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  • richardmitnick 5:25 pm on December 3, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , National Ignition Facility,   

    From NIF at LLNL: “Measuring NIF’s enormous shocks” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Nov. 21, 2014

    Breanna Bishop
    bishop33@llnl.gov
    925-423-9802

    LLNL NIF Banner

    LLNL NIF

    NIF experiments generate enormous pressures—many millions of atmospheres—in a short time: just a few billionths of a second. When a pressure source of this type is applied to any material, the pressure wave in the material will quickly evolve into a shock front. One of NIF’s most versatile and frequently-used diagnostics, the Velocity Interferometer System for Any Reflector (VISAR), is used to measure these shocks, providing vital information for future experiment design and calibration.

    LLNL NIF VISAR
    Target Diagnostics Operator Andrew Wong sets up the Velocity Interferometer System for Any Reflector (VISAR) optical diagnostic system for a shock timing shot.

    Invented in the 1970s, VISAR was developed by Sandia National Laboratory scientists to study the motion of samples driven by shocks and other kinds of dynamic pressure loading. It has since become a standard measurement tool in many areas where dynamic pressure loading is applied to materials.

    “It is a big challenge to figure out how to apply these enormous pressures without immediately forming a shock wave,’ said Peter Celliers, responsible scientist for VISAR. “Instead of trying to avoid forming shocks, many NIF experiments use a sequence of increasing shocks as a convenient way of monitoring the performance of the target as the pressure drive is increased—for example, during a (target) capsule implosion.”

    v
    Target Area Operator Mike Visaya aligns a VISAR transport mirror in preparation for an experiment.

    To measure these shocks, VISAR determines the speed of a moving object by measuring the Doppler shift in a reflected light beam. More specifically, it directs a temporally-coherent laser beam at the object, collects a returned reflection, and sends it through a specially-configured interferometer. The interferometer produces an interference pattern containing information about the Doppler shift.

    The Doppler shift provides information on how fast the reflecting part of the target is moving. In most cases the reflector is a shock front, which acts like a mirror moving through a transparent material (for example liquid deuterium, quartz or fused silica). In some cases the moving mirror is a physical surface on the back part of a package (called a free surface) that is accelerated during the experiment. In yet other scenarios, the moving mirror could be a reflecting interface embedded in the target behind a transparent window.

    After the light reflected from the target passes through the interferometers, it forms a fringe pattern. With the NIF VISAR design, this light is collected in the form of a two-dimensional image with an optical image relay system. The fringe pattern is superimposed on the image, then projected on the slit of a streak camera. Because the target image is spatially-resolved across the slit of the streak camera, this type of VISAR is called a line-imaging VISAR. The spatial and temporal arrangement of the fringe pattern in the output streak record reveals how different parts of the target move during the experiment.

    There is a very close connection between the velocities of the moving parts of the target and the pressure driving the motion. If the velocity is measured accurately, a highly accurate picture of the driving pressure can be formed. This information is vital for understanding the details of target performance.

    “Our simulation models are not accurate enough to calculate the timing of the shocks that produces the best performance without some sort of calibration,” Celliers said. “But by monitoring the shocks with the VISAR, we have precise and detailed information that can be used to tune the laser pulse (the pressure drive) to achieve optimal target performance, and to calibrate the simulation codes.”

    Looking to the future, VISAR will see improvements to its streaked optical pyrometer (SOP), an instrument that can be used to infer the temperature of a hot object by measuring the heat radiated from the object in the form of visible light. The SOP is undergoing modifications to improve its imaging performance and to reduce background levels on the streak camera detectors. This will benefit future equation-of-state experiments where accurate thermal emission data is crucial. This upgrade will be complete in early 2015.

    men
    Physicists Dave Farley (left) and Peter Celliers and scientist Curtis Walter watch a live VISAR image as they monitor the deuterium fill of a keyhole capsule in the NIF Control Room during shock-timing experiments.

    Along with Celliers, the VISAR implementation team includes Stephen Azevedo, David Barker, Jeff Baron, Mark Bowers, Aaron Busby, Allen Casey, John Celeste, Hema Chandrasekaran, Kim Christensen, Philip Datte, Jon Eggert, Gene Frieders, Brad Golick, Robin Hibbard, Matthew Hutton, John Jackson , Dan Kalantar, Kenn Knittel, Kerry Krauter, Brandi Lechleiter, Tony Lee, Brendan Lyon, Brian MacGowan, Stacie Manuel, JoAnn Matone, Marius Millot, Jason Neumann, Ed Ng, Brian Pepmeier, Karl Pletcher, Lynn Seppala, Ray Smith, Zack Sober, Doug Speck, Bill Thompson, Gene Vergel de Dios, Abbie Warrick, Phil Watts, Eric Wen, Ziad Zeid and colleagues from National Security Technologies.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 1:32 pm on September 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From LLNL: “From RAGS to riches” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    09/25/2014
    Breanna Bishop, LLNL, (925) 423-9802, bishop33@llnl.gov

    The Radiochemical Analysis of Gaseous Samples (RAGS) is a true trash to treasure story, turning debris from the National Ignition Facility’s (NIF) target chamber into valuable data that helps to shape future experiments.

