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LANL

1997 R&D 100 Award Submissions

Discoveries, developments, advancements and inventions pouring from Los Alamos make America—and the world—a better and safer place and bolster national security.
R&D WinnerASR Detect™: Diagnostic Method for Analyzing Degrading Concrete

Features

  • Identifies alkali-silica reaction (ASR) in concrete through colorful, easy-to-interpret staining of two ASR gels
  • Differentiates ASR from other causes of degradation with ASR-specific reagents
  • Eliminates need for special equipment and extensive training
  • Diagnoses ASR deterioration in time for remediation that forestalls structural repairs or replacements
  • Reveals proximity of ASR to different aggregate components
  • Avoids the radioactive materials of other diagnostic methods
  • Provides reliable diagnosis in less than five minutes for less than $1 per concrete sample

Applications

  • Analyzing the integrity of concrete in structures such as highways, bridges, dams, railroad ties and culverts on the site
  • Finding ASR before structures are irreparably damaged
  • Identifying aggregate components triggering ASR
  • Evaluating concrete mix designs for ASR potential
  • Expanding studies of all factors associated with ASR’s occurrence

Benefits

  • Allows many structures to be tested quickly
  • Opens the door to discovering and eliminating widespread degradation in the nation’s infrastructure
  • Eliminates expensive repairs and replacements by identifying ASR early enough for remediation
  • Enables research into improved concrete mixes and better remediation treatments
  • Supports efforts to develop ASR-free concrete for the future
R&D WinnerDryWashT™

Features

DryWash™ is a fast, nontoxic dry-cleaning process based on liquid carbon dioxide (CO2) that is applied through high-speed fluid jets. Liquid CO2 is an odorless, nonflammable, nonhazardous solvent that effectively removes oils, sweat and dirt from a wide variety of fabrics. Both efficient and environmentally friendly, DryWash is the needed replacement for the hazardous dry-cleaning methods currently used.

Applications

DryWash cleans most linens, throw rugs and everyday or fine garments—even furs, leathers, suedes and items with sequins. It can be used worldwide by retail dry cleaners, hotels, military installations, corporate facilities, nursing homes and hospitals. Future applications include dishwashing and decontaminating machined parts. Eventually, small-scale versions of DryWash may be used in homes for cleaning laundry and dishes.

Benefits

  • Uses a nonflammable, nontoxic, inexhaustible solvent
  • Does not deplete the ozone or pollute the ground water
  • Helps the dry-cleaning industry comply with federal and state environmental regulations because the process minimizes hazardous wastes and emissions
  • Cleans in half the time required for conventional dry-cleaning processes
  • Reduces dry-cleaning costs by lowering energy consumption,
    run times and labor costs
  • Reduces soil redeposition on fabrics, or graying, leaving laundered garments bright and clean
Falcon: Breakthrough Software for Simulating Oil ReservoirsR&D Winner

Features

  • Enables high-accuracy modeling of large, economically important oil fields by using a novel linear-equation solver
  • First-ever fully implicit reservoir simulator scalable to thousands of processors
  • First oil reservoir simulator to harness the power of high-end parallel computer technologies for industrial use
  • Allows quantitative assessment of predictive variability resulting from inconclusive geological data
  • Enables best- and worst-case economic analyses of oil and gas fields
  • Calculates “what if” operational scenarios for reservoirs

Applications

  • High-accuracy modeling of large fields with complex physics
  • Decision-making in formulating oil recovery strategies and schedules
  • Planning of facilities at production sites
  • Appraising property for making leasing decisions for oil fields
  • Developing long-term economic strategies for oil recovery
  • Simulating underground pollutant dispersion

Benefits

  • Enables, for the first time, high-speed, fully implicit simulations of complex fields
  • More accurate production estimates for large oil fields that produce over half of the world’s oil
  • Faster turnaround time for predictive reservoir studies
  • Better risk assessment and estimation of uncertainties from reservoir simulation predictions
  • One hundred times faster than other simulators
  • Improved yield from primary and secondary oil and gas recovery operations
  • Improved oil field production
  • Better manufacturing capabilities from improved industrial modeling and simulation
Plasma Source Ion Implantation for Enhancing Materials SurfacesR&D Winner

