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.

Feb. 6, 2015


Microcapsules containing sodium carbonate solution are suspended on a mesh during carbon dioxide absorption testing. The mesh allows many capsules to be tested at one time while keeping them separated, exposing more of their surface area. Photo by John Vericella/LLNL

Off the shelf carbon capture

Lawrence Livermore researchers have made a a potential breakthrough in greenhouse gas removal by using an item they could find in their pantries or the back of the refrigerator.

Lawrence Livermore scientists, along with researchers from Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, have developed a new type of carbon capture media composed of core-shell microcapsules, which consist of a highly permeable polymer shell and a fluid (made up of sodium bicarbonate solution) that reacts with and absorbs carbon dioxide (CO2).

Sodium carbonate is typically known as the main ingredient in baking soda. The capsules keep the liquid contained inside the core, and allow the CO2 gas to pass back and forth through the capsule shell.

To date, microcapsules have been used for controlled delivery and release (e.g., pharmaceuticals, food flavoring, cosmetics, agriculture, etc.) — but this is the first demonstration of using this approach for controlled CO2 capture and release.


The Antarctic Ocean is a remote place where icebergs frequently drift off the Antarctic coast and can be seen during their various stages of melting. Image by Andrew Meijers/BAS

It’s getting hot in there

Most people agree that the world is warming. Much of that warmth is absorbed by the Earth's four oceans since water is a good conductor of heat. Recently, researchers from Lawrence Livermore have found that the world's oceans are warming at a much faster rate than anyone previously thought.

"This underestimation is a result of poor sampling prior to the last decade and limitations of the analysis methods that conservatively estimated temperature changes in data-sparse regions," said LLNL oceanographer Paul Durack.

The team found that underestimates apply to the waters of the Southern Hemisphere, especially the upper 700 meters. Satellite observations, in tandem with numerous climate change models, helped the scientists reach their conclusions. The oceans account for 90 percent of the excess heat stored, and the Southern Hemisphere contains 60 percent of the planet's ocean water.


Natalia Zaitseva, a Lawrence Livermore materials scientist, leads a team of researchers that has developed the first plastic material capable of efficiently distinguishing neutrons from gamma rays, something not thought possible for the past five decades.

Material scientist crystallizes her place in hall

Natalia Zaitseva, who developed a way to rapidly grow large crystals used in the Lab’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser, will be inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame  (WHF) during the 22nd annual awards ceremony next month.

While working on her Ph.D. at Moscow State University, Zaitseva developed a method for growing extremely large crystals faster than had ever been achieved before.

Many scientists had been skeptical that such a process would prove successful. However, she succeeded in demonstrating that crystals from solution could be grown 10-100 times faster than by using traditional methods.

She joins 10 other current or past LLNL women employees to be selected for the Alameda County WHF.


A Lawrence Livermore developed macroscale version of the unit cell, which constitutes the ultralight, ultrastiff material.

Holding its own weight and then some

Materials printed with 3-D printing technology are one-of-a-kind, lightweight and super-strong.

Materials engineers at LLNL have created a material with a special 3-D printer that mixes hard metal, tough ceramics and flexible plastics.

“It can hold more than 100,000-times its own weight. In fact, even more than that," said Chris Spadaccini, a materials engineer at Lawrence Livermore..

One of the benefits of this methodology is the ability to work with a wide range of materials. The engineers create the materials with a sophisticated technology that creates 3-D parts layer by layer. The materials are so strong that they can remain stiff almost indefinitely and can hold up to at least 160,000 times their own weight.


A cerebral aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge formed in response to a weakness in the wall at branching brain arteries. If the bulge bursts, the person can undergo a brain hemorrhage, which is a subtype of stroke and a life-threatening condition.

A better screening tool

A cerebral aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge that forms due to a weakness in the wall of arteries in the brain. If it bursts, it can cause a brain hemorrhage and because of the high rate of death in these cases, researchers want to understand how aneurysms form and evolve.

Research by an international consortium, including Bruce Buchholz of  Lawrence Livermore, may help physicians better understand the chronological development of a brain aneurysm.

Using radiocarbon dating to date samples of ruptured and unruptured cerebral aneurysm (CA) tissue, the team, led by neurosurgeon Nima Etminan, found that the main structural constituent and protein — collagen type I — in cerebral aneurysms is distinctly younger than once thought.

The new research helps identify patients more likely to suffer from an aneurysm and embark on a path toward prevention.