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  • richardmitnick 1:07 pm on August 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Sandia Lab, Sandia storing information securely in DNA   

    From Sandia: “Sandia storing information securely in DNA” 


    Sandia Lab

    July 11, 2016 [Sandia just put up a bunch of articles in RSS.]
    Mollie Rappe
    mrappe@sandia.gov
    (505) 844-8220

    Experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider generate 15 million gigabytes of data per year. That is a lot of digital data to inscribe on hard drives or beam up to the “cloud.”

    George Bachand, a Sandia National Laboratories bioengineer at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, is exploring a better, more permanent method for encrypting and storing sensitive data: DNA. Compared to digital and analog information storage, DNA is more compact and durable and never becomes obsolete. Readable DNA was extracted from the 600,000-year-old remains of a horse found in the Yukon.

    Tape- and disk-based data storage degrades and can become obsolete, requiring rewriting every decade or so. Cloud- or server-based storage requires a vast amount of electricity; in 2011 Google’s server farms used enough electricity to power 200,000 U.S. homes. Furthermore, old-school methods require lots and lots of space. IBM estimated 1,000 gigabytes of information in book form would take up seven miles of bookshelves. In fact, Sandia recently completed a 15,000-square-foot building to store 35,000 boxes of inactive records and archival documents.

    “Historically, the national laboratories and the U.S. government have a lot of highly secure information that they need to store long-term. I see this as a potentially robust way of storing classified information in the future to preserve it for multiple generations,” said Bachand. “The key is how do you go from text to DNA and do that in a way that is safe and secure.”

    Bachand was inspired by the recording of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets into 2.5 million base pairs of DNA — about half the genome of the tiny E. coli bacterium. Using this method, the group at the European Bioinformatics Institute could theoretically store 2.2 petabytes of information — 200 times the printed material in the Library of Congress — in one gram of DNA.

    Marlene Bachand, a biological engineer at Sandia and George Bachand’s spouse, added, “We are taking advantage of a biological component, DNA, and using its unique ability to encode huge amounts of data in an extremely small volume to develop DNA constructs that can be used to transmit and store vast amounts of encrypted data for security purposes.”

    The Bachands’ project, funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development program, has successfully moved from the drawing board to letterhead. Using a practically unbreakable encryption key, the team has encoded an abridged version of a historical letter written by President Harry Truman into DNA. They then made the DNA, spotted it onto Sandia letterhead and mailed it — along with a conventional letter — around the country. After the letter’s cross-country trip, the Bachands were able to extract the DNA out of the paper, amplify and sequence the DNA, and decode the message in about 24 hours at a cost of about $45.

    Encrypting text into DNA and producing the message

    To achieve this proof-of-principle, the first step was to develop the software to generate the encryption key and encrypt text into a DNA sequence. Andrew Gomez worked on this while he was an intern at Sandia; he is now at Senior Scientific, a nanomedicine company at the University of New Mexico’s Science and Technology Park.

    DNA is made up of four different bases, commonly referred to by their one letter abbreviations: A, C, G and T. Using a three-base code, exactly how living organisms store their information, 64 distinct characters — letters, spaces and punctuation — can be encoded, with room for redundancy.

    For example, spaces make up on average 15 to 20 percent of the characters in a text document, an encryption key could specify that TAG, TAA and TGA each code for “space” while GAA and CTC could code for “E.” This would reduce the amount of repetition — technically challenging for making and reading DNA — and make brute-force hacking more difficult.

    The team’s first test was to encode a 180-character message, about the size of a tweet. Encoding the message into 550 bases was easy; actually making the DNA was hard.

    “Our initial approach was very expensive, very time consuming and didn’t work,” said George Bachand. However, “there’s a new technology that’s come out and made the ability to take synthetic DNA, what are called gene blocks, and stitch them together into these artificial chromosomes. These changes have just happened within the last few years, which has made it pretty extraordinary. Now it is possible to readily make these gene blocks right on the bench top and it can be done in large, production-scale pretty quickly.”

    1
    The Bachands’ method of encrypting a message into DNA. Using a computer algorithm they can encrypt a message into a sequence of DNA. Then they chemically synthesize the DNA. The DNA can be read by DNA sequencing, and then translated and decoded using the same computer algorithm. (Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)

    Identifying potential national security applications

    Since successfully encoding, making, reading and decoding the 180-character message and the 700-character Truman letter, the Bachands are now working on even longer test sequences. However, what the Bachands really want to do is move beyond tests and apply their technique to national security problems.

    “We have achieved the proof-of-principle. Yes, it is possible. Now the big challenge for us is identifying the potential applications,” said George Bachand. “Using DNA to store information is pretty cool, it’s science-fiction-y, but the real question is it really good for anything? Can it really supplant any of the current technology and where we’re headed in the future?”

    Two possible applications the team has identified are storing historical classified documents and barcoding/watermarking electromechanical components, such as computer chips made in the Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications complex, Sandia’s Department of Defense-certified fabrication facility, prior to storage.

    George Bachand imagines encoding each component’s history — when it was manufactured, the lot number, starting material, even the results of reliability tests — into DNA and spotting it onto the actual chip. Instead of having to find the serial number and look up that metadata in a digital or paper-based database, future engineers could swab the chip itself, sequence the DNA and get that information in a practically tamper-proof manner.

    To test the feasibility, Marlene Bachand spotted lab equipment with a test message, and was able recover and decode the message, even after months of daily use and routine cleaning. DNA spotted onto electronic components and stored in cool, dark environments could be recoverable for hundreds of years.

    Another, more straightforward application for the Bachands’ DNA storage method would be for historical or rarely accessed classified documents. DNA requires much less maintenance than disk- or tape-based storage and doesn’t need lots of electricity or tons of space like cloud- or paper-based storage. But conversion of paper documents into DNA requires the “cumbersome” process of scanning, encrypting, then synthesizing the DNA, admitted George Bachand. Making the DNA is the most expensive part of the process, but the cost has decreased substantially over the past few years and should continue to drop.

