Thursday, August 26, 2021


Hydrogen offering a clear path to clean vehicles in NM


Experimental fuel cell during testing, LANL photo.


Fuel cells provide all the benefits of electric power, including zero emissions from the tailpipe, and offer extended ranges and shorter refueling times, which is better for heavy trucks, trains and airplanes. A few technological challenges have hindered widespread adoption of this clean power source, but 40-plus years of research by Los Alamos National Laboratory and others, with funding from the Department of Energy (DOE) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office Million Mile Fuel Cell Truck consortium, is on track to solve them. (Full Story)




How COVID-19 helped us understand the human, health, and Earth connection


Morgan Gorris.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways big and small—from mask wearing and social distancing to childcare and videoconferencing—imposing fundamental shifts in how we lived, worked, attended school, and interacted with our loved ones. Not only did the pandemic change our individual lives; it changed the Earth, too. For example, less driving and a slow-down in factory production meant fewer carbon emissions, resulting in cleaner air. In Florida, loggerhead turtles laid more eggs thanks to deserted beaches. Wild boar roamed the streets of Barcelona and mountain goats wandered through a town in Wales. Changes in human activity also led to decreased ocean pollution, stressors on global fisheries, and human-caused seismic activity. (Full Story)




Experiment puts researchers at threshold of fusion ignition


On August 8, 2021, an experiment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL’s) National Ignition Facility (NIF) made a significant step toward ignition, achieving a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules (MJ). This advancement puts researchers at the threshold of fusion ignition, an important goal of the NIF, and opens access to a new experimental regime.


“Gaining experimental access to thermonuclear burn in the laboratory is the culmination of decades of scientific and technological work stretching across nearly 50 years,” said Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thomas Mason. (Full Story)




New Colorado River observatory will help predict droughts


Setting up radiometers for SAIL in Gothic, Colorado, DOE photo.


As Western states grapple with a “megadrought,” a new observatory cradled in the Rocky Mountains will help scientists learn more about how a changing climate is affecting the Colorado River and future water supply. Equipment is being installed at the foot of the Rockies in Crested Butte, Colo., to collect data on virtually everything above ground — precipitation, wind, clouds, aerosols, solar and thermal energy, temperature, humidity and ozone.


That data will be used to enhance Earth modeling so researchers from a 10-member consortium — of which Los Alamos National Laboratory is a member — can peg when, where, how and why snow and rain will fall to better predict the future availability of water, which is key to managing it in a drought. (Full Story)


Also from SciTech Daily




So you want to fly a drone over a nuclear weapons lab …


Test drone intercepted and disabled by LANL's CUAS system. LANL photo.


Drone pilots beware: Authorities at one of the United States’ top nuclear weapons laboratories issued a warning Monday that airspace over Los Alamos National Laboratory is off limits.  The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos lab reported that recent unauthorized drone flights have been detected in restricted airspace in the area.


“We can detect and track a UAS (unmanned aircraft system), and if it poses a threat, we have the ability to disrupt control of the system, seize or exercise control, confiscate or use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy the UAS,” said Unica Viramontes, senior director of lab security. (Full Story)


Friday, August 20, 2021

New SARS-CoV-2 variants have changed the pandemic. What will the virus do next?


GISAID graphic.


Bette Korber at Los Alamos National Laboratory and her colleagues first suggested that D614G, the early mutation, was taking over because it made the virus better at spreading. She says skepticism about the virus’ ability to evolve was common in the early days of the pandemic, with some researchers saying D614G’s apparent advantage might be sheer luck. “There was extraordinary resistance in the scientific community to the idea this virus could evolve as the pandemic grew in seriousness in spring of 2020,” Korber says. (Full Story’)


For a healthier world, start with biodiversity


Loss of biodiversity can have far-reaching consequences. Biodiversity—the measure of variability of life in a habitat or ecosystem—impacts livelihoods, food security and productivity in a variety of economic sectors, including tourism and agriculture. 


These are the kinds of problems that the Ecological Health Security Lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory works to address, where we approach this problem in line with the One Health Concept. One Health is a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes by recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. (Full Story)


Los Alamos National Lab introduces new robotic team member


Los Alamos National Lab is welcoming a new robotic member to its emergency hazmat team. With mechanical arms that can reach out and grab hazardous materials ranging from chemical, energetic, radiological, toxic or biological – it can do it all. "There's no other robot on the market that can do what this robot can do," said Charles Gibson, a LANL hazmat specialist. 


"The challenge comes from depth perception. You're looking through a camera, and you're approaching something, so sometimes robot operators will go in for the grab so to speak, and they'll just be short.  Completely miss it and open back up," said Dan McDonald, a LANL hazmat specialist. (Full Story)


Progress in algorithms makes small, noisy quantum computers viable


Los Alamos National Laboratory and other leading institutions have developed hybrid classical/quantum algorithms to extract the most performance -- and potentially quantum advantage -- from today's noisy, error-prone hardware. 


