Friday, May 27, 2016

Low-mass particles that make high-mass stars go boom

Symmetry illustration.

Supernova research really took off in the 1980s with growing computer power and the realization that a full understanding of core collapse would need to incorporate a lot of complicated physics.

“Core-collapse supernovae involve a huge variety of effects involving all four fundamental forces,” says Joshua Dolence of the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The predicted outcome of collapse—even the most basic question of ‘Does this star explode?’—can depend on how these effects are incorporated into simulations." (Full story)

Using supercomputers to probe the early Universe

WMAP satellite gathering data to understand
the Big Bang, NASA image.

Physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, however, are taking a different approach: they are using computers. In collaboration with colleagues at University of California San Diego, the Los Alamos researchers developed a computer code, called BURST, that can simulate a slice in the life of our young cosmos.

While BURST is not the first computer code to simulate conditions during the first few minutes of cosmological evolution, it can achieve better precision by a few orders of magnitude compared to its predecessors. (Full story)

The Hiroshima mushroom cloud that wasn’t

“This is not a mushroom cloud,” said Richard L. Garwin, a noted bomb designer and longtime adviser to Washington on nuclear arms.

Kevin Roark, a spokesman at the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, which made the Hiroshima bomb, known as Little Boy, said the image showed “a smoke plume from the fires that followed.”

Military experts say the cloud and its dark shadow can be seen as a kind of sundial that suggests when an American plane took the photograph. (Full story)

Los Angeles could be gigawatts short this summer

Infrared image of Aliso Canyon storage site leaking
methane last year. NPCA Image.

Relying on gas plants to balance solar and wind generation could have increasingly severe impacts as their penetration grows, according to gas flow modeling by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico. Their December 2015 report in the journal Applied Energy modeled the Transco pipeline system, which moves gas between the Gulf of Mexico and New York City. (Full story)

Los Alamos staff help detect underground nuclear explosions

Catherine Snelson, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory staff were instrumental in the fifth conventional explosion experiment as part of the NNSA’s Source Physics Experiment (SPE) series.

“The goal of SPE is to understand the generation of S-waves from explosive sources,” said Catherine Snelson, a geophysicist at Los Alamos that led the Laboratory’s team. “The most recent SPE shot was a great success and has led to about three times more data than what we have acquired on previous shots." (Full story)

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Mars? The allure (and challenge) of colonizing the red planet

Roger Wiens, ChemCam program leader, LANL image.

I have been fortunate to lead a joint French-American team using a laser-based sensor, ChemCam, which was developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory and is now aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover. When ChemCam fires its extremely powerful laser pulse at a Martian rock, it vaporizes an area the size of a pinhead. The system’s telescope peers at the flash of glowing plasma created by the vaporized material and records the colors of light contained within it. These spectral colors are then interpreted by a spectrometer, allowing us to determine the elemental composition of the vaporized material. (Full Story)

See the video

Perovskite solar cells self-heal in the dark

From left, Aditya Mohite, Jean-Christophe Blancon and Wanyi Nie, LANL photo.               

A new study has found both the cause and a solution for the pesky tendency of perovskite solar cells to degrade in sunlight, a research breakthrough potentially removing one roadblock to commercialization for this promising technology. In a key finding, researchers at Los Alamos National  Laboratory have found those degraded devices exhibit self-healing powers when given a little time in the dark. (Full Story)

Perovskite solar cells heal in the dark

A perovskite crystal, LANL image.

Researchers led by Aditya Mohite of the Los Alamos National Lab in the US are now saying that the materials are unstable because the photocurrent they produce gradually decreases over time. Thanks to capacitance measurements on devices made from the perovskites and time-resolved photoluminescence measurements on the thin films of the materials, the researchers were able to observe that the photocurrent reduces because meta-stable charge trap states activated by light form at relatively low energies deep in the perovskite bandgap. (Full Story)

Also from Energy Matters

Rare-earth-free magnet made from cheap materials

The material's crystalline structure, from Electronics Weekly.

Researchers have created a powerful permanent magnet out of iron and nitrogen, two plentiful cheap materials, as part of a programme to cut the need for ‘rare earth’ metals.

“To the best of our knowledge, this could be the first experimental evidence of the existence of a giant saturation magnetisation, an obviously large coercivity, with a magnetic energy product of up to 20 MGOe, in a bulk-type FeN sample.” said the team from the University of Minnesota, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Five NM firms win Venture Fund awards

Five Northern New Mexico businesses will receive Venture Acceleration Fund awards. The awards are funded primarily by Los Alamos National Security, LLC and administered by the Regional Development Corporation.

The Venture Acceleration Fund helps companies through marketing and technology development activities. The awards are structured as zero-interest loans, with repayment required only under certain circumstances. (Full Story)

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Science on the Hill: Gravitational waves open new window on universe

A simulation of two merging black holes, LIGO image.

Now that gravitational waves have been found, what can be done with them? Lots, it turns out, as these waves open a new window on the very large and very small workings of the universe.

Members of the Center for Theoretical Astrophysics at Los Alamos National Laboratory have worked for years to develop computer models of neutron stars and black holes, potential sources of the gravitational waves. Others in the Laboratory’s Space Science & Applications group and the Space & Remote Sensing group worked on instruments for observing related electromagnetic signals in research that followed the detection. (Full story)

Machine learning accelerates discovery of new materials

Researchers recently demonstrated how an informatics-based adaptive design strategy, tightly coupled to experiments, can accelerate the discovery of new materials with targeted properties, according to a recent paper published in Nature Communications.

