread to the site of an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act project located in TA-21 off DP Road.

“Our procedures not only placed the waste excavation site, Materials Disposal Area B (MDA-B), into a safe posture so it was well protected during the fire, but also allowed us to resume work quickly,” said Project Director Al Chaloupka (full story).

Also in the Monitor this week:

LANL's Pet Supply Drive underway

When the Los Alamos National Laboratory reopened after the Las Conchas Fire earlier this month, director Charlie McMillan wanted to set up a social media approach for a volunteer program that would get out the word about fire recovery.

A Facebook page called “LANL Vecinos Volunteers Las Conchas Fire Recovery” was set up.

One of the ideas born out of the Facebook page was a pet supply drive, to help the Santa Fe and Espanola shelters replenish after taking care of scores of pets that were displaced by the fire (full story).

Monitoring continues around Las Conchas Fire near Los Alamos

NMED found "no detectable activity" above natural background levels. According to an Environment Department report, Taos housed two air monitoring locations. Other Northern New Mexico monitoring locations included Embudo, Dixon, Las Vegas and ChimayĆ³.

Sampling from June 29-30 showed "no detectable activity" in levels of plutonium and americium at any monitoring stations; samples taken in Taos and elsewhere July 1-2 found no detectable activity in levels of a radioactive form of cesium (full story).

Old Dominion U. professor is trying to save Internet history

A computer science professor and colleagues at Old Dominion and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a sort of Internet time machine called Memento.

When attached to a browser, it enables the user to search for a Web site as it appeared on some past date, if an archived page exists (full story).

Schools get LANL Foundation grant

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation gave Santa Fe Public Schools a $821,448 grant in June to continue an inquiry-based science curriculum in three schools — Amy Biehl Community School, Aspen Community Magnet School and Salazar Elementary School — and add a fourth in the coming year (full story).

Also in the New Mexican this week:

Letter to the Editor: LANL's role is varied, often mischaracterized

"Time to reassess LANL," the July 10 letter to the editor from Anne deBuys, questions the goals of Los Alamos National Laboratory and is filled with errors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory's goal is national security science. We are innovators of a possible HIV vaccine. We provide climate change science to policymakers. We created the power source for the Cassini mission to Saturn as well as a laser instrument aboard Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory lander launching this winter. We train troops to identify and analyze homemade explosives. And yes, we perform the science to ensure that the nation's nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective (full story).


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Friday, July 15, 2011

Carbon-iron-cobalt fuel cell catalyst tested

Metal aggregates encapsulated in graphite, onion-like carbon shells. LANL illustration.

In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers Gang Wu, Christina Johnston, and Piotr Zelenay of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, together with Karren More of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, described the use of platinum-free catalysts in a hydrogen fuel cell.

The new carbon-iron-cobalt catalysts described yielded high power output, good efficiency, and promising longevity, said Piotr Zelenay, the research team leader, on the basis of several hundred hours of fuel cell operation. (Full Story)

NNSA, U.S. Air Force partner on flight test of W78 JTA

Test launch of Minuteman III missile.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, working with the U.S. Air Force, has conducted a W78 Joint Test Assembly (JTA) flight test from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The JTA includes a telemetry system, which collects and transmits data on the warhead. Data is fed into a reliability model developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to evaluate warhead reliability. (Full story)

Rock of ages

White Rock's "White Rock" displaying a decidedly lavender birthday greeting. ABQ Journal photo.

Richard "Mouser" Williams, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist specializing in nuclear materials safeguards, and Robb Hermes, who is retired from the lab, decided two months ago to find out how deep the "White Rock" White Rock paint layers go. They sledgehammered a metal pipe into the face of the rock until it couldn’t move any farther. (Subscription or viewing an ad required to see full story)

A new normal in drought, fire

Nate McDowell testifying before a Congressional committee. LANL photo.

