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2002 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 Winner GENIE: Evolving Feature-Extraction Algorithms for Image Analysis

Features

GENIE (GENetic Imagery Exploitation) mimics evolution in order to create more-effective algorithms for detecting features in digital images produced by a variety of remote-sensing techniques. GENIE assembles an initial set of low-level image-processing algorithms (e.g., edge detectors, texture measures and spectral operators) and then tests each algorithm’s ability to find the feature of interest. The “less fit” algorithms are discarded; the “more fit” ones are combined to produce superior ones. After several generations of survival of the fittest, the resulting algorithm is highly optimized. Although features and imagery constantly change, GENIE’s ability to evolve superior algorithms allows it to find the features of interest in nearly any set of images.

Applications

GENIE can be used to

  • map damage caused by wildfires, snowstorms, tornados, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes or terrorist attacks
  • monitor environmental changes or crop health
  • track population growth
  • detect signs of disease in medical images
  • detect defects in products made in assembly lines
  • detect weapons and explosives at airport security checkpoints
  • detect suspect vehicles in traffic
  • create maps of craters, canyons and plateaus on other planets to assist in choosing landing sites

Benefits

Analysts with no programming experience can quickly learn how to use GENIE to evolve algorithms that extract specific features from digital images.

GENIE’s results can be reused to help GENIE build up its “understanding” of complex tasks. (For example, after GENIE learns to find water, it then can easily learn to find beaches.)

GENIE learns to ignore unimportant image-to-image variations such as atmospheric haze or variations in overall illumination.

AMS/IB: Tool for Protecting Data and Verifying Container Contents

Features

The Attribute Measurement System with Information Barrier (AMS/IB) is a modular inspection technology for verifying the contents of sealed containers without revealing any sensitive or proprietary information about those contents. It was developed as an accurate means of monitoring compliance with nuclear disarmament treaties. The system allows inspectors to verify that sealed containers hold nuclear material from dismantled weapon components without compromising sensitive information about the components’ design. It uses simple hardware and software shielded against electronic surveillance or tampering to gather and analyze sensitive information but transmit only nonsensitive pass/fail results. The AMS/IB technology has been accepted as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s preferred approach for future arms control verification.

Applications

  • Monitoring international compliance with treaties for disarmament and nuclear-materials control
  • Verifying the contents of nuclear-material containers in storage
  • Protecting sensitive personal information obtained from security checks based on whole-body imaging technology
  • Conducting quality-control inspections on food and drug products without revealing proprietary information

Benefits

  • Verifies disarmament treaty compliance without jeopardizing sensitive data
  • Promotes international cooperation with nuclear-materials control
  • Protects the public from incorrectly stored nuclear materials
  • Helps prevent the spread of both nuclear materials and nuclear-weapons technology
  • May enable more stringent airport security screening while protecting individuals’ privacy rights
CO2 Laser Welding of Quartz

Features

Quartz, in its glass form, is an extremely transparent, heat-tolerant, and stable material widely used in industrial and consumer products. Welding is one method of forming quartz into finished products. As traditionally done with hydrogen/oxygen torches, welding is a cumbersome operation that, even when performed by a highly skilled glass blower, yields an irregular, potentially contaminated product. Our new laser welding method produces cleaner, more precise welds quickly and simply. Our method uses a computer-controlled, continuous-wave CO2 laser, a motion table and a vacuum-pump system to position, hold and fuse pieces of quartz glass. A standard shop vacuum removes any contaminants before they can adhere to the quartz surface. Based on the thickness, size and shape of the quartz pieces and the wavelength and power range of the laser, a technician programs the computer with the appropriate motion-table feed rate and laser settings. The weld is then automatically made and can be repeated as needed.

Applications

Quartz is used to manufacture everything from headlamps to fiber optics. In every industry that uses quartz, there is a need to join pieces together. In the burgeoning number of high-tech industries (e.g., semiconductor, medical, environmental testing, laser technology and aerospace), there is a need to join pieces of quartz precisely and without introducing contamination, a task for which laser welding is ideally suited.

