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  • richardmitnick 7:28 am on September 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Sandia Lab, Susan Rempe,   

    From Sandia: Women in STEM – “Blowing bubbles to catch carbon dioxide” Susan Rempe 


    Sandia Lab

    September 1, 2016
    Mollie Rappe
    mrappe@sandia.gov
    (505) 844-8220

    Sandia, UNM develop bio-inspired liquid membrane that could make clean coal a reality

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories researcher Susan Rempe peers through bubbles. The CO2 Memzyme she helped design captures carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and is 10 times thinner than a soap bubble. (Photo by Randy Montoya).

    Sandia National Laboratories and the University of New Mexico (UNM) have created a powerful new way to capture carbon dioxide from coal- and gas-fired electricity plants with a bubble-like membrane that harnesses the power of nature to reduce CO2 emissions efficiently.

    CO2 is a primary greenhouse gas, and about 600 coal-fired power plants emitted more than a quarter of total U.S. CO2 emissions in 2015. When you include emissions from natural gas plants, the figure goes up to almost 40 percent. Current commercial technologies to capture these emissions use vats of expensive, amine-based liquids to absorb CO2. This method consumes about one third of the energy the plant generates and requires large, high-pressure facilities.

    The Department of Energy has set a goal for a second-generation technology that captures 90 percent of CO2 emissions at a cost-effective $40 per ton by 2025. Sandia and UNM’s new CO2 Memzyme is the first CO2 capture technology that could actually meet these national clean energy goals. The researchers received a patent for their innovation earlier this year.

    It’s still early days for the CO2 Memzyme, but based on laboratory-scale performance, “if we applied it to a single coal-fired power plant, then over one year we could avoid CO2 emissions equivalent to planting 63 million trees and letting them grow for 10 years,” said Susan Rempe, a Sandia computational biophysicist and one of the principal developers.

    Membranes usually have either high flow rates without discriminating among molecules or high selectivity for a particular molecule and slow flow rates. Rempe, Ying-Bing Jiang, a chemical engineering research professor at UNM, and their teams joined forces to combine two recent, major technological advances to produce a membrane that is both 100 times faster in passing flue gas than any membrane on the market today and 10-100 times more selective for CO2 over nitrogen, the main component of flue gas.

    Stabilized, bubble-like liquid membrane

    One day Jiang was monitoring the capture of CO2 by a ceramic-based membrane using a soap bubble flow meter when he had a revolutionary thought: What if he could use a thin, watery membrane, like a soap bubble, to separate CO2 from flue gas that contains other molecules such as nitrogen and oxygen?

    Thinner is faster when you’re separating gases. Polymer-based CO2 capture membranes, which can be made of material similar to diapers, are like a row of tollbooths: They slow everything down to ensure only the right molecules get though. Then the molecules must travel long distances through the membrane to reach, say, the next row of tollbooths. A membrane half as thick means the molecules travel half the distance, which speeds up the separation process.

    CO2 moves, or diffuses, from an area with a lot of it, such as flue gas from a plant that can be up to 15 percent CO2, to an area with very little. Diffusion is fastest in air, hence the rapid spread of popcorn aroma, and slowest through solids, which is why helium slowly diffuses through the solid walls of a balloon, causing it to deflate. Thus, diffusion through a liquid membrane would be 100 times faster than diffusion through a conventional solid membrane.

    Soap bubbles are very thin – 200 times thinner than a human hair – but are fragile. Even the lightest touch can make them pop. Jiang and his postdoctoral fellow Yaqin Fu knew they would need to come up with a way to stabilize an ultra-thin membrane.

    Luckily, his colleague Jeff Brinker, another principal developer who is a Sandia fellow and regent’s professor at UNM, studies porous silica. By modifying Brinker’s material, Jiang’s team was able to produce a silica-based membrane support that stabilized a watery layer 10 times thinner than a soap bubble. By combining a relatively thick hydrophobic (water-fearing) layer and a thin hydrophilic (water-loving) layer, they made tiny nanopores that protect the watery membrane so it doesn’t “pop” or leak out.

    Enzyme-saturated water accelerates CO2 absorption

    Enzymes (the –zyme part of Memzyme; the mem– comes from membrane) are biological catalysts that speed up chemical reactions. Even the process of CO2 dissolving in water can be sped up by carbonic anhydrase, an enzyme that combines CO2 with water (H2O) to make super soluble bicarbonate (HCO3-) at an astounding rate of a million reactions per second. This enzyme can be found in our muscles, blood and lungs to help us get rid of CO2.

