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.

Nov. 6, 2015

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Lab Report
Ryan Stillwell prepares a sample at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

A magnetic attraction

Lab postdoc Ryan Stillwell and LLNL scientists Jason Jeffries recently looked at uranium diantimonide (USb2), a uranium alloy to find out its magnetism

Uranium is radioactive, but Stillwell’s sample had low radioactivity. The team took care to avoid creating dust when cutting and polishing it. But he was much less interested in that property than in USb2's magnetism, attributable to uranium’s unstable electronic structure. Putting that alloy into a powerful magnetic field (in this case, the MagLab's 65 tesla multi-shot magnet) caused the alloy’s structure  to rearrange itself or even change shape to fit together in a new, more stable way that alters physical and magnetic structures.

In Stillwell's experiment, this caused the material to shrink, a result of the rearrangement of the electric and magnetic fields inside the material.

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Lab Report
Each of the National Ignition Facility’s 192 beamlines contains two large amplifier sections. The amplifiers are designed to efficiently provide 99.99 percent of NIF’s power and energy. Laser amplifier glass is doped with rare earth ions, which, new research shows, prevent external heat and noise from affecting the laser transitions

A rare find

Rare earth elements are used in computer hard drives, electric motors and to generate and amplify the lasers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility 

Future applications may include serving as memory for a quantum computer or the basis for ultra-stable clocks. 

In recent work by LLNL scientist Michael Hohensee and colleagues, the team shows that the properties that make rare earth elements so useful also make them great probes of physics beyond the Standard Model.

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Lab Report
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists were part of an international team that discovered five new nuclei: U 218, Np 219, Bk 233, Am 223 and Am 229.

Lighter than ever

Lawrence Livermore scientists have discovered five new atomic nuclei to be added to the chart of nuclides.

The study, conducted this fall, focuses on developing new methods of synthesis for super heavy elements. The newly discovered, exotic nuclei are one isotope each of heavy elements berkelium, neptunium and uranium and two isotopes of the element americium.

The Lab’s Dawn Shaughnessy, Ken Moody, Roger Henderson and Mark Stoyer participated in the experiments.

Every chemical element comes in the form of different isotopes. These isotopes are distinguished from one another by the number of neutrons in the nucleus, and thus by their mass. The newly discovered isotopes have fewer neutrons and are lighter than the previously known isotopes of the respective elements.

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Lab Report
Lawrence Livermore scientists and collaborators are studying switchgrass, which can grow and propagate in marginal soils, making it a good candidate for sustainable biofuel production.

Switching to fuel

Switchgrass, a perennial tallgrass native, is one of the most promising bioenergy crops in the United States, with potential to provide high-yield biomass on marginal soils unsuitable for traditional agricultural crops.

New research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, UC Berkeley, the University of Oklahoma, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation is looking into whether switchgrass cultivation could result in an enhancement of key ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, soil fertility and biodiversity. 

The team found that switchgrass can grow and propagate in marginal soils, making it a good candidate for sustainable biofuel production.

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Lab Report
This model shows planetesimals (objects formed from dust, rock and other materials that can be anywhere in size from several meters to hundreds of kilometers) accreting to a growing Earth 4.56 billion years ago. Image courtesy of Antoine Pitrou/Institut de Physique du Globe de Parise Physique.

Journey to the core of Earth

There is more oxygen in the core of Earth than originally thought.

Lawrence Livermore geologist Rick Ryerson and international colleagues made their discovery about Earth’s core and mantle by considering their geophysical and geochemical signatures together.

This research provides insight into the origins of Earth’s formation.

Based on the higher oxygen concentration of the core, Ryerson’s team concludes that Earth must have accreted material that is more oxidized than the present-day mantle, similar to that of planetesimals such as asteroidal bodies. A planetesimal is an object formed from dust, rock and other materials and can be can be anywhere in size from several meters to hundreds of kilometers.