Diagnostic kit uses Lab technology
A Hawaii-based company is producing chemical diagnostic kits, based
on a Laboratory technology, that permits the U.S. military to
check the safety of munitions. Known as field-portable thin-layer-chromatography
(TLC) units, the kits are produced by Ho’olana Technologies
of Hilo, Hawaii. Technology for the TLC kits was developed by
researchers in the Laboratory’s Forensic Science Center
and licensed in July 2001 by Alu Like Enterprises LLC to be manufactured
by its subsidiary, Ho’olana Technologies LLC.
The new kits check whether munitions are safe for handling and
storage. They analyze propellant mixtures found in munitions for
the presence and quantity of stabilizers. Stabilizers normally
comprise 2 to 5 percent of the propellant mixture found in munitions,
and they protect against the propellant undergoing accidental rapid
decomposition or burn. As the propellant ages, the stabilizer is
slowly consumed until its ability to stabilize is severely reduced.
The propellant is then past its useful life and must be destroyed.
Propellant stabilizers are used in artillery shells, mortars, missile
warheads, and bombs. Former Laboratory employee Jeff Haas led Livermore
researchers at the Forensic Science Center in developing the TLC
technology. The team included analytical chemists Jeanne Bazan,
Greg Klunder, Pete Nunes, and Richard Whipple.
The test kits contain all the components necessary to perform TLC
in the field, including miniaturized laboratory equipment such
as battery-operated stir boxes and heating plates. The kits perform
quantitative analysis by using digital imaging tools to determine
quantities and ratios of stabilizers in the propellant. The field
kits also require a much smaller sample size than traditional laboratory
TLC processes to determine if targeted chemicals are present. Ho’olana
Technologies has just completed its first contract, delivering
50 complete TLC kits to Lawrence Livermore for research and development
for the U.S. Army.
Contact: Richard Whipple (925) 422-6314
Marine plankton’s role in stabilizing
A trio of scientists, including a researcher from the Laboratory,
has found that humans may owe the relatively mild climate in which
their ancestors evolved to tiny marine organisms with shells and
skeletons made out of calcium carbonate.
In an article titled “Carbonate
Deposition, Climate Stability and Neoproterozoic Ice Ages,” in the October 31, 2003, issue
of Science, University of California at Riverside researchers Andy
Ridgwell and Martin Kennedy, along with Livermore climate scientist
Kenneth Caldeira, reported that the increased stability in modern
climate may be due in part to the evolution of ocean plankton with
shells and skeletal material made out of calcium carbonate. They
conclude that these marine organisms helped prevent the ice ages
of the past few hundred thousand years from turning into a severe
global deep freeze. “The most recent ice ages were mild enough
to allow and possibly even promote the evolution of modern humans,” Caldeira
said. “Without these tiny marine organisms, the ice sheets
may have grown to cover the Earth like in the snowball glaciations
of the ancient past, and our ancestors might not have survived.”
The researchers used a computer model describing the ocean, atmosphere,
and land surface to look at how atmospheric carbon dioxide would
change as a result of glacier growth. They found that, in the distant
past, as glaciers started to grow, the oceans would absorb carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere, making the Earth colder and promoting
an even deeper ice age. When marine plankton with carbonate shells
and skeletons were added to the model, glacial growth was buffered
because the ocean was chemically not able to absorb large amounts
of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
In Precambrian times (which lasted until 544 million years
ago), marine organisms in the open ocean did not produce carbonate
skeletons. Around 200 million years ago, calcium carbonate organisms
became critical to helping prevent Earth from freezing over. When
the organisms die, their carbonate shells and skeletons settle
to the ocean floor, where some dissolve and some are buried in
sediments. These deposits help regulate the chemistry of the ocean
and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Caldeira (925) 423-4191 (firstname.lastname@example.org).