    LLNL NIF
    NIF at LLNL

    The RAGS diagnostic, developed for NIF by Sandia National Laboratories and commissioned in 2012, is a cryogenic system designed to collect the gaseous debris from the NIF target chamber after a laser shot, then concentrate, purify and analyze the debris for radioactive gas products. Radiation detectors on the apparatus produce rapid, real-time measurements of the radioactivity content of the gas. Based on the results of the counting, the total number of radioactive atoms that were produced via nuclear reactions during a NIF shot can be determined.

    team
    Members of the RAGS team with the apparatus. From left to right: Bill Cassata and Carol Velsko, primary RAGS operators and data analysts; Wolfgan Stoeffl, RAGS designer; and Dawn Shaughnessy, principal investigator for the project. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

    If the number of target atoms in the fuel capsule and/or hohlraum (cylinder surrounding the fuel capsule) was known prior to the shot, then the results from RAGS determine the number of reactions that occurred, which in turn is used to determine the flux of particles that was produced by the capsule as it underwent fusion. This information is used to validate models of NIF capsule performance under certain shot conditions.

    If specific materials are added to the capsule or hohlraum prior to the shot, then reactions related to a particular experiment can be measured. For instance, there have been gas-based experiments designed to measure areal density (a measure of the combined thickness and density of the imploding frozen fuel shell) and mix (a potentially undesirable condition during which spikes of the plastic rocket shell penetrate to the core of the hot fuel and cool it, decreasing the probability of igniting a sustained fusion reaction with energy gain).

    “Radiochemical diagnostics probe reactions that occur within the capsule or hohlraum material. By adding materials into the capsule ablator and subsequently measuring the resulting products, we can explore certain capsule parameters such as fuel-ablator mix,” said radiochemist and RAGS principal investigator Dawn Shaughnessy. “There are plans to add isotopes of xenon gas into capsules specifically for this purpose – to quantify the amount of mix that occurs during a NIF implosion.”

    RAGS can be used to perform basic nuclear science experiments. Recently, the diagnostic has been employed during shots where the hohlraum contained small amounts of depleted uranium. Gaseous fission fragments were collected by RAGS, including very short-lived species with half-lives on order of a few seconds. Based on these observations, there are plans to use RAGS in the future to measure independent fission product yields of gaseous species, which is difficult to do at traditional neutron sources.

    “This opens up the possibility of also using RAGS for fundamental science experiments, such as measuring reaction rates of species relevant to nuclear astrophysics, and measuring independent fission yields,” Shaughnessy said.

    In addition to Shaughnessy as PI, other contributors to RAGS include: Tony Golod and Jay Rouse, who wrote the NIF control software that collects data and operates the diagnostic; Wolfgang Stoeffl, who designed the RAGS apparatus, and Allen Riddle, who built it; Don Jedlovec, who serves as the responsible system engineer; and Carol Velsko and Bill Cassata, who are the primary RAGS operators and data analysts.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:57 pm on September 23, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From LLNL: “Right on target” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    09/23/2014
    Breanna Bishop, LLNL, (925) 423-9802, bishop33@llnl.gov

    Dozens of employees gathered on Friday to celebrate two important milestones achieved by the NIF & Photon Science (NIF&PS) Directorate‘s and Weapons and Complex Integration (WCI) Directorate’s Target Fabrication team.

    Target Fabrication Manager Alex Hamza welcomed the crowd and kicked off the celebration by announcing the first of the milestones: This summer, the target fabrication team built the 10,000th target for the Omega Laser Facility at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE).

    ah
    Target Fabrication Manager Alex Hamza welcomed the crowd and kicked off the celebration by announcing two important milestones.
    Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

    “When I think about NIF, the two things that always come to my mind is the incredible engineering that happens on a large scale and on a small scale. Of course, today we are celebrating the small scale with targets. But the other thing is the partnerships,” said Jeff Wisoff, principal associate director for NIF&PS.

    “The Omega facility has been an incredible partner and LLE is incredibly important to us,” he added. “Omega has provided the testing ground for a lot of things we wanted to do on NIF. It’s a very enabling capability, and our success in building targets for that facility is part of that great partnership.”

    The second milestone announced by Hamza was the completion of the 500th cryogenic target for NIF. This is an important achievement because these millimeter-sized targets are complicated engineering marvels in tiny packages — so complicated that targets were produced at a rate of one per year when the capability first got off the ground in 2005.

