Friday, October 28, 2016

Guest Column: Keeping nuclear materials secure in an uncertain world

IAEA headquarters in Vienna, IAEA photo.       

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) based in Vienna have been spending a lot of time in Iran – But how do the inspectors know what to look for? They come to Los Alamos National Laboratory to learn how.

Los Alamos started teaching a special course for IAEA inspectors in 1980, and since then, all IAEA inspectors have been trained at the Laboratory. What they learn takes their initial training, which tells them how to take measurements and follow procedures, to the next level. (Full story)

Los Alamos disease-fighting technology
showing promise

Citrus plants treated with immunity
technology, from Innate Immunity, LLC.

A pathogen-carrying pest known as the glassy-winged sharpshooter has plagued grape vines in California for more than century, but a new technology from Los Alamos National Laboratory could soon turn sharpshooter ammunition into blanks.

A new startup, Los Alamos-based Innate Immunity LLC, is now working with industry leaders on field trials before broadly deploying the technology to protect California’s $30 billion wine industry. (Full story)


Flash Physics: CubeSats could soon self-propel

Rocket motor test firing, LANL image.

CubeSats – small, low-cost satellites – could soon become self-propelled, thanks to a rocket-motor concept developed by researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US. While CubeSats are a cheap and easy way for relatively small research groups to launch satellites and access space, they traditionally do not have any on-board propulsion system – the nanosatellites are usually launched via a larger satellite and simply released into a specific orbit. (Full story)

Also from New Atlas:

Geomagnetic storm could affect connection

A moderate geomagnetic storm is currently sweeping
the Northern Hemisphere, from Laboratory Equipment.

Experts at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are investigating the national-security implications of solar storms in a program called “Impacts of Extreme Space Weather Events on Power Grid Infrastructure: Physics-Based Modeling of Geomagnetically-Induced Currents During Carrington-Class Geomagnetic Storms,” begun last month.

The three-year Los Alamos program will determine what transformers, circuits, stations and conduits could be fried by a flare-up from the sun, according to Mike Henderson, leader of the program. (Full story)


 The prize on the horizon

Sara Del Valle at the Expanding Your
Horizons Conference, Daily Post photo.

The first thing that happened [at the Expanding Your Horizons conference in Santa Fe] was a talk by a super-mathematician who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory named Sara Del Valle; the keynote speaker could not have been more inspiring.

When her family moved to the United States, she was only 16 and she had to learn English in two years, if she wanted to go to college, but she did it. Her advice is, “Keep calm and study hard.”

She loved math, but she didn’t know what she wanted to study. A good idea that helped her was, “Find a mentor.” Like who? Like somebody you look up to, like a role model. (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Los Alamos honors four new research fellows

Top row: Preston and Hollingsworth.
Bottom row: Wiens and Crooker. LANL image.

Four distinguished Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists are being recognized as Fellows of the Laboratory this fall including Scott Crooker, Jennifer Hollingsworth, Dean Preston and Roger Wiens.

The Fellows organization at Los Alamos was established in 1981 and includes technical staff members who have been appointed by the Laboratory director in recognition of their sustained outstanding contributions and exceptional promise for continued professional achievement.

“Laboratory Fellows are selected for their exceptional contributions to Laboratory science and mission,” Laboratory Director Charlie McMillan said. (Full story)

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Los Alamos scientist works to increase availability of medical isotope

Iain May, LANL photo.

A scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory was recently recognized by the National Nuclear Security Administration for his work towards ensuring the reliability and domestic supply of a critical medical isotope used for diagnostic imaging. Iain May received the award in recognition of his work to support the development of new production methods for molybdenum-99, the precursor isotope used to formulate radiopharmaceuticals that diagnose heart disease, cancer, neurologic disease and other applications. (Full Story)

Also in the Daily Post

Rocket motor concept could boost CubeSat missions

Six motor test firing, LANL image.

