in the News
Lab garners five R&D 100 awards
Livermore researchers turned in another strong showing in the annual R&D 100 awards competition for top industrial inventions, winning five awards. Each year, R&D Magazine presents these awards to the top 100 industrial, high-technology inventions submitted to its competition for outstanding achievement in research and development.
The five Livermore inventions honored are as follows:
• The Autonomous Pathogen Detection System, which is an automated, lectern-size instrument that can monitor the air for all three types of biological agents (bacteria, viruses, and toxins). A deployed system needs only weekly human intervention and can report any pathogen releases in its vicinity to operators at a central location.
• A Diode-Pumped, Pulsed Laser for Humanitarian Mine Clearing, which can be used to uncover and safely neutralize buried land mines. Today, an estimated 100 million land mines are spread throughout 70 nations.
• Inductrack, a magnetic levitation (maglev) system that uses new arrangements of permanent magnets to create its levitating fields. The maglev system offers a simple, low-cost solution to the country’s growing need for efficient intercity and urban transportation networks. Livermore researchers and San Diego–based General Atomics share this R&D 100 Award.
• Chromium Software, which provides a way for interactive two- and three-dimensional graphics applications to take full advantage of powerful distributed, graphics-enabled clusters of commercially available personal computers. The software was designed and developed in collaboration with researchers from Stanford University; the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and a commercial company, Tungsten Graphics.
• Gene Silencing with SiHybrids, which is a gene-silencing technique that has revolutionized laboratory research and clinical therapy. A number of applications of the technology are envisioned for both basic research and in improving cancer therapies.
S&TR will devote its October issue to detailed reports on these award-winning inventions and the teams that created them.
Contact: Karena McKinley (925) 423-9353 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Secretary of Energy visits the Laboratory
On July 8, 2004, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Spencer Abraham visited the Laboratory, accompanied by University of California (UC) President Robert Dynes and UC Vice President for Laboratory Management Robert Foley. Abraham cut a ribbon to officially open Livermore’s new Terascale Simulation Facility (TSF) and signed racks that will become part of the facility’s BlueGene/L and Purple supercomputers. BlueGene/L will be the world’s fastest supercomputer when it is fully operational (June 2005), capable of processing 360 trillion operations per second (teraops). (See S&TR, June 2004, Strategic Supercomputing Comes of Age.)
In his remarks at the TSF, Abraham noted that in 1995, DOE’s Advanced Simulation and Computing (ASC) Program set out to obtain a computer system that could process 100 teraops—the capability required for three-dimensional, full-system weapons simulations for the Stockpile Stewardship Program. “With the opening of this building, we are much closer to making that promise a reality,” he said. “Once completed, [Purple] will represent an improvement in computing power by a factor of over one million over that used for weapons simulations in 1995. Purple’s success will be the fulfillment of that very ambitious goal.”
Dona Crawford, Livermore’s associate director for Computation, praised the Laboratory’s strong partnership with IBM in the development of four generations of supercomputers—ASC Blue, at 3 teraops; ASC White, at 12 teraops; Purple, at 100 teraops; and BlueGene/L, at 360 teraops. IBM’s Dion Rudnicki said the collaboration provided the opportunity for IBM and the Laboratory “to protect and demonstrate U.S. competitiveness” in supercomputer development.
The Secretary also toured the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which will be the world’s most powerful laser facility when completed later this decade. (See S&TR, September 2003, The National Ignition Facility Comes to Life.) While at NIF, he presented DOE Science and Technology Awards to Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratory employees representing the teams that conducted the first experiments at the facility. NIF is “an essential element of our nuclear Stockpile Stewardship Program and our mission of maintaining the reliability, safety, and security of this nation’s nuclear deterrent,” Abraham said. “That is why it is so important that this facility be completed on time by 2008.”