    “I hope this project progresses and expands the biological scope and nature of projects here at Sandia. I believe the field of biomimicry has no boundaries. Given all of the issues with broken encryption and data breaches, this technology could potentially provide a path to address these timely and ever-increasing security problems,” said Marlene Bachand.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 8:16 am on August 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Sandia Lab, , Researchers at Sandia Northeastern develop method to study critical HIV protein   

    From Sandia: “Researchers at Sandia, Northeastern develop method to study critical HIV protein” 


    Sandia Lab

    August 3, 2016

    Mollie Rappe
    mrappe@sandia.gov
    (505) 844-8220

    More than 36 million people worldwide, including 1.2 million in the U.S., are living with an HIV infection. Today’s anti-retroviral cocktails block how HIV replicates, matures and gets into uninfected cells, but they can’t eradicate the virus.

    Mike Kent, a researcher in Sandia National Laboratories’ Biological and Engineering Sciences Center, is studying a protein called Nef involved in HIV progression to AIDS with the ultimate goal of blocking it. He and his collaborators have developed a new hybrid method to study this HIV protein that compromises the immune system. The method also could work on many other proteins that damage cellular processes and cause diseases.

    Nef goes to the membrane of the infected cell and tricks the cell into destroying its own immune system signaling receptors, allowing the infected cell to evade the immune system. Nef also hijacks cellular communications to make it easier for the virus to reproduce. In order to interact with the host proteins, Nef needs to change shape.

    This shape-changing protein is so important that rhesus monkeys infected with a version of the closely related Simian immunodeficiency virus that lacks the Nef protein don’t develop immune deficiency symptoms.

    “Nef is a protein essential for AIDS. It accomplishes its missions by altering signaling and receptor trafficking. It binds to critical immune system receptors and then signals your cells to destroy them. If you know how this protein works, you have a better shot at developing drugs to stop it,” said Kent.

    Combining two techniques reveals Nef structure and function

    Kent and Bioanalytical Chemistry professor John Engen’s team at Northeastern University combined two known biophysical techniques to discover how Nef changes structure to perform its functions.

    Kent is an expert at neutron reflectometry, a technique that gets nanometer-scale structural information about films and biological membranes. His team used this technique to compare the global structure of Nef in its membrane-bound form versus its inactive, membrane-free form.

    Engen’s forte is hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry, a technique that measures the local structure and flexibility of proteins. The team used it to get information on the local structure and dynamics of Nef when it’s bound to the membrane.

    The global information from the neutron reflectometry shows only the average location of Nef relative to the membrane. The local dynamics from hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry are acquired for many small portions of the protein, showing the flexibility of 30 overlapping sections that collectively cover 90 percent of Nef. Together they construct a more complete picture of Nef and its structural changes.

    The global and local, peptide-specific information supported a widely held assumption that, in binding to the membrane, Nef changes its structure to interact with signaling receptors and other host proteins: a hypothesis without support, until now.

    “People have been studying Nef for a long time and there was a model of what people thought the protein might look like and might do. Nef is a difficult protein to study because you can only crystalize the folded part of the protein, and about half of the protein is unstructured. In addition, you can’t study the membrane-bound form by crystallography,” said Kent.

    “It’s the first time anybody had measured these kinds of structural changes and the results were consistent with the hypothetical model,” Kent continued. “Details of these shape changes provide important new molecular insights into how Nef functions.” This method could lead to new assays for drug screening.

    To combine the two techniques, the team first needed to make a special apparatus. It needed to contain a flat lipid monolayer, made of saturated fats, which mimicked the biological membrane. It also had to be integrated with equipment at neutron sources for neutron reflection measurements, and allow rapid exchange of the watery support layer for the hydrogen-deuterium exchange experiments.

    Another challenge was correctly producing the Nef protein. In infected cells, Nef is tagged with a special lipid that serves to anchor Nef to the cell membrane. Engen’s team had to produce Nef that contained this essential lipid, known as a myristate group.

    This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health. The neutron reflection measurements were performed at the Center for Neutron Research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Spallation Neutron Source at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    1
    Nef – a critical HIV protein – changes shape. When it is bound to the lipid membrane, it is “open” and able to trick the cell into destroying its own immune system signaling receptors and enhance the replication of the virus. When it is not bound to the lipid membrane, it is “closed” and not able to interact with host proteins. (Image courtesy Sandia National Laboratories)

    New method could answer many questions about HIV, other diseases

    With the hybrid method and unique apparatus in hand, the team is seeking funds to answer additional questions about Nef.

    “We studied it alone; now we want to study it with its binding partners, with the host proteins and the complexes that it forms, and in the presence of drug molecules or inhibitors,” Kent said. “Stopping it from binding with its partners or inhibiting it from adopting the conformation that leads to receptor degradation would have important medical implications.”

    Tom Smithgall of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, a co-author on one of the team’s papers, is currently screening for potential drugs that might block Nef’s actions.

    Kent also hopes to apply this hybrid method to other important structural problems of membrane-associated proteins, including virus maturation; the fusion of viruses with host cell membranes; the workings of bacterial toxins such as botulinum, tetanus and diphtheria; and cell-signaling dysfunctions ranging from cancer to regulating cholesterol levels.

    “There is a lot of potential for combining these two techniques in a more general sense. There are no other ways to get this kind of specific, direct information about essential membrane proteins. This is a significant niche of biological problems that could not be addressed before our work, and we’ve made some big steps forward. The future benefit depends on how broadly we can apply the method beyond just this one HIV protein,” said Kent.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 1:02 pm on July 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A new twist on data storage - DNA, , , Sandia Lab   

    From Sandia: “A new twist on data storage” 


    Sandia Lab

    July 07, 2016

    1
    SANDIA BIOENGINEERS Marlene and George Bachand show off their new method for encrypting and storing sensitive information in DNA. Digital data storage degrades and can become obsolete and old-school books and paper require lots of space. (Photo by Lonnie Anderson)

    Z machine, just one of Sandia’s research and test facilities, generates 100-200 gigabytes of data per year. That is a lot of digital data to inscribe on hard drives or beam up to the “cloud.”