"Quantum computers have the promise to outperform classical computers for certain tasks, but on currently available quantum hardware they can't run long algorithms. They have too much noise as they interact with environment, which corrupts the information being processed," said Marco Cerezo, a physicist specializing in quantum computing, quantum machine learning, and quantum information at Los Alamos and a lead author of the paper. (Full Story)


Also from AZO Quantum


National Ignition Facility heralds ‘significant step’ towards fusion break-even target


Thomas Mason, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, says that the work is the culmination of decades of scientific and technological work stretching across nearly 50 years. “This [result] enables experiments that will check theory and simulation in the high energy density regime more rigorously than ever possible before and will enable fundamental achievements in applied science and engineering,” adds Mason. (Full Story)


Effect of 'eddy killing' in oceans is no longer a matter of guesswork


Eddies are circular currents of water, shown here as green and light blue swirling patterns, NASA image.


In a paper in Science Advances, researchers from the University of Rochester and Los Alamos National Laboratory document for the first time how the wind, which propels larger currents, has the opposite effect on eddies less than 260 kilometers in size—resulting in a phenomenon called "eddy killing."


The team—which also includes Shikhar Rai, a Ph.D. student in Aluie's Turbulence and Complex Flow Group, and Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists Matthew Hecht and Matthew Maltrud—applied a coarse-graining approach to satellite imagery. Doing so allowed them to separate the complex, multiscale structures of ocean currents and eddies embedded within each other. (Full Story)


Northern New Mexico math teachers in Los Alamos, Abiquiu, Cuba and Pojoaque earn new specialty degree


Leaders from the Laboratory and New Mexico Highlands University recognized six graduates of Master’s Degrees, LANL photo.


This week, six Northern New Mexico teachers are returning to their classrooms and raising the bar for K–8 math teaching at public schools in Los Alamos, Abiquiu, Cuba and Pojoaque. Richard Armentrout, Travis Gibson, April Grant–Torrez, Brett Hawkins, Daniela Romero and Beth Ziomek comprise the first-ever cohort to graduate with the new Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership with an Emphasis in K-8 Mathematics Teacher Leadership from New Mexico Highlands University.


The degree is a collaboration between the teachers, the University, and the Math & Science Academy at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), a professional-development program supporting the teaching of math and science in the region. (Full Story)


Also from the Daily Post this week


On the job in Los Alamos: Workers on Omega Bridge


One of the last handrails is lowered into place as part of the Omega Bridge Project. LANL photo.


Work continues on the west side of the Omega Bridge. Crews are painting the handrails and preparing to add a fence to increase pedestrian safety. They will then be installing gutters to capture rainwater to increase the safety of the bridge. The work is being performed by the Logisticts group, a LANL internet workforce. 


The estimated duration for work to be completed on the west side of the bridge is three weeks, and the overall project is scheduled to take 6-8 weeks, weather and schedule dependent. (Full Story)



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Friday, August 13, 2021

Smoky skies raise health concerns

National smoke map for July 19, 2021, NOAA image.


Los Alamos National Laboratory atmospheric scientist Manvendra Dubey scans his computer screen, eyeing a map of wildfire smoke plumes swirling across the U.S. The thick smoke has blanketed northern and central New Mexico for the past several days, making air quality unhealthy and obscuring mountain ranges and city skylines.


Dubey studies wildfire smoke chemicals and how the pollution moves. “Urban smog is bad enough, but fire smoke is even more complex,” Dubey said. LANL scientists are part of the emerging field of testing wildfire smoke particles to determine the size and distribution of specific chemicals. (Full Story)




Coating could be the answer for silicon anodes


Silicon nanowires grown on a stainless steel disk, LANL image.


In silicon-wire lithium-ion batteries, the electrolyte can carve away the silicon, blocking electron pathways and greatly diminishing the charging capacity of these promising devices. Now, in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, researchers report how their detailed investigations of this process could open up fresh research avenues for finally harnessing the great potential of silicon for revolutionizing high-capacity, long-lasting batteries for everything from cell phones to automobiles.


“With this new understanding, we propose to improve silicon nanowire lithium-ion battery performance by developing a coating approach that isolates the silicon from the electrolyte,” said Jinkyoung Yoo, a Los Alamos National Laboratory staff scientist and a corresponding author of the paper. (Full Story)





Translation software enables efficient storage of massive amounts of data in DNA molecules


DNA illustration from SciTech Daily.


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)



Study assesses advances and commercialization of colloidal quantum dots


Quantum dots can be tuned to emit light in specific wavelengths, LANL photo.


A new study published in Science magazine offers an outline of nearly 30 years of research performed on colloidal quantum dots. Several advances explained in the Science article were started at Los Alamos, including the first illustration of colloidal quantum dot lasing.


"Thirty years ago, these structures were just a subject of scientific curiosity studied by a small group of enthusiasts. Over the years, quantum dots have become industrial-grade materials exploited in a range of traditional and emerging technologies, some of which have already found their way into commercial markets." Said Victor I. Klimov, Study Co-Author and Leader, Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)




LANL employees’ generosity provides more than 700 backpacks


As the new school year begins, Los Alamos National Laboratory employees have been making sure children in Northern New Mexico can return to their classrooms with everything they need to succeed by providing more than 700 backpacks with school supplies to schools and regional partners.


The Lab’s Community Partnerships Office (CPO) distributed 95 backpacks funded by employees to the City of Espanola’s Project RACE school supply drive. With some larger school districts already covered by other drives, CPO also used employee donations to purchase 650 backpacks with supplies from a local small business, and distributed them to five rural school districts in Northern New Mexico that expressed a need. (Full Story)