Benefits

  • Our method makes quartz welding an efficient, automated, hands-free procedure.
  • Laser welds can be replicated innumerable times, even by inexperienced technicians.
  • Lasers produce precise, full-penetration welds that can withstand repeated exposure to the high-temperatures used in semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Contaminant-free, laser-welded quartz products readily meet the purity standards of high-tech industries.
  • After the initial outlay for equipment purchases, laser welding is very inexpensive.
  • Using a laser to weld quartz eliminates the need to store large quantities of explosive pressurized gas and to work with torch flames.
CONTOUR: New Residual-Stress Mapping Technique

Features

CONTOUR is a new technique for making high-resolution maps of residual stress at cross sections within a structural part. It is a simple, cost-effective way to predict, and therefore minimize, the residual stress produced in such parts when they are forged, treated or welded. The technique is less expensive and more versatile than neutron-diffraction methods. It is also far easier to use and has higher resolution and greater accuracy than conventional sectioning. Because it draws on widely available software and tools (wire electric discharge and coordinate measuring machines), CONTOUR could revolutionize the way manufacturers and materials testing labs measure residual stress.

Applications

CONTOUR can map the internal residual stresses in

  • the structural parts of aircraft, destroyers, steam boilers, rail systems and bridges
  • transmission gears in automobiles
  • jet-engine turbine blades
  • nuclear-reactor control rods and neutron reflectors
  • welds of any type

Benefits

  • Detects residual stresses before they cause catastrophic failure
  • Helps to improve the design of structural parts
  • Can improve the safety and reduce the cost of national transportation systems, automobiles, jet aircraft and nuclear reactors
  • Will improve the strength of welds, which are so common in industrial society
Diana TV: Single-Channel Digital HDTV and Analog Transmissions

Features

Diana (digital & analog) TV is a method of transmitting TV signals compatible with both digital high-definition television (HDTV) sets and standard analog TV sets in the same channel and is meant for use during the national transition to digital HDTV. We accomplish this by placing much of the high-resolution digital image data in the letterbox lines that will be imposed on the analog picture by the wide-screen format of HDTV and by

  • fitting some of the digital signal in the time between frames of the analog broadcast
  • fitting more of the digital signal in areas of the analog signal that have previously been used inefficiently

Applications

Diana TV broadcasts a fully digital HDTV signal that is also com-patible with analog TV sets for entertainment, news, education, teleconferencing and public service. This technology can also be used in a closed-circuit TV system that must provide both analog TV and digital HDTV signals, such as in-house corporate presentation networks, distributed lecturing on university campuses and information/emergency networks in buildings and at factory sites.

Benefits

Diana TV can have a positive impact upon most of the nation. By implementing this technology, TV broadcasters will be able to

  • provide high-quality digital HDTV signals more quickly, cheaply and universally
  • provide superior digital HDTV images in fringe areas while eliminating digital-picture interruption problems
  • encourage more HDTV sets to be sold, reducing per-unit costs
  • allow each household to choose between the two qualities of TV imaging and make the changeover at a time of its choosing
  • serve the public by freeing bandwidth for expanding the wireless-communications world of pagers, cell phones, business communications, bank transactions and many other services
Disorder Management of Optical Fibers for High-Bit-Rate Data Transmission

Features

Disorder management removes a major barrier to high-bit-rate data transmission over distances of a few hundred kilometers or more through high-speed fiber-optic communications systems. By reducing the data-transmission errors caused by random variations in the optical fibers’ light-transmission properties, we can achieve reliable long-distance data transmission at 160 gigabits per second per fiber channel—more than 10 times the rates of existing long-distance fiber-optic systems. We reduce data errors through disorder management, developed with theoretical methods normally applied in statistical physics. Disorder management ensures that future high-speed fiber-optic communications systems will meet the exponentially growing world demand for data-transmission capacity.

Applications

High-speed fiber-optic communications systems are used mainly to transmit data across the internet. High-volume users include national and international stock exchanges and banks, airlines, insurance companies, health services, publishing houses, news agencies, research institution and telecommunications companies. High-speed fiber-optic communications systems can also be used to network supercomputers separated by hundreds of kilometers or more.

Benefits

Disorder management is an enabling technique for

  • meeting the transmission requirements of future internet expansion
  • reducing current internet bottlenecks and sluggishness caused by inadequate bandwidth
  • meeting the demands of emerging bandwidth-hungry internet services such as video on-demand
  • efficiently networking distributed supercomputers
IMAGENE: Ultrasensitive DNA Analyzer

Features

IMAGENE is an ultrasensitive DNA analyzer that images electrophoretic separation of DNA as it occurs. It thereby generates images of the entire ensemble of separating DNA molecules at any point during “separation time,” rather than a sequence of piecemeal detection signals at a time subsequent to the separation process. IMAGENE’s unique waveguide imaging system markedly improves both the speed and accuracy of DNA analysis. It also permits direct analysis of DNA mutations, an extremely labor-intensive process with existing technologies. IMAGENE’s simplicity, speed, accuracy and versatility underlie its range of application to human genome analysis, genetic-predisposition diagnosis, expeditious pathogen screening for bioterrorist and public-health scenarios and assessment of forensic evidence.

