Friday, August 28, 2015

Particles from the edge of space shine a light on Fukushima

Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, from NPR.

Los Alamos physicist and Laboratory Fellow Christopher Morris and other researchers think a subatomic particle called a muon can help answer the question of what happened to the nuclear fuel inside the Fukushima plant.

If muons can penetrate a subway tunnel, they can certainly pass through a nuclear reactor. That's why Morris thinks they can help at Fukushima.

"You can make something that looks like an X-ray, so you can take a picture of what's inside the reactor," he says. (Full Story)

Consultants seek to bridge ‘Valley of Death’ to stop hacking

For the first time, cybersecurity technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico will be made available to private companies by the New York consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

The relationship between Los Alamos and EY is unique in that cybersecurity technology being developed and used at the lab hasn’t easily reached the private sector.

The U.S. spends about $1 billion a year on unclassified cybersecurity research. However, it often goes unnoticed in the private sector because federal researchers don’t have expertise in marketing and communicating to companies. (Full Story)

Quantum dot solar windows go non-toxic, colorless, with record efficiency

The luminescent solar concentrator could turn any window into a daytime power source, LANL illustration. 

A luminescent solar concentrator is an emerging sunlight harvesting technology that has the potential to disrupt the way we think about energy; It could turn any window into a daytime power source.

"In these devices, a fraction of light transmitted through the window is absorbed by nanosized particles (semiconductor quantum dots) dispersed in a glass window, re-emitted at the infrared wavelength invisible to the human eye, and wave-guided to a solar cell at the edge of the window," said Victor Klimov. (Full Story)

Also from International Solar Magazine

Entrepreneurs, Los Alamos scientist seek fusion of another sort

David Fox, a LANL biochemist, with jars of “SCOBY," Journal photo.

With help from a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, three young Santa Fe entrepreneurs are trying to brew a better beer – one that combines the professed health effects of kombucha fermented tea with the enjoyment derived from drinking an ice-cold adult beverage.

“It’s going to be a new class of beers,” said David Fox, a biochemist at LANL. “It’s still being defined, but what I think you’ll see in the end is a unique classification of beers … one you’re really going to like.” (Full Story)

Riboregulator controls gene expression

Molecular "dimmer" switch to control cellular metabolism, LANL image.

Recent work by Los Alamos National Laboratory experimental and theoretical biologists describes a new method of controlling gene expression. The key is a tunable switch made from a small non-coding RNA molecule that could have value for medical and even biofuel production purposes.

"Living cells have multiple mechanisms to control and regulate processes—many of which involve regulating the expression of genes," said lead project scientist Clifford Unkefer of the Laboratory's Bioscience division. (Full Story)

Also from PhysOrg

The race for the unbreakable password is almost over

QkarD and engineered at Los Alamos National Laboratory. LANL image.

The bandwidth issue could take years to fix. Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are not only working on ways around it, but on how to reinforce our current data security with quantum mechanics. Last autumn, Los Alamos struck the biggest deal in its history with Richard Moulds’ parent company Allied Minds to commercialize these products.

Earlier this month, it unveiled a quantum-based generator that creates random numbers — the same random numbers that fuel passwords and other current forms of digital security. (Full Story)

Red Fireworks Might Not Contain Carcinogens

Red fireworks over Moscow, from Smithsonian.

“Training areas get fallout [from flares] over and over again,” David E. Chavez, a chemist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, tells Everts. “It can be an issue for environmental clean-up.”

But making a less-toxic firework is one thing; getting manufacturers to change how they make their explosives is another. “It’s very challenging to go from something that works on the bench to something  that works on a large-scale,” Chavez tells Everts. (Full Story)

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Methane rules could have big impact in New Mexico

The Four Corners methane hot spot, LANL image.

Northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, a major natural gas and coal production area, could be a chief target of a proposed federal regulation aimed at dramatically cutting methane gas emissions.

A team of scientists recently found a methane hot spot half the size of Connecticut in the Four Corners area, The hot spot “accounted for 10 percent of all oil- and gas-related methane emissions from the U.S.,” said Manvendra Dubey, one of the Los Alamos climate scientists involved in the study. (Full Story)

A surprisingly elegant formula for molecular aggregates

Molecular aggregate system, from Asian Scientist.

Joint research by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory has discovered a way to predict the emerging structures and bulk properties of molecular aggregations. Their discovery has significant technological implications in manufacturing new functional materials.

In real life bulk systems, it is the degree of molecular aggregation that defines the resulting material’s eventual properties. The OIST researchers ran 2D simulations involving tens of thousands of particles. (Full Story)

DOE selects Los Alamos for carbon storage research

DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory has selected Los Alamos National Security, LLC to receive funding to research new CO2 storage technologies devoted to intelligent monitoring systems and advanced well integrity and mitigation approaches through DOE’s Carbon Storage Program.