    National Ignition Facility
    NIF

    thing
    A beryllium capsule in the hohlraum of a keyhole shock-timing target. Keyhole experiments measure the strength (velocity) and timing of the shock waves from the laser pulse as they transit the capsule. The viewing cone for the Velocity Interferometer System for Any Reflector (VISAR) diagnostic, shown mounted above the hohlraum, is inserted through the side of the hohlraum wall and into the capsule.
    Photo by Jason Laurea

    Design and fabrication is so complex because the precision required to perform under the extreme conditions experienced during an experiment on NIF — temperatures of 180 million degrees Fahrenheit and pressures of 100 billion atmospheres. Components must be machined to within an accuracy of 1 micron (1 millionth of a meter) and many material structures and features can be no larger than 100 nanometers, which is just 1/1,000th the width of a human hair.

    The capsule must have a smoothness tolerance approaching 1 nanometer, 1/100,000th the thickness of a human hair. Because surface debris can interfere with the uniformity of capsule heating and compression, dust particles greater than 5 microns in diameter on the capsule wall must be eliminated. Finally, the target temperature is held in the range of 18 to 20 kelvins (-427 to -424 degrees Fahrenheit) just before the laser shot so that an incredibly smooth and uniform solid hydrogen fuel layer can be formed.

    Many different target designs exist — for stockpile stewardship purposes, high-energy-density science and more. Today, the target fabrication team has the capability to produce 5-6 cryogenic targets per week and to produce more than 100 different types of targets each year.

    “This is an incredible success story that has been so enabling in moving the science forward,” Wisoff said. “We couldn’t have done this without the incredible partnerships we’ve had with General Atomics and Schafer over the years. That partnership, and the partnerships that extend through our organization, is really what enables us to be successful.”

    Des Pilkington, leader of WCI’s AX Division, was on hand to speak to one of those partnerships.

    “We really push ourselves hard in WCI to think about what the right experiments are and what we want to do to test our ability to demonstrate that we have a predictive capability,” he said. “In Target Fabrication, the response to some of these pushing needs from WCI has been incredible. I’d like to say thank you for everything that you’ve done, and everything you’ve delivered for us so far. I’m really looking forward to an exciting future with exciting challenges for us and for you.”

    Abbas Nikroo, leader of General Atomics’ Target Fabrication Program, echoed those thanks. “It’s been a pleasure working with you guys — top quality people from the S&T team to the engineering team to the people on the floor who do the hard work of assembly,” he said. “I see the transition we’ve made to streamlined production, where we’ve gone from one target a year to 5-6 targets a week. It’s incredible, and is really built on the great work that everyone has done at all levels.”

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 3:41 pm on August 27, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ELI-Beamlines, , , National Ignition Facility   

    From Livermore Lab: “LLNL synchs up with ELI Beamlines on timing system” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    08/27/2014
    Breanna Bishop, LLNL, (925) 423-9802, bishop33@llnl.gov

    In 2013, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), through Lawrence Livermore National Security LLC (LLNS), was awarded more than $45 million to develop and deliver a state-of-the-art laser system for the European Union’s Extreme Light Infrastructure Beamlines facility (ELI-Beamlines), under construction in the Czech Republic.

    two
    Thomas Manzec and Marc-Andre Drouin, from ELI Beamlines, work on synchronizing the HAPLS and ELI timing systems. Photo by Jim Pryatel.

    eli
    The ELI Beamlines facility is being built on a brownfield site with sufficient infrastructure. According to the current zoning plan, the area can be used for public amenities, science and research. It is therefore a place that provides enough space both for the laser center, as well as for any other building of similar use (technology park buildings, spin-off companies or other research facilities).

    When commissioned to its full design performance, the laser system, called the “High repetition-rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System” (HAPLS), will be the world’s highest average power petawatt laser system.

    HAPLS
    HAPLS

    Nearly a year into the project, much progress has been made, and all contract milestones to date have been delivered on schedule. Under the same agreement, ELI Beamlines delivers various work packages to LLNL enabling HAPLS control and timing systems to interface with the overarching ELI Beamlines facility control system. In a collaborative effort, researchers and engineers from LLNL’s NIF & Photon Science Directorate work with scientists from the ELI facility to develop, program and configure these systems.

    National Ignition Facility
    NIF at Livermore

    According to Constantin Haefner, LLNL’s project manager for HAPLS, this joint work is vital. “Working closely together on these collaborative efforts allows us to deliver a laser system most consistent with ELI Beamlines facility requirements. It also allows the ELI-Beamlines team to gain early insight into the laser system architecture and gain operational experience,” he said.

    This summer, that process began. Marc-Andre Drouin and Karel Kasl, control system programmers for ELI, spent three months at LLNL working with the HAPLS integrated control system team. During their time at LLNL, they focused almost exclusively on the ELI-HAPLS timing interface, which allows exact synchronization of HAPLS to the ELI Beamlines master clock.