"What we've done is show that, starting with a relatively small data set of well-controlled experiments, it is possible to iteratively guide subsequent experiments toward finding the material with the desired target," said Turab Lookman, a physicist and materials scientist in the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

MRI to serve rural communities

Portable MRI prototype, LANL image.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have created a portable Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine for use in remote and underserved locations such as in the battlefield and in remote hospitals that lack large medical facilities found in rural areas in New Mexico.

The newly developed Battlefield MRI (bMRI) uses Ultra-Low Field (ULF) MRI to create images of injured soft tissues, such as the brain. Today, scientists are studying whether ULF MRI’s actually produce images with better contrast. (Full story)

Sen. Heinrich visits high tech startup Descartes Labs
From left, Harry Burgess, Steven Brumby, Sen.
Martin Heinrich, Susan O'Leary and Tim Glasco,
Daily Post photo.

Heinrich and staff stopped by the office of one of LDRD’s most recent success stories, Descartes Labs, a venture-backed start-up spun out of Los Alamos National Laboratory in December 2014.

Now ensconced in Los Alamos County’s model “smart house,” overlooking Los Alamos Canyon, Descartes Labs has quickly become a high-flyer in what co-founder Steven Brumby calls the “living map” business. (Full story)

What would happen if GPS failed?

GPS III Satellite, NASA Image.

Security officials have been concerned about the susceptibility of G.P.S. to spoofing since at least the early two-thousands. Fourteen years ago, a team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, built a spoofer by modifying a G.P.S.-signal simulator (a legal device that tests receivers’ accuracy) and aiming it at a stationary receiver more than a mile away. The receiver’s display revealed that it believed it was zipping across the desert at six hundred miles per hour. (Full story)

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Friday, May 6, 2016

How a bunch of supercomputers in the desert are keeping you safe

Trinity, the newest supercomputer at Los Alamos. LANL photo.

The Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation houses one of the largest supercomputing centers on the planet where calculation, modeling, simulation, and visualization of complex nuclear weapons data in support of the Stockpile Stewardship Program is carried out.

Among those allowed inside the fence are Randal Rheinheimer, deputy division leader for High Performance Computing at LANL, and Josip Loncaric, HPC Technology Futures Lead at LANL. "I'm the big-picture guy and Josip Loncaric is the detail-orientated one," Rheinheimer explains. (Full Story)

New Mexico scientists develop tiny, artificial lung

PuLMo artificial lung module, LANL image.     

New Mexico researchers are creating a new device to test what people are breathing into their bodies and how harmful it could be. It is an artificial lung, known as PuLMo for Pulmonary Lung Model.

“We want to provide a bridge between animal tests and human clinical trials,” said LANL Scientist Jennifer Harris. “In animal testing, we don’t always get the information that we need before drugs are used in humans." (Full Story)

Watch the YouTube video

Hunting for the signatures of cancer
Cancer cells attack, from Huff Post. 

Can we find common mutations across individuals with the same cancer? And how many of these mutational patterns that are common across individuals can we attribute to particular exposures and/or biological processes? Distinguished postdoctoral researcher Ludmil Alexandrov, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been working on this problem since his he was a PhD student at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

“It’s like lifting fingerprints,” Alexandrov explains. “The mutations are the fingerprints, but now we have to do the investigative work and find the ‘perpetrator’, i.e., the carcinogens that caused them.” (Full Story)

The best data visualizations of the year are absolutely incredible

Ocean currents are invisible to the naked eye, but this simulation by Los Alamos National Laboratory shows their intricate global reach. LANL image.

The winners of the inaugural Data Stories Competition, which highlights some of the most creative and fascinating scientific data visualizations of the past year, have just been announced. Sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, entries ranged from planetary science and oceanography to neuroscience and climate change. (Full Story)

LANL scientists study impact of ‘climate-driven disturbances’ on water supplies

While the impact of higher temperatures on rivers and reservoirs is widely studied, it’s trickier to know how massive changes in vegetation patterns and landscapes will affect water supplies, now and in the future. It’s likely that the impact of wildfires, drought, and forest die-offs are “much more significant” than warming temperatures alone. That’s according to Richard Middleton, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Often, people think about climate change as something that’s still 50 years away, but Middleton says it’s a much shorter-term problem. And in some ways, New Mexico is the “canary in the coal mine.” (Full Story)

Novel model illustrates the finer details of nuclear fission

Density profile of the 240Pu fission process, from PhysOrg.      

In the first study of its kind, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of Washington, Warsaw University, and PNNL, have developed a novel model to take a look at what happens during the last stages of the fission process.

Using the model, they determined that fission fragments remain connected far longer than expected before the daughter nuclei split apart. Moreover, they noted the predicted kinetic energy agreed with results from experimental observations. (Full Story)

Rubik’s Cube that solves itself wins supercomputing award

The wining team, LANL photo.

Solving a Rubik’s Cube is challenging enough. Creating a three-dimensional simulation of a Rubik’s Cube on a computer, then writing a program that makes it solve itself is a much bigger challenge.

But that’s exactly what a group of Los Alamos students did, and their accomplishment earned the top prize in this year’s New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge, designed to help students learn how to use computers as a tool for computer modeling and scientific inquiry to analyze and solve real-world problems. (Full Story)

10 cool things to see at the Bradbury Science Museum

The Bradbury Science Museum, LANL photo.

During WWII, as the Manhattan Project to build nuclear weapons got underway, Los Alamos, New Mexico, suddenly no longer existed. If you knew someone there, you had to write to P.O. Box 1663. It was only in 1945 that the place was restored to official maps and records.

Eight years later, Robert Krohn, then in charge of the weapons program at Los Alamos National Laboratory, decided it was time to let people know the significance of the work done there. In 1954, a former ice house at Ashley Pond, with a vault door for security purposes, opened to the public as the Bradbury Science Museum, with unclassified exhibits and various WWII documentation. (Full Story)

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