Los Alamos National Security LLC (Los Alamos, NM) will research technology to identify, characterize, and monitor leakage pathways using acoustic probes that use 3-D scanning of barrier systems to identify fracture defects in wellbore cement. (Full Story)

Also from the Daily Post this week:

Young, Jupiter-like planet discovered

Jupiter-like planet, LANL image.

“The exploration of very young planetary systems that will evolve to look like our own has just begun,” said Didier Saumon of Los Alamos National Laboratory, whose role was theoretical modeling and data analysis for the project.  “The Gemini Planet Imager is amazing new technology that has quickly discovered the first extrasolar analog of Jupiter, but much younger,” Saumon said. (Full Story)

Descartes Labs is now off and running

Steven Brumby.  

The story of startup tech company Descartes Labs reads like something from the heyday of Silicon Valley. A group of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists strike out on their own. They leap bureaucratic hurdles to acquire licensing for technology developed at the lab and manage to secure venture capital.

“The fact that a group of scientists from Los Alamos could start their own company and within seven months of opening have a first product to start to sell to industry is an unusual thing,” said co-founder and Chief Technical Officer Steven Brumby. (Full Story)

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Los Alamos marks 70 years since Trinity test

The "gadget" at the Trinity Test site. LANL photo.

On July 16 Los Alamos National Laboratory will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first successful test of an atomic bomb.

The anniversary of that explosion, which happened about 210 miles south of here at a site named Trinity, will be marked in a low-key fashion at the lab. There will be a roundtable discussion in an auditorium.

The participants will discuss, among other things, supercomputing. The lab doesn’t test nuclear weapons with actual explosions anymore; it’s done through computer simulations. The lab has a new supercomputer named Trinity, and a new slogan, “From Trinity to Trinity.” (Full Story)

70 years after Trinity

Trinity, the World's first atomic explosion. LANL photo.

When a flash of light beamed from the arid New Mexico desert early on July 16, 1945, residents of the historic Hispanic village of Tularosa felt windows shake and heard dishes fall. Some in the largely Catholic town fell to their knees and prayed.

The end of the world is here, they thought.

What villagers didn’t know was that just before 5:30 a.m., scientists from the then-secret city of Los Alamos successfully exploded the first atomic bomb at the nearby Trinity Site. Left in its place was a crater that stretched a half-mile wide and several feet deep. (Full Story)

The first light of Trinity

The light of a nuclear explosion is unlike anything else on Earth. This is because the heat of a nuclear explosion is unlike anything else on Earth. Seventy years ago today, when the first atomic weapon was tested, they called its light cosmic. Where else, except in the interiors of stars, do the temperatures reach into the tens of millions of degrees? It is that blistering radiation, released in a reaction that takes about a millionth of a second to complete, that makes the light so unearthly, that gives it the strength to burn through photographic paper and wound human eyes. (Full Story)

Veteran recalls role in the A-bomb

Richard Johnson, 94, worked at Los Alamos during World War II.  Times Union photo.

Living on a quiet, tree-lined street that backs up to the Poesten Kill is one of the last surviving Americans who developed the first atomic weapon at Los Alamos, N.M., as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II.

Richard C. Johnson graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1942 and joined the Army to fight Nazi Germany and imperial Japan. As the United States raced to build the world's first atomic bomb, Army brass noticed Johnson in training and assigned him to the clandestine effort at the research laboratory in the mountains of New Mexico. (Full Story)

Nuclear security supercomputers continue evolution

The Trinity Supercomputer, LANL image.

Seventy years to the date after the first nuclear tests were conducted in New Mexico, supercomputers have evolved to the point that realistic simulations of nuclear detonations and weapons degradation can be accurately modeled with far greater detail and far more data than physical tests could reveal.

Los Alamos National Laboratory has been at the center of much of this work and will soon be home to one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet to aid in far more extensive modeling of many scenarios that could have an impact on nuclear weapons stockpiles. (Full Story)

Powering New Horizons’ 3-billion-mile journey

Black, tubular structure at left is the spacecraft's RTG power module.  NASA photo.

For New Horizons, the energy answer lay in the power of plutonium. Specifically, in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). This simple form of nuclear power, developed by the Energy Department, takes heat from the radioactive decay of plutonium-238 and converts it into electricity using devices called “thermocouples.”

The heat-producing ceramic “fuel pellets” of plutonium dioxide for the RTG — designed and safety-tested by Energy Department scientists — were manufactured at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Martian crust more like Earth than thought

Martian crust, NASA JPL image.

Researchers have found evidence of a 'continental crust' on Mars. They say the findings are 'surprisingly similar' to the material found in continents on Earth. The ChemCam laser instrument on NASA's Curiosity rover was turned on some unusually light-coloured rocks on Mars.