Up Front Column: Nate McDowell, a brilliant Los Alamos National Laboratory forest ecologist ... usually spends his time quietly tending to patches of woods, carefully measuring moisture stress to try to understand how drought kills trees. But these days, nature is getting out ahead of the questions McDowell and the forest scientists he works with are able to ask. "It’s hotter now. It is drier now. There’s less humidity," McDowell told me. (Subscription or viewing an ad required to see full story)

LANL completes critical flood and erosion control work

Heavy equipment removes sediment from Los Alamos Canyon, behind a structure called a weir. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory work crews over the weekend installed 600 feet of water diversion barriers and removed more than 1,200 cubic yards of sediment in anticipation of flash flooding because of damage from the Las Conchas Fire.

It’s the first phase of additional work to help stabilize canyons that run through LANL property and minimize the ability of floodwaters to stir up trace levels of Cold War-era contaminants in canyon bottoms. (Subscription required to see full story)

Salazar recommends Manhattan Project national park

LANL’s V-Site Restoration Project won the 2008 National Trust/Advisory Council on Historical Preservation's Award for Federal Partnerships in Historic Preservation.

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. -- U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is recommending that Congress establish a national historical park to commemorate the top-secret World War II Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb. (Full story)

Lab director thanks community

See the full ad here!

See many other Las Conchas Fire images on LANL’s Flickr page

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Previous burn, restoration work helped spare Los Alamos from catastrophe

Smokey sunset over the Jemez Mountains on June 30. LANL photo.

xtensive thinning around the city of Los Alamos and the nuclear weapons lab, which sprawls across the southwestern edge of town, by the Forest Service, Los Alamos County and the lab after the Cerro Grande conflagration, also helped create a buffer around the community and the lab, officials said.

The fire came within 50 feet of Los Alamos National Laboratory, sparking fears that it could incinerate an old hazardous waste site on the property, but the lab's fuel reduction efforts paid off, officials said. (
Full story)

LANL workers return to Lab

Tom Kendrick, left, and David Cremer look over the Valles Caldera. ABQ Journal photo.

os Alamos National Laboratory got back to work Wednesday, more than one week after the Las Conchas Fire forced roughly 10,000 lab employees out of their offices and out of town.

Walk-throughs were being conducted to assess safety and check that electronics and computers were all in the same condition as when staff cleared out because of the fire June 27. (Subscription or viewing an ad required to see
full story)

Nuclear weapons lab reopens as fire danger fades

Smoke fills the sky behind the National Security Sciences Building early during the fire. LANL photo.

Smoke still hung in the air from a northern New Mexico wildfire that came dangerously close to the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratory, but life was returning to normal Wednesday as thousands of employees showed up for their first day of work in more than a week. (Full story)

LANL footage surveys damage to evacuee homes

High-resolution image of Area G looking to the south. LANL photo.

s the Las Conchas Fire made its most threatening swipe at Los Alamos National Laboratory, administrators there deployed homegrown aerial surveillance technology known as Angel Fire to take both a wider and closer view of the situation.

The project was intended to give thousands of evacuated residents reliable visual information on their homes and residences and to share with the public a detailed picture of the contours of the fire. (
Full story)

Tests show normal radiation exposure rates near Las Conchas

Technicians check one of LANL's air monitoring stations during the fire. LANL photo.

hough Las Conchas fire continues to burn, Los Alamos National Laboratory reopened to employees Wednesday, and residents began returning to their homes Sunday.

Concerns have been raised about potential contaminants in the smoke from Las Conchas, but preliminary tests have found "typical" radiation exposure rates. The state Environmental Department released preliminary results of air quality monitoring July 2. (
Full story)

LANL, Sandia researchers win six ‘Nobels of technology’

Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories researchers landed six R&D 100 Awards — known as the Nobels of technology — in this year’s annual contest, and Sandia was a co-winner of a fourth.

R&D Magazine presents the prestigious awards each year to researchers whom its editors and independent judging panels determine have developed the year’s 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies, Sandia said in a news release. (Subscription or viewing an ad required to see
full story)

United Way Los Alamos-based, Rio Arriba County supportive

United Way of Northern New Mexico funnels almost $500,000 to Rio Arriba County non-profits annually. We have the Los Alamos National Laboratory to thank for matching dollar-for-dollar much of the donations through the Lab. (Full story)

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