Also during his visit to the Laboratory, Abraham stopped at the Safeguards and Security Department to witness a JCATS (Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation) demonstration (see article Virtual Problem Solving for Homeland Security), and to present an award to the Laboratory’s Protective Force Division. The Secretary’s recognition commemorated the Laboratory achieving the highest rating possible for the March 16, 2004, force-on-force exercises. These special security assessments at Livermore were part of the Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance Special Review of DOE Protective Forces that was requested by Abraham. “Our Department of Energy facilities are worth billions of dollars,” Abraham said. “We employ many thousands of scientists, engineers, researchers, analysts, and others. And, as is particularly the case here at Livermore, we are custodians of national security assets that, simply put, must not be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.”
Contact: Susan Houghton (925) 422-9919 (email@example.com).
Bill may increase Lab's water-resource research efforts
Legislation directing $225 million a year for five years to water-resource research at nine Department of Energy laboratories was announced in the Senate on July 14, 2004. Eight of the laboratories would team with a university and tackle water problems unique to their region.
Republican Senator Pete V. Domenici, whose hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, relies on uncertain groundwater supplies for drinking water and a dwindling Rio Grande for irrigated croplands, introduced the bill on the Senate side, and Representative Richard Pombo, a Republican from Tracy, California, introduced its companion bill in the House. Both of their districts struggle with increasing concentrations of trace contaminants from agricultural and natural sources, such as selenium in the California Central Valley and arsenic in New Mexico’s lower Rio Grande Valley.
The billion-dollar bill directs scientists to work on novel ways of cleaning up and reusing finite water supplies to meet the needs of agriculture and cities. Sandia National Laboratories, headquartered in Albuquerque, would serve as the national center. Lawrence Livermore, located 24 kilometers east of the Central Valley, would serve as the Pacific regional water laboratory. Livermore scientists are currently working on a three-year Water Initiative managed by Livermore’s Energy and Environment Directorate and funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program. (See S&TR, July/August 2004, Helping Water Managers Ensure Clean and Reliable Supplies.)
Contact: Robin Newmark (925) 423-3644 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Estimate of photon mass is listed in 2004 compendium
Dmitri Ryutov’s paper “The Role of Finite Photon Mass in Magnetohydrodynamics of Space Plasmas,” which appeared in a plasma physics journal in 1997, has recently piqued the interest of particle physicists and astrophysicists worldwide. Ryutov’s upper estimate of a finite photon mass has been selected to appear in the 2004 edition of the Review of Particle Physics, a biannual authoritative compendium of particle data, as the best estimate of photon mass to date, eight years after the original discussion.
For calculations, photon mass is assumed to be zero, but physicists have been trying for years to determine how small the mass actually is. The finite-mass photon is perfectly compatible with Einstein’s relativity theory. Ryutov suggested an upper limit based on observations of the solar wind: The photon mass is less than the electron mass divided by 10 billion of trillions. Still, even this tiny mass would have a strong effect on large-scale astrophysical phenomena, says Ryutov.
Contact: Dmitri Ryutov (925) 422-9832 (email@example.com).
High-energy gas-gun shot is another JASPER success
Shot number 28 was successfully executed May 20, 2004, on the JASPER (Joint Actinide Shock Physics Experimental Research) two-stage gas gun located at the Nevada Test Site. The high-energy shot was the eighth consecutive successful experiment.
As part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Stockpile Stewardship Program, JASPER experiments yield information on the behavior of plutonium at high temperatures and pressures. (See S&TR, June 2004, Shocking Plutonium to Reveal Its Secrets.) That information contributes to computer simulations of the aging and operation of nuclear weapons to assess their safety and reliability.
Preliminary results from this experiment yielded a shot velocity of 7.22 kilometers per second. Both flash x-ray data recordings were correctly timed, and each of the 14 target pins recorded properly. All initial indicators show shot 28 to be a complete success. Test Director Mark Martinez says, “The shot went very well and gives us added confidence that the gun continues to perform well. The JASPER team deserves kudos for this one.”
Contact: Mark Martinez (925) 423-7572 (firstname.lastname@example.org).