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.

July 31, 2020

space station

An astronaut dons gloves before starting to collect samples from an International Space Station environmental surface. Image courtesy of NASA.

Microbes are skin deep

A study conducted by a team of Lawrence Livermore and NASA researchers has found that the environment of the International Space Station is affected by the microbial composition of the astronauts themselves.

The five-year research effort represents the first study to compare the space station’s environmental microbial profile (or microbiome) to an astronaut’s microbiome using metagenomic DNA sequencing techniques. 

“It’s very important to have continual monitoring of the microbiome on the space station because it will help us identify the potential for any microbes that could harm the astronauts’ health,” said LLNL biologist Crystal Jaing, the principal investigator for the Microbial Tracking (MT)-2 study.

The scientists characterized one astronaut’s microbial profile, taking 88 body swabs of the astronaut’s mouth, nose, ear, skin and saliva — and found that the microbiome of space station surfaces resembled the crew member’s skin. 


A new study found that organizations opposed to combating climate change get more attention than pro-climate equals.

Climate deniers get more ink

When organizations take a stand against actions to combat climate change, they get more news coverage than their pro-climate action peers, according to a new study by a Brown University researcher.

The team analyzed nearly three decades of climate change-related press releases and national news articles. Approximately 14 percent of press releases opposing climate action or denying the science behind climate change received major national news coverage, compared to about 7 percent of press releases with pro-climate action messages.

The report also found that organizations specializing in science and technology — such as IBM, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory — were among the least likely to see their views reported in the media, with only 2.9 percent of their press releases receiving coverage.

ca chart

California’s use of solar and wind energy increased significantly from 2017 to 2018.


By the numbers

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has updated its energy flow charts to include state-by-state energy use for 2015-2018. It also has released carbon emissions charts that depict a breakdown of all 50 states' carbon emissions from 2014-2017.

Each year, LLNL releases flow charts that illustrate the nation's consumption and use of energy. This recent release represents a major update to the state-level analysis.

Carbon emissions are broken down in metric tons while energy use is broken down in BTUs (a BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy; 3,412 BTUs is equivalent to 1 kilowatt-hour, which is the amount of energy it takes to light an efficient LED lightbulb for a week).

Renewable energy, specifically solar and wind energy, have made huge strides in the energy supply sector contributing to the decrease in carbon emissions since 2014. In states rich in renewable resources such as Iowa, wind supplies make up well over a quarter of the state's electricity and contribute to the state's ability to export electricity to its neighbors.

Livermore's home state of California saw a 21 percent increase in solar power from 2016 to 2017.


A new report suggests that a global temperature increase will surpass 4.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Clouds can influence how much warming Earth experiences from greenhouse gases. Image courtesy of NASA.

E&E  news

It’s getting hot in here

How much warming will greenhouse gas emissions cause in the coming years? It's one of the most fundamental questions about climate change — and also one of the trickiest to answer.

Now, a major study conducted by researchers including Lawrence Livermore scientists claims to have narrowed down the range of possible estimates.

It presents both good and bad news. The worst-case climate scenarios may be somewhat less likely than previous studies suggested. But the best-case climate scenarios — those assuming the least amount of warming — are almost certainly not going to happen.

The study concludes that Earth will warm from 4.9 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit, up from the 40-year estimate that the planet would warm from 2.7 to 8.1 degrees F.


Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers successfully 3D printed composite silicone materials that are flexible, stretchable and possess shape memory behavior, a discovery that could be used to create form-fitting cushioning activated by body heat. Photo by Carrie Martin/LLNL.


Time is on your side

For the foreseeable future, 3D and 4D printing will have very wide applications – and could be particularly powerful when combined with other trends like mass personalization.

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) involves creating a 3D object from a digital file, building it up layer by layer. So, if you were to slice a finished 3D printed object open, you’d be able to see each of the thin layers, a bit like rings in a tree trunk.

4D printing is certainly less common than 3D printing, but one example shows how it could be used in the future. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore have printed silicone material that is flexible and can adapt itself when heat is applied. This could, for example, be used to create truly customizable, form-fitting shoes that adapt to the wearer’s feet.

When combined with 3D printing, this shape memory behavior is often referred to as "4D printing," with the fourth dimension being time.