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.

Jun. 05, 2015

Lawrence Livermore broke ground for a modular and sustainable supercomputing facility. From left: Weapons and Complex Integration Principal Associate Director Charles Verdon, Livermore Mayor John Marchand and Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

Breaking new supercomputing ground

Lawrence Livermore recently broke ground on a modular and sustainable supercomputing facility that will provide a flexible infrastructure able to accommodate the Laboratory’s growing demand for high performance computing (HPC).

The $9.875 million building, located on the Laboratory’s east side, will ensure computer room space to support the Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program’s unclassified HPC systems. ASC is the high-performance simulation effort of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s stockpile stewardship program to ensure the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear deterrent without testing.

The new building addresses a pressing need for space designed to accommodate a variety of high performance computing architectures, including water-cooled systems.

A new study led by LLNL planetary scientist Megan Bruck Syal examines how cometary impacts may transform the surface of the moon in ways distinct from asteroidal impacts. Photo courtesy of NASA.

Why the moon looks like swiss cheese

As the closest object in the night sky, the moon and its craters, which look a lot like swiss cheese from Earth, have long been studied. These craters, visible with the naked eye, have been formed over billions of years by impacts from both asteroids and comets.

A new study led by Megan Bruck Syal of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory examines how cometary impacts may transform the surface of the moon in ways distinct from asteroidal impacts, producing unique signatures that are consistent with observations of mysterious, ghost-like features called “lunar swirls.”

Lunar swirls are wispy, sinuous disturbances in brightness and soil texture that appear lightly imprinted on the moon’s surface. Most swirls are located on the far side of the moon, and swirl regions are often (but not always) associated with magnetic anomalies.

gamma ray
In this illustration, a jet is produced by an unusually bright gamma-ray burst. Scientists think next-generation laser facilities will be able to recreate the fundamental physics at the heart of these gamma-ray explosions. Credit: NASA/Swift/Cruz deWilde

Antimatter is a blast

Gamma-ray bursts — explosions lasting no more than a few minutes but that release more energy than the sun will emit in its lifetime — may be coming to Earth via the world's most powerful lasers.

Recreating the birth of a gamma-ray burst isn't possible with current technology, but a group of researchers say new laser facilities coming online in the next few years will have that capability. These facilities could create beams of particles, which, when collided, would create high-energy gamma-rays via the same process that occurs in stellar explosions, black hole mergers and other extreme environments in nature.

"These are some of the most energetic events in the universe so we would like to understand what exactly happens there," said Frederico Fiuza, a staff scientist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and one of the lead authors of the new study.

Hui Chen, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Fiuza's co-lead author on the new research, is already creating these particle jets in the laboratory.

Lawrence Livermore and University of Washington researchers will attempt to create a self-sustained and controlled fusion reaction with a scaled-up version of this "Sheared Flow Stabilized Z-Pinch" device.

Fusion could be ‘ZaPped’ into reality

With funding from the Department of Energy, Lawrence Livermore and the University of Washington will work to advance the sheared-flow stabilized Z-pinch concept and assess its potential for scaling to fusion conditions.

Fusion is the same energy that powers the sun and the stars, and scientists have worked for years to create the same power on Earth. The ultimate goal is to get more energy out than it takes to power the system itself. In this project, the researchers will upgrade an existing Z-pinch system to test the physics of pinch stabilization at significantly higher discharge energy and pinch current.

The team was awarded $5.28 million from ARPA-E’s Accelerating Low-cost Plasma Heating and Assembly (ALPHA) Program. The experiment, housed at the University of Washington, is called ZaP.

LLNL biomedical scientist Celena Carrillo conducts benchtop experiments in a collaboration between the Laboratory and three other institutions that assisted Cepheid in advancing an Ebola virus detection test for emergency use. Photo by Julie Russell

An advancement in detection of Ebola

Researchers from LLNL and three other institutions have assisted a Bay Area biomedical company in advancing its Ebola virus detection test for use.

Sunnyvale-based Cepheid has received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to utilize its polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based assay for diagnostic purposes.

"We received a Cepheid GeneXpert system, as well as their experimental Ebola assay cartridges, and tested them against non-Ebola bacterial and viral targets to show that the assay would only detect Ebola," said Reg Beer, LLNL's medical diagnostics initiative program leader.

The Livermore testing, which was conducted under a work for others contract, was performed by Beer and biomedical scientists Pejman Naraghi-Arani and Celena Carrillo, who ran the benchtop experiments. No live virus material was used for these research studies.