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.

March 19, 2021

Greenland Ice Sheet

Understanding the Greenland Ice Sheet's history is critical for predicting response to future warming and sea level rise.

Greenland was really green

Greenland wasn't always covered in ice. In fact, within the last 1.1 million years, Greenland had thriving vegetation and ecosystems.

That is the conclusion of an international group of researchers, including a scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, that analyzed sediment at the base of the Camp Century ice core (1.4 kilometers deep) collected in 1966.

Understanding the history of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is critical for predicting its response to future warming and contribution to sea level rise. For context, if the GrIS completely melted, sea level would rise by approximately 20 feet.

The team analyzed sub-glacial sediment and rock, retrieved at the base of ice cores, that provide terrestrial evidence for GrIS behavior during the Pleistocene Epoch (2.6 million years ago and lasting until about 11,700 years ago — the most recent ice age).

The sediment, frozen under nearly 1.4 kilometers of ice, contains well-preserved fossil plants and biomolecules sourced from at least two ice-free warm periods in the past few million years.

power plant

A new report advises California regulators and lawmakers to update the approval process for carbon capture and storage projects that could be deployed at power plants in the state. The natural gas-fired Moss Landing Power Plant is pictured in Monterey Bay, Calif. Image courtesy of Sebastian Kennerknecht/ Minden Pictures/Newscom.

E&E  news

Permitting carbon capture

California's permitting processes for carbon capture and storage projects need minor reform if the state is to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2045, according to a new report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Golden State will need to capture, transport and store tens of millions of tons of CO2 annually and approve at least 10 CCS projects in the coming years and decades to meet its clean energy goals, said the report, which was produced by Lawrence Livermore scientist George Peridas.

While there are no large CCS projects in operation in California at this time, there are at least two projects under development, according to the California Air Resources Board. The state has ideal geological resources to store carbon underground as well as the potential to be a leader nationally in CCS, Peridas said.

But California's current approval and permitting processes for CCS infrastructure are projected to take several years per project, the report said.

vaccine search

LLNL physicist Matthias Frank measures the movement of surrogate particles in a test chamber.


Playing a pivotal role

High-performance computing (HPC) has played an important role in the fight against COVID-19. Powerful computing clusters have run models that help scientists understand the virus and how it spreads, make advancements in therapeutics and even produce vaccines.

HPC is not the only technology involved in the fight against the pandemic. However, it has played an important underlying role in researching how the virus spreads and how it can be treated.

In collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Utah State University used IBM’s Longhorn computer to study how contaminated droplets are transported and settle within indoor environments, including hospitals. The research involved complex multiphase turbulence simulations that would not be possible without HPC infrastructure. The contribution of HPC machines allowed breakthroughs in research that would have taken years with less powerful computers.

Two lessons should be learned from the use of HPC in the fight against COVID-19. The first is that multinational organizations, national governments, private companies and academia can achieve a lot with technology in a short time when they collaborate. The second is that without both technology and cross-border collaboration, the loss and suffering caused by the pandemic would have been even greater.


Companies around the world are developing new and better vaccines in the battle against COVID-19.

Research Professional News

The race is on

The global race to develop new and better vaccines against COVID-19 continues even as several jabs have already been approved and given to tens of millions of people around the world.

ConserV Bioscience, an Oxfordshire-based biotech company, is working with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to design a broad-spectrum coronavirus vaccine that could, potentially, also tackle MERS and SARS.

The team identified regions within the proteins of the virus that are not susceptible to change and, if effective, the vaccine promises to protect against a broad spectrum of current circulating coronavirus strains and future emergent ones. Their candidate uses messenger RNA, a similar approach to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which have to be kept at cold temperatures.

The team hopes its formulation will improve storage and transport conditions compared with other mRNA vaccines.


Molecular dynamics simulations predict that more potential energy is localized in hotspots than their kinetic energy would suggest. Excess potential energy is tied to persistent strained molecular states that are primed for chemical reactions and explain why hotspots react faster than the bulk.

It’s getting hot in there

Research conducted on Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's (LLNL) supercomputer Quartz highlights findings made by scientists that reveal a missing aspect of the physics of hotspots in TATB (1,3,5-trimamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene) and other explosives.

Hotspots are localized regions of elevated temperature that form from shock-induced collapse of microstructural porosity and are known to govern the shock initiation and detonation properties of explosives. The main concept behind hotspots is that local elevated temperatures accelerate local chemistry.

The work highlights a neglected physical aspect of the early stages of hotspot formation and evolution that provides a route to systematically improve multiphysics models of shock initiation and detonation used to assess performance and safety.

"One of the most puzzling results from early reactive molecular dynamics simulations is that hotspots formed at collapsed pores react much more quickly than ones of equivalent size, temperature and pressure in the bulk material," Strachan said. "While recognized, the reason behind these differences was not understood. Our study resolves this question in that we find that the explosive material in a collapsed pore is fundamentally different from the bulk and that it is in a high-energy state primed for chemical reactions.”