    Rempe and her former postdoctoral fellow Dian Jiao were studying how CO2 dissolved in water, with and without this enzyme. They thought the enzyme could be combined with something like Jiang’s watery membrane to speed up CO2 capture. An enzyme-loaded membrane is almost like an electronic toll collection system (such as E-ZPass). The enzyme speeds up the dissolving of CO2 into water by a factor of 10 million, without interacting with other gases such as nitrogen or oxygen. In other words, the liquid Memzyme takes up and releases CO2 only, fast enough that diffusion is unimpeded. This innovation makes the Memzyme more than 10 times more selective while maintaining an exceptionally high flow rate, or flux, compared to most competitors that use slower physical processes like diffusion through solids.

    However, the nanopores in the membrane are very small, only a little wider than and a few times as tall as the enzyme itself. “What’s happening to the enzyme under confinement? Does it change shape? Is it stable? Does it attach to the walls? How many enzymes are in there?” Rempe wondered.

    Rempe and her postdoctoral fellow Juan Vanegas designed molecular simulations to model what happens to the enzyme in its little cubby to improve performance. Interestingly, the enzyme actually likes its “crowded” environment, perhaps because it mimics the environment inside our bodies. And more than one enzyme can squeeze into a nanopore, acting like runners in a relay passing off a CO2 baton. Because of the unique structure of the membrane, the enzymes stay dissolved and active at a concentration 50 times higher than competitors who use the enzyme just in water. That’s like having 50 E-ZPass lanes instead of just one. Protected inside the nanopores, the enzyme is still efficient and lasts for months even at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Working toward a greener future

    Having successfully tested the CO2 Memzyme at the laboratory scale, the Sandia-UNM team is looking for partners to help the technology mature. Each part of the membrane fabrication process can be scaled up, but the process needs to be optimized to make membranes for large power plants.

    In addition, the team is looking into more stable alternatives to the common form of the enzyme, such as enzymes from thermophiles that live in Yellowstone National Park hot springs. Or the Memzyme could use different enzymes to purify other gases, such as by turning methane gas into soluble methanol to produce purified methane for use in the natural gas industry.

    The CO2 Memzyme produces 99 percent pure CO2, which can be used in many industries. For example, U.S. oil companies buy 30 million tons of pure CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. The CO2 could be fed to algae in biofuel production, used in the chemical industry or even used to carbonate beverages.

    Initial funding for the research was provided by Sandia’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development office, with additional funding provided by DOE Basic Energy Sciences, Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Joint Science and Technology Office, and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The technology won a Federal Labs Consortium Notable Technology Development Award in 2014, an R&D100 award in Materials and an R&D100 Gold Award for Green Technology in 2015.

    “Partnership between theory and experiment, Sandia and UNM, has proven fruitful here, as it did in our earlier work on water purification membranes. Together we developed a membrane that has both high selectivity and fast flux for CO2. With optimization for industry, the Memzyme could be the solution we’re looking for to make electricity both cheap and green,” said Rempe.

    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 9:24 am on August 31, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , New cooling method for supercomputers to save millions of gallons of water, Sandia Lab   

    From Sandia: “New cooling method for supercomputers to save millions of gallons of water” 


    Sandia Lab

    August 31, 2016
    Neal Singer
    nsinger@sandia.gov
    (505) 845-7078

    1
    Sandia National Laboratories engineer David J. Martinez examines the cooling system at Sandia’s supercomputing center. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    In different parts of the country, people discuss gray-water recycling and rainwater capture to minimize the millions of gallons of groundwater required to cool large data centers. But the simple answer in many climates, said Sandia National Laboratories researcher David J. Martinez, is to use liquid refrigerant.

    Based on that principle, Martinez — engineering project lead for Sandia’s infrastructure computing services — is helping design and monitor a cooling system expected to save 4 million to 5 million gallons annually in New Mexico if installed next year at Sandia’s computing center, and hundreds of millions of gallons nationally if the method is widely adopted. It’s now being tested at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, which expects to save a million gallons annually.

    The system, built by Johnson Controls and called the Thermosyphon Cooler Hybrid System, cools like a refrigerator without the expense and energy needs of a compressor.

