Friday, September 28, 2018

Deep learning infiltrating HPC physics domains

Fluid dynamics model, from Next Platform.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Lab compared three deep learning models, generative adversarial networks, LAT-NET, and LSTM against their own observations about homogeneous, isotropic, and stationary turbulence and found that deep learning, “which do not take into account any physics of turbulence explicitly, are impressively good overall when it comes to qualitative description of important features of turbulence.” Even still, they add that there are some shortcomings that can be addressed by making corrections to the deep learning frameworks through reinforcement of special features of turbulence that the models do not pick out on their own after training. (Full story)

New space instrument goes for a spin

The High Explosives Centrifuge in action,
LANL photo.

Scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are using a unique centrifuge facility to evaluate a flight-ready telemetry system for evaluating a nuclear weapons test missile launch.

"The purpose of the centrifuge test is to subject the electronics to a high gravitational load (G-load) that's representative of what the system will experience when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere," said weapons test engineer Alex Cusick. (Full storySee the video at:

Bizarre particles keep flying out of Antarctica's ice

A team prepares ANITA for flight over
the Antarctic ice, NASA photo.

Since March 2016, researchers have been puzzling over two events in Antarctica where cosmic rays did burst out from the Earth, and were detected by NASA's Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA)

"I think it's very compelling," said Bill Louis, a neutrino physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in the paper and has been following research into the ANITA events for several months. (Full story)

How not to be fooled in physics

Original LSND experiment at Los Alamos. 
LANL photo.

In the 1990s, an experiment conducted in Los Alamos, about 35 miles northwest of the capital of New Mexico, appeared to find something odd.

Scientists designed the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector experiment at the US Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory to count neutrinos, ghostly particles that come in three types and rarely interact with other matter. LSND was looking for evidence of neutrino oscillation, or neutrinos changing from one type to another. (Full story)

First Los Alamos Global Security Medal awarded

Marc Kippen, LANL photo.

R. Marc Kippen is the first recipient of the Los Alamos Global Security Medal, with Los Alamos National Laboratory announcing it Sept. 24 and reporting it recognizes his innovative professional and scientific excellence supporting the laboratory's global security mission -- specifically, Kippen's leadership and achievements in developing, promoting, and sustaining national security capabilities and programs in space-based sensing and nuclear detonation detection. (Full story)

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kilopower project: Los Alamos’ new nuclear reactors could power spacecraft and Moon bases

Assembly at the Nevada National Security Site ahead of a test in 2018. NNSS photo.

The future of space exploration may rest in the hands of a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers. They’ve built the first of a new generation of small nuclear reactors intended to power missions to deep space and even future astronaut bases on the moon and Mars.

Called Kilopower, their project aims to achieve a longstanding dream of the space community: a safe, effective, and powerful nuclear power reactor that can power spacecraft for years.

“I don’t think we can expand into deep space without nuclear power, which is what’s made me so passionate about developing the technology,” says David Poston, who leads the Kilopower team. (Full Story)

Build small nuclear reactors for battlefield power

YouTube video.

There’s not much the U.S. military does that’s more dangerous than trucking fuel through a war zone.

A solution could be a new micro-nuclear reactor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Westinghouse power company. Built around heat-pipe technology, this inherently safe microreactor has no cooling water or pumps that can fail, uses passive regulation systems so that it cannot melt down, and can generate at least 1 megawatt of safe, reliable power for 10 years or more. (Full Story)

Why NASA wants to build a nuclear reactor on the Moon

Artist's concept of new fission power system on the lunar surface, NASA image.

If you're going to take nuclear reactors into space on crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, it had better be safe. That's what the KRUSTY test made sure of.

“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios, and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The experiment included simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, and culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission. It's planned to first be used on a spaceflight mission in 2020. (Full Story)

Which came first? Galaxies or supermassive black holes

Density of an early galaxy from the DCBH simulation, LANL image.

The formation of a black hole could require a million years or so, but to envision what that might have looked like, former postdoctoral researcher Aycin Aykutalp – now at Los Alamos National Laboratory – used the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede Supercomputer at the University of Texas at Austin to run a simulation focusing on the aftermath of DCBH formation. The simulation used physics first principles such as gravity, radiation and hydrodynamics.

