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.

Jan. 31, 2020

carbon report

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has authored a new report, “Getting to Neutral: Options for Negative Carbon Emissions in California," which details a thorough assessment of advanced carbon-reduction technologies available.

bloomberg green

Shifting into neutral

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have identified a robust suite of technologies to help California clear the last hurdle and become carbon neutral – and ultimately carbon negative – by 2045. 

This groundbreaking study, “Getting to Neutral: Options for Negative Carbon Emissions in California,” was conducted as part of LLNL’s expansive energy programs work and the Laboratory’s Carbon Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to identify solutions to enable global-scale CO2 removal from the atmosphere and hit global temperature targets.

The report details a thorough assessment of the advanced carbon reduction technologies now available, their costs, as well as the tradeoffs necessary to reach the state’s decarbonization goal. The report codifies a number of significant conclusions by researchers at eight institutions. It serves as a resource for policymakers, government, academia and industry. 

 

forest

Planting trees invites people to view tree planting as a substitute for the sweeping changes required to prevent greenhouse-gas emissions from reaching the atmosphere in the first place.

Seeing the carbon through the trees

Reforestation is critical for lots of reasons, but it’s no substitute for cutting emissions.

Congressman Bruce Westerman of Arkansas is working on a bill dubbed the Trillion Trees Act that would set a national target for tree planting.

It’s great that trees are having a moment. Nations absolutely should plant and protect as many as possible — to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide habitat for animals and restore fragile ecosystems.

“Trees are an important, very visible and very socializable answer,” said Roger Aines, who leads Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s Carbon Initiative, a research program on carbon dioxide removal.

But it’s also a limited and unreliable way of addressing climate change. The nation has a bad track record on carrying out reforestation efforts to date. The states would have to plant and protect a massive number of trees for decades to offset even a fraction of global emissions. And years of efforts can be nullified by droughts, wildfires, disease or deforestation elsewhere.

fusion

Laser pulses enter the two open ends of a cylindrical hohlraum and strike the metal walls, producing X-rays that uniformly heat and compress a central cryogenic hydrogen target.

Machine learning could ignite fusion

Laser-fusion researchers have turned to machine-learning techniques to seek the combinations of laser pulse characteristics and target design needed to optimize target implosions for inertial confinement fusion (ICF). This could be an important boost for a program that has struggled to meet the ambitious goal of igniting a fusion plasma, which is a crucial milestone for ICF energy production.

As far back as 1960, computer models predicted that imploding a target containing deuterium and tritium could briefly produce the high temperatures and pressures needed for nuclear fusion. ICF looked attractive both for simulating the physics of thermonuclear weapons and as an alternative to magnetic confinement for fusion energy. The U.S., which had the largest program, developed a series of larger computer models and bigger experimental lasers followed, funded largely by the nuclear weapons program.

The latest and greatest laser built for this effort is the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Beginning operations in 2009, researchers aimed at igniting a fusion plasma by 2012. The laser delivered the 1.8 MJ pulses that computer models had predicted would suffice, but target experimental results fell short of ignition.

At the end of 2012, NIF shots had reached only 35 percent of the Lawson criteria, a metric for reaching ignition, says Omar Hurricane, chief scientist for LLNL’s ICF program. He says NIF now has reached 74 percent of the Lawson criterion. A simpler measure, the neutron yield, has increased by a factor of 21 over the same period. In 2015, LLNL reported that fusion-produced alpha particles were delivering vital heat to the target plasma.

AML

The Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory (AML), a state-of-the-art collaborative facility situated in the recently expanded Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC), is designed to merge LLNL’s science and engineering expertise with academia and industry, creating public-private partnerships that address manufacturing challenges. Photo by Randy Wong/LLNL

New additive manufacturing lab

Lawrence Livermore is branching out into a public-private partnership using advanced 3D printers to create and perfect techniques that can be used by the industry.

LLNL’s new Advanced Manufacturing Lab (AML) is a 14,000-square-foot, $10 million facility next to the national security lab.

The AML was just dedicated to a mission of partnering with private businesses to develop and prove technology here, which can then be manufactured on a massive scale by industry.

Since they were made on advanced 3D printers, there is often more to them than meets the eye.
Researcher Bryan Moran showed off an innocent-looking bunny, about the size of a large marble.

"We all like bunnies but this is made of octet trusses," Moran said.

Like microscopic versions of the incredibly strong trusses that hold up the Bay Bridge, "It's very strong for its size," Moran said. That means you can test the strength of the trusses by building a tiny version without the expense of a full-sized one, saving industry a lot of money.

clouds

Stratocumulus clouds like these seen from the International Space Station are ubiquitous across the global oceans, reflecting sunlight and keeping Earth cooler. Global climate models predict that their ability to shade the Earth weakens with global warming — an amplifying feedback, and one that has strengthened in the latest models. Image courtesy of NASA.

down to earth

Clouding the issue

Global average temperature, previously estimated to rise between 1.4 degrees Celsius C and 4.5°C from pre-industrial levels, is expected to rise further due to previously underestimated impact of clouds on the climate, according to a new study.

Drawing from projections by 27 advanced climate models, the study said the global average temperature would eventually increase between 1.8°C and 5.6°C. This means that the higher estimate is at least 1°C higher than previously thought.

Cloud-related feedbacks included in newer models are responsible for higher levels of predicted warming. Revised estimates pertain to a scenario wherein atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) have doubled, keeping the pre-industrial baseline. 

Clouds have a dual effect on our climate — they reflect part of the sunlight that falls on them back into space, which decreases temperatures, and they trap part of the heat coming from the land/ocean surface, which increases temperatures.

f the new estimates are accurate, it will be difficult to meet the Paris Agreement target of limiting the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C, said Mark Zelinka, scientist with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and lead author of the study.