Friday, February 23, 2018

Forecasting diseases one image at a time

The article’s author, Nick Generous. LANL photo.

At Los Alamos National Laboratory, we’ve been using mathematics and computer modeling since the early 2000s to better track infectious diseases. It’s easy to see how tracking diseases and stemming their spread are vital to national security. Diseases don’t care about boundaries. They don’t respect borders, and they aren’t governed by political ideology. All it takes to spread an infectious disease is for an infected person to carry it from one place to another. In today’s globally connected society, that’s all too easy.

To help prevent disease outbreaks in the United States, we need to improve public health all around the world, not just within our own borders. Better disease tracking—and, more importantly, forecasting—can help us do this. If disease outbreaks could be forecasted like the weather, communities could set up protective measures to mitigate their impact. (Full Story)

Using poop to cure gut infections

Anand Kumar works with a biosafety level 2 facility at Los Alamos, LANL photo.

If all disease begins in the gut, as Hippocrates declared more than 2,000 years ago, then surely the cures for those diseases must be tied to the gut, as well. That’s the basic idea behind research at Los Alamos National Laboratory that aims to make fecal transplants a thing of the past.

The gut – a.k.a. the gastrointestinal tract that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus – contains trillions of bacterial cells. A majority are good bacteria that reside in the nearly 30 feet of the large and small intestines. These good bacteria are responsible for a person’s overall health. (Full Story)

Exascale computers set to produce a quintillion calculations

Jim Ahrens, Exascale Computer Project Data and Visualization area lead. Post photo.

When thinking about the fastest supercomputers available today solving problems at the petascale, a quadrillion calculations per second, it is amazing to realize what has been achieved in the world of computer science.

Now comes the Exascale Computer Project (ECP), which was launched in 2016 as a collaboration between the Department of Energy’s Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration involving six core national laboratories including Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Crowd packs UnQuarked to hear about ATHENA

LANL scientist Jennifer Harris draws a crowd for a discussion on ATHENA, Daily Post photo.

Despite snowy weather conditions Wednesday night, more than 50 people attended the Science On Tap to hear Jennifer Harris talk about the ATHENA project underway at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Harris discussed with the group gathered at UnQuarked at 145 Central Park Square, the fact that while new drugs are under constant development, most fail in clinical trials. Why do so many drugs pass animal testing, but fail in Phase 1 clinical trials in humans? Are animal models of human diseases ultimately really a good model for humans? (Full Story)

A nanowire array to screen drugs for neurodegenerative diseases

A human-induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) neuron on a nanowire array, ACS image.

The team developed a new hybrid integration scheme that offers, for the first time, a nanowire-on-lead approach. The approach enables independent electrical addressability, is scalable, and has superior spatial resolution in vertical nanowire arrays.

The team is from the University of California San Diego, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, and the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a Department of Energy Office of Science user facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, February 16, 2018

Neutron lifetime puzzle deepens, but no dark matter seen

Two ways to measure neutron lifetimes, Quanta illustration.

The discrepancy between the “bottle” and “beam” measurements has persisted since both methods of gauging the neutron’s longevity began yielding results in the 1990s. At first, all the measurements were so imprecise that nobody worried. Gradually, though, both methods have improved, and still they disagree.

Now, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico have made the most precise bottle measurement of the neutron lifetime yet, using a new type of bottle that eliminates possible sources of error in earlier designs. The result, which will soon appear in the journal Science, reinforces the discrepancy with beam experiments and increases the chance that it reflects new physics rather than mere experimental error. (Full story)

Novel exciton interactions in carbon nanotubes


Stephen Doorn performs spectroscopic
characterization of carbon nanotubes. LANL photo.

Nanotechnology researchers studying small bundles of carbon nanotubes have discovered an optical signature showing excitons bound to a single nanotube are accompanied by excitons tunneling across closely interacting nanotubes. That quantum tunneling action could impact energy distribution in carbon nanotube networks, with implications for light-emitting films and light harvesting applications.

"Observing this behavior in carbon nanotubes suggests there is potential to detect and control a similar response in more complex, multi-layered semiconductor and semiconductor-metal heterostructures,” said Stephen Doorn, of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos and a coauthor of the study, recently published in Nature Communications. (Full story)

Augmented reality combines worlds to make the real world safer

Augmented reality goggles project holograms
onto the existing environment to help solve
infrastructure challenges, LANL image.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is investigating the technology’s applications and writing software in support of the Laboratory’s national security mission, such as tracking inventories or giving workers instructions for using equipment on the job and in real time. Other new uses of augmented reality technology being developed at Los Alamos may save time, money, and even lives by improving procedures for structural-health monitoring. (Full story)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Only a weapons lab can find a weapons lab

Author Nancy Jo Nicholas, Principal Associate Director of Global Security at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Decades ago, after developing the first atomic bomb, Los Alamos National Laboratory developed and implemented scrupulous material control and accounting for its own nuclear material. That research led to inventing a wide range of satellite-borne and Earth-based instruments; many of the latter are used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor nuclear activity. Instruments in space detect X-rays, gamma rays, and neutrons – all signatures of a nuclear explosion – anywhere on the globe, including hyper-secretive North Korea. Scientists tease out those signatures from the data “noise.” (Full Story)

Early quantum computing investors see benefits

The first systems stringing together tens of quantum bits are being made available for researchers to use, from the Financial Times.

