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. 10, 2023

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From left: Tammy Ma, lead for LLNL’s Inertial Fusion Energy Initiative; Representative Zoe Lofgren; Representative Eric Swalwell; LLNL Director Kim Budil. Image courtesy of  Rep. Zoe Lofgren.

The state of ignition

U.S. Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell hosted Tammy Ma, a plasma physicist at LLNL's National Ignition Facility (NIF) who is the lead for the LLNL Inertial Fusion Energy Initiative, and Kim Budil, LLNL director, as their guests for President Biden's state of the union address this week . Both women were involved in December's scientific breakthrough, when NIF achieved fusion ignition for the first time in human history. 

"During World War II, our country marshalled all available scientific resources and expertise with the Manhattan Project. Today, we face even greater challenges-not in war, but to save our planet from climate disaster," said Lofgren, ranking member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "President Biden was right to call for urgent efforts to transition to a clean energy future in his state of the union address. The tremendous work of LLNL and my guest, Dr. Tammy Ma, who leads LLNL's fusion energy initiative, in achieving fusion ignition two months ago is a vital piece to the clean energy puzzle. Congress must accelerate investments in scientific research to build on recent successes and move our country forward."

"Tonight, President Biden outlined the historic progress our country has made over the past two years - from record breaking job growth to delivering on the most consequential climate action in history - and presented an agenda to build upon that progress," Swalwell said. "I commend the President for continuing to champion affordable, quality health care, initiatives to curb gun violence, and strategies to secure a clean energy future. With two national laboratories in my district - one led by my State of the Union guest, Dr. Kim Budil - Director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I know federal investments in clean energy are critical for our economy and our environment, enabling us to create jobs and address the growing threat of climate change."

"The Biden administration's Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy sets a coordinated effort by the U.S. government to fund, implement and empower commercial fusion to unleash a new industry centered in America that addresses clean energy and energy security challenges," said Ma, lead for the LLNL Inertial Fusion Energy Initiative. "We sit at a very exciting time in history, and I was honored to represent the fusion energy community tonight."

"The DOE national laboratory system exists to drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness and tackle the most difficult scientific challenges facing our nation and the world," Budil said.  "Sustained, long-term public investment in science and technology enables U.S. leadership in national security, clean energy, and other key areas mentioned tonight. LLNL is a leader in many of these critical areas, and I was incredibly proud to represent our community and their contributions tonight."

022023 ice

The researchers’ setup for creating medium-density amorphous ice involved placing ordinary ice and steel balls in a jar. Image courtesy of Christoph Salzmann/ University College London.

I’ll have a water with ice

Shaken and chilled, ordinary frozen water turns into something different: a newly discovered form of ice made of a jumble of molecules with unique properties.

“This is completely unexpected and very surprising,” said Christoph Salzmann, a chemistry professor at University College London in England and an author of a paper published in the journal Science that described the ice.

The new discovery shows, once again, that water, a molecule without which life is not known to be able to exist, is still hiding scientific surprises yet to be revealed. This experiment employed relatively simple, inexpensive equipment to reveal a form of ice that could exist elsewhere in the solar system and throughout the universe. The researchers named it medium-density amorphous ice, or MDA.

“It’s really cool,” said Marius Millot, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who led the experiment that created superionic water, which was simultaneously solid and liquid. “What it tells us is that there’s still a lot of things that we don’t understand.”


LLNL’s Annie Kritcher is the lead designer for the experiment that achieved fusion ignition.


Designing an infinite wonder

In December 2022, the announcement of a successful fusion ignition reaction that produced more energy than went into the reaction broke headlines. Fusion has been a dream power source for decades, but has remained elusive to produce here on Earth. With this experiment at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, humanity has taken a big leap forward in this quest. 

Learn from Annie Kritcher, who designed the conditions for this successful experiment, how the breakthrough was achieved. Can you imagine trying to refine the shape of an implosion? Or harnessing the power of 192 enormous laser beams? Why is fusion important to the future of humanity, and what drives Kritcher to work on this enormous puzzle?

Kitcher spoke to host Renae Kerrigan, curator of science and planetarium director at the Peoria Riverfront Museum in Peoria, Illinois, about her role in the experiments during a podcast called “Infinite Wonder.”

Kim Budil

Kim Budil was named one of the Power 100, honoring the top 100 Bay Area business leaders.

She’s got the power

Lawrence Livermore Director Kim Budil has been selected by the San Francisco Business Times as one of the Power 100, an inaugural list highlighting the top 100 business leaders in the Bay Area.

The Power 100 represents the region’s diverse industries and were chosen by the editorial staff to highlight leaders who are adeptly navigating their companies and organizations through challenges, capitalizing on emerging opportunities, bringing unique insights about the future and motivating others to follow them. Individuals on the list were selected based on their influential positions, community impact, ideas and innovation and contributions to shaping their industries and the region.

“As director of LLNL, I have the opportunity to lead more than 8,000 employees who deliver innovative science and technology to address some of the biggest challenges facing our nation and the world today,” Budil said. “It is an honor to be included with this group of outstanding leaders who also strive to make a difference for their employees and their communities.”

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LLNL is part of a consortium to establish a regional direct air capture that would remove carbon dioxide from power plant and store it underground. Photo by Adobe Stock.

Clean Energy Logo

Putting carbon in neutral

Lawrence Livermore has joined a consortium that will look at establishing a direct air carbon capture and storage projects in California.

Carbon TerraVault Holdings, LLC has assembled a consortium of organizations across industry, technology, academia, national labs, community, government and labor, to pursue Department of Energy funding under its Regional Direct Air Capture (DAC) Hubs Initiative to create the California DAC Hub, the state’s first full-scale DAC plus storage (DAC+S) network of regional DAC+S hubs. DAC+S is a solution that can remove and then permanently store atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) using low carbon emission energy and provide economic benefits to surrounding communities.

California DAC Hub will help accelerate the Golden State’s climate leadership and achieve its carbon neutrality goal, and prioritize surrounding under-represented California communities through transformative benefits potentially including local air quality improvements, from helping maximize the use of renewable energy; utilization of reclaimed water and/or production of new water; quality union jobs in construction and low carbon energy technologies; and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and energy transition education programs.

Through California DAC Hub, the consortium will pursue funding to develop a network of DAC+S hubs across the state under the DOE’s Regional DAC Hubs Initiative, to accelerate the commercialization of atmospheric CO2 removal via integrated capture, processing, transport and secure geologic storage.