Oct. 16, 2002

Lawrence Livermore Researchers Garner Six R&D 100 Awards for Top Industrial Inventions

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have posted one of their finest years for developing top-flight technologies with commercial potential.

Six teams of LLNL researchers, including two with industrial collaborators, captured plaques from the trade journal R&D Magazine, out of the top 100 industrial inventions honored worldwide for 2001.

LLNL received more R&D 100 awards this year than any other scientific institution or organization.

Dubbed the "Oscars of invention," this year’s R&D 100 awards will be presented tonight during a black-tie dinner at the Navy Pier Convention Center in Chicago.

Managed by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration/Department of Energy (DOE), the Laboratory has now garnered 91 R&D 100 awards since 1978. This year, Energy Department labs won a total of 26 R&D 100 award plaques.

This year marks the sixth time that Laboratory researchers have won six R&D 100 awards in a single year (other such years were 1999, 1994-96 and 1991). The highest total of R&D 100 awards won by Lab employees in a single year is seven, and that has happened in four different years (1987, 1988, 1997, and 1998).

"The Laboratory continues to be a source of advanced and creative technologies that benefit the nation as well as private industry," said Hal Graboske, LLNL deputy director for science and technology. "These advances reflect the Laboratory’s tradition of multidisciplinary teams working together to solve important problems."

Powerful laser
Livermore laser scientists have developed the Solid-State Heat-Capacity Laser, which boasts an output power of 13,000 watts, making it the most powerful solid-state laser system in the world.

The laser has already surpassed current solid-state lasers and is expected to equal, if not exceed, power levels achieved by chemical and gas lasers in the near future.

The technology for this compact, high-average-power laser offers a range of applications for military defense and industrial processing.

One possible use of the new laser could be to provide short-range (1 to 10 kilometers) defensive capabilities against battlefield threats, such as rockets, artillery and mortars.

Possible industrial applications of the laser system could include welding, cutting and heat-treating metals.

The Solid-State Heat-Capacity Laser can operate continuously at 20 pulses per second for 10 seconds, or 200 pulses, allowing a quarter-inch beam to penetrate up to 1.5 inches of steel or 3 inches of aluminum.

Small packages for powerful lasers
A new packaging technology — called the Silicon Monolithic Microchannel (SiMM) Cooled Laser Diode Array — is an advance that allows more powerful solid-state lasers, such as the Solid-State Heat-Capacity Laser.

The SiMM Cooled Laser Diode Array technology permits the production of the smallest, most powerful and most inexpensive laser diode pumps ever.

Since laser diode arrays are semiconductor devices, their performance suffers as their temperature rises. Diodes can convert about 50 percent of their electric input power into light, while the remaining 50 percent becomes heat. Thus, efficient cooling is critical for any technology that seeks to increase power output.

The SiMM technology relies on thousands of tiny 30-micron (about one-third the size of a human hair) wide channels in silicon substrates to cool the laser diode bars. Cooling is achieved by water flowing through the small channels.

New advance for fighting disease
A new technology pioneered by four researchers in the Biology and Biotechnology Research Program is expected to help move the disease detection, prevention and treatment capabilities of the Human Genome Project from the laboratory to the clinic.

Known as In Situ Rolling Circle Amplification (IRCA), the advance can identify a single damaged or abnormal, disease-related DNA base out of the 6 billion in one human cell.

This technology can do in one test what several other more costly and time-consuming tests cannot achieve together — find the exact genetic location of a damaged or mutated DNA base and the extent of the damage or mutation.

IRCA may significantly speed efforts to measure the effectiveness of treatments in killing cancer tumors, thereby improving the ability of physicians to individualize cancer treatments.

Besides its medical applications, the technology could find use in agriculture, toxicology and pharmacology, immunology, veterinary medicine, anti-terrorism research and other fields.

Medical device combats pain
The STIM-2002 is a miniaturized and inexpensive medical device that delivers low-level electrical pulses through the skin to inhibit or interfere with pain signals to the brain.

This medical device was developed under a cooperative research and development agreement between Florida-based Cyclotec Advanced Medical Technologies, LLNL and the Biophysical Laboratory of Sarov, Russia.

Work on the project was done under the DOE Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program.

The STIM-2002 device will be able to treat ailments that affect up to 50 million people. Patients being treated annually for acute, episodic and chronic pain (from wounds, surgery, arthritis or joint and muscle injuries) would benefit most from the technology.

STIM-2002 can serve as an alternative or adjunct to conventional pain treatments and medications, such as anti-inflammatory, narcotic or non-narcotic agents.

Tool for next-generation semiconductors
Researchers from LLNL and New York-based Veeco Instruments Inc. teamed to develop a fundamental technology for high-volume manufacturing of the next generation of computer chips.

The technology, called the Production-Scale Thin Film Coating Tool, will lead to the manufacture of computer chips that are 100 times faster and have 1,000 times more memory than those available today.

Work for this effort was funded under DOE's largest-ever cooperative research and development agreement, a $250 million effort including three national labs (Livermore, Berkeley and Sandia), Intel and five other companies.

"This invention has enabled the successful advancement of the semiconductor industry toward manufacture of 100 times faster computers, which are expected to have a tremendous positive impact in everyday life, science and international economy," said Intel's Peter Silverman, director of Lithography Capital Equipment Development.

The Production-Scale Thin Film Coating Tool is the only deposition system able to apply multilayer coating thickness to within a quarter of an atom, producing a 100-fold improvement over other current technologies.

Storing complex scientific data
Four Livermore scientists were part of a four-institution team that created a file format and software library for storing, managing and archiving large and complex sets of scientific or engineering data.

Known as Hierarchical Data Format 5 (HDF5), the technology supports any type of data suitable for digital storage, no matter its origin or size. HDF5 is a fast, portable, parallel I/O library. HDF5 files can store trillions of bytes of computational results from weather or nuclear testing models, or it can handle millions of bytes of high-resolution MRI brain scans. With the help of lower-level libraries, HDF5 enables hundreds or thousands of processors to simultaneously write information to a single file.

Rigid data models for most current file formats have become an obstacle for using them in multidisciplinary science. The HDF5 technology is designed to overcome those challenges and is also expected to handle future developments in computing and data storage.

HDF5 was developed by researchers from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), LLNL, Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

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