Important Missions, Great Science, and Innovative Technology
LAWRENCE Livermore National Laboratory’s commitment to applying the best of science and technology to meet important national needs is clearly evident in the articles in this issue of Science & Technology Review (S&TR). The stories highlight a strong focus on mission; a multidisciplinary approach to research and development; effective partnerships with industry and universities; and signature strengths of the Laboratory in high-energy-density physics, computations, materials science, and biodefense sciences.
One indicator of the creativity of Laboratory researchers is their success in R&D Magazine’s annual competition for the top 100 technological advances that contribute to meeting an important national or societal need. In 2005, the Laboratory and its partners earned four R&D 100 awards, and this issue of S&TR highlights these award-winning technologies. Livermore has now captured 106 of these “Oscars of invention” since 1978.
Our focus on mission is particularly striking in two of the award winners, both of which strengthen homeland security. The first, the bioaerosol mass spectrometry (BAMS) system, can analyze individual aerosol particles to almost instantly identify the presence and concentration of harmful biological particles. BAMS is designed for operation in office buildings that could be targets for a terrorist attack using an agent such as anthrax. Alternatively, it can be used at ports of entry such as airports or train stations to monitor for potential epidemic diseases.
A second R&D 100 Award was earned by a team of Livermore researchers who developed the adaptable radiation area monitor (ARAM). ARAM is a highly sensitive system designed to detect small amounts of nuclear material. The system can be used as a fixed detector to monitor slow-moving packages, luggage, or pedestrians; as a roadside detector to monitor high-speed traffic; or as a portable detector. Livermore shares this award with Innovative Survivability Technologies of Goleta, California, which licensed the technology and rapidly put this easy-to-operate system into production.
Our national security mission is further highlighted in the article on aerogels, lighter-than-air materials that have been the subject of considerable pioneering research at Livermore. In Lightweight Target Generates Bright, Energetic X Rays, we examine efforts to dope aerogels with materials that efficiently produce high-energy x rays when pulsed with a laser. The x rays would be used to diagnose future high-energy-density experiments for stockpile stewardship and other applications at the National Ignition Facility.
Expertise in materials science and nanotechnology is preeminent in our third R&D 100 Award–winning technology, a nanoengineered heat source, dubbed NanoFoil®. This unique nanotechnology was featured last year in The National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan. NanoFoil heats only the interface being joined and permits large and small components to be metallically bonded with no thermal damage. Developed with Reactive NanoTechnologies of Hunt Valley, Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University, the technology potentially has wide application—from airplanes to computers.
Computations is the area of our fourth R&D 100 Award. With several of the world’s largest and fastest computers on site, Livermore is facing the issue of how to extract knowledge from trillions of bytes of data. VisIt is a visualization tool geared toward just that—parallel processing the large amounts of data produced from simulations and rendering them in graphic form. Problems that run for days or weeks on the Laboratory’s supercomputers can be visualized and displayed within seconds using VisIt. This free, interactive tool has been downloaded more than 25,000 times by users throughout the world.
An important application of supercomputers is in studying material properties. For example, part of Livermore’s national security mission requires that we understand how materials behave at the extreme conditions present in an exploding nuclear weapon. The feature article Revealing the Mysteries of Water describes supercomputer simulations of a common but surprisingly complex substance: water. Laboratory scientists are examining the structure of water at the liquid–vapor interface, and they are modeling the dynamic properties of water under the conditions that might exist inside giant planets.
Important missions, great science, and innovative technology—all come together to make Lawrence Livermore an exciting place to pursue multidisciplinary research and development in the national interest.