Friday, April 2, 2021

Why the sun isn't causing today's climate change


NASA image.


The sun, thankfully, is an extremely stable star. It still has natural swings in energy output, but they're really small. For example, there are approximately 11-year periods of activity called solar cycles, where the sun's activity increases and then decreases. These changes in energy output are on the order of 0.1 percent, explained Geoff Reeves, who researches space weather at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "The sun has small variations in the amount of light and heat that comes out," said Reeves, noting the last two solar cycles have been below-average in energy output.


The major driver of modern climate change, according to scientists at top U.S. research agencies and universities, is the alteration of the planet's atmosphere. "There are big changes in our atmosphere," said Reeves. "That's a simple and straightforward explanation that we understand the physics of." (Full Story)


How NASA's oxygen-making machine could change Mars forever


Fission power system on the surface of Mars, NASA illustration.


NASA estimates that the first crew that ventures to Mars will need roughly 30 kilowatts each day for general life support. A full-scale MOXIE, will use roughly the same amount of energy. Nuclear engineer Dave Poston of the Los Alamos National Laboratory says nuclear is an efficient and safe alternative to solar: a single nuclear reactor could replace a football field-sized solar array. You get “more power per kilogram from the reactor than the solar power system," he says.


This technology isn’t new. Between November 2017 and March 2018, NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory, among other partners, tested a nuclear fission reactor called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology, or KRUSTY. Last year, the Los Alamos National Laboratory agreed to license plans for the reactor to Poston and fellow LANL nuclear engineer Patrick McClure's New Mexico-based company Space Nuclear Power Corporation, also known as SpaceNukes. (Full Story)


A year in, let's take stock of pandemic lessons


Covid-19, NIH image


When the coronavirus hit, the Department of Energy put the technical power of the national laboratories to work as an integrated National Virtual Biotechnology Laboratory through funding from the CARES Act to impact manufacturing, epidemiological planning, testing and molecular therapeutic research and development.


At Los Alamos, we were called on to answer difficult science questions: from the efficacy of different testing methods, to how aerosols are dispersed in different environments, to forecasting the spread of the virus. Our expertise in bioassay, fluid dynamics and agent-based computer modeling enabled us to quickly pivot our focus to answer those questions. We have also answered questions about how to best store and transport testing kits, how the variants mutate, how different mitigation strategies impact school reopenings, and how to prioritize certain populations for vaccination to maximize the benefits. (Full Story)


‘It’s going to touch everything.’ Energy Department weaves AI into mission-critical work


The Energy Department, in all aspects of its work, is turning to artificial intelligence to accelerate its output.


Irene Qualters, the associate lab director for simulation & computation at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the lab is working to harden AI algorithms against threats, improving the explainability of AI-produced results and quantifying the certainty AI models have in making predictions.


The lab is also looking at AI’s usefulness to study climate and natural disasters. “AI is opening a whole new avenue of exploration and understanding,” Qualters said. "DOE’s AI research in some cases focuses heavily on infrastructure use cases, while the National Science Foundation supports some of the fundamental research behind AI." (Full Story)



New Los Alamos technology detects thermal neutrons in aircraft


TinMan provides needed information to the aerospace industry, image from LANL.


new technology developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Honeywell is providing needed atmospheric environment information to the aerospace industry. The device, called TinMan, has quantified the number of thermal neutrons, particles created by natural solar radiation—giving the aerospace industry a standard by which it can evaluate its semiconductor parts.


"Few studies have been conducted related to the impacts of thermal neutrons on aircraft, and no one has been able to define their intensity inside planes," said Stephen Wender, an instrument scientist in the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. "It wasn't until recently that they were theorized to pose an impact on component reliability." (Full Story)


Also from PhysOrg this week:


Magnetic uranium sets new record


A system of uranium-cobalt-aluminum doped with ruthenium, LANL image.


magnetic uranium compound has demonstrated to possess extremely strong thermoelectric properties, generating four times the transverse voltage from heat than the previous record in a cobalt-manganese-gallium compound.


"We found that the large spin-orbit coupling and strong electronic correlations in a system of uranium-cobalt-aluminum doped with ruthenium resulted in a colossal anomalous Nernst conductivity," said Filip Ronning, lead investigator on the paper published today in Science Advances. Ronning is director of the Institute for Materials Science at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "It illustrates that uranium and actinide alloys are promising materials to study the interplay among a material's topology and strong electron correlations. (Full Story)


Also from American Laboratory


Probing wet fire smoke in clouds – Can water intensify the Earth’s warming?


Rio Medio fire on August 30, 2020. Photo by Manvendra Dubey.


first-of-its-kind instrument that samples smoke from megafires and scans humidity will help researchers better understand the scale and long-term impact of fires—specifically how far and high the smoke will travel; when and where it will rain; and whether the wet smoke will warm the climate by absorbing sunlight.


“Smoke containing soot and other toxic particles from megafires can travel thousands of kilometers at high altitudes where winds are fast and air is dry,” said Manvendra Dubey, a Los Alamos National Laboratory atmospheric scientist and co-author on a paper published last week in Aerosol Science and Technology. “These smoke-filled clouds can absorb much more sunlight than dry soot—but this effect on light absorption has been difficult to measure because laser-based techniques heat the particles and evaporate the water, which corrupt observations.” (Full Story)


Also from the Los Alamos Reporter


Translation software enables efficient DNA data storage


DNA offers a way to store huge amounts of data cost-effectively.  Image from LANL.


In support of a major collaborative project to store massive amounts of data in DNA molecules, a Los Alamos National Laboratory–led team has developed a key enabling technology that translates digital binary files into the four-letter genetic alphabet needed for molecular storage.


“Our software, the Adaptive DNA Storage Codec (ADS Codex), translates data files from what a computer understands into what biology understands,” said Latchesar Ionkov, a computer scientist at Los Alamos and principal investigator on the project. “It’s like translating from English to Chinese, only harder.” (Full Story)


New class of versatile, high-performance quantum dots primed for medical imaging, quantum computing


Vladimir Sayevich works on infrared-emitting quantum dots. LANL photo.


new class of quantum dots deliver a stable stream of single, spectrally tunable infrared photons under ambient conditions and at room temperature, unlike other single photon emitters. This breakthrough opens a range of practical applications, including quantum communication, quantum metrology, medical imaging and diagnostics, and clandestine labeling.


“The demonstration of high single-photon purity in the infrared has immediate utility in areas such as quantum key distribution for secure communication,” said Victor Klimov, lead author of a paper published today in Nature Nanotechnology by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists. (Full Story)


Also from the LA Reporter


Fabrication method paves way for large-scale perovskite production


Perovskite dipping process. LANL image.


simple, synthetic process for fabricating stable perovskite solar cells has overcome a preventative challenge to large-scale production, and, as a result, to product commercialization. A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory and National Taiwan University developed a one-step spin coating method using a liquid solvent called sulfolane that enabled it to produce high-yield, large-area photovoltaic devices that are efficient in solar power generation and possess a long operational lifetime. 


“Our work paves the way for low-cost, high-throughput, commercial-scale production of large-scale solar modules in the near future,” said Wanyi Nie, corresponding author and research scientist fellow in the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies at Los Alamos. (Full Story)



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