Patents


Stephen A. Payne, Ralph H. Page, Kathleen I. Schaffers, Michael C. Nostrand, William F. Krupke, and Peter G. Schunemann
Low-Phonon-Frequency Chalcogenide Crystalline Hosts for Rare Earth Lasers Operating beyond Three Microns
U.S. Patent 6,047,013
April 4, 2000
The invention comprises an RE-doped, MA2X4 crystalline gain medium, where RE represents the trivalent rare earth ions; M includes a divalent ion such as magnesium, calcium, strontium, barium, lead, europium, or ytterbium; A is selected from trivalent ions including aluminum, gallium, and indium; and X is one of the chalcogenid ions sulfur, selenium, and tellurium. The MA2X4 gain medium can be employed in a laser oscillator or a laser amplifier. Possible pump sources include diode lasers. The laser wavelengths generated are greater than 3 micrometers, which is possible because of the low phonon frequency of this host medium. The invention may be used to seed optical devices such as optical parametric oscillators and other lasers.

Ai-Quoc Pham, P. Henrik Wallman, and Robert S. Glass
Natural Gas-Assisted Steam Electrolyzer
U.S. Patent 6,051,125
April 18, 2000
An efficient method of producing hydrogen by high-temperature steam electrolysis that will lower electricity consumption by an estimated 65 percent compared to usage by previous steam electrolyzer systems. This reduction of electricity consumption is accomplished with a natural gas-assisted steam electrolyzer, which replaces one unit of electrical energy with one unit of energy content in natural gas at one-quarter the cost. It is possible to vary the ratio between the electricity and the natural gas supplied to the system in response to fluctuations in relative prices for these two energy sources. In one approach, an appropriate catalyst on the anode side of the electrolyzer will promote the partial oxidation of natural gas to carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (called Syn-Gas). The CO can also be shifted to carbon dioxide to give additional hydrogen. In another approach, the natural gas is used in the anode side of the electrolyzer to burn out the oxygen resulting from electrolysis, thus reducing or eliminating the potential difference across the electrolyzer membrane.


Lisa A. Tarte, Wayne L. Bonde, Paul G. Carey, Robert J. Contolini, and Anthony M. McCarthy
Process for Protecting Bonded Components from Plating Shorts
U.S. Patent 6,051,493
April 18, 2000
A method that protects the region between a component and the substrate onto which the component is bonded. It uses an electrically insulating fillet of photoresist. The fillet protects the regions from subsequent plating with metal, thereby shorting the plated conductors that run down the sides of the component and onto the substrate.


Karla G. Hagans and Robert E. Clough
Optical Key System
U.S. Patent 6,055,079
April 25, 2000
An optical key system comprises a battery-operated optical key and an isolated lock. The optical key has a light-emitting diode or laser diode for transmitting a bit-serial password. The key user operates the lock by entering the code to transmit directly or an index to a pseudorandom number code. (Such personal identification numbers can be retained permanently or can be ephemeral.) When a send button is pressed, the key transmits a beam of light modulated with the password information. At the corresponding optical lock, a photo-voltaic cell produces enough power from the beam of light to operate a password-screen digital logic. In one application, an acceptable password allows a 2-watt power laser diode to pump vehicle ignition and timing information over a fiber-optic cable into a sealed engine compartment. The receipt of a good password allows a vehicle's fuel pump, spark, and starter systems to operate. Otherwise, the vehicle remains thoroughly disabled. Bypassing the lock mechanism to steal a car is pointless.


Abraham P. Lee, Joseph P. Fitch, Daniel L. Schumann, Luiz Da Silva, William J. Benett, and Peter A. Krulevitch
Microfabricated Therapeutic Actuators and Release Mechanisms Therefore
U.S. Patent 6,059,815
May 9, 2000
Microfabricated therapeutic actuators are made using a shape memory polymer (SMP), a polyurethane-based material that undergoes a phase transformation at a specified temperature (Tg). At a temperature above Tg, material is soft and can be easily reshaped into another configuration. As the temperature is lowered below Tg, the new shape is fixed and is locked in as long as the material stays below Tg. When the material is reheated to above Tg, it will return to its original shape. Microtubing made with SMP material can be used as a retaining/release actuator for the delivery of material, such as embolic coils, through catheters into aneurysms, for example. The microtubing can be manufactured in various sizes and the phase-change temperature Tg is the determinate for an intended temperature target and intended use. The SMP microtubing can be positioned around or within an end of a deposit material. Various heating arrangements can be used with the SMP release mechanism, and the SMP microtubing can include a metallic coating for enhanced light absorption.


