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LANL's Top 10 Science Stories in 2009

Los Alamos National Laboratory has identified the Top 10 Laboratory science stories of 2009 based on global viewership of online media content and major programmatic milestones.

“The baseline experiment captured five time-dependent X-ray images and a variety of data from other diagnostics of pressure, temperature, and timing. This data provides the nation with one of the most rigorous tests of our capability to predict weapons performance.”
“Often our top breakthroughs in terms of scientific impact are also the ones that garner the most attention in the media,” said Terry Wallace, Laboratory principal associate director of science, technology, and engineering. “This was certainly the case for Roadrunner and for the Ardi discovery. Sometimes, the best measure of impact is programmatic, such as the successful DARHT two-axis hydrotest, or our teams using nanotechnology for energy breakthroughs. In combination, this collection of advances points to the diverse capabilities at Los Alamos that we harness for national security science.”

Much of the science and technology at Los Alamos stems from or benefits the Lab’s key national security mission performed for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Top 10 LANL Science Stories for 2009 are:

#1: Roadrunner: The Roadrunner supercomputer at Los Alamos is the first computing system in the world to reach a petaflop, computer jargon for 1 million billion calculations per second, a record that stood for a year and a half. But the real accomplishment is that Roadrunner reached that goal using an entirely new computing architecture.

#2: Ardi: A Los Alamos National Laboratory geologist is part of an international research team responsible for discovering the oldest nearly intact skeleton of Ardipithecus ramidus, who lived 4.4 million years ago.

#3: Climate modeling & monitoring: LANL innovations in high-resolution climate modeling and monitoring led to new insights into the impacts of climate change at global and regional scales.

#4: MagViz: LANL’s MagViz team pioneered the use of modified magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) technology to distinguish and alert airport security staff to potentially dangerous liquids and gels in airport carry-on baggage.

#5: First dual-axis hydrodynamic test: LANL scientists and engineers fired the first-ever double-viewpoint, multiframe hydrodynamic test at DARHT, the Laboratory’s Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility – leading to future experiments at LANL and across the nation’s nuclear security enterprise, supporting the stockpile stewardship and weapons assurance mission.

#6: Hurricane prediction: A system of sensors developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nonproliferation mission has also begun to give meteorologists their most detailed view of the relationship between hurricanes and lightning.

#7: Fuel from plants: Los Alamos National Laboratory has teamed with Solix Biofuels, Inc. to use an award-winning LANL sound-wave technology to optimize production of algae-based fuel in a cost-effective, scalable, and environmentally benign fashion.

#8: IBEX: The invisible structures of space are becoming less so, as scientists look out to the far edges of the solar wind bubble that separates our solar system from the interstellar cloud through which it flies.

#9: Laser-particle acceleration for cancer therapy: Laser-particle acceleration is an emerging area of physics expected to enable significant future advances in cancer radiotherapy. An international team of physicists led by LANL has accelerated protons to world-record high energies that are otherwise only achievable with large accelerator facilities. Proton radiation at the achieved energy range can be used, for example, to treat eye cancer.

#10: Nanotechnology for Energy Frontiers: Two LANL teams were awarded lead roles as DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers to develop new materials for energy.

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