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Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • Two LANL scientists named ACS Fellows

    Rebecca Chamberlin and Donivan Porterfield, both of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Actinide Analytical Chemistry group, have been selected as a 2014 Fellows of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

  • Scientists uncover combustion mechanism to better predict warming by wildfires

     Scientists have uncovered key attributes of so-called “brown carbon” from wildfires, airborne atmospheric particles that may have influenced current climate models that failed to take the material’s warming effects into account. The work was described by a collaborative team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Montana in the journal Nature Geosciences this week.
    “Biomass burning and wildfires emit fine particulates that are toxic to humans and can warm or cool climate. While their toxicity is certain, their specific climatic effects remain unclear and are a hot research topic,” said Manvendra Dubey, a senior Los Alamos climate scientist. “Smoke from wildfires accounts for one-third of the Earth’s ‘black’ carbon — the familiar charred particles that are associated with fires with large flames. While black carbon is relatively simple — solely consisting of carbon — brown carbon contains a complex soup of organic material, making it difficult to identify, characterize and model.”

  • Hazmat Challenge is serious business

    If you thought your week has been challenging due to the unpredictable weather, it was nothing compared to what hazardous material technicians had to face during Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 18th Annual Hazmat Challenge.
    Facing real-world chemical leak scenarios of all types: indoor, outdoor, overturned trucks, leaking railcars and other challenges, hazmat techs from all over the nation competed at Tech Area 49 this week to see who did the best, and safest job of cleaning up the simulated spills. According to Chris Rittner, a Hazmat and training specialist with LANL, the weather only slowed down the competition a little bit.
    “We kind of take a ‘train like you fight’ mentality. If it’s raining lightly, that doesn’t stop us. The only thing that stops us is heavy rain or lightning, and that’s just strictly a safety issue, because we don’t want undue safety hazards while conducting training exercises,” he said.
    Started in 1996, the competition was originally just meant to sharpen the skills of LANL’s hazardous materials teams, but the competition quickly grew by word of mouth to include teams from across the nation.

  • Lab worker fired after writing anti-nuclear piece

    A former member of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s non-proliferation team says he was fired after writing an article for a nonprofit website in support of abolishing nuclear weapons.
    James Doyle, who lives in Santa Fe, said he believes he was let go after 17 years because lab officials feared the article, which espoused his personal views, could be interpreted as a voice from the laboratory and could present problems in seeking funding for Los Alamos’s nuclear bomb building mission.
    A Los Alamos spokesman said the lab doesn’t discuss personnel matters.
    Doyle said he was fired July 8, several months after lab officials claimed his article raised classification concerns. He says the article had been cleared for publication by the proper officials before it was published.
    Doyle’s attorney Mark Zaid said he believes there was clear retaliation, and he is pursuing administrative remedies for his client.
    The Center for Public Integrity initially broke the story.
    In its story, a number of former advisers were quoted.
    “It sure looks like he’s being fired for supporting the president’s policy,” said Jon Wolfsthal, a special adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden.

  • Scholarship fund breaks a record

    The Los Alamos National Employees’ Scholarship Fund broke a record this year. According to Los Alamos National Laboratory spokesman Steve Sandoval, the fund brought in more funds this year than in any year of its existence.
    The fund was founded in 1998 through a partnership with the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation. Each year, employees and subcontractors with the lab donate to the fund. The fund’s purpose is to support promising students that attend school in Northern New Mexico with college scholarships.
    “Contributions totaled about $342,000 and with a contributing match of $240,000 from the Los Alamos National Security LANS it’s about $592,000 total,” Sandoval said. “We had a great fundraising drive this year.”