    “The HAPLS timing system must be able to operate independent of the ELI timing system,” Drouin said. “But, it also needs to be capable of being perfectly synchronized to ELI. That bridge between timing systems is what we have been working on – making sure HAPLS runs very well independently as well as integrating with ELI.”

    Haefner pointed out that while HAPLS is a major component, it becomes a subsystem when it moves to the ELI facility. Once at ELI, HAPLS will integrate with the wider user facility, consisting of target systems, experimental systems, diagnostic systems – all of which have to be timed and fed from a master clock.

    Kasl likened the master clock to a universal clock used by an office. “We brought the clock here, and now everyone in the office is using the clock to synchronize their work,” he said.

    The master clock, built by ELI, was programmed as a bridge between the ELI and HAPLS timing systems. During their time at LLNL, Drouin and Kasl worked on configuring that hardware and writing the software that talks to the clock and to the subcomponents that control a very precise sequence of events.

    Last week, the ELI team finished their three-month stint at LLNL, but will be back in early fall to continue work – and they’re looking forward to it.

    “This unit is going to get integrated with our other systems, so there needs to be an overlap between the two teams,” Kasl said.

    “It’s good experience for us to learn about the internal workings of the HAPLS system,” Drouin added. “Having this inside knowledge of the most integral parts of the laser is a very big advantage for us in the long run.”

    Earlier this year, Jack Naylon and Tomas Mazanec, also from ELI, visited LLNL to contribute to the work.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 2:03 pm on August 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NIF at Livermore Lab: 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    International Team Conducts First Collisionless Shock Experiment on NIF

    Undated
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    Livermore NIF Banner

    The first NIF Discovery Science experiment designed to create and study fully formed collisionless shocks, such as those responsible for the properties of many astrophysical phenomena including supernova remnants, gamma-ray bursts, jets from active galactic nuclei, and cosmic ray acceleration, was performed on July 29.

    tych
    Tycho SupernovaChandra X-ray Observatory photo of the Tycho supernova remnant discovered by astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572. The supersonic expansion of the exploded star produced a shock wave moving outward into the surrounding interstellar gas. A reverse shock wave racing back into the expanding stellar debris at Mach 1000 (1,000 times the speed of sound) is heating the debris to millions of degrees (red and green) and causing it to emit x-ray light. The thin shock layer on the edge is considered to be from collisionless shocks. Weibel instabilities generate magnetic fields that trap the ions and form the initial shocks, which play an important role in cosmic ray acceleration and magnetic field amplification. Laser experiments can explore the micro-physics related to these astrophysical phenomena.(Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO)

    Studying astrophysics with laboratory experiments can help answer questions about micro-physics in astrophysical objects that are far beyond the reach of direct measurements. Most shock waves in astrophysics are collisionless from high plasma flow velocities—they form due to plasma instabilities and self-generated magnetic fields. Laser-driven plasma experiments can study the micro-physics of plasma interaction and instability formation (known as filamentary Weibel instability) under controlled conditions. NIF is the only facility that can create the proper plasma conditions to generate fully formed collisionless shocks and strong magnetic fields.

    The NIF experiment, conducted by an international team of physicists comprising the Astrophysical Collisionless Shock Experiments with Lasers (ACSEL) campaign, builds on simulations and a number of previous experiments at the University of Rochester’s OMEGA Laser Facility. It was designed to investigate high-Mach-number non-relativistic collisionless shock formations. The experiment also collected data for the study of self-generated magnetic fields from the Weibel instability in counter-streaming plasma flows, and magnetic field generation and amplification in turbulent flows.

    Supported by LLNL’s Hye-Sook Park and Steven Ross, the ACSEL team used the NIF lasers to irradiate the inner surface of two deuterated plastic foils doped with iron and nickel to create high-velocity counter-streaming plasmas. All 60 requested NIF beams delivered 307 kilojoules (kJ) of 3ω (ultraviolet) light to the targets in a 64.5-terawatt (TW) peak power pulse. The two resulting plasmas interacted at high velocity in a collisionless shock.

    Neutron-yield diagnostics and x-ray spectral and imaging diagnostics were tested to evaluate the interaction region of the two counterpropagating plasma discs. Stimulated Raman scattering was measured from four laser probe beams.

    “The experiment yielded excellent results,” Park said. “The team observed a high number of neutrons and observed that neutrons came at a relatively late time, which may indicate that they were produced in a shock. We also observed strong x-ray brightening from hot plasmas in the center of the experiment that had never been seen previously. The backscatter measurements delivered good results as well.”

    two
    Collisionless Shock Target and Schematic(Left) The collisionless shock target, consisting of two opposed nickel/iron-doped deuterated plastic (CD) discs; plasma from the discs is accelerated by 28 NIF beams each to counterpropagate and interact at high velocity. (Right) Schematic of the 60 beams interacting with the target and the resulting plasma interaction: 28 beams (150 kJ) on each target plus four full aperture backscatter station (FABS) probe beams to measure stimulated Raman scattering.

