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 24, 2023


LLNL Director Kim Budil recently sat down with the crew of the "Possible" podcast to discuss the future of fusion.


Anything is possible

What if there was a source of energy that was virtually inexhaustible, produced no greenhouse gasses and generated minimal waste? Well, it already exists — almost. "Possible" podcost hosts Reid Hoffman and Aria Finger sat down with Kim Budil, director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, to talk about the future of fusion energy.

Last December, Budil’s Lab achieved fusion ignition. She explained what that historic breakthrough means, and what levers need to be pulled to go from that experiment to powering nations. Budil responds to stories, generated by GPT-4, about scaling fusion energy, plus another about how a country can transition to fusion energy in 2053.

"Possible" is a new podcast that sketches out the brightest version of the future — and what it will take to get there.


Images from a 2D spheral simulation showing the fragmentation of the Chelyabinsk bolide as it descends through the atmosphere. Image courtesy of LLNL Planetary Defense program.

universe today

Breaking up is hard to do

The people of Chelyabinsk in Russia got the surprise of their lives on the morning of February 15, 2013. That’s when a small asteroid exploded overhead. The resulting shockwave damaged buildings, injured people and sent a sonic boom thundering across the region.

The Chelyabinsk impactor was about 20 meters across. It broke up in the atmosphere in an airburst and sent a shower of debris across the landscape. The event awakened people to the dangers of incoming space debris. Since we experience frequent warnings about near-Earth objects, scientists want to understand what a piece of space rock can do.

These days, there are many observation programs across the planet. For example, NASA operates its Sentry System and ESA sponsors the NEODyS project. They and others track incoming space rock. The observation data help predict the impacts of all but the very smallest asteroid chunks that come our way. Despite those programs, it’s inevitable that something like the Chelyabinsk asteroid chunk will slip through. So, it’s important to understand what happens during such an impact.

Scientists around the world began studying the event almost as soon as it happened. They collected bits of the debris and studied images of the entire event. Researchers with the Planetary Defense program at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory recently released a highly detailed 3D animation of a simulated chunk of space rock modeled after the Chelyabinsk impactor. They based the materials of the object in their animation on meteorites recovered from the ground.


LLNL Computing Workforce Manager Marisol Gamboa (right) counsels WiDS Livermore attendees during a speed mentoring session at the Livermore Valley Open Campus. Photo by Blaise Douros/LLNL.

You are not alone

Celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory women data scientists, Lab employees and other attendees interested in the field gathered at the Livermore Valley Open Campus for the annual Livermore Women in Data Science (WiDS) regional event held in conjunction with the global WiDS conference.

Attendees met online and in-person for the forum, highlighting women in computing and the data sciences, to network, listen to technical talks by Lab scientists and others, engage in a fireside chat with former LLNL Computation Associate Director Dona Crawford and watch as LLNL Bioinformatics Group Leader Marisa Torres spoke about her work applying machine-learning tools to drug discovery live from the WiDS worldwide conference at Stanford University.

Held for the 6th year, but for the first time ever in a hybrid format, Livermore WiDS provided a space for women to share their career paths and experiences, hear advice on navigating a male-dominated field, learn keys to achieving work-life balance, discuss the importance of mentorship and demonstrate to women in the data science field that they’re not alone.


SpaceX launched its 27th contracted cargo mission for NASA last week, sending a robotic Dragon capsule aloft from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The capsule carried a telescope that uses LLNL patented-monolithic optics technology. Photo courtesy of NASA.

There’s something in the air

A prototype telescope designed and built by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers launched last week from Cape Canaveral, Florida to the International Space Station (ISS).

Known as the Stellar Occultation Hypertemporal Imaging Payload (SOHIP), the telescope uses LLNL patented-monolithic optics technology on a gimbal to observe and measure atmospheric gravity waves and turbulence. Launched last week, the SOHIP instrument will be installed as part of the Department of Defense's Space Test Program-Houston 9 platform once it is aboard the ISS.

An interdisciplinary Livermore team produced the SOHIP instrument and met rigorous NASA safety requirements for inclusion on NASA's ISS, a Laboratory first.

Hypersonic vehicle s— airplanes or missiles — traveling at five times the speed of sound below altitudes of 90 kilometers (km)/56 miles — operate in the extreme, unpredictable environment of the upper atmosphere, which can impact flight performance. Atmospheric gravity waves—oscillations of air that transport energy and momentum from the lower to the upper atmosphere as they propagate vertically and horizontally — create turbulence like ocean waves crashing on a beach.


LLNL biologist Nicholas Fischer is analyzing the size of the nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs) by dynamic light scattering in preparation for their use in vaccine applications. Fischer and two former LLNL researchers are key developers of the NLP technology. Photo by Blaise Douros/LLNL.

A license to cure

People afflicted with autoimmune diseases may someday receive help through treatments now under development by a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) licensee and its' collaborations with two major pharmaceutical companies.

In late 2017, LLNL licensed a biomedical technology called nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs), which can deliver vaccines and drugs inside the cells in the human body, to Ann Arbor, Michigan-based EVOQ Therapeutics.

Over the past two years, EVOQ Therapeutics has announced two major agreements with Gilead Sciences Inc. and Amgen Inc. to work on the preclinical development of novel medicines to combat autoimmune diseases. Part of the LLNL-developed NLP technology could be used as the vaccine delivery platform.

In January, Foster City, California-based Gilead Sciences and EVOQ announced they will collaborate on the preclinical development of vaccines to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The EVOQ technology is designed to enable lymph targeted delivery of disease-specific antigens for autoimmune diseases.