    Sandia Z machine
    Sandia Z machine

    George Bachand (1132), a bioengineer at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology, is exploring a better, more permanent method for encrypting and storing classified data: DNA. Compared to digital and analog information storage, DNA is more compact, more durable, and never becomes obsolete. Readable DNA was extracted from the 600,000-year-old remains of a horse found in the Yukon.

    Seven miles of bookshelves

    Tape- and disk-based data storage degrades and can become obsolete, requiring rewriting every decade or so. Cloud- or server-based storage requires a vast amount of electricity; in 2011 Google’s server farms used enough electricity to power 200,000 US homes. Furthermore, old-school methods require lots and lots of space. IBM estimated that 1,000 gigabytes of information in book form would take up seven miles of bookshelves. In fact, Sandia recently completed a 15,000-square-foot building to store 35,000 boxes of inactive records and archival documents.

    “Historically, the national laboratories and the US government have a lot of highly secure information that they need to store long-term. I see this as a potentially robust way of storing classified information in the future to preserve it for multiple generations,” says George. “The key is how do you go from text to DNA and do that in a way that is safe and secure.”

    George was inspired by the recording of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets into 2.5 million base pairs of DNA — about half the genome of the tiny E. coli bacterium. Using this method, the group at the European Bioinformatics Institute could theoretically store 2.2 petabytes of information — 200 times the printed material in the Library of Congress — in one gram of DNA.

    Marlene Bachand (1132), a biological engineer at Sandia and George’s wife, adds, “We are taking advantage of a biological component, DNA, and using its unique ability to encode huge amounts of data in an extremely small volume to develop DNA constructs that can be used to transmit and store vast amounts of encrypted data for security purposes.”

    The Bachands’ project, funded by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development program, has successfully moved from the drawing board to letterhead. Using a practically unbreakable encryption key, the team has encoded an abridged version of the famous Truman letter establishing Sandia into DNA. They then made the DNA, spotted it onto Sandia letterhead, and mailed it — along with a conventional letter — around the country. After the letter’s cross-country trip, the team was able to extract the DNA out of the paper, amplify and sequence the DNA, and decode the message in about 24 hours at a cost of about $45.

    Text to DNA and back again

    To achieve this proof-of-principle, the first step was to develop the software to generate the encryption key and encrypt text into a DNA sequence. Andrew Gomez worked on this while he was an intern at Sandia; he is now at Senior Scientific, a nanomedicine company at the University of New Mexico’s Science and Technology Park.

    DNA is made up of four bases, commonly referred to by their one-letter abbreviations: A, C, G, and T. Using a three-base code, exactly how living organisms store their information, 64 distinct characters, letters, spaces, and punctuation, can be encoded, with room for redundancy.

    For example, spaces make up on average 15 to 20 percent of the characters in a text document, an encryption key could specify that TAG, TAA, and TGA each code for “space” while GAA and CTC could code for “E”. This would reduce the amount of repetition — technically challenging for making and reading DNA — and make brute-force hacking more difficult.

    The team’s first test was to encode a 180-character message, about the size of a tweet. Encoding the message into 550 bases was easy; actually making the DNA was hard.

    “Our initial approach was very expensive, very time-consuming, and didn’t work,” says George with a chuckle. However, “there’s a new technology that’s come out and made the ability to take synthetic DNA, what are called gene blocks, and stitch them together into these artificial chromosomes. These changes have just happened within the last few years, which has made it pretty extraordinary. Now it is possible to readily make these gene blocks right on the bench top and it can be done in large, production-scale pretty quickly.”

    Identifying potential national security applications

    Since successfully encoding, making, reading, and decoding the 180-character message and the 700-character Truman letter, George and Marlene are now working on even longer test sequences. However, what the Bachands really want to do is move beyond tests and apply their technique to national security problems.

    “We have achieved the proof-of-principle. Yes, it is possible. Now the big challenge for us is identifying the potential applications,” says George. “Using DNA to store information is pretty cool, it’s science-fiction-y, but the real question is it really good for anything? Can it really supplant any of the current technology and where we’re headed in the future?”

    Two possible applications the team has identified are storing historical classified documents and barcoding/watermarking electromechanical components, such as computer chips made in MESA, Sandia’s DoD-certified fabrication facility, prior to storage.

    George imagines encoding each component’s history — when it was manufactured, the lot number, starting material, even the results of reliability tests — into DNA and spotting it onto the actual chip. Instead of having to find the serial number and look up that metadata in a digital or paper-based database, future engineers could swab the chip itself, sequence the DNA, and get that information in a practically tamper-proof manner.

    Recoverable for 100s of years

    To test the feasibility, Marlene spotted lab equipment with a test message, and was able recover and decode the message, even after months of daily use and routine cleaning. DNA spotted onto electronic components and stored in cool, dark environments could be recoverable for hundreds of years.

    Another, more straightforward application for the Bachands’ DNA storage method would be for historical or rarely accessed classified documents. DNA requires much less maintenance than disk- or tape-based storage and doesn’t need lots of electricity or tons of space like cloud- or paper-based storage. But conversion of paper documents into DNA requires the “cumbersome” process of scanning, encrypting, then synthesizing the DNA, admits George. Making the DNA is the most expensive part of the process, but the cost has decreased substantially over the past few years and should continue to drop.

    “I hope this project progresses and expands the biological scope and nature of projects here at Sandia. I believe the field of biomimicry has no boundaries. Given all of the issues with broken encryption and data breaches, this technology could potentially provide a path to address these timely and ever-increasing security problems,” says Marlene.

    See the full article here

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 7:24 am on June 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Melissa Teague, Sandia Lab,   

    From Sandia: Women in Science – “Sandia researcher Melissa Teague awarded Presidential Early Career Award” Melissa Teague 


    Sandia Lab
    June 15, 2016

    Neal Singer
    nsinger@sandia.gov
    (505) 845-7078

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories materials engineer Melissa Teague is a 2016 recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering for pioneering improved understanding of fuel in a nuclear reactor. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Sandia National Laboratories materials engineer Melissa Teague has been awarded a Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), the highest honor the U.S. government bestows on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

    Teague was recognized for pioneering improved characterization of mixed uranium and plutonium oxide after it has been used as fuel in a nuclear reactor for an extended time — a condition called “high burn-up.” Developing and applying advanced examination techniques for high-radiation samples, she used an ion beam to prepare successive thin sections of the fuel, characterized each section and then reconstructed the three-dimensional sample for further study.