The primary roadblock to CubeSat propulsion has always been safety. Typical spacecraft propulsion systems utilize fuels that are intrinsically hazardous, like hydrazine, or compressed gasses. Since CubeSats are usually deployed via "rideshare" or "piggyback" on a larger satellite deployment or other large space mission, even a small margin of risk is unacceptable.

"Obviously, someone who's paying half a billion dollars to do a satellite launch is not going to accept the risk," said Bryce Tappan. "So, anything that is taken on that rideshare would have to be inherently safe, no hazardous liquids." (Full Story)

See it on YouTube

Los Alamos scientists win top American Physical Society prizes

Alan Perelson (left) and Joe Carlson, LANL photo.

Two senior scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are being honored by the American Physical Society (APS) for their fundamental contributions in nuclear physics and biophysics.

Joe Carlson of the Laboratory’s Nuclear and Particle Physics, Astrophysics and Cosmology group is the winner of the APS’ 2017 Herman Feshbach Prize in theoretical nuclear physics.

Alan Perelson, of Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, is the recipient of the APS’ 2017 Max Delbruck Prize in Biological Physics. (Full Story)

SACNAS vital as ever, Native scientists still needed

Gabe Montano, SACNAS photo.

Four thousand people attended the recent annual meeting of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americas in Science. Los Alamos National Laboratory biophysical chemist and current SACNAS president Gabe Montano talked about the need for diversity and the myth of “color blindness.”

In his talk he traces his own journey as a biology undergrad from Santa Clara Pueblo, to where he is today as an internationally recognized and highly sought after speaker, and author of many books on the topic of indigenous knowledge. (Full Story)

Cleanup at 4 sites in LA Canyon complete

High-angle cleanup work in LA Canyon, LANL photo.

Four toxic waste sites located on the south rim of Los Alamos Canyon have been cleaned of toxic waste, according to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Management Field Office.

The sites, located on the south-facing side of the canyon, contained surface deposits of waste leftover from the Manhattan Project. (Full Story)

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Quantum-dot coating could pull solar energy from your windows

Large-scale photovoltaic window, LANL photo.

In big cities, sometimes buildings that don’t have a lot of roof space for solar cells still have large windows that could harness light for electricity. Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, reported yesterday in Nature Energy that a thin film of quantum dots on everyday glass could be the key to achieving acceptable efficiency in window photovoltaic systems at low cost. (Full story) 

Quantum-dot solar windows evolve with 'doctor-blade' spreading

Los Alamos team holds a large prototype solar window.
Left to right: Jaehoon Lim, Kaifeng Wu, Victor Klimov,
Hongbo Li. LANL photo.

In a paper this week for the journal Nature Energy, a Los Alamos National Laboratory research team demonstrates  an important step in taking quantum dot, solar-powered windows from the laboratory to the construction site by proving that the technology can be scaled up from palm-sized demonstration models to windows large enough to put in and power a building.

"We are developing solar concentrators that will harvest sunlight from building windows and turn it into electricity, using quantum-dot based luminescent solar concentrators," said lead scientist Victor Klimov. Klimov leads the Los Alamos Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP). (Full story)

Also in the Sacramento Bee

Rocket motor concept could boost CubeSat missions

Six motor array test firing, LANL image.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a rocket motor concept that could pave the way for CubeSats zooming across space. These small, low-cost satellites are an easy way for scientists to access space, but are lacking in one key area, on-board propulsion.

“The National Academy of Sciences recently convened a meeting to look at science missions in CubeSats,” said Bryce Tappan, an explosives chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead researcher on the CubeSat Propulsion Concept team, “and identified propulsion as one of the primary categories of technology that needs to be developed." (Full story)

See the video on YouTube

Science on the Hill: On track for a clean, hydrogen-powered future

3D image of an experimental fuel cell
membrane electrode assembly. LANL image.

