Lab Report

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The Lab Report is a weekly compendium of media reports on science and technology achievements at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Though the Laboratory reviews items for overall accuracy, the reporting organizations are responsible for the content in the links below.

Feb. 24, 2017

Chimney of the RWE coal-fired power plant in Grevenbroich, Germany. Photo by Patrick Pekal/Flickr

Just add CO2 and air

New research by Lawrence Livermore has brought the world one step closer to cheaply pulling greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Scientists have developed a rechargeable battery that runs on solutions of carbon dioxide and air.

In the past, researchers have used greenhouse gas emissions to create an energy source by converting CO2 directly into a fuel such as ethanol, skipping the need for plants to do the dirty work.

A different kind of proposal was made last year by a team at Lawrence Livermore, which suggested pumping emissions into wells 1 or 2 kilometers (3,000 to 5,000 feet) underground, forcing heated water to the surface to provide a source of geothermal power.

This transmission electron microscope image shows growth of a dense carbon nanotube population.

Seeing the nanotubes through the forest

For the first time, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists and collaborators have captured a movie of how large populations of carbon nanotubes grow and align themselves.

Understanding how carbon nanotubes (CNT) nucleate, grow and self-organize to form macroscale materials is critical for application-oriented design of next-generation supercapacitors, electronic interconnects, separation membranes, and advanced yarns and fabrics.

New research by LLNL scientist Eric Meshot and colleagues from Brookhaven National Laboratory and Massachusetts Institute of Technology has demonstrated direct visualization of collective nucleation and self-organization of aligned carbon nanotube films inside of an environmental transmission electron microscope (ETEM).

In a pair of studies, the researchers leveraged a state-of-the-art kilohertz camera in an aberration-correction ETEM to capture the inherently rapid processes that govern the growth of these exciting nanostructures.

Many of the shots at the National Ignition Facility are devoted to academic research.

Research in blossom

As scientists at Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility (NIF) continue their quest for ignition, a small but growing band of academic researchers has been harnessing the unmatched compression and other diagnostic capabilities of the 1.8 megajoule laser to explore fundamental questions in condensed matter, astrophysics, planetary science and other areas.

"We're trying to grow the community and get more basic science from NIF," says Bruce Remington, program leader for NIF discovery science. The number of shots at NIF devoted to academic research has increased almost fivefold in just two years, to 38 last year, and 8 percent of NIF's experimental time, some 18 days a year, was set aside for those experiments. Nine projects were selected from the 36 proposals received in last year's solicitation.

John Browne, chair of NIF's Management Advisory Committee, says NIF opens "a broad space of parameters for the science community to look at temperatures and pressures they can't get any other way."

This simulation shows the collision of two celestial bodies, ejecting enough debris into orbit to form a moon large enough for the Kelper spacecraft to detect.

Don’t give up on us Keppler

The Keppler spacecraft can detect many an exoplanet, but what about those orbs' smaller moons? Not so easy.

That could all change soon. Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible for a planetary collision to form a moon large enough for Kepler to detect.

Kepler has been prolific in its search of exoplanets, discovering thousands since its launch in 2009. But the hunt for moons orbiting these exoplanets, or exomoons, is vastly more challenging. While no exomoons have been found to date, a new study shows that the search is not futile.

Lawrence Livermore physicist Megan Bruck Syal and Amy Barr of the Planetary Science Institute conducted a series of nearly 30 simulations to explore how various factors affect moon creation. In the end, they narrowed in on a set of conditions that would create satellites much larger than the Earth's moon.

An international group of scientists, including chemists from Lawrence Livermore, report helium can bond with sodium at high pressure. Credit: Ivan Popov/Utah State University

Up, up and away

When most people think of helium, they think of balloons filled with an inert gas. And on Earth, helium usually doesn't bond with any other elements and simply exists.

However, under high pressure, helium reacts completely different. New findings by an international team including Lawrence Livermore's Elissaios Stavrou found that under extremely high pressure like that found in Earth's core or giant gas planet neighbors, helium's chemistry is altered.

Through computations and experiments, the team found that sodium, never an earthly comrade to helium, readily bonds with helium under high pressure to form the Na2He compound.