    “These experimental activities are groundbreaking for their first-of-a-kind data obtained on high-burnup MOX [mixed oxide nuclear reactor] fuel and the first three-dimensional reconstruction of irradiated fuel,” wrote recently retired Department of Energy assistant secretary for nuclear energy Peter Lyons in support of Teague’s PECASE application. “Furthermore, this technique was applied to fast-reactor MOX fuel that has the highest burnup known, providing data that is highly relevant to domestic and international advanced fuel programs.”

    Her work at Idaho National Laboratory was done at the mesoscopic level, a relatively underexplored range compared with atomistic and macroscopic investigations of fuel behavior.

    Teague signed on at Sandia only within the past year and looks forward to exploring a wider range of materials at the Albuquerque lab.

    But she’s no stranger to Sandia. As an undergraduate in ceramic engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla, she was mentored by Sandia researchers in 2004, growing and testing zeolite membranes, and again in 2005, when she tested a variety of glass-steel seals.

    “I’m happy to be a role model to show that a woman with three children can succeed in her work,” she said.

    She made an early stop at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory before joining Idaho National Laboratory, where she worked from 2010 to 2015 while earning her doctorate in materials science from the Colorado School of Mines. At Idaho National Laboratory, she was appointed deputy director for the laboratory’s TerraPower Program, a roughly $10 million-a-year project that examined the feasibility of traveling wave nuclear reactors as part of a cooperative research agreement with TerraPower, Inc., a Bellevue, Washington startup. The proliferation-resistant reaction breeds its own fuel, using the wave of extra neutrons from fissioning uranium-235 to transmute uranium-238 to plutonium-239.

    “The reaction only enriches as it goes,” she said. “It breeds Pu-239 as it burns it. Since it enriches its own fuel, it can last for 40 years instead of the standard two, so you don’t have to transport fuel back and forth as often.”

    The private company has announced plans to build a demonstration plant in China.

    Among Teague’s awards are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Rising Star Award in Nuclear Science and Engineering, the Young Scientist Award from the European Materials Research Society and the Department of Energy Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies award, meant to further the close integration of experimentation with mesoscale modeling.

    Her PECASE award, while unaccompanied by a stipend, “should make it easier to get funding” for her work primarily analyzing brittle materials, providing data for modelers and testing their simulations, she said

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sandia Campus
    Sandia National Laboratory

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 1:39 pm on June 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Sandia Lab, World’s fastest multiframe digital X-ray camera created at Sandia   

    From Sandia: “World’s fastest multiframe digital X-ray camera created at Sandia” 


    Sandia Lab

    June 2, 2016
    Neal Singer
    nsinger@sandia.gov
    (505) 845-7078

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories physicist John Porter carefully sets in place an ultrafast multiframe digital X-ray camera — the fastest in the world — in Sandia’s Z-beamlet laser facility. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    An adversary who steps inside a boxer’s sense of rhythm may land a punch the boxer never saw coming.

    A similar problem faces physicists struggling to achieve laboratory-scale nuclear fusion: A rogue event occurring between successively monitored images may knock an otherwise promising experiment off-kilter without anyone seeing the cause.

    To narrow that unexamined patch of time, Sandia National Laboratories researchers have put together the fastest multiframe digital X-ray camera in the world, called the ultra-fast X-ray imager (UXI). The camera takes images with an exposure time of only 1.5 nanoseconds — 25 times faster than the best digital cameras.

    “People are captivated by movies,” said Sandia physicist John Porter. “We just want to make sure there are no surprises between the frames.”

    Porter conceived and led the 10-year effort to capture plasma images more rapidly in the massive pulsed-power facility known as Z, a leading contender in the worldwide effort to achieve controlled nuclear fusion.

    Sandia Z machine
    Sandia Z machine

    Denser groupings of observations at shorter time intervals are essential to more accurate numerical modeling, he said: “There have been experiments where the best models predicted ignition, but it didn’t happen. There are too many ways a model unmoored from sufficient data can go from start point to end point. We need to feed simulations more data to ensure more accuracy.”

    A team of national experts have concurred, selecting further improvements to the camera as a top priority for accelerated development of next-generation diagnostics for high-energy density and inertial confinement fusion experiments.

    The experts, representing a coalition called the National Diagnostic Plan (NDP), includes researchers from Sandia, Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) national labs, the Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Rochester, and representatives from other university and industry labs.

    Said Mike Holmes, manager of the Sandia team that developed the camera sensor, “For technical and financial reasons, bringing the highly accurate, relatively inexpensive UXI online was declared a leading transformational diagnostic capability for future high-energy-density physics experiments within the NDP.”

    The camera has already been used successfully in hundreds of experiments at Sandia’s Z-Beamlet Laser facility and at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility.

    LLNL/NIF
    LLNL/NIF

    “Z camera-capability needs are different from any out there,” said Greg Rochau, program manager of the Sandia effort. “There are CCD [charge-coupled device] cameras that can take a single frame faster than UXI, but none that can take multiple images at a 1.5 nanosecond temporal resolution.”

    “This project is important,” continued Rochau, “because there are dynamics happening during the stagnation phase [when the fuel is at maximum compression] that we are unable to simulate with the best computational models because we don’t know what physics we’re missing. We think what’s happening is at a spatial and temporal level that is smaller than we can currently observe. UXI enables diagnostics with better spatial and temporal resolution than we’ve ever had. Anytime you can measure something better than you could before, you learn something new.”

    Without UXI, several expensive, radiation-hardened CCD cameras coupled to microchannel plates — each with high-voltage power supplies and a bulky, expensive support system — would be needed to record data to this precision. A single such camera might be used in successive experiments, with the camera programmed to fire a little later each time, but since no two experiments are exactly alike, it’s hard to be sure how many nanoseconds into the second, third and fourth experiment the camera should capture. Then there’s the expense of running the same experiment over and over.