Features

With our Plasma Source Ion Implantation (PSII) process, nitrogen or carbon ions are implanted into metallic surfaces to improve the surface hardness and wear characteristics of components for automobiles, aircraft, machine tools and prosthetics, without requiring elevated target temperatures or employing carcinogenic or hazardous chemicals. PSII can also be used to enhance the adhesion of coatings applied to targets in an integrated plasma-based process. PSII provides the ability to enhance the surfaces of either large, complex parts weighing many tons or large numbers of individual components, leading to decreased treatment times and dramatic reductions in processing costs (compared with conventional ion beam implantation costs).

Applications

  • Low-temperature surface hardening of chromium-plated dies, industrial tooling and other high-precision components for increased component lifetimes and decreased manufacturing downtime
  • Surface treatment of aluminum and magnesium components for improved wear lifetime
  • Surface treatment for enhanced coating adhesion without the use of chemically hazardous pretreatments or interlayers

Benefits

  • Makes benefits of ion implantation practical by dramatically reducing treatment costs and complexity
  • Can be applied to large components or large batches of small components
  • Increases lifetime of treated components by up to 50 times
  • Produces no hazardous effluent
  • Can reduce the effluent from chromium-plating processes
  • Opens new areas of surface-treatment capabilities for lightweight alloys (e.g., aluminum and magnesium)
  • Creates new market area (estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars)
Rapid Size Analysis of Individual DNA Fragments R&D Winner

Features

Our analytical technique measures the size of individual DNA fragments by means of a derivative of flow cytometry. Analysis rates approaching 100 fragments per second allow enough data to be collected in 3 minutes to accurately determine the DNA fragment size distribution in a sample. Although capable of measuring fragments as small as 212 base pairs, the technique is best suited to analyzing fragments greater than 10,000 base pairs in length.

Applications

Our technology will find applications in both research and clinical laboratories for

  • identifying bacterial strains in epidemiological studies
  • determining antibiotic resistance
  • detecting mutations
  • controlling the quality of large insert clone libraries for human genome studies
  • analyzing restriction fragments
  • characterizing polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products

Benefits

The benefits of our technology over existing analytical techniques are in

  • measurement speed (3 minutes versus 20 hours)
  • accuracy (2% versus 10%)
  • linear response (versus compressed migration in electrophoresis)
  • resolution (equals that of electrophoresis in the range of 20,000–30,000 base pairs and is greater for larger fragments)
  • sample size (picograms versus micrograms)
  • quantitative analysis (provides direct counts of fragments versus an indirect measurement based on calibration)
  • independence from DNA conformation (measures both linear and circular DNA)
Automated Chemical Analysis System

Features

  • Uses an automated system to process soil samples for the detection of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a group of hazardous chemicals targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Standardizes laboratory chemistry, thereby yielding consistent interlaboratory results
  • Automates analytical chemistry, thereby improving process time, minimizing worker exposure to potentially hazardous materials and lowering laboratory costs
  • Incorporates “plug-and-play” technology into laboratory system configurations and component integration
  • Incorporates computational data interpretation and storage, which minimize skilled technical staff time and mounds of paperwork
  • Processes and analyzes samples at the site (mobile system transported in a custom 18-wheeled semi-trailer truck)
  • Manages samples and data flow through the systemApplications
  • Characterizes soil samples to detect PCBs
  • Accelerates the removal of hazardous waste from government and industrial sites, thus expediting waste minimization, waste management and environmental restoration efforts
  • Supports mandatory environmental site-monitoring activities
  • Contributes to standardizing analytical characterization and sampling methodologies

Benefits

  • Processes 30 samples in a 24-hour period
  • Reduces cost of sample analysis by as much as 50%
  • Minimizes operator error and enhances worker safety
  • Conducts analyses on-site, thereby eliminating the cost and safety precautions necessary to transport samples to a distant laboratory
  • Reduces costly data interpretation time and cumbersome paper files and associated paperwork
  • Collects all waste solvents and samples for recycle or disposal
  • Cleans itself, thereby eliminating cross-contamination and reducing down-time
Automatically Controlled Three-Phase Centrifuge

Features

The Automatically Controlled Three-Phase Centrifuge is a successful union between an ingeniously designed centrifuge and an “intelligent” fuzzy controller emulating human expert knowledge in running the machine. Developed for immediate field needs and used on a portable computer, the fuzzy model automates control of a complex, nonlinear, multivariable process for environmental cleanup and oil recovery. It also significantly improves an already successful centrifuge operation.