  • Scientists ignite aluminum water mix

    Don’t worry, that beer can you’re holding is not going to spontaneously burst into flames, but under the right circumstances aluminum does catch fire, and the exact mechanism that governs how, has long been a mystery.
    Now, new research by Los Alamos National Laboratory explosives scientist Bryce Tappan, published as the cover story in the prestigious German journal of chemistry Angewandte Chemie, for the first time confirms that chemical kinetics — the speed of a chemical reaction — is a primary function in determining nanoaluminum combustion burn rates.
    “It’s been long understood that nanoscale aluminum particles, 110 nanometers and smaller, are highly reactive. Aluminum particles at this scale have been used in novel explosives, propellants, and pyrotechnic formulations,” said Tappan. “The understanding of the combustion mechanism impacts how we look at the design of ever smaller aluminum particles like molecular aluminum clusters as well as possible nanoaluminum applications like hydrogen fuel storage devices — and this might be a little ‘out there’ — but also energetic formulations that could use extraterrestrial water as the oxidizer in rocket fuel.”

  • Moniz to visit WIPP

    CARLSBAD (AP) — Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have announced that U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will visit Carlsbad on Aug. 12 to discuss the government’s underground nuclear waste dump.
    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has been indefinitely shuttered in the wake of a Feb. 14 reaction that sent radioactive particles into the air above the repository and contaminated 22 workers with low levels of radiation. The release is still under investigation.
    Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Steve Pearce last month invited Moniz to visit the facility. They want to talk with him about recovery funding, how the money would be spent and why it’s needed.
    The facility is the nation’s only permanent repository for plutonium-contaminated gloves, tools and clothing from the federal government’s nuclear facilities.
    “We believe that the recovery is now at a stage where it would be important for you to observe the efforts directly,” the lawmakers wrote Moniz in June. “The workers and the community would also appreciate hearing firsthand the Department’s plans for returning WIPP to full operation. We look forward to hosting you in Carlsbad.”
     

  • Lab to close 'Y' parking lot next week

    Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Environmental Programs will close the east side of the parking lot at the “Y” at the interchange of N.M. 4 and N.M. 502 from Monday to Aug. 4.
    The closure is part of resumption of work necessary for crews to safely close three formerly used monitoring wells, part of a multi-year program to properly plug and abandon characterization boreholes and wells.
    Plugging and abandoning boreholes and wells that are no longer needed keeps the remaining holes from turning into pathways to groundwater.
    “We appreciate everyone’s patience as we complete this important work,” said Corrective Actions Program Director Dave McInroy.
    “It is as important to close wells safely as it is to construct them in a way that is protective of the environment.”
     

  • Acoustics to be featured in Frontiers in Science series

    Dipen Sinha of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Materials Synthesis and Integrated Devices group will discuss acoustics and its applications, including how it is possible to use sound to solve problems in health, national security and for industry, in a series of Frontiers in Science Lectures beginning July 29 at Crossroads Bible Church in Los Alamos.
    “I take advantage of the nature of sound waves and often manipulate these waves to solve technically challenging problems related to energy and national security,” Sinha said. “How an object vibrates also tells a lot about it. Sound can exert force on objects. By carefully manipulating acoustic forces it is possible to create novel structures and even unique materials that are otherwise not possible with conventional fabrication processes.”
    People are immersed in a universe filled with sound and experience it daily through hearing and vibration, according to Sinha. Sound is created by vibration and travels as waves through any medium in a number of ways. Observing how these waves interact with any medium can help researchers identify the medium even if it is hidden inside sealed containers, he added.
    All Frontiers in Science lectures begin at 7 p.m. at the following locations:
    • Tuesday at the Crossroads Bible Church, 97 East Road, Los Alamos

  • Hazmat Challenge set for next week

    Fourteen hazardous materials response teams from New Mexico, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma will test their skills at the 18th annual Hazmat Challenge July 29 through Aug. 1 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
    “The challenge provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to test their skills, share best practices with other response agencies, and learn new techniques through realistic hazardous materials release scenarios in a safe, non-hazardous environment,” said Chris Rittner of the laboratory’s Security and Emergency Operations Division.
    Held at Los Alamos’ Technical Area 49, the event requires participants to respond to simulated hazardous materials emergencies involving a rail car, a clandestine laboratory, various modes of transportation, industrial piping scenarios, a simulated radiological release and a confined space event.
    The finale of the Hazmat Challenge is a skills-based obstacle course; teams are graded and earn points based on their ability to perform response skills through a 10-station obstacle course while using fully encapsulating personal protective equipment.