The groundbreaking science and technology capabilities that are a part of the NNSA enterprise impact more than just national security and energy. Developments at NNSA’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) literally give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf. Efforts at LLNL may one day help recover lost memories.
Most recently, NNSA’s LLNL is working on devices to understand, stop, and recover from memory loss. Researchers hope to create an implantable neural device with the ability to record and stimulate neurons in the brain to help restore memory.
Learn more about how the unique science and technology capabilities in NNSA’s enterprise contribute to medical advances at LLNL’s website
During the last week of March, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) demonstrated new flexibility in collecting data for stockpile stewardship by conducting a record 17 shots.
Researchers at NIF have traditionally aimed some or all of the 192 high-power lasers at a single target, then waited for the amplifiers to cool before the lasers were realigned and fired on a new target. The target experiments on NIF enable the study of matter at ultra-high temperatures and densities, which is a vital capability for the national labs to continue to certify that the U.S. nuclear stockpile remains safe, secure, and reliable.
For some experiments, scientists need only a fraction of NIF’s beams. The NIF team greatly reduced setup and laser alignment time through a new mode of operation. They aligned all 192 NIF beams at the same time, then fired subsets of eight-beam bundles at different targets in rapid succession, known as “Gatling gun” shots.
The Gatling gun shots enable researchers to use many different experimental configurations in a single day, significantly reducing the time it takes to explore the many aspects of high energy density science.
For example, the record-breaking week of activities included backlighter spectral experiments. When struck by NIF lasers, a backlighter lights up with a burst of x-rays that allows researchers to see through materials with incredible detail, like a camera flashbulb. The flashbulbs “light up” differently, depending on the type of material in the backlighter. The only way to discover how they’ll light up is to fire a test shot at each flashbulb. NIF researchers used the new multi-shot capability to test two sets of four kinds of materials each in rapid succession.
This change is among a wide variety of efficiency improvements to NIF equipment and procedures, leading to reduced time and effort for fielding experiments. Each of two sets of 4 shots was completed in about 14 hours.
“This record shot week produced a wealth of new data,” said NIF Operations Manager Bruno Van Wonterghem. “This new operational mode will allow scientists to maximize the data return from their time on NIF. It was great work by the entire NIF organization to pull this off.”
The NNSA team got a lot bigger, and younger – at least for one day – as employees’ 5th- to 12th-grade children accompanied them to work for “Take your Daughters and Sons to Work Day” on April 28.
NNSA team members and their offspring participated in hands-on workshops, an energy emergency response scenario, career talks, energy technology demos, health and wellness breaks, and a children's menu from the headquarters cafeteria. The day included open invitations for employees and their children to meet and visit with top leadership, including Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz.
The events support the President’s drive to give young people work-based learning experiences to help make a connection between what they learn in the classroom and their future careers.
Students also descended upon NNSA’s laboratory campuses this week for job shadowing and accompanying their parents on tours of NNSA’s nuclear enterprise facilities and tech-centered activities including a scavenger hunt, competitive trivia, and a “Spaghetti Challenge.”
As NNSA verifies and maintains the U.S. nuclear deterrent without underground explosive nuclear testing, computer simulation has become a key capability and a vital part of the nuclear security enterprise. By modeling the extreme physics that make up nuclear reactions, scientists can ensure our stockpile is safe, secure, and reliable. The simulation science developed through pursuit of NNSA’s missions has also enabled models to help explain and predict non-nuclear phenomena from weather to effects of asteroid impact, and even human social behavior.
The Seldon project meshes sociology, psychology, agent-based technology, modeling, simulation, and cognitive science to develop software to model recruitment and group formation. The tool is unique because it portrays cliques, gangs, schools, and houses of worship through social conceptualization and not just as physical or economical institutions. Specifically, the researchers showed how recruitment occurs through the formation of cliques; terrorist organizations build their ranks this way.
Because Seldon also specifically models Middle Eastern terrorist recruitment in a European setting, the project is especially relevant to current events. Before Sandia’s creation of the toolkit, there had not been a computational tool for analyzing the interdependence between individuals and society. The highly sophisticated simulation science enabled by the nuclear security enterprise has been helping world leaders in the effort to crack the code of terrorist recruitment and stop the spread of extremism.
Consolidated Nuclear Security, LLC, which runs the Y-12 National Security Complex and the Pantex Plant, plays an active role in strengthening the quality of FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) robotics competitions for individual high school–aged teams in Tennessee and Texas. The teams compete head to head on a special playing field with robots they have designed, built and programmed. FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire students’ interest and participation in science and technology.
In Tennessee, CNS sponsors the Smoky Mountains Regional competition as well as individual teams at: Robertsville Middle; L & N STEM; and Austin East, Bearden, Bushland, Caprock, Farragut, Hardin Valley, Oak Ridge, Roane and Webb high schools.
In addition to the company’s sponsorship, CNS engineers work as volunteer mentors on local teams to educate and support tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and mathematicians. “This is exactly the type of activity CNS wants to support,” said Keith Kitzke, a CNS engineer. “This is one of the best activities I have seen for developing team-building and problem-solving skills in high school students.”
Read more about how CNS supports science, technology, engineering and math through robotics on the Y-12 website.