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2002: A big year for accomplishments at Los Alamos



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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., December 2002 In the tradition of "years in review" published everywhere, John Browne, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has published a sampling of technical accomplishments at this Department of Energy lab during 2002:

* Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrotest (DARHT) -- The second axis of the Lab's DARHT facility passed a major test with flying colors when the DARHT project team generated and transported an electron beam from the injector of the second axis that exceeded 2.6 million electron volts and more than 300 amperes, eventually reaching 900 amperes. When fully operational in mid-2004, DARHT will provide time-resolved, three-dimensional radiographs of non-nuclear mock-ups of nuclear weapons primaries at the moment of implosion.

* Spiked Plutonium Experiment --This year, Lab researchers took a significant step toward better understanding the plutonium aging process and how that might affect the nuclear stockpile. They conducted a crucial experiment that involved "spiking" samples of nuclear weapons plutonium (Pu-239) with 7.5 percent of the plutonium-238 isotope, which decays about 300 times faster than Pu-239 alone.

* Three-dimensional Simulations of a Nuclear Weapon -- Laboratory researchers completed two of the largest computer simulations ever attempted, the first full-system three-dimensional simulations of a nuclear weapon explosion. These simulations signified completion of an important milestone in the maturing of NNSA's Stockpile Stewardship Program. Both calculations ran on the ASCI White machine at Livermore.

* Strategic Computing Complex -- The 300,000 sq. foot Strategic Computing Complex was formally dedicated in May as the Nicholas C. Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation. In the absence of nuclear testing, large-scale computations validated with precision experiments and past Nevada Test Site test data will provide us with tools to certify the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear stockpile.

* Biological Aerosol Sentry and Information System, or BASIS -- Laboratory technology developed to monitor air quality and to collect and check aerosols was used in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at the 2002 Winter Olympics to rapidly detect criminal use of biological agents.

* Water-ice Mapping on Mars -- Maps based on data from a neutron spectrometer built at the Laboratory and flown aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey detailed the location of hydrogen that may indicate water-ice just below Mars' surface. Locating water on Mars would support theories that the environment once supported life, and possibly still does.

* New Technology for Separation and Capture of Carbon Dioxide from Industrial Processes -- Lab researchers continue working on a new high-temperature polymer membrane to separate and capture carbon dioxide, preventing its escape into the atmosphere. This new technology for the separation and capture of carbon dioxide from industrial processes could lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions to the atmosphere.

* Nitric Acid Recovery System -- A Los Alamos team devised a unique way to eliminate acid waste at the Lab's plutonium facility. The team was recognized for its Nitric Acid Recovery System with a White House Closing the Circle Award. The Nitric Acid Recovery System also won a Department of Energy Pollution Prevention Award.

* Computer Simulation of Full-system Protein Folding -- Laboratory researchers in collaboration with colleagues at the University of California, San Diego, created the first computer simulation of full-system protein folding thermodynamics at the atomic-level. Understanding the basic physics of protein folding could solve one of the grand mysteries of computational biology.

* GENIE (Genetic Imagery Exploitation) -- Laboratory researchers created a remarkable tool that rapidly and intuitively develops algorithms for identifying features of interest in many types of imagery. Their tool has been applied to many important problems including the analysis of the World Trade Center site multi-spectral infrared images to determine ash debris and smoke plumes for use in emergency response. This team won both a large team Distinguished Performance Award and an RD100 Award.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the U.S. Department of Energy and works in partnership with NNSA's Sandia and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories to support NNSA in its mission.

Los Alamos enhances global security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health and national security concerns.

Additional news about Los Alamos is available online at www.lanl.gov.

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