Applications

  • Enables worldwide use of a process that separates oil field and oil refinery wastes (oil- water-solid emulsions often classified as hazardous) into salable oil, reusable water, and harmless solids
  • Can be used to efficiently clean up oil spills that cause serious environmental problems
  • Can be used in separation processes carried out in the steel industry
  • An “intelligent” fuzzy controller such as the one used with the centrifuge is applicable to nonlinear systems that depend on expert knowledge

Benefits

  • Allows operator to change process limits easily.
  • Reduces man-hours per job, on-site time, and training time.
  • Improves quality control of oil recovered from sludge.
  • Enables worldwide use of a separation process that has a 100 percent rate of success.
  • Can be modified to include additional capabilities such as safety and environmental features or new parameters for the separation process.
Detector for Noninvasive Fluid Characterization

Features

The Detector for Noninvasive Fluid Characterization is the first instrument that characterizes materials by determining their physical properties in a single swept-frequency measurement that takes less than 20 seconds. The detector also identifies a large number of liquids inside sealed containers, monitors mixtures, emulsions and concentration variations, and analyzes biomedical samples as small as one drop. Easy to hold with one hand, our detector is highly suited to field use in a whole range of applications.

Applications

  • Identifies hazardous chemicals contained in unlabeled storage tanks
  • Identifies the octane rating of gasoline
  • Accurately and noninvasively determines liquid levels even in thick-walled tanks
  • Provides feedback information on the physical properties of chemicals (for example, concentration of solutions, mixtures, and emulsions), which makes it ideally suited for process control in the chemical industry
  • Identifies all common chemical warfare compounds and their most significant precursors in munitions and industrial containers
  • Monitors and detects contamination and spoilage in food
  • Rapidly tests single-drop pathological and biological samples
  • Can be adapted for diagnosing osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Detects corrosion and depositions inside sealed vessels

Benefits

  • Operates over a broad frequency range with high resolution
  • Characterizes materials directly by determining their physical properties
  • Eliminates the risk of human exposure to hazardous materials
  • Uses the container cavity as a high-quality resonator to amplify the acoustic wave 100 to 1,000 times; therefore, it requires very low power (less than 1 volt)
  • Combines the capabilities of several instruments in one, while being portable for field use
ERUPT: Comprehensive Volcano SimulatorFeatures

Features

  • Provides graphical simulation of almost all known types of volcanic activity in real-time animations
  • Transforms supercomputer modeling capabilities into an easy-to-use PC program
  • Allows high level of parameter control through intuitive graphical interface suitable for all computer skill levels
  • Builds color-coded, two-dimensional cross section of resulting layers of volcanic products
  • Illustrates cumulative landscape effects of separate vent locations and separately timed eruptions
  • Includes erosion and seismic faulting
  • Offers multimedia capability for inclusion of volcanic sounds

Applications

  • Education for grades K through 12
  • Advanced studies for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Public education for civil defense—raising public awareness in areas that would be directly affected by eruptions
  • Prediction of the potential eruption effects at existing volcanoes
  • Research by postgraduates and professional volcanologists—testing hypotheses about the evolution of existing volcanoes

Benefits

  • Makes comprehensive volcano modeling accessible to everyone
  • Presents calculational results as colorful animations easily understood by everyone
  • Educates by offering information otherwise available only through first-hand observation of active volcanoes
  • Captures the interest of students of all ages with dramatic realism
  • Raises public awareness of volcano hazards by illustrating the possible effects of future eruptions
FacSim—A Facility Simulation Program for Nuclear Material Processing

Features

FacSim is an object-oriented program that models the operation of nuclear material processing facilities. It provides detailed calculations of the locations, amounts, and types of nuclear materials in a processing stream over time. These calculations are needed to both evaluate and enhance international nuclear safeguards.

