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. 20, 2019

World's Largest Optical Lens

LLNL engineer Vincent Riot (left), who has worked on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) for more than a decade and has been the full camera project manager since 2017, and LLNL optical engineer Justin Wolfe, the LSST camera optics subsystems manager, stand in front of the LSST main lens assembly.

Photo by Farrin Abbott/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Eyeing distant galaxies

When the world’s newest telescope starts imaging the southern sky in 2023, it will take photos using optical assemblies designed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers and built by Lab industrial partners.

A key feature of the camera’s optical assemblies for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, under construction in northern Chile, will be its three lenses, one of which at 1.57 m (5.1 ft) in diameter is believed to be the world’s largest high-performance optical lens ever fabricated.

The lens assembly, which includes the lens dubbed L-1, and its smaller companion lens (L-2), at 1.2 m in diameter, was built over the past five years by Boulder, Colorado-based Ball Aerospace and its subcontractor, Tucson, Arizona-based Arizona Optical Systems.

“The success of the fabrication of this unique optical assembly is a testament to LLNL’s world-leading expertise in large optics, built on decades of experience in the construction of the world’s largest and most powerful laser systems,” said LLNL physicist Scot Olivier, who helped manage Livermore’s involvement in the LSST project for more than a decade.

Entity Solar

New research by LLNL scientists shows that solar cell efficiency can improve by using metal nanowire meshes that provide high transmissivity and high electrical connectivity.

Image by Creative Commons

Let there be light

Transparent electrodes are a critical component of solar cells and electronic displays. To collect electricity in a solar cell or inject electricity for a display, you need a conductive contact, like a metal, but you also need to be able to let light in (for solar cells) or out (for displays).

Metal is opaque, so the current techniques use metal oxides, most often indium tin oxide — a near-critical rare earth metal — as the conductive contact. Because supplies of this rare earth metal are limited, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have turned to ordered metal nanowire meshes that provide high transmissivity (due to the small diameters of the nanowires), high electrical connectivity (due to the many contact points in the mesh) and use more common elements.

The nanowire arrays also have applications for optical metamaterials — composite materials usually made of metals and dielectrics — that have unique optical properties not found in nature.

“We’ve demonstrated a scalable method to create metallic nanowire arrays and meshes over square-centimeter-areas with tunable sub-100 nanometer dimensions and geometries,” said LLNL materials scientist Anna Hiszpanski, principal investigator of the project. “We were able to attain comparable or smaller dimensions than what the traditional nanofab techniques can produce and do it over a significantly larger area relevant for real-world applications.”

Farmer's Market

One of the pluses for LLNL employees is seasonal farmer’s markets.

Perking up employees

When it comes to keeping employees happy and healthy, companies are turning to a number of employee health and fitness perks. Busines Insider recently took a look at companies that offer "incredible" perks to promote the workforce's well-being, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. 

One of the popular perks at the Lab is the seasonal farmers’ markets where employees can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Other perks include on-site fitness and wellness programs, author events, summer music concerts, employee discounts, a childcare facility, quarterly blood drives, a charity run and support groups.


DOE is funding three projects to improve efficiency of offshore oil wells.

Sailing the seas for oil recovery

The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy has selected three projects, including one with Lawrence Livermore, to receive nearly $9 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects called “Advanced Subsea System Technologies to Improve Efficiency and Capabilities for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in Offshore Wells.”

These projects aim to enhance the potential for EOR in offshore settings by advancing promising proof-of-concept technologies to reduce subsea facility complexity; increase control and monitoring; and enable greater tieback distances to production facilities. These projects will focus on maximizing the value of conventional resources in offshore settings.

In the project titled Underwater Laser Telecommunications & Remote Access (ULTRA), Oceanit Laboratories Inc. plans to mature existing ULTRA technology to demonstrate a high-bandwidth, scalable subsea communications system that enables near real-time data exfiltration for 4D seismic reservoir monitoring. The company will partner with Lawrence Livermore and continue its partnership with Shell and other operators to scale and demonstrate EOR subsea laser communications.

El Capitan

The Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have signed contracts with Cray Inc. to build the NNSA’s first exascale supercomputer, “El Capitan.”

A jewel in the exascale crown

The U.S. is spending another $600 million to build its third "exascale" supercomputer, which will be focused on simulating nuclear explosions.

"El Capitan" is a machine designed to achieve 1.5 exaflops, or 1.5 quintillion calculations per second. The processing power will dwarf the capabilities of the top 100 supercomputers combined when it's completed in late 2022 at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

El Capitan will have a special mission: It will conduct classified experiments to ensure that the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal remains in good working order. In 1992, the U.S. conducted its last live nuclear test, and since then, the country has relied on supercomputers to carry out the detonations virtually.

But creating an accurate simulation isn't easy; it requires a vast amount of computing power when trying to predict how a nuclear explosion will unfold at a molecular level. A 3D simulation, as opposed to a 2D simulation, needs even more processing power. The world's second fastest supercomputer, Sierra, is routinely simulating such tests, but at under 0.125 exaflops. In contrast, the upcoming El Capitan system is expected to be about 10 times faster.