| >>R&D100: 2004 : Summaries
2004 R&D 100 Awards Entry Summaries
Originally designed as a low-cost version of a supercomputer, a computer cluster consists of a group of connected computers that work together as one. Unfortunately, setting up and managing such clusters is tedious and prone to mistakes, thus making clusters much more difficult to use than supercomputers. To address this problem, we developed the Clustermatic software suite. Clustermatic increases reliability and efficiency, decreases node autonomy, simplifies programming, reduces administration costs, and minimizes a user’s reliance on unpredicatable software. As a result, Clustermatic enables commodity-based cluster networks to compete with their higher-cost and higher-profile super-computer cousins by scaling to largest cluster configurations, providing predictive monitoring that reacts to mode failures, and creating a one-system view of an entire cluster.
High-performance computing (HPC) applications include
Applications related to LinuxBIOS include – motherboard manufacturing,
Confocal X-Ray Fluorescence Microscope
Our microscope uses x-ray fluorescence to nondestructively measure the concentrations of elements within a tiny quasi-spherical “probe volume.” The microscope moves the x-ray probe volume on or through an object to measure elemental concentrations on the object’s surface, beneath a specific spot on the surface, or throughout the object’s interior. The microscope measures the concentrations of a wide range of elements with parts-per-million sensitivity. It can analyze objects as thick as a few millimeters with a spatial resolution of 15 micrometers.
mpiBLAST: A High-Speed Software Catalyst for Genetic Research
BLAST, an open-source software package distributed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, has become the ubiquitous genomic-sequencing tool in molecular biology. With mpiBLAST, our open-source parallelization of BLAST, we have dramatically enhanced BLAST’s throughput and minimized its response time. The mpiBLAST software uses a new process known as in-memory database segmentation, in which a database is chopped into memory-sized pieces so that each compute node searches only a distinct portion of the database. When each portion has been searched, the message-passing interface (mpi) handles the communication to merge the results from each compute node. Thus, a search of a 300-kilobyte query that took 1,346 minutes (22.4 hours) using BLAST takes only a few minutes with mpiBLAST.
Plasma-Torch Production of Spherical Boron Nitride Particles
Particles of heat-dissipation filler can be added to the resin packaging around an integrated circuit to improve thermal management. Crystalline boron nitride, with the highest thermal conductivity of any ceramic, would be the most effective filler material except that it naturally forms as irregular platelets. Only spheres have the right rheological (material flow) characteristics for semiconductor packaging tools and techniques. We have succeeded in melting crystalline (hexagonal) boron nitride by injecting the natural platelets into a hot (>3,500 kelvin) plasma, whose nitrogen-atom-rich environment stabilizes boron nitride, allowing it to be heated to its melting point. The particles melt, form spheres, and retain that shape when cooled. Ours is the first process to produce crystalline boron nitride spheres.
Our plasma-torch method produces a variety of materials:
10-Gigabit Ethernet Adapter: Speed Really Changes Everything
Have you ever tried to download a high-resolution graphic, movie, or video game from the Internet? Such downloads can take hours, and if you’re lucky, your computer will not lock up, and the download will come through successfully. Now imagine that by installing a simple adapter into your computer, you could transfer information up to 148,000 times faster than a high-speed modem connection and up to 23,000 times faster than a DSL connection. This “super-adapter’s” plug-and-play installation, reliability, and unprecedented speed will revolutionize how computers and the Internet positively impact our lives.
Aerosonic: Acoustic Concentrator of Aerosol Contaminants
An inexpensive, low-maintenance, piezo-electric device, Aerosonic generates focused, resonance-based sound pressure to concentrate aerosols. The concentrated aerosols can then be directly isolated for analysis. Alternatively, when added as a front-end concentrator to existing low-sensitivity, hand-held detectors, Aerosonic increases detector sensitivity. Its light weight and low power consumption make it an ideal add-on. Functioning independently as a “filterless” filter, Aerosonic can—by removing the concentrated material—eliminate such air pollutants as diesel-engine combustion particulates, toxic byproducts from restaurant-kitchen exhaust, and airborne bacteria in hospitals.
Be Safe: Assay for Rapid Environmental Beryllium Detection
A 30-minute assay for the presence of workplace beryllium, Be-Safe provides an unambiguous method for assessing the health and safety risks of workers from exposure to the toxic metal. With chronic, degenerative lung disease the potential consequence of even a small and transient exposure to beryllium particles, a fast, accurate detection assay is needed for industries that use beryllium in manufacturing products such as electronics, sporting goods, tools, jewelry, and dental apparatus. Be-Safe provides a convenient and inexpensive method for frequent and reliable workplace testing, thereby promoting prompt remediation and preventive measures.