David A. Goerz and Michael J. Wilson
Ultracompact Marx-Type High-Voltage Generator
U.S. Patent 6,060,791
May 9, 2000
An ultracompact Marx-type high-voltage generator includes individual high-performance components that are closely coupled and integrated into an extremely compact assembly. In one embodiment, a repetitively switched, ultracompact Marx generator includes

  • Low-profile, annular-shaped, high-voltage, ceramic capacitors with contoured edges and coplanar extended electrodes used for primary energy storage.
  • Low-profile, low-inductance, high-voltage, pressurized gas switches with compact gas envelopes suitably designed to be integrated with the annular capacitor.
  • Feed-forward, high-voltage, ceramic capacitor attached across successive switch-capacitor-switch-capacitor stages to couple the necessary energy forward and thus sufficiently overvoltage the spark gap of the next in-line switch.
  • Optimally shaped electrodes and insulator surfaces, both to reduce electric field stresses in the weakest regions where dissimilar materials meet and to spread the fields more evenly throughout the dielectric materials, allowing them to operate closer to their intrinsic breakdown levels. This embodiment uses manufacturing and assembly methods to integrate the capacitors and switches into stages that can be arranged into a low-profile Marx generator.

    Layton C. Hale
    Three-Tooth Kinematic Coupling
    U.S. Patent 6,065,898
    May 23, 2000
    A kinematic coupling based on having three theoretical line contacts formed by mating rather than six theoretical point contacts. The geometry requires one coupling half to have curved teeth and the other to have flat teeth. Each coupling half has a relieved center portion that does not affect the kinematics, but as the face width approaches zero, three line contacts become six point contacts. As a result of having line contact, a three-tooth coupling has greater load capacity and stiffness. This kinematic coupling can be used for precision fixturing of tools or work pieces, as a registration device for a work or tool changer, or for optics in various products.


    Conrad M. Yu
    Microminiature Gas Chromatograph Column Disposed in Silicon Wafers
    U.S. Patent 6,068,780
    May 30, 2000
    A microminiature gas chromatograph column is fabricated by forming matching halves of a circular, cross-section spiral microcapillary in two silicon wafers and then bonding the two wafers together using visual or physical alignment methods. Each wafer has heating wires deposited on its outside surface, in a spiral or serpentine pattern large enough to cover the whole microcapillary area inside the joined wafers. In the visual alignment method, one wafer has an alignment window etched in it, and the other has a precision-matching alignment target. The two wafers are bonded together using the window and target. The physical alignment method consists of etching vertical alignment holes in both wafers and then using pins or posts through corresponding vertical alignment holes to force precision alignment during bonding. The pins or posts may be withdrawn after the bond is cured. Once the wafers are bonded together, a solid phase of ultrapure silicone is injected in a solution of ultrapure chloroform into one end of the microcapillary. The chloroform lowers the viscosity of the silicone enough that a high-pressure hypodermic needle with a thumbscrew plunger can force the solution into the whole length of the spiral microcapillary. The chloroform is then evaporated out slowly to leave the silicone behind in a deposit.


    Alexander R. Mitchell, Philip F. Pagoria, and Robert D. Schmidt
    Amination of Electrophilic Aromatic Compounds by Vicarious Nucleophilic Substitution
    U.S. Patent 6,069,277
    May 30, 2000
    Process to aminate electrophilic aromatic compounds by vicarious nucleophilic substitution of hydrogen using quaternary hydrazinium salts. The use of trialkylhydrazinium halide (for example, trimethylhydrazinium iodide) as well as hydroxylamine, alkoxylamines, and 4-amino-1,2,4-triazole to produce aminated aromatic structures, such as 1,3-diamino-2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (DATB), 1,3,5-triamino- 2,4,6-trinitrobenzene (TATB), and 3,5-diamino-2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (DATNT), is described. DATB and TATB are useful insensitive high explosives. TATB is also used for the preparation of benzenehexamine, a starting material for the synthesis of novel materials (optical imaging devices, liquid crystals, ferromagnetic compounds).