Applications

  • Evaluate and optimize nuclear material safeguards at
    • Nuclear fuel reprocessing plants
    • Nuclear fuel fabrication facilities
    • Nuclear weapons disassembly facilities
  • Simulate diversion scenarios for testing anomaly-detection algorithms
  • Evaluate the safety, risk and material accounting measures for essentially all material processing operations in the nuclear fuel cycle

Benefits

In the near future, tens of metric tons of plutonium from nuclear fuel reprocessing and weapons dismantlement will enter the global energy economy each year. Ensuring that effective international safeguards are applied to this material to prevent its diversion for nuclear weapons poses a major challenge for the International Atomic Energy Agency. FacSim is a powerful tool for evaluating and optimizing nuclear safeguards to ensure that the expanding nuclear energy market does not increase the risk of nuclear diversion.

FASTAC: UV System for Controlling Bacteria in Opaque Fluids

Features

FASTAC is a system that reduces and controls bacteria levels in opaque industrial fluids and turbid water without the use of chemical biocides. A novel combination of an intense source of monochromatic ultraviolet (UV) light and a specially designed flow chamber, FASTAC is the only UV system available that can treat opaque fluids, and it is the first technology that offers a safe and efficient replacement for the toxic chemicals currently used to treat fluids. Additionally, FASTAC provides the first UV system that may be cost-effective for treating large volumes of fluid.

Applications

  • Reducing and controlling bacteria levels in opaque metalworking fluids in order to minimize health hazards for the millions of automotive, aerospace, farm-equipment, construction-equipment, and machine-shop workers exposed to fluid mists.
  • Treating contaminated ballast water on commercial cargo ships and tankers in order to reduce the number of harmful, nonindigenous species introduced into U.S. waters.
  • Decontaminating aquaculture systems, wastewater, cooling towers, process water and drinking water.

Benefits

  • Efficiently treats large volumes of highly opaque fluids or turbid water
  • Emits a UV wavelength that kills microorganisms without breaking down industrial fluids; the UV source can also be tuned to emit wavelengths appropriate for other liquids
  • Eliminates the need for chemical biocides, thereby reducing health risks for over 1.3 million industrial workers, extending the lifetime of the fluids and lowering the volume of hazardous waste produced
  • Provides more energy-efficient and effective treatment of wastewater and process water than conventional UV technologies
  • Costs less than conventional UV treatment systems or chemical biocides, in spite of the initial investment
High-Temperature Superconducting, High-Gradient Magnetic Separation (HTS HGMS)

Features

Our high-temperature superconducting, high-gradient magnetic separation (HTS HGMS) system removes pollutants from solids, liquids, and gases. Because it is a physical separation process, no additional chemicals are required, which means the system introduces no pollution of its own. By using an HTS magnet to enable separation, we have developed a small, lightweight, portable HGMS system that is easy to operate and maintain. It can be used by industry for waste minimization and pollution prevention and by DOE to clean up polluted sites and process nuclear materials.

Applications

  • Decontamination of soils or waste water that contains radioactive isotopes, heavy metals or other hazardous materials
  • Purification of drinking water supplies
  • Kaolin clay processing
  • Purification of feed stocks and raw materials
  • Desulfurization of coal
  • Utilization of low-grade ore reserves
  • Recovery of valuable mineral oxides and metals

Benefits

  • Enables small-scale portable separation of paramagnetic compounds for decontamination or resource recovery
  • Easy to install, operate and maintain because of its compact refrigeration system
  • Allows high-gradient magnetic separation to be used in the field to clean up contaminated soil and water
Loki: Parallel Supercomputing with Commodity Components

Features

Loki is a parallel computer built entirely from high-volume, personal computer technology. Commodity parallel processors based on the Loki design can provide any organization with general-purpose supercomputing capability for less than one-third the price of its nearest competitor. All software components of the machine are based upon on the Posix-compliant Linux/GNU operating system, and all source-code software is provided, which allows customers to adapt the operating system to their specific needs. Our use of an optimized version of the industry-standard message-passing interface library provides enhanced parallel programming capabilities.

