Firms team with DOE labs to develop superchip

Three of the largest computer-chip makers joined with DOE laboratories to squeeze far more brain power into microprocessors. The unusual partnership aims to make computers a hundred times faster and bring features such as three-dimensional graphics to affordable machines. In addition to boosting computer speed, the memory chips will be able to store a thousand times more information than they currently can.
In the biggest-ever corporate investment with the Department of Energy, the three firms-Intel Corp., Advanced Micro Devices Inc., and Motorola Corp.-are spending $250 million over five years with three laboratories-Lawrence Livermore, Sandia National Laboratories, and E. O. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The partnership plans to design a new technique using ultraviolet light to etch ultrathin patterns (less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair) in silicon chips. These patterns will be 60% smaller than the patterns in the most sophisticated chips now available. Another partnership aim is to cram one billion transistors onto each thumbnail-size chip. Currently, Intel's most powerful processor contains 7.5 million transistors.
Contact: Rick Freeman (510) 422-3653 (freeman10@llnl.gov).

Zinc-air technology moves toward commercialization

Zinc-air fuel-cell technology, long a promising source of clean energy and stored-energy recovery, begins a move toward commercialization with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Agreement between Lawrence Livermore and Power Air Tech, USA, a consortium of Australian companies. Discussions are under way to bring other U.S. companies into the consortium.
The next step is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the Laboratory and private industry, which could mean about $100 million of industry funding-$30 million for further research and development on a zinc-air fuel cell and its zinc recovery unit at Lawrence Livermore over the next four to five years and an estimated $70 million for commercialization and manufacturing applications of the refuelable zinc-air technology and recovery unit.
Zinc-air fuel cells mix zinc pellets and electrolyte with air to create electricity. They create five times as much power as lead-acid batteries of the same weight. The Livermore design is unique because it is refuelable, and the spent zinc can be recycled into zinc pellets.
The agreement initially is intended to commercialize several kinds of units: large units for utilities to meet peak power demand, small units as an alternative to gasoline and diesel generators for uninterruptable power supplies, units for heavy and lightweight vehicles, and large uninterrupted power supplies for hospitals and airline reservation systems.
John Landerer, on behalf of Power Air Tech, USA, noted, "We will make every effort to have this technology on display in Sydney by the time of the 2000 Olympic Games."
Contact: John Cooper (510) 423-6649 (cooper3@llnl.gov).

NIF construction contracts awarded

Nielsen Dillingham Builders, Inc., of Pleasanton, California, has been awarded an $11.35-million contract to construct the structural steel shell of the building that will house Lawrence Livermore's National Ignition Facility (NIF), the world's largest laser. Walsh Pacific Construction, based in Monterey, California, has won a separate $4.7-million award for foundation work.
NIF is a stadium-sized, $1.2-billion, 192-beam laser complex now under construction. The NIF design requires that its high-tech laser components be tightly encapsulated in the surrounding building. Slated for completion in 2003, the facility will create-for the first time in a laboratory-brief bursts of self-sustaining fusion reactions similar to those occurring in the sun and stars. The resulting data will help the Department of Energy maintain the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile without underground testing while providing benefits in basic science, astrophysics, and commercial fusion power production.
Contact: LLNL Media Relations (510) 422-4599 (garberson1@llnl.gov).

FAA looks to Lawrence Livermore for flight safety

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore and three companies have been awarded $1.5 million to develop a new standard tool to assist the U.S. aviation industry in studying ways to protect against uncontained jet engine debris.
As envisioned, a Livermore computer code written to model weapons systems would be adapted to examine how to mitigate engine fragments and reduce aircraft hazards from any escaped debris. The unclassified code, DYNA3D, models collisions lasting thousandths of a second by simulating how stress moves through structures.
The two-year Federal Aviation Administration agreement teams Lawrence Livermore with two engine manufacturers-AlliedSignal Engines and Pratt & Whitney-and the Boeing Commercial Aircraft Group.
Contact: Rich Couch (510) 422-1655 (couch1@llnl.gov).
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