    The Sandia technology is available for licensing at significantly less cost, and could be of interest to government labs, industry and universities whose research could prosper from a new ability to view a succession of chemical, nuclear or biological reactions that occur in nanoseconds.

    2
    Four images taken at two-nanosecond intervals by two ultra-fast X-ray imaging (UXI) cameras show the evolution of a blast wave in laser-heated gas. The images provide insight into the early stages of an experimental fusion technique at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories)

    The sensor, developed in partnership with Z at Sandia’s Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) center, consists of a radiation-hardened integrated circuit bonded to a silicon photodiode array. The bonding of these two integrated circuits joins two wafers, like two pancakes stitched together, into a monolithic hybrid structure.

    “To date, we have created three generations of hybrid sensor cameras, each of which improves on its predecessor,” said MESA team lead Marcos Sanchez.

    The current sensor arrangement used at Z and NIF is a one-half megapixel camera, with two frames of image storage per pixel.

    Subsequent sensors added the ability to capture more frames by turning on rows of pixels at different times and by increasing the number of storage frames per pixel. “Another unique feature of our sensors is the ability for a user to adjust both the shutter- time and the time between subsequent shutter openings,” said Sanchez.

    Each sensor’s shutter speed and inter-frame time can be set from 1.5 to 19 nanoseconds, making the sensors highly configurable to match the parameters of the experiment.

    Almost all sensor development was accomplished at the MESA facility. “Having a silicon integrated circuit foundry as well as a compound semiconductor fab, and co-located testing, integration and packaging facilities enables the development of unique products such as UXI,” said Sanchez.

    Work in progress with General Atomics in San Diego promises to shorten the image time to the 20 picosecond range within a year by coupling a UXI sensor to an innovative ‘pulse-dilation’ tube developed by researchers at General Atomics and LLNL. A picosecond is one-thousandth of a nanosecond.

    The development of the UXI camera to date has been a cooperative effort within Sandia and with its partners.

    “At first it wasn’t that clear that the concept would work or was possible,” said Porter, who identified and supported the collaborations with NIF and with General Atomics. “Engineering design tools are not always capable of simulating full-system performance. It was a daunting question as to whether the system could handle being put into the harsh radiation, shock and electrical noise environments of Z and NIF.

    “I believed in the team through multiple design challenges and encouraged them to try and find creative solutions to something that had not been attempted before, because if you don’t believe something works, it’s easy to convince yourself it doesn’t.

    “Things seem easy to do after you know they can be done,” Porter concluded.

    The ultimate goal is to close in on the fundamentals of fusion enough to create data useful for national defense, and then take it further to high-yield and energy production.

    Said Porter, “It sounds like a headache, all the steps, I know. Some of us love that, I don’t know why. It’s the nature of fusion. It’s a multigenerational project, and it still captures peoples’ imaginations.”

    A technical article was published* in SPIE last fall on the circuitry of the device. More articles are expected out for review this summer, said Porter.

    *Science article:
    An overview of the Ultrafast X-ray Imager (UXI) program at Sandia Labs

    See the full article here .

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 5:40 am on April 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Sandia dial-a-fire test complex ignites huge blaze, Sandia Lab   

    From Sandia: “Sandia dial-a-fire test complex ignites huge blaze” 


    Sandia Lab

    April 28, 2016

    Though researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories Thermal Test Complex study a variety of fires, they focus on those that rotate rather than burn in place. Whirls generate much higher heat fluxes than non-rotational fires.

    1
    Massive flames billow from a 16-foot-high test enclosure placed within Sandia National Laboratories’ Thermal Test Complex. Researchers collect data from experiments at the complex. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    In a recent test, a flame that appeared as slender and vulnerable as Bambi showed up in the array of video screens monitoring the fire’s progress.

    Within seconds, cameras recorded what appeared to be a forest fire of rushing flames in a 16-foot-high test enclosure. Then flames burst out the cell’s top like a creature in a monster movie, towering almost to the roof of the 50-foot-tall building that houses the cell. One video screen looked like a black-and-white movie of a large building in flames. A full-color screen imaged rich, yellow-red packets of flame whirling upward like escaping souls while outside video cams showed black smoke emerging from large stacks.

    2
    Fire whirls from a 3-meter diameter pool in the Fire Laboratory for Accreditation of Modeling by Experiment, or FLAME, facility at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Richard Simpson)

    Then a safety switch, sensing a possible electrical overload, turned off a 750-horsepower fan engaged in sucking in outside air to equalize the pressure of air leaving up the stack. Operators monitoring the feedback information immediately cut the supply of fuel. The inferno became a river of fire, then a stream of fire, then a rivulet and then it was gone.

    But the data collected about its fierce, brief life remained.

    That data, collected from this and other experiments at the extensive complex, can be used to qualify nuclear weapons hardware subjected to extreme conditions and to validate fire-physics models, said test director Anay Luketa.

    “One objective of the current experiments is to create an extremely abnormal thermal environment, representative of what a weapon potentially could be exposed to,” said Luketa. “The current tests control boundary conditions and offer repeatable experiments, something difficult to achieve in outdoor flame tests where even a light wind can significantly tilt a fire plume.”

    Whirls witnessed in forest fires and in urban areas have demonstrated disastrous impacts as well, due to the generation of extremely high velocities coupled with high heat release rates, said Luketa.

    The TTC’s experimental fire research and modeling tools form the basis of an integrated capability to help solve high-consequence problems involving fire, she says.

    The flame team measures temperatures, heat flux, flame velocity and height and burn rate of these whirling fire plumes. The whirl is created in an open-top, square enclosure surrounding a pool of fuel. The enclosing walls don’t meet at the corners; instead, gaps are positioned to produce a rotational pattern of inflowing air induced by the fire. This causes the flame to spin and rise in a vortex from a pond of burning jet fuel contained in a 3-meter diameter pan.

    3
    Tom Blanchat prepares a fuel pan and calorimeter test in the Cross Flow Fire Test Facility, or XTF, at Sandia National Laboratories. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Members of the fire team wear burn suits where appropriate and follow 20 pages of instructions to ensure safe handling of materials and proper ignition and close-down. They methodically turn on pumps, enable valves, bleed fuel to purge unwanted air from the system, thereby minimizing false readings, and lock a succession of safety doors before powering up the ignitor. Basement cameras check for dripping fuel. A simple hammer tap creates a sound-signal that allows researchers to synchronize data collected from video cameras placed throughout the structure.

    An environmentally approved process adds ammonia within the external smokestack to precipitate soot, a potentially hazardous waste material, onto a large plate; simple banging with large pneumatic actuators drops the soot into a collection container after a test. Another safety measure: The roof of the building can lift if necessary to reduce excess pressures by allowing fire-heated gasses to escape.

    The TTC complex, completed in 2006, centralizes Sandia’s thermal test capabilities, incorporates multiple unique design features and provides advanced capabilities for thermal testing currently available nowhere else in the world.

    See the full article here .

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 12:14 pm on January 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Sandia Lab, Sandia's comming Thor hammer   

    From Sandia: “Thor’s hammer to crush materials at 1 million atmospheres” 


    Sandia Lab

    January 5, 2016
    Neal Singer
    nsinger@sandia.gov
    (505) 845-7078

    Temp 1
    MAKE READY FOR THOR — Sandia National Laboratories technician Eric Breden installs a transmission cable on the silver disk that is the new pulsed-power machine’s central powerflow assembly. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    A new Sandia National Laboratories accelerator called Thor is expected to be 40 times more efficient than Sandia’s Z machine, the world’s largest and most powerful pulsed-power accelerator, in generating pressures to study materials under extreme conditions.

    Sandia Z machine
    Sandia’s Z machine

    “Thor’s magnetic field will reach about one million atmospheres, about the pressures at Earth’s core,” said David Reisman, lead theoretical physicist of the project.

    Though unable to match Z’s 5 million atmospheres, the completed Thor will be smaller — 2,000 rather than 10,000 square feet — and will be considerably more efficient due to design improvements that use hundreds of small capacitors instead of Z’s few large ones.

    Remarkable structural transformation

    This change resembles the transformation of computer architecture in which a single extremely powerful computer chip was replaced with many relatively simple chips working in unison, or to the evolution from several high-voltage vacuum tubes to computers powered by a much larger number of low-voltage solid-state switches.

    A major benefit in efficiency is that while Z’s elephant-sized capacitors require large switches to shorten the machine’s electrical pulse from a microsecond to 100 nanoseconds, with its attendant greater impact, the small switches that service Thor’s capacitors discharge current in a 100-nanosecond pulse immediately, obviating energy losses inevitable when compressing a long pulse.

    The new architecture also allows finer control of the pulse sent to probe materials.

    Toward a more perfect pulse shape

    Said Reisman, “Individual cables from pairs of capacitors separate our signals. By combining these signals in any manner we choose, we can tailor very precise pulses of electrical current.”

    Tailored pulse shapes are needed to avoid shocks that would force materials being investigated to change state. “We want the material to stay in its solid state as we pass it through increasing pressures,” he said. “If we shock the material, it becomes a hot liquid and doesn’t give us information.”

    Another advantage for Thor in such testing is that each capacitor’s transit time can be not only controlled to the nanosecond level but isolated from the other capacitors. “In 30 seconds on a computer, we can determine the shape of the pulse that will produce a desired compression curve, whereas it takes days to determine how to create the ideal pulse shape for a Z experiment,” Reisman said.

    Furthermore, because Thor can fire so frequently — less hardware damage per shot requires fewer technicians and enables more rapid rebooting — researchers will have many more opportunities to test an idea, he said.

    But there’s more at stake than extra experiments or even new diagnostics. There’s testing the efficiency of a radically different accelerator design.

    Radical shoeboxes

    Thor’s shoebox-sized units, known as “bricks,” contain two capacitors and a switch. The assembled unit is a fourth-generation descendant of a device jointly developed by Sandia and the Institute of High-Current Electronics in Tomsk, Russia, called a linear transformer driver (LTD). The original LTD units, also called “bricks,” had no cables to separate outputs, but instead were linked together to add voltage as well as current. (Because Thor’s bricks are isolated from each other, they add current but not voltage.)

    Everything depends upon adding bricks. Sandia is building Thor in stages and already has assembled materials. Two intermediate stages are expected in 2016. These will comprise 24 bricks (Thor 24) and 48 bricks (Thor 48). “These are ‘first-light’ machines that will be used for initial experiments and validation,” Reisman said.

    Thor 144, when completed, should reach 1 million atmospheres of pressure.

    2
    Sandia National Laboratories technician Tommy Mulville installs a gas exhaust line for a switch at Thor’s brick tower racks. In the background, beyond the intermediate support towers, technician Eric Breden makes ready an electrical cable for insertion in the central power flow assembly. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Sandia manager Bill Stygar said more powerful LTD versions of Z ultimately could bring about thermonuclear ignition and even high-yield fusion.

    Ignition would be achieved when the fusion target driven by the machine releases more energy in fusion than the electrical energy delivered by the machine to the target. High yield would be achieved when the fusion energy released exceeds the energy initially stored by the machine’s capacitors.

    High-yield fusion

    A paper published Sept. 9, in Physical Review Special Topics – Accelerators and Beams, co-authored by Reisman, lead electrical engineer Brian Stoltzfus, Stygar, lead mechanical engineer Kevin Austin and colleagues, outlined Sandia’s plan for Thor. A Nov. 30 paper, led by Stygar in the same journal, discusses the possibility of building next-generation LTD-powered accelerators to achieve ignition and high-yield fusion.

    The academic community also is interested in Thor’s architecture. “Part of the motivation for Thor was to develop affordable and compact machines that could be operated at universities,” said Reisman. Institutions that have expressed interest include Cornell University, University of California San Diego, Imperial College London and the Carnegie Institution.

    Thor’s theoretical design was supported by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development office; later engineering details and hardware were supported by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Science Campaign.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 10:17 am on December 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Benchmarks, Sandia Lab,   

    From Sandia: “Supercomputer benchmark gains adherents” 


    Sandia Lab

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories researcher Mike Heroux, developer of the High Performance Conjugate Gradients program that uses complex criteria to rank supercomputers. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    More than 60 supercomputers were ranked by the emerging tool, termed the High Performance Conjugate Gradients (HPCG) benchmark, in ratings released at the annual supercomputing meeting SC15 in late November. Eighteen months earlier, only 15 supercomputers were on the list.

    “HPCG is designed to complement the traditional High Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark used as the official metric for ranking the top 500 systems,” said Sandia National Laboratories researcher Mike Heroux, who developed the HPCG program in collaboration with Jack Dongarra and Piotr Luszczek from the University of Tennessee.

    The current list contains the same entries as many of the top 50 systems from Linpack’s TOP500 but significantly shuffles HPL rankings, indicating that HPCG puts different system characteristics through their paces.

    This is because the different measures provided by HPCG and HPL act as bookends on the performance spectrum of a given system, said Heroux. “While HPL tests supercomputer speed in solving relatively straightforward problems, HPCG’s more complex criteria test characteristics such as high-performance interconnects, memory systems and fine-grain cooperative threading that are important to a different and broader set of applications.”

    Heroux said only time will tell whether supercomputer manufacturers and users gravitate toward HPCG as a useful test. “All major vendor computing companies have invested heavily in optimizing our benchmark. All participating system owners have dedicated machine time to make runs. These investments are the strongest confirmation that we have developed something useful.

    “Many benchmarks have been proposed as complements or even replacements for Linpack,” he said. “We have had more success than previous Oefforts. But there is still a lot of work to keep the effort going.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 9:03 am on December 17, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Sandia Lab   

    From Sandia: “Sandia, ASU collaborate on algae computational modeling, look for algae pond predators” 


    Sandia Lab

    December 17, 2015
    Michael Padilla
    mjpadil@sandia.gov
    (925) 294-2447

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories researcher Jerilyn Timlin serves as a principal investigator for the Algal Predator and Pathogen Signature Verification project. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Work part of a broader framework for funding energy-related science, technology

    Sandia National Laboratories and Arizona State University (ASU) have teamed up to further improve computational models of algae growth in raceway ponds that can predict performance, improve pond design and operation and discover ways to improve algae yield outdoors.

    Such ponds consist of an oval-shaped closed-loop channel — or raceway — in which the cultivation mixture of water and algae is propelled to flow around the raceway and undergo mixing by a paddlewheel powered by an electric motor.

    In addition, Sandia and ASU will further develop spectroradiometric techniques to optically monitor the growth and health of algae pond cultivation in real-time and detect early warnings of predators and pathogens in outdoor algal ponds.

    The work is part of a newly signed Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between ASU and Sandia to collaborate on algae-based biofuels, solar fuels, concentrating solar technologies, photovoltaics, electric grid modernization and the energy-water nexus. The umbrella CRADA also covers international applications of the technologies and science and engineering education. The topics were first identified in a 2013 memo of understanding between Sandia and ASU focusing on collaborations to support science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

    This is the first CRADA Sandia has executed with a university in nearly 15 years and is currently the only active umbrella CRADA with an institution of higher education. The algae cultivation modeling and monitoring projects are the first two efforts funded under this umbrella CRADA.

    Sandia researcher Ron Pate said Sandia brings distinctive capabilities for physics-based modeling of algae cultivation systems performance and for remote spectroradiometric monitoring and diagnostics of algae growth and state of health, while ASU has a variety of algae species under cultivation in outdoor ponds in a range of scales in which to take measurements.

    “Sandia is excited about the collaboration with ASU,” Pate said. “This agreement allows Sandia to continue modeling and monitoring work that we have been pursuing with ASU since 2013 under the original ATP3 (Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership) project.” Pate serves as deputy director for ATP3, overseeing Sandia technical tasks under the project.

    The ATP3 project was established to support the algae research and development community and industry to advance the field and help accelerate progress toward more rapid and successful commercialization of algae-based technologies for fuels and products. ATP3 is funded by the DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office. ATP3 partners include Sandia, ASU, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and the algae companies San Diego-based Cellana Inc. with algae cultivation facilities in Kona, Hawaii, Commercial Algae Management in Franklin, North Carolina and Florida Algae in Vero Beach, Florida.

    Two projects exercise new Sandia, ASU CRADA

    The first project under the agreement, Algal Cultivation Growth Dynamic Modeling and Analysis, focuses on the further development of a Sandia algae growth model based on the effect of light, temperature, nutrients, pH and salinity integrated into an open raceway pond hydrodynamic computational fluid dynamics model. The algae growth model has been partially validated utilizing multiple data sets from partners involved in ATP3. Under the CRADA, the modeling will be further refined through improvement of the paddlewheel driven pond circulation flow and mixing portion of the model based on the application of hydrodynamic measurement data taken from experimental testing with progressively larger scale outdoor ponds operated by ATP3 partners.

    The 12-month project, led by principal investigators Patricia Gharagozloo from Sandia and John McGowen from ASU, will be conducted in two phases. The first phase will study the flow dynamics of turbulence models and control parameters in open raceway ponds, which are currently the most promising outdoor cultivation system approach for cost-effectively growing algae at the large scales required for producing fuels. In this phase, ASU will measure the spatial variations in velocity of the flow of algae-water mix in the ponds at various paddlewheel speeds.

    The second phase will calibrate the model and verify the appropriate turbulence physics to be accounted for at certain scales of ponds for one paddlewheel speed. After the two phases, a study will be conducted to compare the data with model results at additional paddlewheel speeds.

    The second 12-month project, Algal Predator and Pathogen Signature Verification, looks at exploring and exploiting the various detailed optical signatures that arise when the algae cultivation pond surface is monitored using Sandia’s optical spectroradiometric techniques. These techniques can differentiate algae growth and state of health and provide an early warning of the active presence of predators and pathogens in outdoor algal ponds. Sandia researcher Jerilyn Timlin and McGowen are the principal investigators for this project. Sandia researcher Tom Reichardt, who pioneered the original technology as part of a bioscience Laboratory Directed Research & Development project, also serves as technical contributor to the project.

