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.

June 25, 2021


A composite image of the Andromeda galaxy was created by stacking five wide-field-of-view channel images for an exposure of eight seconds. This image demonstrates the exceptional stability obtained by the Tyvak-0130 bus for a nanosatellite-class vehicle using the MonoTele technology, developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

universe today

Tiny telescope takes giant images

A tiny space telescope has taken thousands of pictures of both Earth and space.

A new nanosat has been quietly snapping more than 4,500 pictures of the Earth and the sky after its launch on May 15. Rocketed into orbit on a Falcon 9, the nanosat, known as GEOStare2, actually contains two different telescopes — one focuses on a wide field of view while the other has a much narrower field of view but much higher resolution. Together they aim to provide data on Earth, the stars and the network of satellites in between.

The telescopes are based on the MonoTele technology, developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory over the past eight years. This unique telescope uses a single fabricated silica slab rather than the traditional lensing system usually adopted by telescopes. Advantages of this novel technology include significant size and weight improvements, as well as more versatility in the orbital alignment of the spacecraft it is attached to.


LLNL engineers have designed a new kind of laser-driven semiconductor switch that can theoretically achieve higher speeds at higher voltages than existing photoconductive devices.

Switching on next-gen communications

A laser-driven semiconductor switch design can theoretically achieve speeds and voltages higher than existing photoconductive devices — potentially enabling communication speeds beyond 5G if the switch were to be miniaturized and incorporated into satellites. The technology was conceived through a joint research effort between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The research team’s device uses a high-powered laser to generate an electron charge cloud in the base material gallium nitride while under extreme electric fields.

Unlike normal semiconductors in which electrons move faster as the applied electrical field is increased, gallium nitride expresses a phenomenon called negative differential mobility, where the generated electron cloud slows down at the front of the cloud. This allowed the device to create extremely fast pulses and high-voltage signals at frequencies approaching 1 terahertz when exposed to electromagnetic radiation, researchers said.

If the switch described in the paper can be realized, it could be miniaturized and incorporated into satellites to enable communication systems beyond 5G. This would potentially transfer more data, at a faster rate and over long distances.

oil fields

Depleted oil fields in Kern County are ideal for carbon capture and storage sites.

Carbon storage on tap for Kern

Kern County industry is planning to move forward with carbon-burying technologies seen as helping the state achieve its climate goals while also creating substantial local employment opportunities.

The idea, voiced most recently by the new head of Bakersfield-based oil producer Aera Energy LLC, is that local oilfield operators have the expertise — and ideal access to vast geological formations — required to remove greenhouse gases directly from the atmosphere or industrial emissions and store it deep underground in a process called carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS.

Scientists with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have highlighted Kern's CCS potential.

At least one such project proposed locally is in design stages, and the company behind it, Santa Clarita-based California Resources Corp., announced last month it expects to accelerate its work with CCS technology using "a number" of depleted oilfields in California.

dark matter

A predicted new particle called a “sterile neutrino” could be a key in understanding dark matter.

A kickoff to understanding dark matter

Scientists have theoretically predicted the existence of new particles called “sterile neutrinos” that could kick off our understanding of dark matter in the universe. Unlike your average “active” neutrinos found in the Standard Model of particle physics, these theoretical new particles don't interact with matter as it moves through the vacuum of space, making it nearly impossible to detect.

A team of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Colorado Schools of Mines, demonstrated the power of utilizing nuclear decay under high-rate quantum sensors in the quest for sterile neutrinos. Measurements gathered are a first of their kind.

The research is set to kick off an extended project to search for the most promising candidate for dark matter, an unidentified material that comprises 85 percent of the known universe’ total mass.

Stephan Freidrich, the lead author, explains the sterile neutrinos are strong candidates for theoretical “warm” dark matter, which also could provide insight into the origins of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the known universe.


Scientists have recreated helium rain, which may fall in the atmospheres of gas giants like Jupiter. Image courtesy of NASA.

It’s a gas

Scientists have recreated in the lab some of the wild weather that might be found on Jupiter and Saturn. Using extremely high pressures and laser shock waves, the researchers produced “helium rain,” which has been hypothesized to fall on these planets.

The atmospheres of gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn, are made up mostly of hydrogen and helium. Under those conditions, it’s long been predicted that helium should form liquid droplets and fall, but experimental evidence had proven tricky to track down.

Now those conditions have been recreated in the lab, producing helium rain with it. It’s thanks to researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, the University of Rochester, UC Berkeley and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission.

The team first used a diamond anvil cell to compress a mixture of hydrogen and helium to about 40,000 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. Then, the researchers fired a high-powered laser at the gases, producing strong shock waves that compressed them even further, as well as heating them to between 4,425 degrees Celsius (8,000 °Fahrenheit) and 9,925 °C (17,900 °F).