Friday, October 26, 2012

Using cosmic rays to study Fukushima reactor

 LANL Muon Radiography team members stand in front of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex.  LANL photo.

In a new paper in the journal Physical Review Letters, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have confirmed that they can use cosmic rays to pinpoint the location of nuclear material inside the reactor buildings.

The technique is called muon radiography, a scattering method developed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that can be used to produce images of objects the particles strike, similar to how x-rays work, only with less damage to the objects they contact. It's also used to detect potentially smuggled nuclear materials. (Full Story)

LANL performs tests at Japanese site

3D animation of Fukushima Reactor 1 created at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2011.

The cleanup at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may take years, but researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory think they’ve found a way to speed up the process.

Since March 11, 2011, when the site suffered the double whammy of a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the meltdown of three of its reactors, Japanese officials has been struggling with how to deal with the cleanup.

But last May, LANL’s muon radiography team donned hazmat suits and got close enough to test a method that could be used to locate nuclear materials at the site. (Full Story)

Frost on Mars? Curiosity uses its laser to probe mystery

The target dubbed “Crestaurum,” hit with over 30 laser shots, leaving behind a hole 3 millimeters wide. NASA.

The Mars Curiosity rover, cozy at the sandy, windblown patch of ground called Rocknest, pulled out its laser late last week, aimed it at a target about 9 feet away and started zapping.

The goal? To find out whether frost accumulates on Mars' surface at night, according to Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

"The idea was to take one measurement of Crestaurum at night and one during the day for comparison," the scientist and principal investigator for Curiosity's ChemCam instrument told the Los Angeles Times. (Full Story)

How earthquakes make the ground go boom

Seismic and infrasound data collected by the University of Utah Seismic Network. University of Utah.

A new study finds the Earth's surface acts like a speaker for low-frequency vibrations, transmitting an earthquake's infrasonic tumult into the air.

“This is really the first successful model for earthquake infrasound. It means that we can predict what we expect to see from earthquakes versus underground explosions, for example,” said study author Steve Arrowsmith, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Scientists show earth’s surface acts as a giant loudspeaker

Acoustic scientists have shown in a new study that the Earth’s surface and atmosphere act as a giant loudspeaker. This “loudspeaker” soundtracks these geologic raves in both the audible range of hearing and in infrasound.

According to the computer modeling, sound recordings and seismic data used in the study, an earthquake “pumps” the surface and the atmosphere above it, “It’s basically like a loudspeaker,” said Stephen Arrowsmith, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

CMU joins forces in repurposing supercomputers

Director Charlie McMillan and Andree Jacobson of the New Mexico Consortium in the PRObE machine room. LANL photo.

Supercomputers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory once went to the desert to die. That’s no longer necessary. Officials at Los Alamos, the NSF, the New Mexico Consortium and CMU joined forces to launch PRObE, a one-of-a-kind supercomputer research center.

Gary Grider, Los Alamos’ deputy division leader for high performance computing, got the idea for the PRObE center several years ago while decommissioning machines. PRObE stands for Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment. (Full Story)

LANL hosts annual LDRD day

Bill Priedhorsky presents the Best Poster Award to Jennifer Hollingsworth and her team for “The Path to Nanoparticle Cancer Drugs.”  From the Monitor.

Los Alamos National Laboratory conducted its fourth annual Laboratory Directed Research and Development day at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino Tuesday.

LANL funds some of its research through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program, a source of internal funding awarded to scientists and engineers to address national problems in the areas of energy security, nuclear security and scientific discovery and innovation. (Full Story)

Physical sciences conference seeks to encourage women in male-dominated field

Dale Tupa has always liked science. A physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she runs diagnostic tests to understand shock physics and explosions. For 24 years, she has worked at the lab. She loves what she does – and she wants other women to love what they do, too. (Full Story)

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Cosmic rays could aid nuclear reactor cleanup

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory say have devised a method to use cosmic rays to gather detailed information from inside the damaged cores of nuclear reactors damaged by the earthquake in Japan last March.

The reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were heavily damaged by the tsunami that followed the earthquake on March 11, 2011. Researchers at Los Alamos say their scattering method for cosmic-ray radiography shows tremendous promise for pinpointing the exact location of materials within the Fukushima reactor buildings. (full story)

This story also appeared in New Mexico Business Weekly

Curiosity rover finds rock unlike any seen on Mars

A rock on Mars being studied by NASA's Curiosity rover is unlike any Martian stone ever seen, and is surprisingly similar to an unusual, but well-known, kind of rock on Earth.