    Park added that the suite of diagnostics in the experiment performed extremely well, producing a copious amount of data that is now being processed. “With the neutron yield, the delayed neutron production and the x-ray brightening, we are studying whether these signals could be consistent from the shock,” she said. “However, the team needs to confirm these results with physics ‘controlled reference’ shots with a single disc and non-deuterated discs. These shots are planned for this fall. Self-generated magnetic field measurements from the collisionless shock will be done when proton backlighter capability is available on NIF next year.”

    The ACSEL collaboration is led by LLNL, Osaka University, Oxford University, Princeton University, and MIT, with many other universities participating.

    team
    The ACSEL Campaign TeamMembers of the ACSEL Campaign Team (from left): Bruce Remington (LLNL), Gianluca Gregori (Oxford University), Anatoly Spitkovsky (Princeton University), Frederico Fiuza (LLNL), Channing Huntington (LLNL), Peg Folta (NIF User Office), Matthew Levy (LLNL), Youichi Sakawa (Osaka University), Hye-Sook Park (LLNL), Steven Ross (LLNL), and Dmitri Ryutov (LLNL).

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 8:45 am on August 1, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , National Ignition Facility   

    From CNBC: “Inside Lawrence Livermore and the arms race for innovation” 

    CNBC logo

    7/31/14
    Heesun Wee. Additional reporting by Brad Quick.

    Consider a supercomputer so fast and powerful that it generates simulated models to better understand everything from irregular human heartbeats to earthquakes. Picture tiny brain implants that can restore sight and possibly memory. Or what about the world’s largest laser, with powerful beams, zooming rocket-like across three football fields—research that could lead to future sources of clean energy?

    sequoia
    Sequoia at Livermore

    This is the world inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a national security lab 50 miles east of San Francisco.

    Livermore Lab Campus
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory campus

    man
    Jeff Wisoff in front of the world’s largest laser at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Heesun Wee | CNBC

    National labs have been around for decades and are commonly associated with nuclear weapons testing. But inside Livermore’s mile-square campus, some 6,000 employees hover over hundreds of projects that span multiple industries, including oil and gas, health care and transportation.

    Livermore, like other labs, often collaborates with private companies to create solutions such as more fuel-efficient, long-haul trucks, and more resilient airplane components. The lab secured $1.5 billion in funding from multiple sources last year—the majority from the government.

    But in recent years, companies have been ponying up more money. Private industry contributed about $40 million for research at Livermore in 2013. “That will continue to go up,” said Richard Rankin, director of the lab’s industrial partnerships office.

    Labs also are emphasizing they’re open to collaboration. And part of the courtship can be explained by the growing complexity of modern problems. Think cyber and chemical warfare, or securing future energy supplies as climate change barrels down, or treating and managing more American soldiers, returning injured without limbs.

    Just as major energy companies have worked together to drill ever deeper for offshore oil, leading government-funded labs and companies are realizing they can’t go it alone.

    As the world becomes a scarier place, competition also is growing for brain power to solve the most pressing problems. In Silicon Valley, for example, a top science degree means options—research labs of your choosing, maybe an Apple gig, maybe a founding role at a start-up.

    But globally, there’s also demand for talent and big ideas—an innovation arms race, if you will.

    Lawrence Livermore has the world’s third-fastest supercomputer with the help of IBM. But China now holds the number one slot. And while the Livermore Lab has the world’s largest laser, France, China and Russia are pursuing super lasers of their own.

    Don’t laugh at this “mine is bigger, better, faster” game. Initial breakthroughs in science and technology can lead to patent-related revenues, of course. But first-mover advantages can also help secure medicine such as a cancer treatment or an Ebola vaccine. And there are national security consequences to such information. Just recall the 2011 film “Contagion” and the loss of social order, as a coveted vaccine is administered. You can see how this stuff might play out.

    This push to innovate or embrace the “art of the possible,” as one scientist put it, is why websites track the supercomputer race, which China is winning at the moment. “We should be concerned about that,” said Frederick Streitz, director of the lab’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center.

    Added Streitz: “Ideas are power.”

    inside
    Instruments are viewed inside the target chamber at Lawrence Livermore lab’s National Ignition Facility.

    Livermore was founded in 1952, during the height of the Cold War, to tackle national security challenges through science, engineering and technology.

    It was a formal naval base, and squat barracks remain on the property. Pilots in training were dunked into a swimming pool.

    The lab feels like a college campus or tech company. Cyclists take a break from research, likely pedaling past one of the many wineries in the Tri-Valley.

    Beyond the region, Livermore is among other leading national labs including Los Alamos in New Mexico and Oak Ridge in Tennessee.

