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2000 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 WinnerANDE: Advanced Nondestructive Evaluation System

Features

ANDE is a detector system that uses ultrasonic interferometry and resonance to identify the contents of sealed containers, either through direct contact or from a distance of up to 15 feet. ANDE consists of a sound projector, a laser vibrometer and an electronics package containing a computer, database and transducer system. Other features include the following:

  • identifies contents of sealed containers in less than 30 seconds
  • measures physical properties of contents
  • operates in hazardous environments
  • adapts for characterization of single-drop samples
  • operates over a broad frequency range with high resolution
  • can be used with sensitive materials such as high explosives
  • allows continuous monitoring

Applications

ANDE’s primary application is in the area of national security. It can also be used for law enforcement and environmental monitoring and is easily adapted for industrial and medical applications:

  • identifies all common chemical warfare agents in munitions and storage containers
  • identifies hazardous chemicals in unlabeled containers
  • identifies illicit materials stored inside legal materials
  • accurately determines liquid levels, even in thick-walled tanks
  • monitors water quality inside tanks and pipes
  • detects wall corrosion inside sealed containers
  • determines physical properties of chemicals (e.g., process control in chemical industry)
  • detects contamination and spoilage of foods inside bottles and cans
  • can monitor downhole fluid (oil, brine, etc.) for the petroleum industry
  • tests single-drop pathological and biological samples

Benefits

Almost everyone can benefit from this technology. ANDE can save lives and property by safely identifying real threats, such as chemical warfare agents and other highly toxic chemicals before people and the environment are jeopardized. It can prevent public concern by quickly exposing false threats before they attract attention. ANDE can also improve the quality of life through its medical applications and benefit industry through its numerous commercial applications.

Air-Breather Fuel Cell Stack for Portable Power Applications 

Features

The increasing number of portable electronic devices on the market today—from laptop computers to remote-controlled toys—is creating a demand for improved, more environmentally friendly battery technologies. Until recently, electrochemical fuel cells were too complicated and expensive to meet the need because they required cooling, humidification, and pressurization subsystems to operate. The new Air-Breather Fuel Cell Stack for Portable Power Applications, however, is small, reliable, cost competitive, and requires no peripheral devices. The unit’s only components are the fuel-cell stack itself (a finned, cylindrical device somewhat larger than a D-cell battery) and a small canister (with a miniature pressure regulator) that provides hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen fuel combines with oxygen that diffuses into the stack from the surrounding air. The only products of the Air-Breather are electrical power and water, which serves to maintain the moisture necessary for the unit’s performance. A rechargeable fuel canister lasts three times as long as a conventional battery. And Air-Breathers can easily be ganged together for higher-power applications.

Applications

The Air-Breather is primarily designed for powering portable electrical devices with small power needs, including flashlights, laptop computers, remote-controlled toys and radios.

Benefits

  • Air-Breathers are small, compact, reliable, inexpensive, silent and relatively light.
  • They last at least three times as long as conventional batteries.
  • They are environmentally clean. They produce no byproducts that must be cleaned up, disposed of or stored.
ChemDen: Chemical Denitrification Process

Features

The need for an inexpensive, effective, and robust denitrification process is of global importance. As the world population grows, so does the generation of nitrate waste. Agricultural activity, use of fertilizers, and industrialization have increased the hazards of nitrate pollution, reduced the availability of drinking water, and polluted the world’s waters. Increased demand for denitrification is inevitable. Chemical Denitrification (ChemDen) addresses this need.

Applications

ChemDen transforms nitrates to harmless gaseous nitrogen in a simple, inexpensive chemical process. ChemDen does not require high capital investment, is easy to operate, and is not sensitive to changes in flow, concentration, and temperature of a waste stream. Because the process operates at moderate temperatures and pressures, it is far less energy intensive and, consequently, more cost effective than current nitrate treatment methods. ChemDen is an innovative, simple, inexpensive and robust process to address a challenge of global importance.

