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.

Sept. 3, 2021


The NIF Target Bay, which also served as the set for the engine room of the Starship Enterprise in the 2013 film "Star Trek: Into Darkness." NIF’s 192 laser beams converge at the center of this giant sphere to make the tiny hydrogen fuel pellet implode. Credit: Damien Jemison/LLNL

NIF’s star is rising

A recent nuclear fusion experiment at Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) puts physicists one step closer to achieving “ignition,” a promising development for new clean energy.

In a new experiment involving an abundance of laser beams and tiny hydrogen fuel pellets, LLNL physicists initiated powerful and unprecedented nuclear fusion, releasing the greatest amount of energy ever achieved for the Lab and bringing scientists one step closer to the goal of ignition.

Fusion, the main reaction that powers stars, occurs when two atoms fuse their nuclei together, releasing an outburst of energy in the process. In labs, physicists can channel an immense amount of energy through laser beams to trigger fusion, but it takes much more energy than what you get out of it. For nuclear scientists, the ultimate goal is ignition, when energy from fusion surpasses the energy fed into the process. 


Time integrated photo taken during a diffraction experiment at Omega. The work at Omega provides a better understanding on the properties of tantalum. Credit: E. Kowaluk/LLE.

tech explorist

Tantalizing tantalum

New research exploring the high-pressure behavior of shock-compressed tantalum has shown that the tantalum tends to be stable at high pressure. It maintains the body-centered cubic (BCC) phase until it melts.

Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) experimented at the Omega Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE). Scientists analyzed the melting behavior of tantalum at multi-megabar pressures on the nanosecond timescale.

This work provides an improved physical intuition for how materials melt and respond at such extreme conditions,” said LLNL lead Rick Kraus. “These techniques and improved knowledge base are now being applied to understanding how the iron cores of rocky planets solidify and also to more programmatically relevant materials as well.”


The asteroid Benn's orbit comes extremely close to Earth. The probability of an impact is low — but not excluded. Photo courtesy of NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.


Possible close call

Asteroid Bennu has a diameter of 500 meters, a mass of 60 million tons — and it races silently through space toward Earth.

The celestial body repeatedly crosses Earth’s orbit and comes uncomfortably close to our planet. Even an impact cannot be ruled out: on Sept. 24, 2182, this scenario could become a reality. This is the result of the latest analysis of the asteroid that astronomers have long had in their sights because Bennu is considered to be one of the most dangerous asteroids ever. Although the probability of an impact is relatively low: the chances that Bennu will hit Earth by 2300 are 1: 1750 — the risk is therefore greater than previously assumed.

NASA is already researching methods to defend Earth from Bennu. One way: the asteroid is rammed and thrown out of its orbit. The U.S. space agency, together with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, has launched the “Hammer” program. The symbolic acronym stands for Hypervelocity Asteroid Mitigation Mission for Emergency Response Vehicle. The idea: A spacecraft weighing more than eight tons is steered onto the asteroid and is supposed to ram it and hrow it off course.


LLNL scientist Kyle Fuhrer prepares an N95 mask for a fit test. Credit: Sam Paik/LLNL.

pleasanton weekly

The heat is on

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered a method to decontaminate N95 respirator masks without compromising their facial fit and ability to filter airborne particles.

The scientists determined that heating the N95 respirators up to 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes deactivates a surrogate coronavirus.

According to the Lab, this temperature can be easily achieved in hospitals and field settings, allowing for the N95s to be reused once decontaminated. The heat treatment can be applied at least 10 times on an N95 respirator without degrading its fit.

N95 respirators are protective devices that filter airborne particles. The N95 designation means that the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micrometers or larger) test particles.


An Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif. U.S. Air Force. Credit: Airman First Class Tiarra Sibley.

Focus Technical

Safe launch

A team from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) successfully collected data from the recent operational test of an Air Force Global Strike Command unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The purpose of the ICBM test launch program is to validate and verify the safety, security, effectiveness, and readiness of the weapon system, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.

The LLNL Independent Diagnostic Scoring System (LIDSS) was used to collect the downrange data following the launch. The assets used to collect the data included autonomous rafts, camera boxes and drones.