    The groundwork for the government and private company collaboration was laid by passage of the Federal Technology Transfer Act in 1986. In industry circles, it’s widely referred to as “tech transfer.” And the shift is only intensifying.

    National labs have been around for decades and are commonly associated with nuclear weapons testing. But inside Livermore’s mile-square campus, some 6,000 employees hover over hundreds of projects that span multiple industries, including oil and gas, health care and transportation.

    Livermore, like other labs, often collaborates with private companies to create solutions such as more fuel-efficient, long-haul trucks, and more resilient airplane components. The lab secured $1.5 billion in funding from multiple sources last year—the majority from the government.

    But in recent years, companies have been ponying up more money. Private industry contributed about $40 million for research at Livermore in 2013. “That will continue to go up,” said Richard Rankin, director of the lab’s industrial partnerships office.

    Labs also are emphasizing they’re open to collaboration. And part of the courtship can be explained by the growing complexity of modern problems. Think cyber and chemical warfare, or securing future energy supplies as climate change barrels down, or treating and managing more American soldiers, returning injured without limbs.

    Just as major energy companies have worked together to drill ever deeper for offshore oil, leading government-funded labs and companies are realizing they can’t go it alone.

    As the world becomes a scarier place, competition also is growing for brain power to solve the most pressing problems. In Silicon Valley, for example, a top science degree means options—research labs of your choosing, maybe an Apple gig, maybe a founding role at a start-up.

    But globally, there’s also demand for talent and big ideas—an innovation arms race, if you will.

    Lawrence Livermore has the world’s third-fastest supercomputer with the help of IBM. But China now holds the number one slot. And while the Livermore Lab has the world’s largest laser, France, China and Russia are pursuing super lasers of their own.

    Don’t laugh at this “mine is bigger, better, faster” game. Initial breakthroughs in science and technology can lead to patent-related revenues, of course. But first-mover advantages can also help secure medicine such as a cancer treatment or an Ebola vaccine. And there are national security consequences to such information. Just recall the 2011 film “Contagion” and the loss of social order, as a coveted vaccine is administered. You can see how this stuff might play out.

    Read MoreWhy are American pigs dying?

    This push to innovate or embrace the “art of the possible,” as one scientist put it, is why websites track the supercomputer race, which China is winning at the moment. “We should be concerned about that,” said Frederick Streitz, director of the lab’s High Performance Computing Innovation Center.

    Added Streitz: “Ideas are power.”
    Inside the lab
    Instruments are viewed inside the target chamber at Lawrence Livermore lab’s National Ignition Facility.
    Tony Avelar | Bloomberg | Getty Images
    Instruments are viewed inside the target chamber at Lawrence Livermore lab’s National Ignition Facility.

    Livermore was founded in 1952, during the height of the Cold War, to tackle national security challenges through science, engineering and technology.

    It was a formal naval base, and squat barracks remain on the property. Pilots in training were dunked into a swimming pool.

    The lab feels like a college campus or tech company. Cyclists take a break from research, likely pedaling past one of the many wineries in the Tri-Valley.

    Beyond the region, Livermore is among other leading national labs including Los Alamos in New Mexico and Oak Ridge in Tennessee.

    The groundwork for the government and private company collaboration was laid by passage of the Federal Technology Transfer Act in 1986. In industry circles, it’s widely referred to as “tech transfer.” And the shift is only intensifying,

    Government-funded U.S. science labs receive about $140 billion annually in taxpayer money. But even the most gee-whiz research is just that: research. Every federal dollar spent creating early-stage inventions in the lab requires $10 of private sector-funded development to generate a useful product.

    Plus, there’s no guaranteed return. Nailing a commercial solution or patent, after months or years of research, can be akin to winning the lottery. The stakes, meanwhile, for successful research only are getting higher.

    Beyond the growing intricacy of scientific problems, there’s a public perception that taxpayer-funded research should yield concrete results. This expectation emerged during the 1980s recession and has intensified in recent years, said Joe Allen, who helped create and pass the technology transfer legislation.

    “Virtually every government is saying that publicly funded research needs to be made into a practical benefit for its taxpayers,” said Allen, now president of Allen & Associates, based in Bethesda, Ohio. The firm specializes in managing public-private partnerships.

    Added Allen: “When taxpayers fund cutting-edge research, they expect more than a white paper. They want to see a product like a new treatment for disease.”

    The lab collaborates with big tech companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard to smaller start-ups. And successful public-private relationships naturally require work.

    But culture among companies and government-funded labs can vary. Joint efforts mean altering workflows. “It’s hard to change behavior,” Livermore’s Streitz said.

    two
    Scientists are creating tiny implantable devices, capable of restoring sight and possibly memory. Heesun Wee | CNBC

    But challenges and high-risk can yield potentially big rewards.

    Lab work includes brain-focused research to treat soldiers and other patients for illnesses and injuries such as traumatic brain injury.