It is the first discovery of a potential 'continental crust' on Mars. 'Along the rover's path we have seen some beautiful rocks with large, bright crystals, quite unexpected on Mars' said Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead scientist on the ChemCam instrument. (Full Story)

NASA’s Curiosity Rover finds rocks similar to Earth’s

Roger Weins on KRQE-TV's morning show, from KRQE

The ChemCam laser instrument on NASA’s Curiosity rover has turned its beam onto some unusually light-colored rocks on Mars, and the results are surprisingly similar to Earth’s granitic continental crust rocks. This is the first discovery of a potential “continental crust” on Mars.

"Along the rover’s path we have seen some beautiful rocks with large, bright crystals, quite unexpected on Mars” said Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, lead scientist on the ChemCam instrument. (Full Story)

Science on the Hill: Methane cloud hunting

Manvendra Dubey, LANL photo.

When our team from Los Alamos National Laboratory went hunting for methane gas in the atmosphere over the Four Corners area of northwest New Mexico, we found a strange daily pattern. The regional methane concentrations leapt higher every morning before tapering off. But the biggest surprise was how much methane emissions we found — two times more than estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency and three times greater than in international emissions inventories. (Full Story)

Also from the New Mexican this week:

LANL raises $356K for N.M. students

Los Alamos National Laboratory employees pledged a record $356,550 to the 2015 Los Alamos Employees’ Scholarship Fund drive. The drive encourages lab employees, retirees and subcontract personnel to donate to a fund that awards college scholarships to Northern New Mexico students. (Full Story)

Spotted owl chicks at Los Alamos lab

A spotted owl parent standing in front of one of its chicks, LANL photo.       

Biologists located a record seven Mexican spotted owl chicks on Los Alamos National Laboratory property during nest surveys last month.

“We’ve never found this many chicks,” Chuck Hathcock, wildlife biologist with the Environmental Stewardship group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in a news release about the Mexican spotted owl, which the federal government lists as threatened. “It’s encouraging to see successful nests because it’s an indication that our efforts to protect these species are making an impact.” (Full Story)

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Saving West’s iconic landscapes from wildfires, one steppe at a time

The Valles Caldera, LANL image.

Valles Caldera is a nearly 14-mile-wide crater of an ancient volcano in New Mexico's Jemez Mountains. Its forested rim rings a expanse of trees, meadows, and summits inside the crater.

Beyond its ecological value, Valles Caldera represents an important watershed influencing the Rio Grande River, notes Richard Middleton, a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Using particle physics to map what’s inside Fukushima

Worker at the destroyed Fukushima plant, from Popular Mechanics.              

Cleanup efforts at Fukushima have a boost from halfway around the world, thanks to the Los Alamos National Laboratory. So how do you map the series of pipework to find potential faults? You use particles. Specifically muons.

As the naturally occurring particles pass through a part of Fukushima, a series of detectors map their movements and notice whether they change direction. (Full Story)

Technology out of Los Alamos may help better diagnose diseases

Harshini Mukundan, LANL photo.     

A serious and highly contagious disease recently made a comeback in New Mexico. Just last month, health officials out of Clovis had to test more than 100 Curry County residents after a man came down with Tuberculosis. Doctors still don’t have effective ways of testing for it, but that could change with new technology out of Los Alamos.

Researchers at Los Alamos National Lab were looking for a tool that could diagnose TB early on, and one that could tell the difference between active and inactive TB. (Full Story)

Perovskites will power new low-cost & highly efficient solar cells

Perovskite crystals, LANL image.

Since we’re celebrating Independence Day this weekend over here in the USA, we’re sharing this fireworksy image of perovskite crystals emailed to us by the folks at Los Alamos National Laboratory.  The lab has been hot on the trail of next-generation, super-efficient solar cells, and it looks like perovskite is the name of the game, partly because they are “more than a thousand times” less expensive than those fancy multi-junction solar cells. (Full Story)

Eddies pull carbon emissions into deep ocean, new model simulates

A three-dimensional spatial structure of mixing in an idealized ocean simulation, LANL image.

To better understand how carbon dioxide (CO2) moves around the globe, scientists need to know what happens as the ocean circulates. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) computer models clarify the complex ocean mixing process occurring in mesoscale eddies across the open ocean, and what they show will help prioritize responses to climate change. (Full Story)

Video: How Seagate collaborates with LANL on HPC

Kyle Lamb from the Infrastructure Team at Los Alamos National Lab describes the unique challenges he faces at a facility known for being at the forefront of technology. Kyle addresses the future of storage for High Performance Computing and the ways LANL is partnering with Seagate to tackle the changes on the horizon. (Full Story)

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