“It was the first good-size rock that we found along the way,” Roger Wiens, principal investigator for Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam)instrument at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (full story)

Los Alamos reports a new monitoring technique for Fukushima

Los Alamos National Laboratory published their press release today about the use of muon detectors/muon radiography at the Fukushima nuclear disaster site. The technique generatedsome excitement at Homeland Security some years ago (2007/8) re. the detection of contraband nuclear materials. It was exciting because the technique and gadgets involved could detect the presence of concealed plutonium and uranium. It was believed to be the most effective radioactive material finding technique due to something known as muon scattering.

This detection and monitoring work is relevant to the Fukushima disaster site inthat it removes some of the potential radiation exposure to human workers. However, the muon detectors themselves are sensitive to the Fukushima radiation environment and must be shielded. Adequate shielding appears to be provided by "50 cm of concrete" for the devices. Though no size of the detectors and components were directly reported a search of our slideshow suggests they may be "table top" size. (full story)

World's Largest Subwoofer: Earthquakes 'Pump' Ground to Produce Infrasound

Earthquakes sway buildings, buckle terrain, and rumble -- both audibly and in infrasound, frequencies below the threshold of human hearing. New computer modeling by a team of researchers indicates that most of the low-frequency infrasound comes from an unexpected source: the actual "pumping" of Earth's surface. The researchers confirmed their models by studying data from an actual earthquake.

"It's basically like a loudspeaker," said Stephen Arrowsmith, a researcher with the Geophysics Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, who presents his team's findings at the 164th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), held Oct. 22 -- 26 in Kansas City, Missouri. (full story)

This story also appeared in Science Codex

NMSU College of Engineering graduate leads research team to prestigious award

New Mexico State University College of Engineering alumni Jessie Nichols and Pete Pittman have led a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with Y-12 National Security Complex, to a R&D 100 Award for Valveless Laser Processing.

R&D 100 Awards have been called the "Oscars of Innovation," recognize the top 100 technologically significant accomplishments of the past year, and are awarded annually by R&D Magazine.

"This gives engineers and designers the capability to use another process, something else on their tool belt they can implement and be able to use to reduce theweight of systems, reduce the cost of production and increase the lives of systems, and also, in the long run, reduce the need for valves," Nichols said. (full story)

Editorial: Nuke arsenal essential

It can reasonably be argued that the most important role of government is defending its citizens and ensuring their welfare and liberty. To that end, nations maintain armies and weapons.

The U.S. nuclear arsenal has reached a point where billions must be spent to maintain its integrity. Estimates place upgrading and maintaining its 5,113warheads, replacing aging delivery systems and renovating facilities at $352 billion over the coming decade (full story).

Los Alamos PRObE center allows computer scientists to test super-computing and big data systems software scale

The New Mexico Consortium (NMC), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and the National Science Foundation (NSF) have partnered to create the PRObE Center (Parallel Reconfigurable Observational Environment), a one-of-a-kind computer systems research center located at the Los Alamos Research Park. A grand opening celebration is scheduled from 1-3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18. (full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

LANL's contributions to Curiosity power source wins DOE Secretary Award

A small team of Los Alamos National Laboratory employees received the Secretary of Energy’s Achievement Award for their contributions on the thermoelectric generator that provides electrical power and heat to the Mars Science Laboratory's Curiosity rover.

The award was presented by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu to Craig Van Pelt, Alejandro Enriquez, Diane Spengler, John Matonic and David Armstrong Oct. 4 in Washington D.C. (full story)

This story also appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor

SFCC gets $1.1M for green program

The program is expected to serve 60 Santa Fe County youths over a three-year period. The grant was developed and written through a partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Security (full story).

Also from the Journal this week:

Pueblo joins LANL group

Ohkay Owingeh has joined the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities, participating as a full voting member.

“We are extremely pleased to be the first pueblo to join. … We look forward to participating and supporting this most worthwhile effort,” said Ohkay Owingeh Gov. Ron Lovato in a press release (full story).

Continued Droughts Spell Bad News For Trees And Agriculture

A research team, led by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, geography professor has evidence suggesting that recent droughts could be the new normal. This is not good news for our nation’s forests and agricultural lands.

The research team, which included scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, University of Arizona and Columbia University, studied tree ring data to evaluate how drought affects survival and productivity in conifer trees of the American Southwest. The results of their study are published in this month’s “Nature Climate Change.” (full story)

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Mars Curiosity rover uncovers most unusual Martian rock yet

These graphs represent compositions indicated by 350 ChemCam spectra. NASA.

“ChemCam has seen unexpected observations,” said the instrument’s principal investigator, Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, in a press conference on the latest rover findings Thursday.

Specifically, Curiosity’s ChemCam found that the rock contained “a unique composition for each of the 14 points” examined, as NASA explained in a press release, shattering theories that the rock Jake would be homogenous. (Full Story)

What Martian rocks and applejack liquor have in common

14 laser shots in two groupings at two select areas of the football-sized rock, indicated in red. NASA.