    Development of a neural device and bionic eye, or retinal prosthesis, largely have been government funded. The retinal implant received more than $75 million over 10 years. The project was conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with private sector company Second Sight in Sylmar, California, and included researchers from several national laboratories.

    Several neural prosthesis projects have received some $8.1 million in federal funding.

    ‘Grand challenges’

    Also housed at Livermore is the National Ignition Facility or NIF—the world’s largest laser. It was built for $3.5 billion, and costs around $330 million annually to operate, including related programs.

    Livermore NIF
    NIF at Livermore

    The facility has many roles, ranging from national security to advancing energy security.

    NIF scientists support nuclear weapons maintenance without underground testing—which has been abandoned. Researchers can instead duplicate the phenomena that occurs inside a nuclear device to manage weapons stockpiles.

    Experiments at NIF also are laying the groundwork to generate clean energy. The idea is to use lasers to ignite fusion fuel.

    If all that doesn’t grab you, NIF was used as the set for the “warp core” scene in the 2013 film, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

    “The government can pursue grand challenges that are difficult for private companies to do,” said Jeff Wisoff, NIF’s principal associate director.

    See the full article here.


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  • richardmitnick 4:28 pm on July 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore lab: “Peering into giant planets from in and out of this world “ 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    07/17/2014
    Anne M Stark, LLNL, (925) 422-9799, stark8@llnl.gov

    Lawrence Livermore scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system.

    point
    The interior of the target chamber at the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The object entering from the left is the target positioner, on which a millimeter-scale target is mounted. Researchers recently used NIF to study the interior state of giant planets. Image by Damien Jemison/LLNL

    Researchers can now re-create and accurately measure material properties that control how these planets evolve over time, information essential for understanding how these massive objects form. This study focused on carbon, the fourth most abundant element in the cosmos (after hydrogen, helium and oxygen), which has an important role in many types of planets within and outside our solar system. The research appears in the July 17 edition of the journal, Nature.

    Using the largest laser in the world, the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, teams from the Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University squeezed samples to 50 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure, which is comparable to the pressures at the center of Jupiter and Saturn. Of the 192 lasers at NIF, the team used 176 with exquisitely shaped energy versus time to produce a pressure wave that compressed the material for a short period of time. The sample — diamond — is vaporized in less than 10 billionths of a second.

    Though diamond is the least compressible material known, the researchers were able to compress it to an unprecedented density greater than lead at ambient conditions.

    “The experimental techniques developed here provide a new capability to experimentally reproduce pressure-temperature conditions deep in planetary interiors,” said Ray Smith, LLNL physicist and lead author of the paper.

    Such pressures have been reached before, but only with shock waves that also create high temperatures — hundreds of thousands of degrees or more — that are not realistic for planetary interiors. The technical challenge was keeping temperatures low enough to be relevant to planets. The problem is similar to moving a plow slowly enough to push sand forward without building it up in height. This was accomplished by carefully tuning the rate at which the laser intensity changes with time.

    “This new ability to explore matter at atomic scale pressures, where extrapolations of earlier shock and static data become unreliable, provides new constraints for dense matter theories and planet evolution models,” said Rip Collins, another Lawrence Livermore physicist on the team.

    The data described in this work are among the first tests for predictions made in the early days of quantum mechanics, more than 80 years ago, which are routinely used to describe matter at the center of planets and stars. While agreement between these new data and theory are good, there are important differences discovered, suggesting potential hidden treasures in the properties of diamond compressed to such extremes. Future experiments on NIF are focused on further unlocking these mysteries.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 5:22 pm on February 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore Lab: “NIF experiments show initial gain in fusion fuel” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    02/12/2014
    Breanna Bishop, LLNL, (925) 423-9802, bishop33@llnl.gov

    Ignition — the process of releasing fusion energy equal to or greater than the amount of energy used to confine the fuel — has long been considered the “holy grail” of inertial confinement fusion science. A key step along the path to ignition is to have “fuel gains” greater than unity, where the energy generated through fusion reactions exceeds the amount of energy deposited into the fusion fuel.

    ignition
    A metallic case called a hohlraum holds the fuel capsule for NIF experiments. Target handling systems precisely position the target and freeze it to cryogenic temperatures (18 kelvins, or -427 degrees Fahrenheit) so that a fusion reaction is more easily achieved.
    Photo by Eduard Dewald/LLNL

    Though ignition remains the ultimate goal, the milestone of achieving fuel gains greater than 1 has been reached for the first time ever on any facility. In a paper published in the Feb. 12 online issue of the journal Nature, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) detail a series of experiments on the National Ignition Facility (NIF), which show an order of magnitude improvement in yield performance over past experiments.

    “What’s really exciting is that we are seeing a steadily increasing contribution to the yield coming from the boot-strapping process we call alpha-particle self-heating as we push the implosion a little harder each time,” said lead author Omar Hurricane.