    Currently, many data centers use water to remove waste heat from servers. The warmed water is piped to cooling towers, where a separate stream of water is turned to mist and evaporates into the atmosphere. Like sweat evaporating from the body, the process removes heat from the piped water, which returns to chill the installation. But large-scale replenishment of the evaporated water is needed to continue the process. Thus, an increasing amount of water will be needed worldwide to evaporate heat from the growing number of data centers, which themselves are increasing in size as more users put information into the cloud.

    “My job is to eventually put cooling towers out of business,” Martinez said.

    “Ten years ago, I gave a talk on the then-new approach of using water to directly cool supercomputers. There were 30 people at the start of my lecture and only 10 at the end.

    “’Dave,’ they said, ‘no way water can cool a supercomputer. You need air.’

    “So now most data centers use water to cool themselves, but I’m always looking at the future and I see refrigerant cooling coming in for half the data centers in the U.S., north and west of Texas, where the climate will make it work.”

    The prototype method uses a liquid refrigerant instead of water to carry away heat. The system works like this: Water heated by the computing center is pumped within a closed system into proximity with another system containing refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the water so that the water, now cooled, can circulate to cool again. Meanwhile the heated refrigerant vaporizes and rises in its closed system to exchange heat with the atmosphere. As heat is removed from the refrigerant, it condenses and sinks to absorb more heat, and the cycle repeats.

    “There’s no water loss like there is in a cooling tower that relies on evaporation,” Martinez said. “We also don’t have to add chemicals such as biocides, another expense. This system does not utilize a compressor, which would incur more costs. The system utilizes phase-changing refrigerant and only requires outside air that’s cool enough to absorb the heat.”

    In New Mexico, that would occur in spring, fall and winter, saving millions of gallons of water.

    In summer, the state’s ambient temperature is high enough that a cooling tower or some method of evaporation could be used. But more efficient computer architectures can raise the acceptable temperature for servers to operate and make the occasional use of cooling towers even less frequent.

    “If you don’t have to cool a data center to 45 degrees Fahrenheit but instead only to 65 to 80 degrees, then a warmer outside air temperature — just a little cooler than the necessary temperature in the data center — could do the job,” Martinez said.

    For indirect air cooling in a facility, better design brings the correct amount of cooling to the right location, allowing operating temperatures to be raised and allowing the refrigerant cycle to be used more during the year. “At Sandia, we used to have to run at 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Now we’re at 65 to 78. We arranged for air to flow more smoothly instead of ignoring whorls as it cycled in open spaces. We did that by working with supercomputer architects and manufacturers of cooling units so they designed more efficient air-flow arrangements. Also, we installed fans sensitive to room temperature, so they slow down as the room cools from decreased computer usage and go faster as computer demand increases. This results in a more efficient and economical way to circulate air in a data center.”

    Big jobs that don’t have to be completed immediately can be scheduled at night when temperatures are cooler.

    “Improving efficiencies inside a system raises efficiencies in the overall system,” Martinez said. “That saves still more water by allowing more use of the water-saving refrigerant system.”

    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 7:40 am on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Sandia Lab,   

    From Sandia: Women in STEM – “Path to success: Sandia women honored for leadership, science ” Jill Hruby and Christine Coverdale 


    Sandia Lab

    August 26, 2016

    Two women at Sandia National Laboratories were recognized by professional organizations for their leadership and groundbreaking scientific research.

    The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) recently gave Sandia President and Laboratories Director Jill Hruby — the first woman to lead a national security laboratory — its 2016 Suzanne Jenniches Upward Mobility Award and gave plasma physicist Christine Coverdale its Prism Award.

    And this year Coverdale became the first woman to win the IEEE Plasma Science and Applications Committee Award in its 28-year history.

    The Suzanne Jenniches award is one of SWE’s top honors, recognizing a woman “who has succeeded in rising within her organization to a significant management position such that she is able to influence the decision-making process and has created a nurturing environment for other women in the workplace.” The Prism Award honors “a woman who has charted her own path throughout her career, providing leadership in technology fields and professional organizations along the way.”

    Coverdale’s IEEE award recognizes outstanding contributions to the field of plasma science through research, teaching and professional service to the scientific community.

    Hruby said the awards reflect on the entire lab. “Sandia has created opportunities for me and women like Christine Coverdale that allowed our careers to thrive,” she said. “This award recognizes a culture that values diversity and encourages every individual to succeed.”

    Coverdale said she is grateful for the recognition from her peers. “These awards mean a lot to me,” she said. “I have been lucky to have had many opportunities at Sandia to lead interesting and challenging projects, be mentored by highly capable people and ultimately give back and mentor students and newer staff members.”

    1
    Sandia President and Labs Director Jill Hruby, the first woman to lead a national security laboratory, has been a longtime mentor and advocate for women in engineering. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Jill Hruby: Rising to the top

    Hruby joined Sandia in 1983 at the labs’ Livermore, California, site. She worked six years in thermal and fluid sciences, solar thermal energy and nuclear weapons components then was promoted to technical manager. Over the next eight years, she led teams focused on the maturation of nuclear weapon components, analytical chemistry and materials selection for nuclear weapons systems, and materials management for advanced energy storage devices, including batteries and capacitors.

    Hruby became a senior manager and for six years was technical deputy director, leading a portfolio of programs ranging from microtechnologies to weapons components to materials processing. She moved into executive management in 2003 as director of the Materials and Engineering Sciences department at the California site. She led a team of about 200 working in hydrogen science and engineering, and nanosystem science and fabrication.

    She went on to direct the organization overseeing Sandia’s programs with the Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health and numerous partners. She and her team focused on homeland work preventing and countering weapons of mass destruction, infrastructure protection and cybersecurity.

    Hruby came to Sandia New Mexico in 2010 as vice president for both the Energy, Non-Proliferation and High Consequence Security division and the International, Homeland, and Nuclear Security program management unit. She oversaw projects in nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, nuclear weapons and nuclear materials security, nuclear incident response, biological and chemical defense and security, counterterrorism and homeland security.

    Five years later, in June 2015, Hruby was tapped for the top job at Sandia, the nation’s largest national lab with more than 10,000 employees and a $2.8 billion annual budget.

    Hruby has been a longtime mentor and advocate for women in engineering. She worked with the Sandia Women’s Action Network in New Mexico and the Sandia Women’s Connection in California. She has been a role model to dozens of women at the Labs and inspired them to become leaders. And through community outreach, she has encouraged female high school and college students to consider careers in engineering.

    “I am honored to receive this award on behalf of Sandia, where I was encouraged every step of the way,” Hruby said. “It is the kind of inclusive and supportive environment where future leaders will be developed.”

    3
    Christine Coverdale of Sandia National Laboratories is the first woman to win the IEEE Plasma Science and Applications Committee Award in its 28-year history. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

    Christine Coverdale: Experiments in pulsed power

    Coverdale joined Sandia in 1997 and in 2011 was named a Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff. She has been involved in a broad range of experiments at the Saturn and Z pulsed power facilities centered around nuclear weapons certification and other national security projects. She most recently worked on radiation detection systems and diagnostics to assess warm and hard X-rays from Z-pinch plasmas.

    Coverdale has a doctorate in plasma physics from the University of California, Davis, has authored or co-authored more than 120 papers and regularly presents at conferences. She served three terms on the Executive Committee of the IEEE Plasma Science and Applications Committee and was technical program chair for the IEEE International Conference on Plasma Science in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2015. She also served a four-year term on the IEEE Nuclear Plasma Sciences Society Administrative Committee.

    Coverdale was on the Executive Committee of the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Plasma Physics and is senior editor for High Energy Density Physics for IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. She is a Fellow of both the IEEE and APS.

    A mother of three, Coverdale has worked with the leadership of IEEE and APS to include more women in technical programs and award nominations, and has promoted work-life balance by helping develop a child-care grant program for the IEEE Nuclear Plasma Sciences Society. “I worked with bosses and teams who were willing to be flexible,” she said. “It’s a good thing to balance family and work. I’ve tried to impress upon my kids to choose career paths that allow you do to many things in life.”

    Coverdale mentors women in her field and speaks to aspiring female engineers through IEEE-sponsored diversity events. She also organizes and judges science fairs in local elementary schools.

    “I have been able to take advantage of many programs that encourage community involvement,” she said. “I appreciate that my family has been supportive of my career throughout, and receiving awards like these helps reinforce my belief that the skills I have developed to balance work and family are useful in both areas.”

    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 1:07 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: , , Researchers at Sandia Northeastern develop method to study critical HIV protein, Sandia Lab   

    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.

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    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 .

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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 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

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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 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.

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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 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 .

    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 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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