Quantum computing will potentially mark one of the tech world’s biggest revolutions, harnessing the quirks of quantum mechanics to speed up machine computation exponentially.  

John Sarrao, associate director for theory, simulation, and computation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, is among the scientists looking at how to invest in the technology.

The organisation is taking a long-term view of quantum computing from a national security point of view. However, according to Mr Sarrao, there are also benefits to be gained in the shorter term. (Full Story)

How quantum dots supercharge farming, medicine and solar, too

Quantum dots fluoresce under UV light, from LANL video.

Researchers from places like the Los Alamos National Laboratory and University College London, companies like Solterra and UbiQD, and many others are using quantum dots to help improve the efficiency of solar power.

Though it's not quite as simple as "TV, but backwards" it's possible to create a solar cell that uses quantum dots. So instead of taking electricity and creating light, like they do on a TV, they take light and create electricity. Although still very early in development, researchers expect to get quantum dot-based solar cells to be at least as efficient, and likely more so, than a traditional solar cell. (Full Story)

Taking solar energy to the edge

Layered perovskite, LANL image.    

At CINT researchers discovered an efficient way to make combined solar panels and light-emitting devices. Rather than using blocks of hybrid perovskite materials, they layered several thin sheets on top of each other.

Hybrid perovskites are a new class of low-cost materials that can capture and emit light. This material can be synthesized in several forms: bulk 3-D structures, 2-D crystal sheets, and 1-D rods. In particular, layered compounds can be created by stacking 2-D crystal sheets with thin organic layers in between. (Full Story)

4 nontraditional Taos students receive LANL scholarships

Sixteen Northern New Mexico adult students returning to college, including four from Taos, each received $1,000 scholarships from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. The awards from the Los Alamos Employees' Scholarship Fund help local, nontraditional students enter higher education programs to expand job opportunities or pursue new careers. (Full Story)

Photos: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Career Fair

Los Alamos National Lab's Chris Werner, left, speaks with RPI student Daniel Petti, RPI Photo.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center for Career and Professional Development hosted its Spring Career Fair on Wednesday. The fair is designed to help students support their search for full-time, co-op, internship, or summer employment opportunities.

From renewable energy to cybersecurity, from biotechnology to materials science, from big data to nanotechnology, the world needs problem solvers—exactly the kind of talent Rensselaer produces—to address the urgent issues of today and the emerging issues of tomorrow. (Full Story)

To subscribe to Los Alamos Press Highlights, please e-mail and include the words subscribe PressHighlights in the body of your email message; to unsubscribe, include unsubscribe PressHighlights.

Please visit us at

Friday, February 2, 2018

Missing neutrons may lead a secret life as dark matter

SciAm illustration.

If neutrons are turning into dark matter, the process could also produce gamma-ray photons, according to Fornal and Grinstein’s calculations. “We have some germanium gamma-ray detectors lying around,” says Christopher Morris, who runs neutron experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

By serendipity, he and his team just recently installed a large tank to collect neutrons on their way from the start of the experiment to the point where physicists try to measure their lifetimes. This tank provided a large holding cell where many neutrons might decay into dark particles, if the process in fact occurs, and produce gamma-rays as a by-product. (Full story)

Novel computational biology model accurately describes dynamics of gene expression

Yen Ting Lin, LANL photo.

Using a simple analytical framework for random events within a predictable system, computational biologists have found a new way to accurately model certain forms of gene expression, including the body's 24-hour internal clock.

"In this study, we develop a simplifying method to reduce a class of commonly adopted gene expression models to a mathematical model, the PDMP, because it is easier to analyze and simulate than previous models," said Yen Ting Lin, corresponding author of the study and an applied mathematician in the Theoretical Division and Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Los Alamos scientists conduct study to help predict diseases

Harshini Mukundan speaks to a local
volunteer, from the Monitor.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and the Medical Associates of Northern New Mexico are looking for volunteers in Los Alamos County to participate in a respiratory pathogen study and provide information and swab samples.

“The goal of this study is to develop a system that can predict future emergence of infections, propose the best public health solutions to prevent spread of diseases and provide suitable treatment for infections,” said Harshini Mukundan, of Los Alamos’ Physical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy group. (Full story)

New technique paves the way for better 2-D catalysts

Multilayered Molybdenum Disulfide,
from Carnegie/DOE.

As part of the research, scientists Jun Lou and colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory developed a technique that allowed them to peer through windows created by an electron beam in order to measure the catalytic activity of molybdenum disulfide – the 2-D material that shows potential for being used in applications using electrocatalysis to separate hydrogen from water.

Results from the initial tests proved that the sheet’s edge is where most of the production is coming from. “We’re using this new technology to identify the active sites that have been long-predicted by theory,” said Lou. “There was some indirect proof that the edge sites are always more active than the basal planes, but now we have direct proof.” (Full story)