Workplace beryllium detection in the following:
BioNetGen: Software for Modeling Biological Signaling Complexity
BioNetGen is a software package that creates precise and comprehensive models for a wide array of biological regulatory systems, which often cause disease when they function abnormally. These models facilitate the design of more-focused experiments to test actual cellular signaling configurations (i.e., molecular species and reactions) and to evaluate the therapeutic potential—and potential side effects—of candidate drugs and drug targets inside cells. With its modeling flexibility, the software narrows the field for drug targets and defines what are potentially the most useful drugs, thus promoting the development of novel drugs and helping to reduce R&D costs in the pharmaceutical industry.
DMFC-20 Portable Power System
The DMFC-20 is a compact, highly energy efficient, direct methanol fuel cell power system that is designed to deliver 20 watts of electric power for use in portable military applications. Portable devices are also in great demand in the civilian sector, and potential industrial partners are interested in moving the DMFC-20 to the commercial market. When operated for a month, the DMFC-20 can provide up to 10 times the energy density (or specific energy) of batteries. A lightweight, integrated methanol sensor ensures that the DMFC-20 operates with maximum fuel-conversion efficiency. The DMFC-20’s high specific energy and very efficient fuel conversion distinguish our system from other direct methanol fuel cells.
GN-5: A Portable Gamma-Ray and Neutron Instrument
GN-5 is a lightweight, robust, versatile instrument with the following key features: (1) detects gamma rays with high energy resolution using a high-purity germanium (HPGe) crystal; (2) uses a bismuth germinate (BGO) scintillator to suppress parasitic Compton signals that can obscure gamma rays; (3) compares gamma-ray signals with an extensive library of relevant gamma-ray energies; and (4) includes sophisticated electronics and software for accurate, real-time radioisotope identification with minimal user training. Operated alone, the BGO scintillator can be used to quickly scan containers for evidence of radioactivity. Once gamma rays are detected, the HPGe detector identifies the radioisotopes present. Comparison of the count rates from the two GN-5 neutron detectors (one shielded with cadmium) provides information about the possible presence of hydrogenous materials (e.g., explosives) in containers.
GN-5 can be used to detect smuggled nuclear and other dangerous materials or proliferation activities at many critical locations:
MIST: Magnetic Imaging of Superconducting Tape
One of the stumbling blocks in manufacturing thin objects such as superconductors and miniscule objects such as computer chips is minimizing and perhaps even eliminating defects and imperfections. In many instances, defects and imperfections lead to less-than-stellar performance and even costly malfunctions. But how can one detect nanosized defects in objects that are so tiny to begin with? To address this problem, we have developed a combination of magnetic sensors and computer software known as MIST (Magnetic Imaging of Superconducting Tape) that noninvasively and nondestructively detects microscopic defects in superconducting tape and minuscule objects such as integrated circuits and other nanotechnological devices. For superconducting tape, MIST tests the fabricated tape for defects so that the manufact
PAD: Polymer-Assisted Deposition of Metal-Oxide Films
PAD uses an organic polymer and one or more metal compounds dissolved in water to deposit high-quality films of nearly any metal oxide on nearly any shape or substrate. The organic polymer binds to the metal ions or complexes in the solution to prevent them from precipitating or forming other inorganic compounds. The result is a stable, homogeneous chemical solution that coats objects uniformly—an essential part of PAD’s ability to form high-quality films.
PAD produces higher-quality films with a greater range of chemical compositions than is possible with other chemical solution deposition techniques. Vacuum deposition techniques can also produce high-quality metal-oxide films. But because PAD does not require a vacuum system, PAD is easier and less expensive to use.
PAD can deposit amorphous, polycrystalline, or epitaxial films with thicknesses of 10 nanometers to hundreds of nanometers or more. The only requirement for the substrate is that it be stable in oxygen up to 400 degrees Celsius or slightly more. Metals, ceramics, glass, and silicon can be used as substrates.
PAD can be used to make films for
Stripper Microhole Technology
Microhole technology is a paradigm shift for the drilling industry. It has the potential to allow much cheaper access to the remaining small pockets of oil in stripper fields (economically marginal fields that produce
Superhard, Ultratough Nanocomposites
Diamond is the material of choice for most abrasive applications because of its superhardness. Unfortunately, its use is limited because diamond is brittle and prone to fracture. We have solved the brittle-fracture problem by developing a novel nanostructured composite that consists of diamond particles embedded in a matrix of nanocrystalline silicon carbide. This nanostructured matrix halts the growth of cracks that lead to fracture. Our nanocomposites are the toughest, most durable diamond composites ever produced. They set a new performance standard for next-generation abrasives. In addition, our innovative synthesis technique can be extended to tailor the properties of other superhard materials.
Our diamond nanocomposites possess the performance-critical properties required to replace current tungsten carbide and diamond abrasives in a broad range of applications: