Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting a critical edge on plutonium identification

TES-based devices sitting on one key of a computer keyboard. From PhysOrg

A collaboration between NIST scientists and colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory has resulted in a new kind of sensor that can be used to investigate the telltale isotopic composition of plutonium samples – a critical measurement for nuclear non-proliferation efforts and related forensics, as well as environmental monitoring, medical assays, and industrial safety. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg this week:

Using magnetic fields to understand high-temperature superconductivity

Brad Ramshaw conducts an experiment at the National High Magnetic Field Lab, LANL photo

LANL scientists are exposing high-temperature superconductors to very high magnetic fields, changing the temperature at which the materials become perfectly conducting and revealing unique properties of these substances.

“High magnetic-field measurements of doped copper-oxide superconductors are paving the way to a new theory of superconductivity,” said Brad Ramshaw of Condensed Matter and Magnet Science, lead researcher on the project. (Full Story)

Computer simulation improves offshore drill rig safety

A simulation of vortex induced motion. LANL image

Los Alamos National Laboratory mechanical and thermal engineering researchers’ efforts to solve the complex problem of how ocean currents affect the infrastructure of floating oilrigs and their computational fluid dynamics (CFD) numerical simulations received recognition from ANSYS Inc., a company that provides computer-based engineering simulation capabilities. (Full Story)

Also in HPCwire

LANL scientists’ ocean images help track changes and carbon capture

Los Alamos scientists recently used a supercomputer to paint a vibrant picture of how ocean eddies move heat and capture carbon from the atmosphere. The picture shows “the beauty of the ocean,” said scientist Todd Ringler.

More than a work of art, the ocean eddies modeled by Ringler and seven other members of the Climate, Ocean and Sea Ice Modeling team can help climate scientists and oceanographers track changes within the oceans. (Full Story)

New software identifies bacteria with less false positives

DNA and RNA extracted from the soil and other complex environments. LANL image

Led by Patrick Chain, scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have combined bacterial genome databases and a search algorithm to create a system that can reveal the constituents of metagenomic samples through a process dubbed Genomic Origins Through Taxonomic Challenge (GOTTCHA). The system uses unique reads obtained through next-generation sequencing to resolve the taxonomy of bacterial species in metagenomes at any level from class all the way down to bacterial strain. (Full Story)

Also in Medical News Today

Scientists use this laser flower instead of nuclear explosions

Photo: It might look like something out of a nightclub, but this so-called Wide-angle Optical Multi-channel Probe is straight from the research halls of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

This specialized laser instrument allows Los Alamos scientists to perform sophisticated nuclear experiments and gather significant amounts of data without a critical mass of plutonium. (Full Story)

LANL takes on deadly bugs

Cross section of skin layers showing application of an ionic liquid for combating bacterial infection. UCSB image

David Fox is a staff scientist in LANL’s Bioscience Division. For several years he and a team of fellow chemists and microbiologists have been working with ionic liquids – known as molten salts. Originally their work was for forensic applications, like how to pull certain molecules out of fabrics. The team then figured out they could also use the ionic liquids to deliver molecules: like antibiotics to an until-then impenetrable bacteria. (Full Story)

HAWC Observatory to study Universe's most energetic phenomena

HAWC high in the mountains of Mexico. HAWC photo

HAWC has been collecting data since August 2013 when it had only 111 detector tanks. Even then, HAWC was much more capable than its predecessor-an observatory known as Milagro that operated near Los Alamos, N.M. and ceased taking data in 2008. In eight years of operation, Milagro found new sources of high-energy gamma rays, detected diffuse gamma rays from our own Milky Way galaxy and discovered that the cosmic rays hitting earth had an unexpected non-uniformity. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Climate change as art

View of North America, LANL image.

The mesmerising patterns of our changing climate have been revealed in artistic computer simulations used to analyse global warming. The model, by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is used to simulate eddy transportation of heat within the ocean, a key component necessary to accurately simulate climate change. These are circular movements of water, counter to a main current, causing a small whirlpool. (Full Story)

High-energy partnership

HAWC observatory, high on the slopes near Puebla, Mexico. HAWC Photo

A new facility should help advance understanding of black holes, supernovae and the origins of our universe. A partnership including Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Maryland will lead the High Altitude Water Cherenkov observatory near Puebla, Mexico.

Almost six years in the making, this facility has unique capabilities for detecting the highest-energy electromagnetic radiation, and complements other gamma ray observatories around the world. (Full Story)

Bioinformatics tool for metagenome analysis

Molecular biology studies begin with purified DNA and RNA.  LANL photo

A new method for DNA analysis of microbial communities, such as those found in the ocean, the soil, and our own guts, has been developed by scientists. "We have developed a new tool in this rapidly expanding and evolving field of what is called 'metagenomics'" said a researcher. "It uses nucleic acid data and looks for sections that map uniquely to a pre-constructed database." (Full Story)

Also in PhysOrg and R&D Magazine

Los Alamos lab reduces water use in 2014

The Laboratory's SERF facility.  LANL image

Los Alamos National Laboratory says it has cut down on its water use by more than a quarter.

And about one-third of the savings last year came from the switch to reclaimed water for cooling a supercomputing center at the Northern New Mexico lab.

The lab’s reclamation plant contributed more than 27 million gallons of re-purposed water to the Strategic Computing Complex, a secure facility that supports national security work and is one of the institution’s larger water users. (Full Story)

Watch a video and see how SERF works.  Also in HPCwire

New insights into radiation damage evolution

A reaction between two "stacking fault tetrahedra." LANL image

Two reports from Los Alamos National Laboratory in Scientific Reports are helping crack the code of how certain materials respond in the highly damaging radiation environments within a nuclear reactor. The goal of these efforts is to understand at an atomistic level just how materials develop defects during irradiation,  and how those defects evolve to determine the ultimate fate of the material. (Full Story)

Reader View: Keeping peace — the real mission of Los Alamos

I think it is time that someone spoke up about the real mission of Los Alamos Scientific (later National) Laboratory.     