Applications

  • Provides general-purpose supercomputing capabilities for research, engineering, and business organizations
  • Performs computationally intensive modeling and simulation in computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis of thermal and mechanical properties, electromagnetics and other technical disciplines
  • Provides network server capabilities for management information systems, information transmission for Internet and intranet operations, Web indexing and large-scale databases such as medical records keeping

Benefits

  • Provides users with dedicated, easy access to fast and efficient supercomputing capabilities
  • Involves low hardware maintenance costs
  • Consists of a flexible architecture that allows customers to buy only those resources required for their particular problem
  • Takes advantage of a standard PC/PCI architecture. Users can add PCI devices to each node to augment the computation or communication capabilities of the machine. As a result, individual system components may be upgraded without rendering the rest of the system obsolete
  • Allows users to adapt the operating system to their specific needs (because the source code can be modified)
MDH-1000: Hydrogen Purification System

Features

The MDH-1000 can produce hydrogen with a purity greater than 99.9999 percent from commercial gas cylinders (reagent-grade hydrogen typically has a purity of 94.6 percent) or from other impure hydrogen sources. The heart of the MDH-1000 is a metal membrane that separates hydrogen from other gases—with minimal auxilliary equipment—at flow rates over 10 times greater than that of any other hydrogen filter. The membrane is robust and has a long operational life. Moreover, the materials in the membrane are inexpensive. The MDH-1000 unit itself has several safety features that help to reduce the hazards of working with hydrogen.

Applications

  • Ultrapure hydrogen is used to purify the silicon that goes into microelectronic devices. Increasingly, ultrapure hydrogen is also used to produce high-purity iron and steel, which have the superior magnetic properties that are required for high-efficiency electric motors, alternators, and generators. The MDH-1000 does not only provide ultrapure hydrogen for these applications, but it can also recover the hydrogen used in them or the hydrogen produced in other industrial processes.
  • In the future, ultrapure hydrogen will be needed for proton-exchange membrane fuel cells to generate electricity at central and remote power plants. Ultrapure hydrogen also has the potential to replace the fossil fuels now used to power automobiles.

Benefits

  • About $160 million per year can be saved by using the membrane technology employed by the MDH-1000 to produce ultrapure hydrogen for purifying the silicon used in microelectronic devices made throughout the world.
  • On-site production of hydrogen from methane or methanol is particularly important in Europe, where there are restrictions on transporting large quantities of hydrogen. Therefore, the MDH-1000 can play an important role in Europe.
  • Proton-exchange membrane fuel cells—the most promising type of fuel cell for electric vehicles—require ultrapure hydrogen to operate efficiently. The MDH-1000 provides this purity at much lower cost than other sources, improving the economic viability of many fuel-cell applications. Using ultrapure hydrogen in fuel cells to power automobiles would eliminate the pollution now produced by fossil fuels and reduce worldwide dependence on fossil fuels.
Nanoporous Polymers: "Magic Materials" for Water Purification

Features

  • Clean organic compounds in water to parts-per-trillion levels
  • Generate a binding between organic contaminants and the polymer that is 100,000 times greater than that generated by activated carbon, the most commonly used absorbent
  • Consists of reversible, selective, and efficient absorbents
  • Work equally well in water or air
  • Eliminate the need for activation—the “turn on” process
  • Easy to manufacture—one step away from commercially available materials
  • Can be fabricated as granular solids, powders, and membranes
  • Do not leach organic contamination during the treatment process

Applications

  • Separate organic contamination from water, thereby preserving municipal water supplies (e.g., remove hazardous organic compounds from drinking water)
  • Recycle industrial waste water by using a continuous on-line process (e.g., clean up toxic organics at nuclear waste sites)
  • Clean up oil or organic chemical spills, especially in water (e.g., tanker spills in oceans)
  • Remediate in situ hazardous organics in underground water (e.g., remove DNAPLs, or dense nonaqueous phase liquids, from water)
  • Clean up organic explosives (such as TNT) at Department of Energy and Department of Defense sites
  • Can be used as optical materials (e.g., laser safety goggles) and catalysts
  • Can be used in much the same way as biological enzymes (e.g., enzymes for various hydrolysis reactions)

