Friday, October 30, 2020

HIV Glycans: Shield shifters and spike stabilizers


Illustration shows how glycans create a shield that helps HIV hide from the immune system.  From GEN.


In the fight against infectious diseases, the most daunting foes include viruses that use glycans to fend off antibodies. These glycans form on the outermost spike proteins of HIV and many other viruses, including influenza, Ebola, Lassa, and coronaviruses. 


Cryo-EM has been combined with other analytical techniques to visualize HIV’s glycan shield. This work, recently accomplished by scientists at Scripps Research and Los Alamos National Laboratory, captured details that were never seen before, including vulnerabilities that could be exploited by new vaccines. (Full Story)


Also from Drug Target Review


Study reveals robust performance in aged detonator explosive


LANL researchers in the firing control room, LANL photo.


In a large, statistically significant, one-of-a-kind study, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have confirmed that the explosive called PETN (Pentaerythritol tetranitrate), stabilized with a polysaccharide coating, is resistant to changes in particle shape, size, and structure that can degrade detonator performance over time. The benefits of polysaccharide coating have long been known and studied by Los Alamos energetic material scientists.


"PETN is a common initiating explosive used extensively in commercial detonators and in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, but batch-to-batch variability has made it difficult for us to definitively show how it responds to aging," said Virginia Manner, an energetic materials chemist at Los Alamos and the project lead for the study. (Full Story)


Also from Newswise


Los Alamos scientists find a way to quickly test rust on graphene-protected cars, planes, ships


Oxygen gas molecules (non-glowing red spheres) being bounced off by graphene (gray spheres). LANL graphic


Trace amounts of graphene could create a decades-long protective barrier against oxygen corrosion for cars, aircrafts, and ships--but evaluating its effectiveness has been a challenge, until now. Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists report a possible solution in the latest issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. 


“It’s about creating and using extra-corrosive air and observing its accelerated effect on the graphene-protected materials. Simply by imparting oxygen gas molecules with a slight kinetic energy, we could extract information about decades-worth of corrosion in a minute,” said Hisato Yamaguchi, a lead Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist for this research. “We create a portion of air artificially, including oxygen with a physics-defined energy distribution, and expose that to graphene-protected metals.” (Full Story)


Breakthrough quantum-dot transistors create a flexible alternative to conventional electronics


Gold and Indium contacts put two types of quantum dot transistors on the same substrate, LANL graphic.


Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their collaborators from the University of California, Irvine have created fundamental electronic building blocks out of tiny structures known as quantum dots and used them to assemble functional logic circuits. The innovation promises a cheaper and manufacturing-friendly approach to complex electronic devices that can be fabricated in a chemistry laboratory via simple, solution-based techniques, and offer long-sought components for a host of innovative devices. (Full Story)


Also from Science Daily this week:


Sensors driven by machine learning sniff-out gas leaks fast


ALFaLDS is deployed during blind tests at the model oil and gas test facility at Fort Collins, Colorado, LANL photo.


Anew study confirms the success of a natural-gas leak-detection tool pioneered by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists that uses sensors and machine learning to locate leak points at oil and gas fields, promising new automatic, affordable sampling across vast natural gas infrastructure.


"Our automated leak location system finds gas leaks fast, including small ones from failing infrastructure, and lowers cost as current methods to fix gas leaks are labor intensive, expensive and slow," said Manvendra Dubey, the lead Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist and coauthor of the new study. (Full Story)


Nuclear physicists work to unravel strange mystery of the neutron lifetime


Illustration from SciTechDaily


The neutron is one of the building blocks of matter, the neutral counterpart to the positive proton. Like many other subatomic particles, the neutron doesn’t last long outside of the nucleus.


“The neutron lifetime is one of the least well-known fundamental parameters in the Standard Model,” said Zhaowen Tang, a physicist at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).


Some theorists proposed that neutrons are breaking up into gamma rays and mysterious dark matter. To test this theory, a group of scientists at LANL did a version of the bottle experiment where they measured both neutrons and gamma rays. But the proposed gamma rays didn’t materialize, leaving scientists with no evidence for dark matter from neutrons. (Full Story)


CMRR Plutonium Facility Upgrades Receive Praise From NNSA


Bob Raines, NNSA Associate Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management (center, red lanyard) during a 2019 visit to PF-4, LANL photo.


The CMRR Plutonium Facility (PF-4) equipment installation, phase 1 work within the operating facility that was recently completed at Los Alamos National Laboratory received high marks from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). When the project team completed transition to operation scope and turned over the analytical chemistry equipment to the end-users in August 2020, they did so 10 months early and several million dollars under budget. For a federally funded project with a multi-million-dollar price tag – that’s a big deal. (Full Story)


Also from the LA Reporter this week:


Mentoring gives most joy to renowned local scientist Harshini Mukundan’s job


Mukundan, LANL photo.