Fuel cells have long been one of the most tantalizing clean-energy solutions. They offer electricity from an abundant energy carrier — hydrogen. Their energy density and scalability allow them to power everything from cell phones to cars, homes to the electric grid itself. They are more than twice as efficient at converting fuel to power than internal combustion engines. They use hydrogen that can be produced by using renewable energy such as solar or wind power to split water — H2O —into hydrogen and oxygen. And since the only byproducts of fuel cells are water and heat, they do all this without spewing climate-warming carbon dioxide. (Full story)

Stopping bridge collapses

Bridge collapse in India, from the Economist.

If their foundations begin to erode, the pattern of vibrations will change, much as the pitch of a tuning fork varies with its length. Accelerometers, Luke Prendergast of Delft University of Technology suggests, could monitor such changes and forewarn of problems.

Accelerometers are not the only way to measure vibrations, though. David MascareƱas of Los Alamos National Laboratory videos them. He then uses a computer algorithm to analyse the resulting footage and determine a structure’s properties, even if the vibrations recorded have an amplitude of less than a millimeter. (Full story)

Warm dense matter simulation sheds light on fusion

Warm and dense: simulation of electron
density, from Physics World.

A new computer simulation of warm dense matter that could improve laser plasma fusion has been unveiled by physicists in Germany, the US and the UK. The simulations allowed Matthew Foulkes and colleagues at Imperial College London, Christian Albrechts University Kiel and Los Alamos National Laboratory to determine the phase diagram of warm dense matter – which exists in the temperature range between condensed matter and plasma (1000–100,000 K) and is characterized by hot electrons that move around within tightly packed atoms. (Full story)

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Defense Secretary Carter wraps up tour of LANL

Carter (center) with Charlie McMillan (right) and Bob Webster at TA-55.  LANL photo.        

Defense Secretary Ash Carter wrapped up his visit to New Mexico Wednesday with a four-hour tour of the Los Alamos National Laboratory with Lab Director Charlie McMillan.

One of the main stops on his tour was “Plutonium Facility 4,” the country’s only plutonium science, technology and manufacturing center. Carter observed operations in the pit casting area of the facility, where molten plutonium is molded and shaped to fit inside nuclear weapons.

At the end of his tour, Carter expressed his thanks and appreciation for the LANL employees who made the plutonium cores and other nuclear weapon components. (Full Story)

Rock hounds are on the hunt for new carbon minerals

The Curiosity Rover. NASA Image.   

In 2014, Curiosity drilled into layered sediments with veins of hard, black, manganese-rich minerals within softer strata of sandstone and siltstone, says Nina Lanza, a planetary scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. A dearth of chlorine or sulfur atoms (two plausible chemical partners for manganese) plus a lack of carbon above levels normally seen in the Martian atmosphere strongly suggests that the minerals are manganese oxides, she and colleagues reported July 28 in Geophysical Research Letters. (Full Story)

Did Mars’s crust contribute to its atmosphere?

Nina Lanza, Smith College photo.

This summer, NASA reported that the rover had found oxygenated manganese on Mars, a discovery that scientists say is significant because it means that the planet might have had a more oxygen rich atmosphere than was previously thought.  ”This tells us that Mars has evolved very differently than we thought it did,” Nina Lanza, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory told the Monitor in June. “We need to start looking for different types of minerals and other evidence about Mars’s past.” (Full Story)

LANL named top 20 government employer

Los Alamos National Laboratory continues to be recognized for its diversity efforts: STEM Workforce Diversity Magazine, in its newest issue named the Laboratory a 2016 top 20 government employer, the only national laboratory to achieve this recognition.

Rankings were based on an annual survey of randomly-selected readers of the publication, according to Tamara Flaum-Dreyfuss, president and publisher of Equal Opportunity Publications, Inc., which publishes the trade publication. (Full Story)

City sees December summit on nuclear weapons as way to tap into ‘brainpower’

The preliminary program includes public discussion at the Lensic Theater on Dec. 4, tours of Los Alamos National Laboratory and other historic sites, a discussion of deterrence theory and a workshop on the future of global security.

“We want to shine a spotlight on Santa Fe and have a different type of tourist,” Conn said. “We want to establish Santa Fe as a Geneva of thought leadership. We know this is ambitious.” (Full Story)

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