    Abraham P. Lee, Michael D. Pocha, Charles F. McConaghy, and Robert J. Deri
    Microbenchtop Optics by Bulk Silicon Micromachining
    U.S. Patent 6,071,426
    June 6, 2000
    Bulk silicon has the characteristic of being etched in parallel planes. By integrating this parallel etching with the silicon wafer bonding and impurity doping techniques, on-chip optics can be fabricated with in situ, aligned etched grooves for use in optical fibers, microlenses, photodiodes, and laser diodes. Other optical components that can be microfabricated and integrated include semitransparent beam splitters, microoptical scanners, pinholes, optical gratings, and microoptical filters. Micromachining of bulk silicon, taking advantage of its parallel etching characteristics, can be used to develop miniaturized bioinstrumentation for wavelength monitoring by fluorescence spectrometers, miniaturized Fabry-Perot interferometry for filtering of wavelengths, tunable cavity lasers, microholography modules, and wavelength splitters for optical communication systems.


    Russell M. Hudyma
    High Numerical Aperture Projection System for Extreme Ultraviolet Projection Lithography
    U.S. Patent 6,072,852
    June 6, 2000
    An optical system that is compatible with extreme ultraviolet radiation and comprises five reflective elements for projecting a mask image onto a substrate. The five optical elements are characterized in order from object to image as concave, convex, concave, convex, and concave mirrors. The optical system is particularly suited for ring field, step-and-scan lithography methods. The invention uses aspheric mirrors to minimize static distortion and balance the static distortion across the ring field width, which effectively minimizes dynamic distortion. This invention allows for higher device density because the optical system has improved resolution that results from the high numerical aperture, which is at least 0.14.


    Joe N. Lucas
    Method for Isolating Chromosomal DNA in Preparation for Hybridization in Suspension
    U.S. Patent 6,077,671
    June 20, 2000
    A method for detecting nucleic acid sequence aberrations using two immobilization steps. A nucleic acid sequence aberration is detected by identifying nucleic acid sequences having both a first nucleic acid sequence type (for example, from a first chromosome) and a second nucleic acid sequence type (for example, from a second chromosome). The presence of both types on the same nucleic acid sequence indicates the presence of a nucleic acid sequence aberration. Immobilization of a first hybridization probe is used to isolate a first set of nucleic acids in the sample that contains the first nucleic acid sequence type. Immobilization of a second hybridization probe is then used to isolate a second set of nucleic acids from within the first set of nucleic acids that contain the second nucleic acid sequence type. The second set of nucleic acids is then detected, indicating the presence of a nucleic acid sequence aberration. Chromosomal DNA in a sample containing cell debris is prepared for hybridization in suspension by treating the mixture with RNace. The treated DNA can also be fixed prior to hybridization.


    Charles G. Stevens and Norman L. Thomas
    Immersion Echelle Spectrograph
    U.S. Patent 6,078,048
    June 20, 2000
    A small spectrograph containing no moving components and capable of providing high-resolution spectra of the mid-infrared region from 2 to 4 micrometers in wavelength. The resolving power of the spectrograph exceeds 20,000 throughout this region and at an optical throughput of about 10-5 square centimeters steradian. The spectrograph incorporates a silicon immersion echelle grating operating in high spectral order combined with a first-order transmission grating in a cross-dispersing configuration to provide a two-dimensional spectral format that is focused onto a two-dimensional infrared detector array. The spectrometer incorporates a common collimating and condensing lens assembly in a near-aberration-free, axially symmetric design.


    Alan D. Conder
    Vacuum Compatible Miniature CCD Camera Head
    U.S. Patent 6,078,359
    June 20, 2000
    A charge-coupled device (CCD) camera head that can replace film for digital imaging of visible light, ultraviolet radiation, and soft-to-visible x rays, such as within a target chamber where laser-produced plasmas are studied. The camera head is small, versatile, and capable of operating both in and out of a vacuum. It uses personal computer boards with an internal heat sink connected to the chassis for heat dissipation, allowing for close stacking of the boards. Integration of the CCD camera head into existing instrumentation provides a substantial enhancement of diagnostic capabilities for studying high-energy-density plasmas and for a variety of military-industrial and medical imaging applications.