  • Eliminates nitrate pollutants produced by steel, fertilizer, paper and explosives industries
  • Eliminates nitrates in agricultural runoff
  • Is an inexpensive, fast way to ensure an unpolluted supply of drinking water
  • Municipalities, restaurants, fisheries and resorts have an inexpensive way to denitrify wastewater and drinking water
  • Can help revive marine “dead zones”

Benefits

  • Does not produce secondary wastes
  • Does not require large capital investment
  • Is not energy intensive
  • Eliminates a significant health and environmental problem
Integrated Focusing Scanner (INFOSCAN)

Features

Our invention, the Integrated Focusing Scanner (INFOSCAN), combines for the first time a dynamic, variable-power focusing lens and a large-angle laser-beam scanner into a single, integrated optical device. The dynamic lens permits adaptable focusing of light to or from an optical fiber or optical storage medium (such as a compact disk) while the beam scanner deflects the beam over a continuous large angle—all in a compact, energy-efficient package with no moving parts. This achievement will enhance a variety of important optical technologies to make them faster, more robust, and less shock-sensitive. In fact, virtually any optical device which incorporates a lens and beam deflector may benefit from the increased flexibility, speed, and stability of the INFOSCAN.

Applications

  • High-speed, high-density optical data storage and retrieval
  • Interconnecting communication and processing networks (both fiber and line-of-sight)
  • Faster, high-resolution laser printing and scanning (bar-code reading)
  • Space-based optical data transfer and communications
  • Accurate target tracking for military purposes
  • Noninvasive biopsy, medical imaging and treatment

Benefits

  • Combines dynamic laser focusing and scanning in a compact, integrated unit
  • Allows motion and vibration compensation in data-transfer and data-storage applications
  • Improves reliability, speed and flexibility of optical communications networks
  • Provides faster, more robust and energy-efficient replacement for mechanical laser-beam-steering components
  • Allows inexpensive, densely packed, parallel arrays of devices to be easily manufactured
Los Alamos Monitor for Air Particulates (LA-MAP)

Features

Our one-of-a-kind, portable Los Alamos Monitor for Air Particulates (LA-MAP) identifies in real time all hazardous elements of the periodic table, both metal and nonmetal. It monitors in situ and continuously, and operates effectively either indoors or outside. Our invention is unique in its ability to tell workers immediately if an industrial operation is exceeding air-particulate standards. LA-MAP is up to a thousand times more sensitive for air-particulate monitoring than the other field methods available. The novel design of the instrument, including miniaturization of many of the parts, enables the device to be the size of a computer monitor and weigh only 55 pounds. LA-MAP will help save lives and prevent debilitating lung disease.

Applications

  • Provides vital real-time, in situ air-particulate monitoring for manufacturing processes
  • Detects hazardous metals and nonmetals present in air particulates
  • Gives people and companies instantaneous feedback on workplace air quality
  • Enables safer, cleaner fabrication of nuclear weapons, missiles, aircraft and satellites
  • Improves air monitoring in civilian manufacturing of certain autos, home tools, computers, golf clubs and bicycles
  • Characterizes air quality for environmental monitoring and pollution control

Benefits

  • Warns workers immediately if air-particulate standards are exceeded
  • Provides tool to prevent chronic beryllium disease, asthma and other lung disabilities
  • Improves workplace environmental conditions
  • Decreases human and financial costs of occupational disease and disability, and saves lives
  • Increases worker productivity and job satisfaction
  • Improves ability to provide a clean environment
Molecular Dynamics Lattice Gas

Features

Our molecular dynamics (MD) lattice gas is a hybrid simulation method that uses a discrete-space approximation to study molecular self-organization and self-assembly processes involving ions, monomers, polymers, polymer aggregates and chemical reactions. By superimposing two three-dimensional (3-D) lattices representing matter and force fields, we have developed a simulation tool that incorporates detailed molecular reactions—e.g., force-field propagation, molecular rotations and chemical reactions—not tracked with conventional lattice gas methods. We have used our algorithms to model the hydrophobic effect, hydrocarbons in water, phase separations, amphiphilic fluids, complex fluids at mineral interfaces, micelle formation and self-reproduction, membrane stability and the dynamics of templating polymers such as RNA and PNA (ribonucleic and peptide nucleic acids).

Applications

Our MD lattice gas is suited to modeling a variety of molecular phenomena such as

  • the dynamics of biomimetic membranes used in state-of-the-art sensors
  • membrane attachment and diffusion processes important to pharmaceutical products
  • rock wettability details important for efficient oil extraction
  • subsurface plutonium transport

In concert with laboratory experiments, our simulation tool is also being used to shed light on the molecular self-assembly and self-organization processes required to bridge nonliving and living matter.

Benefits

Our MD lattice gas fills a modeling gap between traditional MD and lattice gas methods. It thus offers unique computational capabilities for studying complex molecular interactions on nanometer to micrometer length scales and over time scales of nanoseconds to seconds.