Benefits

  • Supply high-quality water, thereby improving people’s living standards
  • Save and conserve valuable resources by recycling both the water and the polymeric materials used to purify it
  • Reduce organic pollution in water (parts-per-trillion levels)
  • Decrease cleanup costs because the polymeric materials can be used again and again
  • Curtail filtration time by using nanoporous membranes
Quantum Cryptographic Key Generator

Features

The Quantum Cryptographic Key Generator produces and distributes digital keys that can be used to encode and decode messages between two parties separated by up to 100 kilometers. A key is generated and distributed only at the time that the messages are sent, and the key and the message can both be transmitted on the fiber-optic cables currently used by telephone companies worldwide. The quantum properties of the key generator detect and foil any attempt to steal or copy a key.

Applications

  • The key generator can provide secure communications in metropolitan areas between banks, between off-site stock-trading centers and central stock exchanges, between corporate offices and between offices of federal agencies such as the FBI or the National Security Agency.
  • In the near future the key generator could provide secure communications—using a low-Earth-orbit satellite—between cities anywhere in the world.

Benefits

  • The key cannot be cracked, stolen, or copied—attempts to do so can be detected.
  • The key is invulnerable to computer attack.
  • The key generator could secure confidential electronic fund transfers—now amounting to $2.3 trillion per day worldwide.
  • The key generator could permit certification of public keys for Internet transactions—projected to be a $50 billion per year industry within 10 years.
RCSD: Remote Container-Sampling Device

Features

  • Opens, samples, neutralizes and vents containers filled with unstable or unknown hazardous materials
  • Handles containers of various shapes and sizes (from spray cans to 80-gallon drums)
  • Punctures containers by using an internal piston and air pressure, thus reducing the possibility of spontaneous ignition
  • Functions from a remote location (as far away as 100 feet), thus ensuring operator safety
  • Adapts to conventional emergency response equipment

Applications

  • Opens unstable, pressurized or unknown containers during emergency response activities
  • Samples, vents, neutralizes or transfers chemical contents from damaged containers to new containers
  • Benefits the following potential users:
    • hazardous materials teams
    • fire and police departments
    • hazardous device teams (for example, bomb squads)
    • environmental restoration teams
    • waste site remediation crews

Benefits

  • Enables personnel to operate the device from a safe location (up to 100 feet from the hazardous material container)
  • Reduces the possibility of spontaneous ignition through the use of a self-contained breathing apparatus air cylinder that provides a compressed-air power source
  • Limits the number of employees typically required to work in close proximity to a pressurized drum or hazardous chemical container
  • Reduces the amount of equipment used during an operation, thereby diminishing potential fragments (shrapnel) in the event of an explosion
  • Reduces emergency response costs by conducting operations on-site with fewer people
ROAM: Real-Time Optimally Adapting Meshes

Features

Our ROAM software package

  • functions as a terrain database server for real-time applications, such as flight simulation, virtual reality and sensor testing and evaluation
  • provides scene generation systems with very accurate terrain geometries
  • maintains real-time rates regardless of the size of the gaming area or the resolution of the underlying database
  • answers terrain-specific queries in real time (e.g., is there a clear line-of-sight between specific positions?); these answers are exact (i.e., correct for the finest level-of-detail data)
  • allows databases to be reused across different hardware platforms and gaming scenarios
  • allows databases to be produced automatically from standard geographical datasets

Applications

  • Flight simulation and avionics testing
  • Video games
  • Virtual reality that involves terrain (for example, large-scale environmental or geophysical modeling)

Benefits

ROAM software

  • uses portable terrain databases that are automatically produced from standard datasets—a process that saves time and money
  • produces high-quality terrain using remarkably few graphics resources (polygons), thereby freeing resources for other uses (such as rendering targets or backgrounds)
  • produces quantitatively accurate terrain geometry with an error-metric output, which is important for test and evaluation applications
  • guarantees that independent, noncommunicating simulations can achieve consistent results

1997 Other Award Submission

High Performance Storage SystemR&D Winner

R&D Winner = Winner


Innovations for a secure nation

Novel rocket design flight tested

Novel rocket design flight tested

The new rocket fuel and motor design adds a higher degree of safety by separating the fuel from the oxidizer, both novel formulations that are, by themselves, not able to detonate.

» All Innovations

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