The research was supported by NASA, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, the Southern Regional Education Board and two Hubble theory grants. (Full Story)

Aluminum triple bond made for first time

Calculated π orbital (purple and pink) Aluminum is yellow and sodium is blue. From C&EN.

Chemists have in the past succeeded in creating compounds containing triple bonds between two gallium or two boron atoms, species that are considered chemical oddities. An equivalent version made with aluminum—gallium and boron’s group 13 periodic table sibling—has so far remained elusive. Ivan A. Popov at Los Alamos National Laboratory proposed attempting Al≡Al as a student in Alexander I. Boldyrev’s group at Utah State University. Now, a few years later, along with Kit H. Bowen of Johns Hopkins University and Xinxing Zhang of Nankai University, who had been working toward the same goal independently, Popov and Boldyrev report experimental and computational confirmation of the bond in gas-phase clusters with sodium ions. (Full Story)

UCF, UCX and a car ride on the road to exascale

HPCwire illustration.

According to Jeff Kuehn from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the idea for the UCF-style consortium and its eventual project OpenUCX, an open-source framework, was conceived in a car ride from Los Alamos up to Colorado Springs and Denver. “Steve Poole and Rich Graham (both at Los Alamos at the time, working with Mellanox and Gilad Shainer) were discussing stacked architecture and recognized the need for a middleware and the problem.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is chairing the consortium, which includes AMD, Argonne, ARM, IBM, Mellanox, NVIDIA, Ohio State University and others —all active participants in the development – amongst other users and other vendors and the U.S. Government. (Full Story)

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Nuclear technology may help bring early mammal evolution into focus

A jaw of an Eoconodon coryphaeus—a house
cat-sized omnivore that lived between about
66 and 63 million years ago, Tom Williamson photo.

The team has formed a unique partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico to generate high-resolution imagery using a state-of-the-art neutron scanner. Tom Williamson, a paleontologist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque is the first paleontologist to collaborate in this way with the lab, which has roots in nuclear defense. The partnership demonstrates how nuclear technology that could ultimately wipe us out as a species has also generated innovations, like this neutron scanner, that may help us understand our own origin as a species.

The lab operates some of the highest-energy X-ray and neutron scanners in the world that can generate some of the highest-resolution imagery possible, says Ron Nelson, an instrument scientist at the lab’s Neutron Science Center. (Full story)

“Lighthouse Detector” can distinguish between many sources of radiation

The Lighthouse Detector, Quaesta photo.

A lighthouse is built to shed light on rocky waters, the light turning at the top of a tower to illuminate sections of a dark shoreline that might harm incoming boats. Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and a company called Quaesta Instruments have drawn from that age-old design and assembled a sort of reverse-lighthouse to detect radiation in an area. Instead of sending light out, a Lighthouse Detector senses when radiation is coming in.

Although most radiation detectors like Geiger counters are omni-directional, the Lighthouse Detector uses a blocking material to allow gamma rays or neutrons to hit a sensor on only one side of the detector. (Full story)

Cosmic chain reaction: How supermassive black holes emerged from X-rays in the early universe

Halo during the beginning of the supernovae burst
phase, integral of density-weighted mean density and
density-weighted mean temperature, LANL image.

In a study published by Nature, Kirk Barrow, from Stanford University, and colleagues from Georgia Institute of Technology and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have now found that direct collapse black holes can account for supermassive black holes—and what’s more, they should be able to test their theory in the very near future.

In the study, the researchers ran a simulation of a direct collapse black hole. They looked at the black hole and its surrounding galaxy, along with the radiation from the galaxy and how it might appear through a telescope. (Full story)

The double-hinged door between astrophysics and the military

Los Alamos Lab operates under the auspices of the National Nuclear Security Administration, whose mission is to maintain and protect America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons while simultaneously working to undercut the proliferation of such stockpiles elsewhere in the world. And the lab’s astrophysicists use the same supercomputer and similar software to calculate the yield from hydrogen fusion within the heart of a star that physicists use to calculate the yield of a hydrogen bomb. You’d have to look far and wide to find a clearer example of dual use. (Full story)

LANL shoots for the moon in search for life on Europa

Artist’s rendering of a robotic probe on the
surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. NASA image.