    During the first phase of this project, controlled experiments will be conducted in the laboratory with a host-pathogen-predator pair that the team has seen cause problems in the field in order to understand the parameters that control culture collapse and identify spectral markers that indicate the presence of the pathogen or predator. The second phase will consist of experiments in the field to determine how well the identified spectral markers predict the presence of the pathogen or predator in the challenges of an outdoor environment.

    “The continuation of the technical work related to algae biofuels, which began under the ATP3 project, is a great opportunity to exercise this new Sandia-ASU CRADA,” Pate said. “However, collaborative work on the other STEM topic areas could also be pursued in the future as funding becomes available and the mutual interest exists at ASU and Sandia.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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  • richardmitnick 3:37 pm on October 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Hydrogen storage, Sandia Lab   

    From Sandia Lab: “Bay Area national labs team to tackle long-standing automotive hydrogen storage challenge” 


    Sandia Lab

    October 8, 2015
    Patti Koning, pkoning@sandia.gov, (925) 294-4911

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories chemist Mark Allendorf, shown here at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source facility, is leading the Hydrogen Materials – Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC) to advance solid-state materials for onboard hydrogen storage. (Photo by Dino Vournas)

    Sandia National Laboratories will lead a new tri-lab consortium to address unsolved scientific challenges in the development of viable solid-state materials for storage of hydrogen onboard vehicles. Better onboard hydrogen storage could lead to more reliable and economic hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

    “Storing hydrogen on board vehicles is a critical enabling technology for creating hydrogen-fueled transportation systems that can reduce oil dependency and mitigate the long-term effects of burning fossil fuels on climate change,” said Sandia chemist Mark Allendorf, the consortium’s director.

    Called the Hydrogen Materials – Advanced Research Consortium (HyMARC), the program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at $3 million per year for three years, with the possibility of renewal. In addition to Sandia, the core team includes Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories.

    The consortium will address the gaps in solid-state hydrogen storage by leveraging recent advances in predictive multiscale modeling, high-resolution in situ characterization and material synthesis. Past efforts, which synthesized and characterized hundreds of materials for solid-state hydrogen storage, laid a solid foundation for current work including the understanding of the kinetics and thermodynamics governing the physical properties of these types of storage methods.

    “By focusing on the underlying properties and phenomena that limit the performance of storage materials, we will generate much-needed understanding that will accelerate the development of all types of advanced storage materials, including sorbents, metal hydrides and liquid carriers,” said Brandon Wood, who is leading the Lawrence Livermore team.

    Sandia is an international leader in hydrogen materials science, exemplified by its role as the lead lab in DOE’s Metal Hydride Center of Excellence, which ran from 2005-2010. The consortium will leverage the core capabilities of the three partners, primarily synthetic chemistry at Sandia, theory and modeling at Lawrence Livermore and characterization at Berkeley Lab.

    The world-class supercomputing facilities at Lawrence Livermore and Sandia are key elements of the team’s strategy to develop the enabling science for hydrogen solid storage technologies, along with advanced experimental tools available at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source [ALS] and Molecular Foundry facilities.

    LBL Advanced Light Source
    ALS

    Current hydrogen storage misses capacity, cost targets

    In the past five years, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) have gone from a concept to reality. Automakers are starting to roll out commercial FCEVs and investments are being made to deploy hydrogen refueling infrastructure, especially in early markets, such as California and the Northeast.

    However, the commercial FCEV light-duty vehicles are designed for 700-bar compressed hydrogen storage on board the vehicle and hydrogen-refueling infrastructure is being deployed for compressed hydrogen refueling. Although compressed hydrogen provides a near-term pathway to commercialization, this storage method falls short of DOE targets for onboard hydrogen storage, particularly for volumetric hydrogen energy density and cost.

    “Hydrogen, as a transportation fuel, has great potential to provide highly efficient power with nearly zero emissions,” said Allendorf. “Storage materials are the limiting factor right now.”

    Thermodynamics, kinetics challenges

    Although HyMARC will consider all types of hydrogen storage materials, two categories of solid-state materials, novel sorbents and high-density metal hydrides, are of particular interest. These materials have the potential to meet DOE targets to deliver hydrogen at the right pressure and energy density to power a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

    A key challenge is the thermodynamics — the energy and conditions necessary to release hydrogen during vehicle operation. Sorbents, which soak up hydrogen in nanometer-scale pores, bind hydrogen too weakly. In contrast, metal hydrides, which store hydrogen in chemical bonds, have the opposite problem — they bind the hydrogen too strongly.

    The kinetics, the rate at which a chemical process occurs, is also an issue for high-density metal hydrides. These materials undergo complicated reactions during hydrogen release and uptake that can involve transitions between liquid, solid and gaseous phases. In some cases, the chemical reactions can form intermediates that trap hydrogen.

    The consortium will explore several innovative ideas for solving these problems. The overall concept is to synthesize well-controlled materials to serve as model systems and develop experimental platforms for systematically probing key processes that limit performance.

    “Using these tools, we can study the hydrogen reactions with these materials using state-of-the-art techniques, such as those at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source and Molecular Foundry, which can provide unprecedented spatial resolution of material composition and character in real time,” said Jeff Urban, Berkeley Lab team lead.

    The HyMARC strategy embodies the approach highlighted within the recent Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) Strategic Plan for accelerated materials development. The focus is on developing a set of ready-to-use resources accessible to the entire hydrogen storage community.

    “With our extensive knowledge base of hydrogen storage materials and new tools for characterization, modeling and synthesizing materials, many of which were not available even five years ago, our goal is to develop codes, databases, synthetic protocols and characterization tools,” said Allendorf. “These resources will create an entirely new capability that will enable accelerated materials development to achieve thermodynamics and kinetics required to meet DOE targets.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Sandia National Laboratories is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies, and economic competitiveness.
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