    Jesse D. Wolfe and Norman L. Thomas
    Durable Silver Coating for Mirrors
    U.S. Patent 6,078,425
    June 20, 2000
    A durable multilayer mirror includes reflective layers of aluminum and silver and has high reflectance over a broad spectral range from ultraviolet to visible to infrared. An adhesion layer of a nickel or chromium alloy or nitride is deposited on an aluminum surface, and a thin layer of silver is then deposited on the adhesion layer. The silver layer is protected by a passivation layer of a nickel and/or chromium alloy or nitride and by one or more durability layers made of metal oxides and, typically, a first layer of metal nitride. The durability layer may include a composite silicon aluminum nitride and an oxynitride transition layer to improve bonding between nitride and oxide layers.


    Harold D. Ackler, Stefan P. Swierkowski, Lisa A. Tarte, and Randall K. Hicks
    Fusion Bonding and Alignment
    U.S. Patent 6,082,140
    July 4, 2000
    An improved vacuum fusion bonding structure and process for aligned bonding of large-area glass plates, patterned with microchanels and access holes and slots. The plates are for use at elevated glass-fusion temperatures. Vacuum pumpout of all the components is through the bottom platform, yielding an untouched, defect-free top surface that greatly improves optical access through this smooth surface. Also, a completely nonadherent interlayer, such as graphite, with alignment and location features is located between the main steel platform and the glass plate pair. This interlayer makes large improvements in quality, yield, and ease of use of the process and enables aligned bonding of very large glass structures.


    Kenneth L. Blaedel, Pete J. Davis, and Charles S. Landram
    Hydrodynamic Blade Guide
    U.S. Patent 6,082,239
    July 4, 2000
    A saw having a self-pumped hydrodynamic blade guide or bearing for retaining the saw blade in a centered position in the saw kerf (the width of the cut made by the saw). The hydrodynamic blade guide or bearing uses pockets or grooves incorporated into the sides of the blade. The saw kerf in the workpiece provides the guide or bearing stator surface. Both sides of the blade entrain cutting fluid as the blade enters the kerf in the workpiece, and the trapped fluid provides pressure between the blade and the workpiece as an inverse function of the gap between the blade surface and the workpiece surface. If the blade wanders from the center of the kerf, one gap will increase and one gap will decrease. The consequent pressure difference between the two sides of the blade will cause the blade to recenter itself in the kerf. Saws using the hydrodynamic blade guide or bearing have application in slicing slabs from boules of single-crystal materials, for example, as well as for cutting other difficult-to-saw materials such as ceramics, glass, and brittle composite materials.


    Awards


    The Laboratory's Engineering Manufacturing and Services Group has been registered officially as in compliance with the International Standards Organization ISO 9002—a worldwide benchmark for assuring high quality and customer satisfaction in production, installation, and service. The official certificate was awarded by Bureau Veritas Quality International.
    According to group leader Ken Luu, the Livermore group is believed to be the first Department of Energy national laboratory to receive this quality certificate.
    The Engineering Manufacturing and Services Group is a collection of small service teams that provide manufacturing and technical expertise throughout the Laboratory, including electronics design, manufacturing and installation expertise, engineering support, and infrastructure support for radio, television, and paging.
    The ISO 9002 certification is the result of seven years of continuous improvement in the quality, consistency, and cost-effectiveness of the services provided by the group. It shows that the group's standards and performance, which are independently audited for continued compliance every six months, have attained an internationally recognized level of excellence.

    Livermore physicist John Lindl recently received a Fusion Power Associates Year 2000 Award at the association's annual meeting and symposium at the University of California at San Diego. These awards are given annually for leadership and excellence in fusion engineering.
    Lindl, a leading inertial confinement fusion researcher, is a member of the Department of Energy's Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee and currently chairs the Steering Committee of the U.S. Fusion Integrated Program Planning Activity. His award recognizes the guidance and leadership he has provided over the years to the inertial confinement fusion program in general and especially the perspective he has provided the fusion community as a whole on the energy applications of inertial fusion.


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