The first rock that Curiosity’s science team chose for contact science on Mars has turned out to be an especially interesting one, researchers said during a press conference today.

The big rover arrived at "Jake Matijevic," a triangular hunk one foot wide, on September 20. Curiosity’s intention was to study the chemistry of this igneous rock for more clues about Mars’s history. Though sedimentary rocks are the best for estimating habitability, igneous rocks like Jake are "better behaved," according to Roger Weins of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, principal investigator for Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam). (Full Story)

Neutron research shapes drug design

The Protein Crystallography Station at the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. LANL photo.

Researchers at Los Alamos NationalLaboratory have used neutron crystallography for the first time to determine the structure of a clinical drug in complex with its human target enzyme. Seeing the detailed structure of the bonded components provides insights into developing more effective drugs with fewer side effects for patients.

The atomic details of drug binding have been largely unknown due to the lack of key information on specific hydrogen atom positions and hydrogen bonding between the drug and its target enzyme. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in the Los Alamos Monitor

Synopsis: Peeking into Fukushima’s reactors

Schematic of a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.  LANL image.

Workers at Fukushima Daiichi powerplant have come up with creative ideas to assess the conditions of the reactors damaged in the 2011 nuclear accident, sending balloons and robots to explore the highly radioactive environment.

Writing in Physical Review Letters, Konstantin Borozdin at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, and colleagues propose an alternative method that uses cosmic-ray muons, a part of natural backgroundradiation, to obtain a radiographic image of the reactor cores. (Full Story)

Top five threats to national security in the coming decade

Harshini Mukundan. LANL photo.

Information technology systems that could collect and coordinate the data and give public health officials a picture of where diseases are emerging is only one part of the problem.

The main issue is that the policies and procedures on how to do this have yet to be worked out.

Harshini Mukundan, a scientist in the chemical division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said diseases emerge in food, humans and animals. “They are all interconnected and having separate agencies monitoring each [one] defeats the cause,” she added. (Full Story)

Abq startup could open fuel-cell floodgates

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers Gang Wu, left, and Piotr Zelenay examine a new non-precious-metal catalyst. LANL photo.

Pajarito Powder LLC technology is based on breakthroughs at the UNM, Michigan State and Los Alamos National Laboratory. All three have developed non-platinum catalysts that include polymer and metals, such as iron and cobalt, to initiate the chemical reactions that make hydrogen fuel cells work.

The cells convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. Platinum, or Pajarito’s alternative catalyst materials, cause oxygen to separate into single molecules, creating a negative charge. The materials also break down the hydrogen, freeing up electrons and creating a positive charge. (Full Story)

Coming drought may ruin region's forests

A dead piñon pine in northern NM.  LANL image.

A. Park Williams and colleagues from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey and several tree-ring laboratories developed a new tool for predicting megadroughts called the Forest Drought Stress Index. The scientists combined tree-ring data, temperature and precipitation records, and other climate records to build the tool for predicting the impact of long hot, dry spells on forests. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in the Western Farm Press

NASA’S Swift satellite discovers a new black hole in our galaxy

Swift J1745-26, with a scale of the moon as it would appear in the field of view from Earth. NASA Goddard.

NASA’s Swift satellite recently detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from a source toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The outburst, produced by a rare X-ray nova, announced the presence of a previously unknown stellar-mass black hole. Swift is operated in collaboration with Penn State, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Orbital Sciences Corp. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in Florida Weekly

NNMC honors LANL’s Marquez

Richard Marquez.  LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Executive Director Richard Marquez is the namesake for a new leadership andservice award at Northern New Mexico College in Española.

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition from Northern New Mexico College,” Marquez said. “I have been fortunate with regard to my education and career with opportunities and mentors." (Full Story)

Los Alamos ChemCam team update Oct. 2012

 Members of the Los Alamos National Laboratory ChemCam team re-live their experiences during the entry, descent, and landing phase of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, including never-before-seen video from the Science Team viewing area. Then the team updates the Curiosity rover mission with the first laser firing of the ChemCam instrument and follow-on laser firings and first data acquisition details. (See the video here -- or click on the picture)

Couple's college dream in the making

Los Alamos National Laboratory intern Santana García-Chang, left, discusses a drainage project with mentor Debbie Apodaca Pesiri. LANL photo.

They are both first in their families to pursue college degrees. García-Chang, who will receive $11,000 over four years from the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund, is determined. Rael, inspired by her drive, became one of the early winners of a Returning Student/Regional College Scholarship $1,000 award for people whose college careers have been interrupted. The scholarships are administered by the LANL Foundation, with funding from donations by LANL employees and a matching amount from Los Alamos National Security, LLC. (Full Story)

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