Thursday, February 21, 2019


Neutrons used to examine priceless Harvard gold specimen

A rare gold specimen called the "Ram's Horn. Harvard photo.

Scientists at a premier U.S. laboratory have helped to unravel some of the mysteries about a rare gold specimen discovered at a Colorado mine more than 130 years ago.

Officials at Harvard University's mineral museum were anxious for Los Alamos National Laboratory's assistance in understanding more about the structure of the specimen of wire gold, which looks as if it were formed by twisting together a bunch of thin strands of gold.

The 263-gram specimen is named the Ram's Horn, and Harvard officials have said it is the finest known example of its kind. No scientific studies previously had been published on the internal nature of the specimen. Its density rendered low-energy X-rays and other diagnostics ineffective, and scientists were prevented from using invasive methods like slicing into the specimen because that would have damaged it. (Full story)

Also from the Associated Press this week:

Los Alamos Labs Seeking Bids on New Supercomputer

Los Alamos National Laboratory has put out a request for proposals for a new supercomputer.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports one of the nation's premier nuclear labs announced recently it is seeking bids on a supercomputer dubbed "Crossroads." Like the supercomputer the lab has now, "Trinity," Crossroads will be put to work helping to maintain the nation's nuclear stockpile.

Supercomputers employed by the U.S. Department of Energy often are used to test, through computer simulation, the components of nuclear weapons in the stockpile as well as the weapon's power and capabilities. (Full story)

Modeling natural disasters to strengthen power grids

A simulation tool helps identify options to
shore up power grids. Courtesy photo.

Over the past 13 years, more than 20 major hurricanes and snowstorms struck electric power grids and triggered outages across the United States. Every blackout left hundreds of thousands of people in the dark for several days. These power cuts disrupted daily life, threatened peoples’ safety and wellbeing, and caused millions of dollars in economic losses.

So how can we minimize the impacts of power disruptions and keep the lights on when extreme natural hazards happen? Part of the answer may lie in computer models that simulate the impact of hazards on power grids, and recommend specific upgrades that electric utility companies can implement to strengthen and protect their grids from potential future damage.

To address the need to reinforce power grids, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a simulation tool for utility companies. This research was funded by the Smart Grid R&D program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity (OE). It is one of more than 80 projects in the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium funded by the Department of Energy. The agency is investing in those projects to spur the research and development of computer tools that can support resiliency of power distribution systems in the U.S. (Full story)

Can quantum key distribution secure the grid?

Researchers from Oak Ridge and Los Alamos National Laboratories are working with EPB, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based utility and telecommunications company, to see if quantum key distribution (QKD) can secure and sync communication among the nation’s electricity suppliers.

Currently, energy grid communications are unencrypted or, at best, using public-key infrastructure, making the networks vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, according to a December 2018 Los Alamos presentation.

As the electric grid is modernized and more data is moved online, secure communications among utilities is paramount. (Full story)

Building the Bomb Part 1: History of Los Alamos National Lab

KAGS was granted exclusive access to the birthplace of the atomic bomb, the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico. Part one of this series looks at the lab's history. (Full story)

Friday, February 15, 2019

NASA's new nuclear reactor could change space exploration

The Kilopower reactor assembly. NASA Image.

Want to start a space colony? Even if you don’t, space agencies across the globe do. Whether it’s a moon base now, à la the Trump administration’s plans for NASA, or a Mars landing later, such a colony will need a lot of power. And given the possibility of light-obscuring dust storms on the Red Planet and the moon seeing an uneven amount of sunlight, solar panels may not cut it. But don’t worry — Los Alamos National Lab has a plan.

It hinges on nuclear power, which, at its most basic, consists of harnessing energy from radioactive elements. (Full story)

World’s finest gold specimen probed with LANL neutrons

The Ram’s Horn, from the Mineralogical
and Geological Museum at Harvard
University. Harvard photo.

Using neutron characterization techniques a team of scientists have peered inside one of the most unique examples of wire gold, understanding for the first time the specimen’s structure and possible formation process. The 263 gram, 12 centimeter tall specimen, known as the Ram’s Horn, belongs to the collection of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum Harvard University (MGMH). (Full story

Watch the video

Also from the LA Reporter this week:

NNSA approves ‘Critical Decision 1’ for Advanced Sources And Detectors project

Illustration shows a portion of the ASD accelerator
and target vessel. LANL Graphic.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has approved Critical Decision-1 (CD-1) for the Advanced Sources and Detectors Project (ASD), a cornerstone of the Enhanced Capabilities for Subcritical Experiments portfolio (ECSE). ASD is a proposed 20-million electron volt (MeV) accelerator that will generate X-ray images, or radiographs, of subcritical implosion experiments for the nuclear weapons program.

“The ECSE portfolio is designed to better understand plutonium when it is subjected to extreme pressure from explosively driven shocks, a central mission need for NNSA’s science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program,” said Thom Mason, Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full story)

Squashed quantum dots can possibly emit more stable light

Some of the amazing features of the squashed dots are that the spectrally narrow light emitted has a highly stable intensity plus non-fluctuating emission energy. According to the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s new research, the stressed colloidal quantum dots signify a practicable substitute for the current in use nanoscale light sources. Additionally, they earn the title nanoscale, single-particle light sources for further application in medical diagnostics, optical quantum circuits, and ultrasensitive sensors.

In comparison to the conventional dots, the newly produced squashed dots offer great flexibility for bringing about manipulation in the emission color along with the exceptional subthermal, narrow linewidth. (Full story)

Nineteen Northern New Mexico students receive $28,500 In scholarships

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Foundation recently awarded $1,500 Scholarships to 19 nontraditional students from Northern New Mexico.

Regional College/Returning Student (RCRS) Scholarships support individuals seeking a certification or two-year degree from a local accredited college, university or trade school after a gap in formal education.

The RCRS program is part of the Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund (LAESF), the largest scholarship pool in Northern New Mexico with funding primarily contributed by LANL employees, contractors and retirees. (Full story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

2019 Summer physics camp for young women

One day [of the a two-week Summer Physics Camp] will be dedicated to visiting Los Alamos National Laboratory research facilities, which may include the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, CINT, and the NMC Biolab.

The camp will focus on boosting your understanding of the physics of the Sun, Earth, and everything in between and also introduce you to how to write your resume, interview for a job, and how to make some tasks fun by learning the basics of computer programming. (full story)

Ex-LANL biologist says he has an allergy solution

Cliff Han shows off two of his AllerPops,
Journal photo.

A retired Los Alamos National Laboratory biologist thinks he has found the solution to long-term allergy relief.

It’s a lollipop. Specifically, a lollipop that Cliff Han says tackles what he believes is the root cause of environmental allergies, rather than the symptoms. By stabilizing levels of “good” oral bacteria, he says, his product helps “switch off” an overworking immune system that makes people sneeze or cough. (Full story)