Portable DNA Quantifier for Environmental Analysis

Features

The Portable DNA Quantifier (PDQ) for Environmental Analysis is the first field instrument that can rapidly and accurately quantify minute amounts of DNA in soil and biological samples despite the presence of interfering contaminants. We have made this possible by combining ultraviolet- and visible-light absorption and fluorescence in one unit. The PDQ also incorporates novel software that infallibly directs an operator through the sample preparation process, thereby ensuring the most-accurate detection and measurement of the DNA. The software then delivers the results in precise, detailed data tables.

Applications

  • Hazardous-materials assessment by first-responders and their associated “fly-away laboratories” to ascertain the presence or threat of a biological release
  • Investigative operations for sampling soil to detect potential biological warfare agents in or around facilities—for military or attribution activities
  • On-site crime-scene analysis of DNA from blood, semen, bone, or other sources
  • Pathogen detection in the agriculture/food industry (e.g., the meatpacking industry)
  • Molecular biology applications, including the quantification of DNA yields, DNA fragments for subcloning, DNA amplification products and DNA contamination in drug preparation
  • Optimization of polymerase-chain-reaction conditions in any lab practicing genetic analysis techniques
  • Multifunctional instructional aid for university laboratories

Benefits

  • Reduces time needed to quantify DNA in contaminated samples
  • Requires minimal training for successful operation
  • Provides precise, easily understood results
  • Achieves laboratory flexibility and results with a field-portable unit
  • Precludes chain-of-custody issues related to crime-scene evidence
  • Allows rapid response to releases of toxic biological substances
Proton Radiography

Features

Our technique produces radiographs of solid objects using protons instead of x-rays. Up to 14 radiographs—each with submicrosecond resolution—can be taken in rapid succession to create movies of fast events such as detonations. Eventually, three-dimensional (3-D) movies of an object’s internal structure with hundreds to thousands of frames may be possible. The technique can also measure very small density changes, identify the elemental composition of an object and provide magnified views of an object. Protons can also be detected more efficiently than x-rays can. In addition, the distances in which protons are attenuated in a thick, dense object can be closely matched to the object’s dimensions.

Applications

Proton radiography movies can be used to study the performance of internal combustion engines, jet turbines, high explosives and nuclear weapons. Proton radiographs can also be used for medical imaging.

Benefits

  • Shows how a fast event such as a detonation evolves
  • Permits images to be made of shock fronts or combustion waves within metal containers
  • Helps identify individual parts of complex metal objects such as engines and weapon systems
  • Has the potential to make 3-D movies of the internal structure of fast events
  • Reduces the health risks associated with existing medical x-rays by producing medical images at low proton doses
  • Produces radiographs of thick, dense objects with high information content
QTL Biosensors: Luminescent, Conjugated-Polymer-Based Detection

Features

The quencher-tether ligand (QTL) luminescent biosensor is a breakthrough tool based on a new science. It detects biological molecules through a quenched-fluorescence-recovery approach. The high sensitivity of certain fluorescent polymers to quenching is a recent discovery and represents a new field of scientific inquiry. This high quenching sensitivity has been captured in the design of the QTL biosensor.

Applications

In tests, the QTL biosensor has successfully detected avidin, streptavidin, and cholera toxin, all proteins. These tests have proved the extensibility and range of its capabilities, and QTL Biosystems LLC, a startup company we formed based on the innovative technology, is working to develop and market the detection capabilities of the QTL biosensor. Because of its portability, robustness, sensitivity and flexibility, the biosensor has the potential to revolutionize biomedical research and open new frontiers in biotechnology and medicine. It can rapidly detect and identify biological and chemical agents such as viruses, bacteria, proteins and chemical and biological warfare agents. In addition to sensing and medical diagnostics, it shows tremendous promise for the development of new products for pharmaceutical and biomedical research and for monitoring biological functions such as immune system response.

Benefits

  • Simple to operate—little or no training required
  • Great flexibility—a wide variety of biological and chemical agents can be detected, including previously undetectable molecules
  • Comparable sensitivity to the best currently available techniques with much greater simplicity and ruggedness
  • Instantaneous response (results in less than 1 second, compared with an hour for competing methods)
  • Inexpensive equipment—QTL instrument costs less than $2,000, closest competitor costs at least $50,000
  • Small—single detection units could potentially be the size of a scientific calculator
  • Applicable to both large and small biomolecules
Radiation Litmus Paper

Features

In a simple, unambiguous manner, Radiation Litmus Paper warns its wearer of radiation danger as the exposure occurs. The solution visible in the transparent viewing window dramatically changes color when the amount of radiation reaches a predetermined dose level, and those levels can be set over a large dynamic range. Radiation Litmus Paper is sturdy and lightweight, making it practical for use in a wide variety of field situations. Unlike other dosimetry methods, it is a stand-alone product that requires no additional instrumentation or power source. Once activated, it continues to deliver real-time, accurate readings for up to 24 hours. The cost per unit of Radiation Litmus Paper makes it an attractive alternative for people like emergency response personnel who need dosimetry only occasionally.

