Laser for safer airplanes, more durable hip implants

Airplane components, hip implants, and other products are in for a big shock from a powerful laser developed at the Laboratory. Early expected results: safer airplanes and more durable hip implants, achieved through a metal-working process that will employ the new laser.
Livermore researchers have developed a neodymium-doped glass laser with 600 watts of average power, capable of firing 10 pulses per second compared with 1 pulse every 2 seconds from the best commercial lasers. Laser peening, or surface treating, won't replace conventional shot peening, but it will be used in areas where deeper depths of compressive stress are needed.
The Lab and a New Jersey firm, Metal Improvement Co. Inc., have signed a license agreement and cooperative research deal to adapt laser technology to peen metal.
Historically, metals have been peened by bombarding the material with metal balls as small as salt grains to induce compressive stress that prevents metal fatigue and reduces corrosion. Laser peening was developed in the 1980s but never went into production because of high cost and slow lasers.
The new laser could have an impact in the aviation industry, where it could be used for peening jet engine components such as rotors, disks, blades, and shafts. It may ultimately help the military to address its number-one propulsion concern-high cycle blade fatigue. Another use could be in the medical industry to treat surfaces of hip-joint implants.
The Livermore laser technology has been funded by the Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force's Phillips Laboratory.
Contact: Contact: Public Affairs Office (510) 423-3107 (wampler1@llnl.gov).

PHENIX magnet tested

The search for the elusive quark-gluon plasma, a form of matter believed to hold subatomic matter together, took a major step forward with the successful testing of the first of three magnets for the PHENIX (Photon Electron New Heavy Ion Experiment) Detector System. A team of Livermore scientists was responsible for the design, supervision of fabrication, and testing of the magnet system, which will be part of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Heavy-ion particles produced by the RHIC accelerator collide in the center of the central magnet of PHENIX and produce a distinctive signature associated with the collisions. From resulting data, scientists hope to pinpoint the presence and behavior of the quark-gluon plasma.
The National Academy of Sciences calls the RHIC and PHENIX experiment "the No. 1 priority for nuclear physics going into the 21st century."
Contact: Bob Yamamoto (510) 422-5736 (yamamoto1@llnl.gov).

Workers unearth 10,000-year-old fossils

Bones from what is thought to be a mammoth were unearthed at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) construction site in December and January. Compacting the soil in a utilities trench more than 30 feet below ground level caused some soil to fall away, revealing a tusk and some back and hip bones.
The find is a more complete mammoth skeleton than usual, says principal scientist Mark Goodwin of the Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's significant because we [also] have a partial skull and nearly complete lower jaw. It gives people a slice of life of what California was tens of thousands of years ago. It's our fossil heritage." The tusk alone weighs some 150 to 200 pounds. Goodwin estimated that the bones may be between 10,000 and 75,000 years old.
An excavation team carefully exposed and cleaned the bones, applied a hardening varnish, and covered the bones with a layer of wet paper towels followed by strips of burlap dipped in plaster for the move to Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology, where they will be further cleaned and preserved.
Contact: Public Affairs Office (510) 422-4599 (garberson1@llnl.gov).

Lab hosts demining talks

The Lab held a two-day conference to study issues and technologies for finding and disarming land mines. International experts talked about the economic, psychological, and physical effects of land mines, which kill 2,000 people worldwide each month. Lab scientists are currently working on a number of possible solutions-from mine-detecting robots using micro-impulse radar to detect buried land mines to ground-penetrating radar and infrared, nuclear, and chemical sensors.
Contact: David Eimerl (510) 422-7505 (eimerl1@llnl.gov).

Largest construction contract for NIF

Hensel Phelps Construction Co. of San Jose, California, has been awarded a $65.5-million contract to complete architectural build-out and finishing of the structure to house NIF, the world's largest laser. The contract is the largest single subcontract for the NIF construction project. Slated for completion in 2003, the facility is a stadium-sized, $1.2-billion, 192-beam laser complex now under construction at the Laboratory.
The new contract covers build-out and finishing of the main laser building, including mat and foundation slabs in two laser bays; installation of all interior walls and doors; heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems; plumbing and piping for water and other utilities; fire protection; power and communication duct banks; complete electrical systems; central plant boilers and chillers; and site finishing work.
Contact: Public Affairs Office (510) 423-3117 ("yano1@llnl.gov).

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