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. 18, 2015

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additive manufacturing
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineers Eric Duoss (left) and Tom Wilson use an additive manufacturing process called direct ink writing to develop an engineered “foam” cushion. Photo by George Kitrinos/LLNL

At the micro-scale

Lawrence Livermore is teaming with Autodesk to explore the intersection of design software and additive manufacturing. What they’ll be working on is too small to see.

During an 18-month research partnership, the pair will develop nano- and micro-scale materials with structural and mechanical properties that perform in ways not found in nature; for example, components that are both lightweight and stiff or transition from stiff to flexible.

The partnership will focus in particular on the development of novel materials for use in protective helmets — a test case for the broader goal of improving the performance​ of shock-absorbing and heat-dissipating materials.

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Lab Report
Researchers used the Advanced Photon Source to squeeze and stretch materials while bombarding it with high-energy synchrotron X-rays.

Stretch it out

Materials scientists, including those from Lawrence Livermore, are busy developing advanced materials, while also working to squeeze every bit of performance out of existing materials. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where small advantages in weight or extreme temperature tolerance quickly translate into tremendous performance benefits.

The potential pay offs motivated a team of researchers from the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Advanced Photon Source, LLNL, Carnegie Mellon University and PulseRay to work together to pursue their shared goal of characterizing structural materials in unprecedented detail.

The group describes how they created a system to squeeze and stretch a material while at the same time rotating and bombarding it with high-energy synchrotron X-rays. The X-rays capture information about how the material responds to the mechanical stress.

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Lawrence Livermore will use high performance computing to advance clean energy manufacturing technologies.

Green, clean energy machine

A new Department of Energy initiative will allow industry to leverage the high performance computing (HPC) capabilities of Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories to advance clean energy manufacturing technologies.

The High Performance Computing for Manufacturing Program (HPC4Mfg) will make $5 million available for qualified industry partners. HPC4Mfg intends to couple U.S. manufacturers with the national laboratories' world-class computational research and development expertise to address key challenges in U.S. manufacturing.

"With the HPC for Manufacturing program, DOE is taking the lead in recognizing the untapped resources and potential economic impact that the national laboratories represent. HPC4Mfg is designed to lower the cost of entry and to ease the way for U.S. manufacturers to use of high performance modeling and simulation for a competitive edge," said LLNL Director Bill Goldstein, who was a panelist at the summit announcing the new program.

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A new technique could create fresh water from brine while storing CO2 at the same time.

Reducing the footprint

Producing brine has a number of operational benefits that enhance the efficiency of CO2 storage, while simultaneously producing water that may help alleviate the stress in the water–energy area.

The Lab’s Tom Buscheck has come up with a technique to create fresh water from brine while storing CO2 in the process and reducing the carbon footprint.

In many regions of the world, the technique called enhanced water recover (EWR) can be deployed in saline aquifers that are well distributed and close to CO2 sources. EWR can be integrated with other emerging CO2 capture, utilization and storage technologies that generate geothermal energy, as well as provide grid-scale energy storage. By removing brine from a saline CO2 storage reservoir, EWR can augment the development, operation, and performance of carbon capture and storage while producing large quantities of fresh water.

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This impact crater in Winslow, Arizona, is 50,000 years old. The meteorite that made it weighed 100,000 tons. Photo by Charles and Josette Lenars/CORBIS

It’s shocking

Scientists, including those from Lawrence Livermore, used high-power laser beams at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to simulate the shock effects of a meteorite impact in silica, one of the most abundant materials in the Earth’s crust. They observed, for the first time, its shockingly fast transformation into the mineral stishovite – a rare, extremely hard and dense form of silica.

You can scoop up bits of stishovite at the scene of meteorite impacts, such as a 50,000-year-old meteor crater in Arizona that measures about 3/4-mile across and about 570 feet deep. A similar form also exists naturally at the extreme pressures of the Earth’s mantle, hundreds of miles below ground.

In the experiment at SLAC, researchers used lasers to create a shock wave in samples of silica glass. The heat and compression of this shock wave caused tiny crystals, or “grains,” of stishovite to grow within just a few nanoseconds, or billionths of a second. This speed defies predictions that the changes take tens or even hundreds of times longer.