    Boot-strapping results when alpha particles, helium nuclei produced in the deuterium-tritium (DT) fusion process, deposit their energy in the DT fuel, rather than escaping. The alpha particles further heat the fuel, increasing the rate of fusion reactions, thus producing more alpha particles. This feedback process is the mechanism that leads to ignition. As reported in Nature, the boot-strapping process has been demonstrated in a series of experiments in which the fusion yield has been systematically increased by more than a factor of 10 over previous approaches.

    The experimental series was carefully designed to avoid breakup of the plastic shell that surrounds and confines the DT fuel as it is compressed. It was hypothesized that the breakup was the source of degraded fusion yields observed in previous experiments. By modifying the laser pulse used to compress the fuel, the instability that causes break-up was suppressed. The higher yields that were obtained affirmed the hypothesis, and demonstrated the onset of boot-strapping.

    The experimental results have matched computer simulations much better than previous experiments, providing an important benchmark for the models used to predict the behavior of matter under conditions similar to those generated during a nuclear explosion, a primary goal for the NIF.

    The chief mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the National Nuclear Security Administration‘s science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program. This experiment represents an important milestone in the continuing demonstration that the stockpile can be kept safe, secure and reliable without a return to nuclear testing. Ignition physics and performance also play a key role in fundamental science, and for potential energy applications.

    “There is more work to do and physics problems that need to be addressed before we get to the end,” said Hurricane, “but our team is working to address all the challenges, and that’s what a scientific team thrives on.”

    Hurricane is joined by co-authors Debbie Callahan, Daniel Casey, Peter Celliers, Charlie Cerjan, Eduard Dewald, Thomas Dittrich, Tilo Doeppner, Denise Hinkel, Laura Berzak Hopkins, Sebastien Le Pape, Tammy Ma, Andrew MacPhee, Jose Milovich, Arthur Pak, Hye-Sook Park, Prav Patel, Bruce Remington, Jay Salmonson, Paul Springer and Riccardo Tommasini of LLNL, and John Kline of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on August 26, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore Lab: “Laser fusion experiment yields record energy at Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Aug.13, 2013
    Breanna Bishop

    In the early morning hours of Aug.13, Lawrence Livermore’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) focused all 192 of its ultra-powerful laser beams on a tiny deuterium-tritium filled capsule. In the nanoseconds that followed, the capsule imploded and released a neutron yield of nearly 3×1015, or approximately 8,000 joules of neutron energy — approximately three times NIF’s previous neutron yield record for cryogenic implosions.

    nif
    The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility are the first step in increasing the energy of laser beams as they make their way toward the target chamber.

    The primary mission of NIF is to provide experimental insight and data for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s science-based stockpile stewardship program. The experiment attained conditions not observed since the days of underground nuclear weapons testing and represents an important milestone in the continuing demonstration that the stockpile can be kept safe, secure and reliable without a return to testing.”

    See the full article here.

    Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration

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  • richardmitnick 4:24 am on August 13, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From Livermore Lab: “D2T3 to join the ranks at National Ignition Facility” 


    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    08/07/2013
    Breanna Bishop, LLNL, (925) 423-9802, bishop33@llnl.gov

    “A new employee will soon be added to the roster of those working on Level 2 of the National Ignition Facility’s (NIF) Target Bay. His name is D2T3, and his duties will be a bit different than his colleagues.

    D2T3 — named for the hydrogen isotopes that serve as fuel for NIF’s fusion targets — is a radiation-detecting, remote controlled robot. Currently in testing and training mode, he will be fully deployed in September after three years of development.

    robot
    System Manager Casey Schulz successfully running D2T3 through his paces, negotiating obstacles in the Target Bay.

    D2T3 has found his place in the NIF duty roster due to the continuing success of the facility’s experiments. As NIF laser shots continue to yield higher and higher neutron yields — a marker of the facility’s ultimate goal, fusion ignition – the immediate environment of the Target Bay is inhospitable to humans. Currently, the area remains sealed for a number of hours based on radiation decay models before radiation technicians enter to verify that levels are safe. As a safety precaution, this wait is longer than models predict to provide a safety buffer.

    man
    Camera faceoff between TID’s Matthew Story and D2T3 in TB Level 2.

    However, D2T3 doesn’t have the same constraints as his human colleagues. He can patrol the Target Bay immediately after a shot and measure the remaining radiation levels, providing an accurate and timely notification for when it is safe to re-enter the area. He also can provide real-time decay information, allowing for fine-tuning of the current models.

    ‘This is the first actual, non-tethered robot we’ve got,’ said Casey Schulz, a mechanical and robotics engineer who serves as the system manager for D2T3. ‘It expands the capability of NIF, improves efficiency and maintains the high level of safety we require. It’s logically the next step as we continue to reach higher and higher neutron yields.'”

    See the full article here.

    Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security
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