Applications

  • Provides real-time exposure data to emergency response personnel who unexpectedly encounter hazardous radiation situations
  • Allows radiologists and nuclear medicine professionals to work up to their prescribed radiation limits without exceeding them
  • Informs patients treated with iodine-131 when the radiation dose they are emitting has decreased enough to avoid endangering family members by proximity
  • Detects radon gas in homes or offices
  • Provides independent information and inexpensive peace of mind for neighbors of nuclear facilities

Benefits

  • Offers a combination of features unmatched by any other dosimetry method
  • Provides instant visual readings in a clear and unambiguous manner
  • Eliminates the need for extensive radiation training
  • Has a long shelf life, allowing the consumer to use it at a moment’s notice without wondering about batteries or calibration
  • Uses chemicals that are completely nontoxic and environmentally benign
Spent Fuel Coincidence Counter (SFCC)

Features

The Spent Fuel Coincidence Counter (SFCC) is the only nondestructive assay device that measures the plutonium content of spent-fuel assemblies. The SFCC will enable managers of nuclear breeder reactors to account for their spent fuel quickly and accurately, which means they will be able to protect plutonium from proliferation activities.

Applications

  • Measures plutonium content of breeder-reactor spent fuel
  • Measures plutonium content of fresh mixed-oxide fuel

Benefits

  • Plutonium measurements are quick and accurate
  • Computer interface makes the collection and analysis of data easy
  • Reduces the probability that weapons-grade plutonium will be diverted to nonpeaceful uses
TeleMed: Virtual Medical Record System

Features

An internet-based client/server software application, TeleMed draws patient data from widely distributed data repositories to build a virtual medical record (the graphical patient record, or GPR) on an authorized physician’s computer. The GPR is multimedia, combining textual records and radiological images that may have been generated over time in many different institutions. TeleMed displays all elements of the medical record along a time line and makes full data accessible through clickable icons and pull-down menus. An edit mode allows the user to create or modify a record or annotate it by attaching text or audio observations. TeleMed is written in Java programming language and is an implementation of the open interface standards developed by CORBAmed, the Object Management Group’s healthcare task force. Public-key encryption allows TeleMed to certify the authenticity of all users and secure all data transfers.

Applications

  • Managing the care of individual patients, especially those with chronic illnesses that require long-term observation and treatment (e.g., drug-resistant tuberculosis)
  • Conducting remote medical consultations between primary-care physicians and specialists to speed diagnosis and treatment decisions
  • Tracking immunizations to ensure widespread protection against vaccine-preventable diseases
  • Managing clinical trials on new pharmaceuticals
  • Tracking diseases in the population while preserving patient anonymity (TeleMed can separate patient identities from clinical data.)
  • Compiling case studies for use in medical training

Benefits

  • Runs on any platform—Windows PC, Macintosh, UNIX (including Linux)—and on both relational and object-oriented databases
  • Requires no administration—can run on a removable flash memory card
  • Reaches a broad audience through open interface standards and Internet implementation—ultimately extensible worldwide
  • Enables simultaneous data access by multiple users
  • Eliminates laborious reviews of poorly organized hard-copy records, saving time and money
  • Protects patient identity and data integrity through public-key encryption
Thermal Ionization Cavity (TIC) Ion Source for Mass Spectrometry

Features

  • Can increase ionization efficiency 10 to 100 times over that of conventional ion sources
  • Provides direct isotopic analysis without dissolution or pretreatment of samples
  • Provides simultaneous isotope ratio analyses for multiple elements
  • Offers rapid, field-based analysis of refractory particulates
  • Interfaces with fast, efficient, robust portable mass spectrometers
  • Provides capability for precise, on-site thermal ionization analysis

Applications

Because the TIC ion source is an effective on-site isotope ratio screening tool, there is considerable interest from nonproliferation agencies, which need a rapid method for the determination of isotope ratios in nuclear particles. Applications important to those concerned with commercial and academic geological and environmental science include