Harshini Mukundan says it’s always difficult to speak about yourself positively, without trying to sound a little boastful.


“I always find that women struggle with it a lot more than men do, and maybe it’s something we all need to learn to do effectively so that we can communicate what we’ve been able to accomplish?” she told the virtual fall meeting of the American Association of University Women in Los Alamos.


AAUW is a non-profit organization founded in 1881 that advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research. Mukundan was selected last year as one of 125 American Association for the Advancement of Science IF/THEN Ambassadors to help further women in science, technology, engineering and math. (Full Story)



New mentor-protégé program grooms native businesses for successful contracting


In FY2019, the Laboratory spent $289 million to small businesses in NM. LANL photo.


Anew mentor-protégé program between Triad National Security and Pueblo Alliance, LLC will groom Pueblo businesses for success in landing contracts with Los Alamos National Laboratory and other U.S. Department of Energy entities.


“Doing business with our neighbors makes sense,” LANL Director Thom Mason said. “In FY 2019, the Laboratory spent $396 million in contracts with New Mexico businesses. Of that, $289 million went to contracts with small businesses. We also increased our contracts with businesses categorized as disadvantaged, women-owned, and HUB-zone located, and intend to continue this upward trend.” (Full Story)



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Friday, October 23, 2020

LANL scientists work on technology for future Mars missions


 Nina Lanza, center, during a 2016 expedition 

to Antarctica. From KRQE.


Have you ever wondered what Mars would be like? Some New Mexican scientists are trying to find out while staying in the arctic. “One thing this expedition is to test some field methods in a Mars analog environment,” said Nina Lanza, the team lead of the Space and Planetary Exploration Team.


Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory will be heading to the arctic as part of a mission to help test technologies for future Mars missions. The goal is to create and test the right technology that could help future missions including living on their own without being able to communicate back to Earth. (full story)




Los Alamos National Laboratory deploys HPE Cray EX ‘Chicoma’ supercomputer


Covid-19, NIH image.


“As extensive social and economic impacts from COVID-19 continue to grip the nation, Los Alamos scientists are actively engaged in a number of critical research efforts ranging from therapeutics design to epidemiological modeling,” said Irene Qualters, Associate Laboratory Director for Simulation and Computing at Los Alamos. “High Performance Computing is playing a critical role by allowing scientists to model the complex phenomena involved in viral evolution and propagation.”


“Los Alamos National Laboratory has been working closely with researchers through the COVID-19 HPC Computing Consortium as well as with local researchers to harness the power of the Lab’s HPC compute capabilities to stop the spread of COVID-19. This newest HPC asset will be a significant addition to that endeavor,” said Qualters. (Full story)


Also from the Los Alamos Reporter



A New Mexico city hopes carbon-capture technology will save its coal plant


The San Juan generating station near

Farmington, from YCC.


Carbon capture experts at Los Alamos National Laboratory, with funding from the Department of Energy, assessed the proposal and found it “technically viable.” The approach uses an amine-based capture system that’s been shown to capture more than 90% of carbon dioxide emissions.


“I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s simple — you buy it and install it tomorrow and it would work, but it wouldn’t require R&D to make this work,” says George Guthrie, lead author of that assessment.


“The issue is really getting these projects on the ground and beginning to get the experience that they need to lower those costs,” Guthrie says. “There’s no technical barrier.” (Full story)




Evelyn Mullen named American Nuclear Society Fellow


Mullen, LANL photo.


Evelyn Mullen, chief operating officer for Global Security at Los Alamos National Laboratory, was named a fellow of the American Nuclear Society for her leadership in nuclear national security and ensuring the nation’s experimental capability in nuclear criticality.


Mullen was instrumental in developing plans for new diagnostic capabilities for subcritical plutonium-integrated experiments at the Nevada National Security Site that will become operational in 2025. Furthermore, she currently leads a major effort for recovery from a radiation source accident in Seattle, Wash. (Full story)



Los Alamos National Laboratory named a top employer by Latina Style


LANL photo.


Los Alamos National Laboratory was selected as one of the 2020 Top 50 Best Companies for Latinas to Work in the U.S. by LATINA Style Inc. The Lab ranked 33 out of 50, based on 2019 data.


“Latinas represent 45 percent of all the women in our 13,000-employee workforce,” said Director Thom Mason. “We expect to hire 1,200 new employees in FY21, and are striving for more Latina representation as we seek to grow a diverse workforce across all areas, particularly management, science, and engineering.” (Full story)