Lab nabs top tech awards

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LANL has won 117 of these awards since 1978

By Special to the Monitor

A super high speed camera.

Green explosives.

A way to pull fuel from algae using sound waves.

Those are a few of the projects that netted five top awards for Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists.

The R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Awards honor the top 100 proven technological advances of the past year.

“This work benefits us all by enhancing America’s competitiveness, ensuring our security, providing new energy solutions and expanding the frontiers of our knowledge,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a news release.

Since 1978 Los Alamos has won 117 R&D100 awards. The awards will be presented in November in Orlando, Fla.

A greener shade

of explosive

Los Alamos scientists, led by Elizabeth Francois of the lab’s high explosive science and technology group, developed a way to make a type of explosive called DiAminoAzoxyFurazan, or DAAFox. DAAFox packs a punch — delivering more explosive power with less material.

It resists ignition, reducing the possibility of accidental detonation. And the synthesis method is environmentally friendly.  


Super slow-mo

science movies

Extreme slow motion moviemaking is essential in the science of nuclear weapons and energetic materials.  Slowing the action allows scientists to see how explosives might ignite and how blast pressure waves move and grow. MOXIE’s developer is Scott Watson of the advanced nuclear technology group.

The uses for MOXIE include nuclear weapon certification without nuclear testing through X-ray movies of mock detonations.  The camera lets scientists study the physical properties of materials, including equations of state, fusion plasmas, discharge formation, shock physics and fracture mechanics.  It also helps ballistic studies by recording detailed movies of improvised explosive devices.

Making a better

superconducting wire

Solution Deposition Planarization, from Vladimir Matias of the lab’s materials physics and applications division, which seeks to reduce production costs, while supporting significantly higher power densities.

The SDP process is simpler, environmentally green, with virtually no toxic manufacturing waste.

Superconducting wires made through the SDP process can enable long-length energy transmission with zero energy loss, wind turbine engines that are lighter, smaller, and more efficient, and large industrial electric motors that are more efficient and compact. The process has applications in naval propulsion, with smaller, lighter motors that feature less vibration and are quieter. The process can also help realize improvements to photovoltaic solar arrays and other electro-optics.

An electrical conductor of a different sort

Ultraconductus is a nanotechnology developed by James Maxwell of LANL’s applied electromagnetics group for the manufacture of high-tech wires and cables that conduct electricity more easily than any other metal alloy.  The wires possess a greater tensile strength than steel and operate at room temperatures and higher.

The wires do not require cooling, unlike superconductors, and are not subject to some physical limitations that lead to power loss.

Ultraconductus can be used to make high-voltage cables for transmission of electricity to homes and businesses, and motors and generators to power everything from simple electronics to large scale manufacturing systems.  

The technology can also make wires for common products like cell phones and televisions.

Soundwaves shake biofuel from algae

The ultrasonic biofuel harvester, developed by Greg Goddard of the lab’s bioscience division, uses extremely high frequency sound waves to harvest and extract oils and proteins from algae, separating out and recycling the water, in one integrated system. No other technology uses a single method to capture all three valuable components of algae.

The ultrasonic harvester can make algal biofuels more cost-competitive with current fuels and make them more available.  The technology eliminates the use of solvents to extract agal oils. Algal carbohydrates can be used to make ethanol or methane and the proteins can be used to feed cattle, poultry and fish.