  • process control, quality control and other nuclear and chemical industry concerns
  • teaching and studies carried on in smaller college and university laboratories
  • determination of heavy-element or nuclear contamination in water, soil and air
  • studies of metal bioavailability in mammals and ultratrace metals in animal tissues
  • numerous geological applications such as ascertaining geological ages, providing data for paleoclimate reconstructions, studying subsurface radionuclide transport and hazards assessment

Benefits

Users of the TIC ion source will enjoy many benefits from improvements over traditional techniques for acquiring thermal ionization data. They will likely appreciate most (a) the reduced sample size for convenience and when material is scant and (b) the enormous savings in time realized from the simple preparation of samples, from the multiple-element analysis and fast throughput, and from the on-site capability. Users will also benefit from high performance, ease of use and low cost. In addition, the TIC source will extend the use of thermal ionization analysis and make the process available to researchers in small laboratories.

Tomographic Gamma Scanning (TGS) System

Features

Tomographic gamma scanning (TGS) accurately measures gamma-ray-emitting radioisotopes in large samples containing heterogeneous material, such as residues from nuclear material processing facilities. Transmission-corrected, gamma-ray emission computerized tomography is used to determine the location and quantity of selected radioisotopes within sealed containers that hold up to 83 gallons. High-resolution gamma-ray spectroscopy is used in both transmission and emission computerized tomography scanning modes to allow accurate measurements of gamma-ray peaks in complex spectra.

Applications

  • Assays radioisotopes arbitrarily distributed in heterogeneous matrix material
  • Examines residues from weapons-production facilities to meet requirements for nuclear material safeguards
  • Measures transuranic waste to meet the acceptance criteria for disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
  • Locates gamma-ray-emitting materials inside sealed containers to facilitate repackaging operations
  • Assesses medical and nuclear reactor waste products

Benefits

The TGS system is a versatile, nondestructive assay technique that benefits nuclear safeguards and waste management operations by improving performance and reducing costs. TGS systems play a significant role in closing and decommissioning Department of Energy nuclear facilities, replacing lower-throughput methods such as calorimetric assay. TGS systems reliably meet performance requirements for characterizing transuranic waste. The imaging capability of TGS systems facilitates repackaging operations and reduces exposure to personnel. Because the performance of TGS systems is insensitive to matrix composition, TGS systems can be used in numerous applications. The versatility and accuracy of the technique is unprecedented.

TRANSIMS: Transportation Analysis and Simulation System

Features

TRANSIMS creates a virtual metropolitan region with a comprehensive representation of its population, the population’s activities and the transportation infrastructure. Building upon these factors, TRANSIMS simulates the movement of individuals across the transportation network, including their second-by-second use of vehicles. This virtual world of travelers mimics the traveling and driving behavior of real people in the region. It captures the travelers’ responses to conditions of the transportation system. For example, when a trip takes too long, individuals find other routes, select alternative transportation modes (e.g., car pools or buses), leave at different times or decide to stay at home or at the office during peak hours.

Applications

  • Enables city planners and analysts to predict the effects of transportation infrastructure changes, from a new traffic light to the construction of a new transit system
  • Predicts the reliability of the transportation infrastructure for meeting traveler day-to-day expectations
  • Calculates environmental and other effects, such as emissions estimates, energy consumption, traffic congestion and the transportation infrastructure’s effect on quality of life, productivity and the economy

Benefits

  • Simulates the executed travel of individuals, thus ensuring a realistic model of real-world patterns and events
  • Incorporates feedback, which enables the TRANSIMS travelers to “learn” and adapt their “behavior” for predicted conditions
  • Adds new and better measures of effectiveness, such as system reliability, improved equity analyses, and improved emissions estimates to assess the performance of transportation system changes
  • Saves local, state and federal governments time and money because they can use TRANSIMS to determine the effects before implementing a change in the real world

2000 Other Award Submissions

  • Automated Video-Microscopic Imaging and Data Acquisition System
  • Dynamic Crystalline Phase Detection (DCPD)
  • Electroexploded Metal Nanoparticles R&D Winner
  • Optical Pharmacokinetics System: Noninvasive In Vivo Measurement of Drug Concentrations in Tissue

R&D Winner = Winner


Innovations for a secure nation

Lab team makes unique contributions to the first bionic eye

Lab team makes unique contributions to the first bionic eye

The Argus II will help people blinded by the rare hereditary disease retinitis pigmentosa or seniors suffering from severe macular degeneration.

» All Innovations

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