California science summit looks to future

National laboratories like Livermore offer powerful resources to partner with industry and help community leaders meet regional economic goals-but only if the labs can first fulfill the missions given them by the federal government.
That was the view expressed by Lawrence Livermore Director Bruce Tarter at the first California Coalition for Science and Technology Summit. Tarter's remarks came during a session focusing on research-industry partnerships in Northern California and the challenges they face.
The May meeting in Sacramento, California, was co-sponsored by the Department of Energy, the University of California, Lawrence Livermore, and many other organizations. The summit, which drew more than 300 attendees from government, academia, and industry, explored how those sectors can work together to build support for scientific research and enhance growth of high-technology industries in California.

Contact: Jeff Garberson (510) 423-3125 (garberson1@llnl.gov).


Livermore successfully test-fires petawatt laser

Lawrence Livermore opened a new chapter in the history of laser research this spring with the successful demonstration of its petawatt laser. For a brief instant, the Laboratory's petawatt laser produced pulses of more than 1.25 quadrillion (peta) watts of power, more than 1,300 times the entire electrical generating capacity of the U.S. The laser pulse lasts less than half a trillionth of a second, more than a thousand times shorter than that typically produced by Lawrence Livermore's giant Nova laser.
The laser employs a new technique called chirped-pulse amplification, which has revolutionized high-power laser research. The technique consists of producing a high-bandwidth, low-energy pulse of extremely short duration (femtoseconds, that is, 1 ¥ 10-15 seconds), stretching the pulse for amplification, and recompressing it back to its original duration.
The Lab's petawatt laser begins with a low-energy pulse less than one-tenth of a trillionth of a second in duration, stretches it 30,000 times to 3 nanoseconds, and then amplifies it by more than a trillion times. The petawatt uses one of the beamlines of the Nova laser for the final amplifier stage.
The petawatt laser will be used for research in areas such as inertial confinement fusion, high-energy x-ray generation, nuclear physics, and relativistic plasma physics. Technology developed for the petawatt has provided many unexpected applications-from new approaches to laser medicine to the use of diffractive optics on the proposed National Ignition Facility.

Contact: Michael Perry (510) 423-4915 (perry10@llnl.gov).


Lab leads manufacturing of B Factory rf cavities

The Laboratory is directing the manufacture of all radio-frequency (rf) cavities needed for operating the B Factory accelerator and detector--sometimes known as PEP-II and BaBar. The $177-million accelerator and the $75-million detector are designed to advance understanding in the field of particle physics. Located at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the B Factory is a collaboration between SLAC and the Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories.
Each cavity will be 2 ft in diameter and weigh about 450 lb. The rf cavities will be powered in pairs by a l-megawatt microwave generator. The first cavity was shipped to SLAC on May 30 as part of a $4-million project spread over the next two years. In all, 26 additional rf cavities will be constructed. While conventional machining on the rf cavities is being contracted to U.S. industry, critical fabrication and assembly activities are centered in Livermore, where about 60 technicians and machinists are involved.

Contacts: Curt Belser (510) 423-2472 (belser1@llnl.gov); Mark Franks (510) 423-4434 (franks1@llnl.gov).


Lab team sets crystal growth record

Using a rapid-growth technique that Laboratory physicist Natalia Zaitseva helped pioneer in her native Russia, a Lawrence Livermore team has grown a 44-centimeter-wide KDP (potassium-dihydrogen-phosphate) crystal in a record-setting 27 days. Under standard growing conditions, it would take 18 to 24 months for a crystal to reach such proportions.
KDP crystals are a critical design element in the proposed 192-beam National Ignition Facility (NIF), which will play an important role in the nation's science-based approach to stewardship of its stockpiled nuclear weapons.
The team in the Laboratory's Advanced Laser Materials Group now has its eyes set on creating a 50-centimeter-wide crystal using the rapid-growth method. Fifty centimeters is the largest size required for NIF and also the capacity of the platforms in the KDP team's three growth chambers. It also is believed to be the size of the largest crystal ever grown.

Contact: Natalia Zaitseva (510) 423-1505 (zaitseva1@llnl.gov).


Lab hosts international Python conference

Lawrence Livermore played host earlier this year to the fourth international conference and workshop on Python, a computer programming language often compared to Java, Perl, and similar languages used to communicate in cyberspace.
Attractive because of its portability and versatility, Python runs on many systems, including UNIX, Windows, DOS, OS/2, Mac, and Amiga. The Laboratory is interested in its use for the Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI), the supercomputing project that is part of the DOE's science-based stockpile stewardship program.
According to conference organizer Paul Dubois, a key to Python's success is its availability to people and organizations free of charge. "The Laboratory frequently collaborates with researchers who don't have a lot of funds for software," said Dubois. "Python facilitates those collaborations."
The June conference attracted computational physicists and programmers from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Among the attendees was Python's developer, Guido van Rossum of the Netherlands.

Contact: Paul Dubois (510) 422-5426 (dubois1@llnl.gov).


Meltdown may have formed Earth's metallic core

The separation of Earth's metallic core and its rocky, silicate mantle and crust is probably the result of massive melting caused by a violent collision between the Earth and huge celestial bodies at the time of the Earth's formation, about 4.5 billion years ago.
That is the conclusion Laboratory researchers reached after completing high-pressure experiments aimed at helping understand how most of Earth's metal became part of the planet's core, while most of the rocky material has settled in the mantle and crust.
The experiments involved squeezing metal and a sample of olivine (a silicate mineral that makes up most of the present Earth's upper mantle) in a multi-anvil press that is capable of generating pressures of more than 2 million pounds per square inch. As part of the study, temperatures of 2,700°ree;F were generated within the sample. The molten metal that was produced beaded up at the corners of the silicate grains and remained suspended-much as surface tension causes water droplets to form on a freshly polished car.
The results cast doubt on the theory holding that after Earth's formation molten metals trickled down between solid silicate mineral grains and eventually made their way to the center of the planet. In turn, the results support the view that an immense melting of much of the planet allowed molten metals and molten silicates to separate in the same manner as do oil and water. An interplanetary collision is the leading theory on the cause of such melting. For more information and graphics, see the specific Web page at http://www-ep.es.llnl.gov/www-ep/igpp/core/Core_Science.html.

Contact: Bill Minarik (510) 423-4130 (minarik1@llnl.gov).


Earth's crust modifies volcano chemistry

Collaborative research by Lawrence Livermore and Australian scientists indicates that the Earth's lower crust plays a significant role in modifying the chemistry of volcanic lava.
Led by Livermore geochemist Annie Kersting, the research team studied basaltic rock from magma that had erupted from a chain of volcanoes in Japan. By measuring the isotopic signatures of the cooled magma, or basaltic rock-specifically, the ratios of the lead, strontium, and neodymium isotopes in the rock-the researchers found evidence of changes in the signatures caused by their passage though two chemically different crusts.
Their research on the chemical interaction between the thin crust (approximately 30 kilometers thick) beneath most volcanic regions of the Earth and volcanic magma that makes up newly formed crust is described in the June 7 issue of Science. Kersting describes the team's findings as "helping us better understand how the Earth works and how the interaction of the crust and mantle influences the development of the continents." This study was funded by the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.

Contact: Annie Kersting (510) 423-3338 (kersting1@llnl.gov).