Applications

  • Final stages of sequencing for the Human Genome Project
  • Expeditious identification of potentially pandemic microorganisms
  • Accurate discrimination of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria
  • Routine diagnosis of predisposition to chronic illness
  • Forensic evidence analysis that preserves the original evidence
  • Protein analysis for basic research and biomedical screening

Benefits

  • Research—assisting in the accurate completion of genome-mapping projects
  • Public health—protecting populations from bioterrorism
  • Medical diagnosis—intervening more quickly in infections and eliminating uncertainty in genetic-predisposition diagnosis
  • Forensics—reducing the possibility of misinterpreting DNA evidence
Multi-Platform Trusted Copy: Information Assurance File Review and Transfer Tool

Features

Multi-Platform Trusted Copy (MPTC) is a cyber security software application used to review computer files for specific elements that can hide sensitive or harmful information. MPTC detects and, in specific cases, removes hidden data. MPTC also searches for user-supplied keywords/phrases and, as part of a comprehensive review, provides a function to open the file in its original application, permitting examination of the keywords/phrases, pictures and other nontext objects identified in the review. MPTC produces a “cleansed” version of the file and provides for transfer of this “trusted copy” of the file to a removable medium for further distribution. MPTC also generates encrypted logs containing information about who conducted the review and when, what was found, and what information was transferred. Log-file detail could also help identify the person who hid it.

Applications

MPTC provides the federal government with a robust tool to review documents for hidden, classified, or sensitive data before releasing the documents to the public or news media. In the private sector, MPTC could be used to prevent the transfer of hidden proprietary, personal or security-related information, particularly important in the legal, medical, and financial sectors.

Benefits

  • Provides a more thorough review than a visual examination or basic ASCII keyword search, thereby increasing confidence that hidden information is removed or accounted for
  • Provides an audit trail by preserving the history of review actions, findings and transfers in encrypted log files
  • Minimizes the risk (and therefore the consequences) of inadvertent release of sensitive or confidential information
  • Uses the same intuitive interface and simple three-step process—select files for review, review files and transfer files—on Solaris, Linux, Windows NT and Windows 2000 platforms. This commonality simplifies training requirements and maximizes use of existing resources
  • Reviews numerous file types, including any ASCII or binary format (text files, some CAD files, computer source code and so forth) and Microsoft Office (97/2000) files
Polyphase Converter-Modulator: Compact High-Voltage, High-Power System

Features

The Polyphase Converter-Modulator is a compact indoor power system that generates 140-kilovolt, 11-megawatt pulses with a 1.1-megawatt average power. Our system incorporates three interconnected innovations: (1) the use of low voltage for most of the work (the voltage is stepped up just before output and only when needed), (2) high-power, three-phase conversion (DC to AC to DC) at 20 kilohertz and (3) the exploitation of electromagnetic circuit resonance for power conversion and voltage multiplication. Key components we further developed for our system are from technologies proven in the traction-motor industry (high-speed trains): boost-transformer cores of amorphous nanocrystalline material and high-energy-density, self-clearing capacitors.

Applications

Our system can provide power or high-voltage pulses for the following:

  • Pulsed klystron radio-frequency amplifiers for particle accelerators, including the Spallation Neutron Source’s linear accelerator, for which our system was developed
  • Neutral-beam modulators for plasma heating and fueling in fusion-energy research
  • Flue-gas scrubbers on industrial stacks
  • Pulsed-discharge equipment that breaks down hazardous biological agents
  • DC conversion for coast-to-coast ties between power grids
  • Shipborne energy-conversion systems for radar applications
  • Directed-energy weapons using particle beams, microwave energy and free-electron lasers

Benefits

  • Compact—one-third the size of a conventional system
  • Safe—low-voltage input, with high voltage produced only when needed and in a single, contained enclosure
  • Environmentally friendly—no large oil tanks or secondary containment needed outdoors
  • Fault tolerant—inherently self-protective against short circuits
  • Quiet—no transformer “hum”
  • Inexpensive—about one-half the cost of previous technologies

2002 Other Award Submissions

5-kW High-Value Standby Power Fuel Cell System

R&D Winner = Winner


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