Los Alamos scientists have plenty of history helping NASA explore another world for evidence of habitability and ultimately of life. In the early 2000s the first neutron spectrometer — developed by the laboratory — orbited Mars, discovering and mapping its vast water resources. More recently they designed ChemCam, a combination of lasers, spectrometers, a telescope, and a camera that piggybacked on the Mars Curiosity rover to study Martian rocks and helped find evidence for a habitable Mars in the past.

The Los Alamos team is now testing SuperCam, a souped-up version of ChemCam set to join the Mars 2020 mission with a camera, laser, spectrometers, and microphone to identify chemicals and minerals on the red planet. (Full story)

Cuprates: High-temp superconductors that defy a scientific explanation

Illustration from Power Electronics.

For their research on one specific cuprate, lanthanum strontium copper oxide (LSCO), a team led by MagLab physicist Arkady Shekhter focused on its normal, metallic state—the state from which superconductivity eventually emerges when the temperature dips low enough. This normal state of cuprates is known as a “strange” or “bad” metal, in part because the electrons don’t conduct electricity particularly well.

But does quasiparticle flow also explain how electric current travels in the cuprates? At the National MagLab’s Pulsed Field Facility in Los Alamos, N.M., Shekhter and his team investigated the question. They put LSCO in a very high magnetic field, applied a current to it, then measured the resistance. (Full story)

Friday, September 7, 2018

 Are we ready for the future of warfare?

LANL Director, Terry Wallace. LANL photo.

Warfare has always been about exerting political will. In the most basic way, that’s accomplished by one side inflicting enough pain on the other to compel them to acquiesce—and technology has always played a key role in doing that. The Greek phalanx, the crossbow, the cannon, poison gas: all introduced new, powerful methods of destruction on the battlefield and fundamentally changed the way war was fought.

Today, however, science and technology are being used to exert political will far from the traditional battlefield. Adversaries are exploiting space, cyberattacks, biology and other emerging technologies to significantly disrupt the systems underpinning our society—including telecommunications infrastructure, power grids, public health systems, transportation systems and financial institutions. In short, an adversary can gain advantage without ever firing a shot. (Full Story)

Kilopower first step to safe and power nuclear fission for space and other applications

Reactor core design, LANL image.

Dr. David Poston, Los Alamos National Laboratory talks about the simple and safe NASA Kilopower Project. KRUSTY showed that developing a small reactor is not inherently expensive. A new reactor concept was designed, fabricated and tested for less than $20M. KRUSTY demonstrated a space reactor concept that can be used for near-term space science and exploration. KRUSTY/Kilopower is the first step towards truly astounding space fission capabilities. The early stage system can reach 10,000 watts and weigh 1500 kilograms. This is almost 7 watts per kilogram. They are working on a 2 Megawatt electrical power heat pipe nuclear reactor that would weigh 35-45 tons. (Full Story)

Cryogenic cooling goes solid state

The LANL/UNM research team. From machine design.

A team of researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico have for the first time demonstrated an all-solid-state optical refrigerator that operates at cryogenic temperatures and has no moving parts.

Solid-state cryocooling is an optical effect in certain materials that takes advantage of anti-Stokes fluorescence. In this process, a solid excited by a laser subsequently fluoresces at a slightly greater mean energy (shorter wavelength) than that of the exciting laser. This effect was first observed by Richard Epstein at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1995. (Full Story)

Carbon nanotubes give two excitons for the price of one

In a carbon nanotube (top, gray cylinder), the capture of a photon (green arrow) generates two excitons (blue and red spheres bound together) at oxygen doping sites (top, red balls). The excitons recombine and emit photon pairs (bottom, pink stars).

Tuning the electronic properties of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs), a process known as doping, is emerging as an effective means for enhancing the emission properties of these nanotubes and introducing new functionalities.

This latest research from scientists at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and their collaborators at Los Alamos National Laboratory identifies the latter process as the responsible party and further clarifies the details of the process. (Full Story)

In the Lab with Priscila Rosa: The power of research

Priscila Rosa aligns a single crystal in an x-ray diffractometer, LANL photo.

Priscila Rosa knows the importance of applying pressure to achieve goals. That is how she summoned the drive to leave Brazil, her home country, for a joint postdoctoral fellowship in the United States.

Rosa is the principal investigator of an early-career Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) project using pressure to measure thermal expansion in quantum materials. This fundamental understanding is essential to ultimately knowing how to control and tailor such materials for potential applications. (Full Story)

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