Science and Technology Making Headlines

Aug. 11, 2023

NIf target

A target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams entering through openings on either end. The beams compress and heat the target to the necessary conditions for nuclear fusion to occur.

Here we go again

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have reportedly duplicated last December’s historic experiment in which the huge National Ignition Facility laser ignited a small capsule of fusion fuel, generating 50% more energy in the ensuing explosion than was needed to trigger it.

The latest experiment took place July 30 and is presently being analyzed so that detailed results can be presented at future scientific conferences and published in journals.

NIF is a defense project, a major component of LLNL’s responsibilities under the U.S. Stockpile Stewardship Program for ensuring the safety and reliability of American nuclear weapons in the absence of full-scale nuclear testing.

NIF serves as a platform for carefully designed, high value experiments that may take place at intervals of days or even weeks using individually crafted targets.


reshaping workforce

Business leaders are navigating the complexities of modern workforce planning. Image by Adobe Stock.

Whistle while you work

Recent data shows that about half of office workers in major U.S. cities are now spending some days out of the office. Meta and Google, whose posh offices were long considered a draw for tech talent, have introduced plans for desk sharing. In some cases, building owners are repurposing office space for lab work or logistics.

Many executives are turning to spatial insights from geographic information system (GIS) technology to navigate the complexities of modern workforce planning. At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, GIS is helping the organization adjust to a hybrid workforce and expand to foster the next generation of cutting-edge research.

HR and facility planners at Lawrence Livermore are using a 3D digital twin of their campus to:

  • Manage moves for individuals and teams
  • Identify and correct inefficient uses of workspace
  • Orchestrate hoteling for employees’ time in the office
  • Plan facility build-outs and retirements for decades to come


After photoexcitation to the first excited state the molecule relaxes along a coordinate representing deplanarization with respect to the reactant double bond positions and planarization. Image courtesy of Y. Liu and D.M. Sanchez/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stony Brook University

Molecules can go their own way

In chemical reactions, molecules transform from reactants into reaction products through a critical geometry called a transition state that lasts less than one millionth of one millionth of a second. Scientists recently captured a critical geometry using the ultra-high speed “electron camera.” The research will help explain why reactions generate only specific reaction products.

In combination with quantum simulations of the reaction, this allowed researchers, which includes a Lawrence Livermore scientist, to identify the critical structure as one end of the molecule bending away from the rest of the molecule.

Chemists use the so-called electrocyclic reaction, because it generates very specific reaction products. These products can be predicted by the Woodward-Hoffmann rules. These rules received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1981 and are taught to every organic chemist during their undergraduate education. However, the rules do not give a detailed answer why reactions generate only specific reaction products. The new results help to address this open question. Additionally, they open a path for researchers to create new rules for other types of reactions. This can help make organic chemistry a more powerful tool.


A fisheye view of the enclosed rainforest at Biosphere 2 at the University of Arizona. Photo courtesy of Laura Meredith/University of Arizona.

Drought stricken soils spew volatile compounds

Microbes are doing a lot under the soil surface that can't be seen with the naked eye — from sequestering carbon to building the foundation of Earth's crust. But even tiny microbes are feeling the stress of a hotter, drier future.

According to a new study by University of Arizona researchers, soil microbes release more volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere in response to drought stress.

When most people think of volatile organic compounds, they think of aerosols — which can contribute to warming and have negative impacts on air quality — but the term "volatile" simply refers to how easily a chemical or compound can change from a liquid to a gas phase, explained lead study author Linnea Honeker, a postdoctoral researcher now housed at Lawrence Livermore.

R&D World

glass 3D

A range of glass structures made possible by DIW technology including monoliths, liquid tight containers and open lattices.

Inking a winner of the day

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Tailored Glass by DIW enables 3D printing of silica-based glass with gradient mechanical and optical properties in unlimited, customized, structural forms of high complexity. By controlling the concentration of multiple specially formulated glass inks throughout the extrusion process, the resulting glass product benefits from the free-form capabilities of 3D printing — while allowing for continuous changes in refractive index or other material properties. Following extrusion, a series of heat treatments solidifies the glass structure with the desired material or optical properties in addition to achieving high density and a range of geometries.

R&D World recently named this technology as winner of the day. It is applicable to research, consumer and industrial markets seeking to harness tailored glass structures through rapid prototyping capabilities that cut down on the time and cost of conventional methods. Given design flexibility and manufacturing precision, products ranging from laser system components to microfluidics can be tested and brought to market in a fraction of the time.

Computer with email graphic

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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.