"You know what the lab is best known for, but you don’t know our mission. Your mission is to be absolutely certain that what Los Alamos is known for is never, ever used again in anger,” said former director Norris Bradbury.

Much water has passed over the dam, but that is still LANL’s mission, in spite of much of what you read and hear today. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 13, 2015

The fate of trees: How climate change may alter forests worldwide

Scientists Williams, McDowell and Allen (from left) Rolling Stone photo.

Dr. Nate McDowell, a Los Alamos National Laboratory expert on mechanisms of tree death, is conducting experiments on conifers in the wild. He's erected a series of clear Plexiglas cylinders around individual piñon pines, and systematically heated and dried them while monitoring their vital signs. Simulating climate conditions for the remainder of the century, McDowell could see in his Plutonian chambers what Park Williams had foreseen. "The Southwest is going to be a grassland, with the occasional rare tree," McDowell says. "It's going to be a different place. And there's reason to think that's the same for big chunks of the world." (Full Story)

Muons probe Fukushima’s ruins

Elena Guardincerri, right, and Shelby Fellows prepare a lead hemisphere inside a muon tomography machine. LANL photo.

Two groups of physicists, including a joint LANL-Toshiba team, are planning to use muons to produce x-ray-like images to pinpoint uranium inside Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant.

In units 2 and 3, fuel is likely scattered throughout the core, pressure vessel, and containment vessel. For that more challenging imaging assignment, TEPCO is turning to the Los Alamos team. Work on muon detectors there began in the 1990s, when physicist Christopher Morris led ateam looking for noninvasive ways to inspect nuclear weapons.
 (Full Story)

LANL boosts light-water reactor research
Volume fraction of a bubble phase in fuel rod bundle. LANL image.

Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling and simulation technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new interinstitutional agreement for intellectual property. (Full Story)

Solar as cheap as coal… Why not cheaper?

Wanyi Nie creates large crystal structures in a glove box.  LANL video.

By the way, if you’d like to see another example of taxpayer-funded low-cost solar cell manufacturing, check out a nifty little video of a new perovskite-based process under way at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Los Alamos team was able to resolve that problem and fabricate large-area perovskite solar cells using a “hot casting” method, as neatly described in a video ambitiously titled “SUPER efficient Solar — Low-Cost Solar-Based Global Energy Solution” (Full Story)

LANL provides shoes to Los Alamos Public School students

LANL’s Amanda Martinez, presents coupons for shoes to Dr. Gene Schmidt. LANL photo.
epresentatives from the Community Programs Office provided 10 gift coupons to purchase shoes to Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent Gene Schmidt, as part of the annual LANL Laces program.

This marks the fourth year that Amanda Martinez on behalf of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Programs Office has been a part of the giving program. This year, 162 LANL Laces gift cards were distributed to needy students throughout northern New Mexico. (Full Story)

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Using cosmic radiation to peer inside Fukushima's damaged reactors

IAEA inspectors at the Fukushima Plant. From IAEA.

A team from the Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL) is attempting to actually image the innermost reaches of Fukushima by flanking its reactors with two enormous cosmic ray detectors. If successful, the team will be able to tell cleanup crews where each of the melted down nuclear samples has ended up, and how to best approach one of the worst environmental disasters in recent memory.

The cosmic rays in question are called muons—elementary particles so powerful that not even the fusion reaction at the heart of a star nor the explosion of a nuclear bomb can create them.


Boosting light-water reactor research

Volume fraction of a bubble phase in a
fuel rod bundle. LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property.

“This agreement streamlines access to the reactor simulation research tools,” said Kathleen McDonald, software business development executive for the Laboratory, “and with a single contact through UT-Battelle, we have a more transparent release process, the culmination of a lengthy effort on the part of all the code authors,” she said.

(Full story)

Tracking, mapping epidemics in order to limit their spread

The measles virus.  From CDC.

A team of scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico are using the new Biosurveillance Gateway Web site to map epidemics in order better to understand and prevent deadly diseases.

The gateway will track outbreaks of ebola, measles, and other diseases, beginning with patient zero. It is the latest development in the field of biosurvelliance, the study of how the emergence and spread of diseases can be plotted, understood, and stopped.

Is iron rain the reason why Earth and the moon are so different?

Artist’s concept of the moon-forming collision. NASA image.

Experiments indicate that the velocity of the iron rain droplets will have been greater than the escape velocity on the moon, but below that of Earth. Earth would therefore have captured the metal cores of colliding asteroids, while the moon will have failed to. William Anderson of Los Alamos National Laboratory, US, said: "The moon may have received, but not retained, a significant portion of the late veneer."

How small but frequent grants are Shaping education
in New Mexico

The Española-based LANL Foundation has an Educational Outreach Small Grants program that closely ties the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to communities in northern New Mexico.

The LANL Foundation announced $48,000 in new education grant awards for 2014, which might not sound like a lot, but it’s sure impacting a lot of different local nonprofits.

Six regional businesses receive
Native American Venture Acceleration Fund grants
Phoebe Suina of High Water Mark,
Cochiti Pueblo. LANL photo.

Six Northern New Mexico Native American-owned and operated businesses received a total of $60,000 in grants through a Native American Venture Acceleration Fund created by Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) and the Regional Development Corporation.

The grants are designed to help the recipients create jobs, increase their revenue base and help diversify the area economy.

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