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Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Quarterly, Fall 2002
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A Modular Neutron Detector

Spotlight, Los Alamos in the News by Todd Hanson and Jim Danneskiold

Technology Maturation Funds Awarded

In June, the Industrial Business Development Division awarded funds to Yixiang Duan of the Chemistry Division and to a team from the Materials Science and Technology (MST) Division to help develop the licensing potential of their technologies. The awards came from the Technology Maturation Fund, an internal source of "venture capital" created to promote Lab technologies that have strong commercial potential. Award criteria include a compelling market need and strong likelihood of commercialization for the technology and a commitment to technology transfer on the part of the principal investigators.

Duan will use his award to test a prototype of his portable, real-time air-particulate monitor that can detect sixteen hazardous elements, including beryllium and heavy metals such as vanadium, cadmium, lead, and cobalt. His technology can be used in the mining and manufacturing industries to continuously monitor the workplace for airborne hazards. Duan is developing the prototype to demonstrate the monitor’s capability to prospective licensees.

The MST team of Adriana Serquis, Leonardo Civale, Yuntian Zhu, Fred Mueller, and Duncan Hammon will use its award to produce and test prototype coils of magnesium diboride superconducting wire. The wire shows promise for reducing the size and cost of magnetic resonance imaging machines and power transformers. The funding will enable the team to demonstrate the wire’s performance and cost-effectiveness to prospective licensees.

Since December 2002, the Industrial Business Development Division has reviewed twenty-two proposals from nine technical divisions for awards from the Technology Maturation Fund. To date, $250,000 has been disbursed in awards ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Funded with royalty income from Laboratory licenses and money set aside for technology commercialization in the University of California contract, the fund is an ongoing effort to promote the transfer of Lab technologies to the private sector. Funding proposals are evaluated monthly by a panel of commercialization and licensing experts within IBD.

The first Technology Maturation Fund awards, made last February, appear to be moving several Laboratory technologies toward commercialization. A license was recently negotiated with ElectroChromix Inc. to commercialize electrochromic (autodarkening) mirrors and windows. A new cooperative research and development agreement is being developed with Motorola to integrate Lab image-analysis software into an advanced navigation system for vehicles. The Lab is also pursuing licensing inquiries about use of a micro-x-ray fluorescence technique for drug discovery and about technology that reduces nitrates in effluent water.—Marjorie Mascheroni

Lab Physicist Wins Russian Science Award

Tom Bowles displays his Russian Science AwardIn May, Tom Bowles received the top scientific prize awarded by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Nuclear Research. He was awarded the M. A. Markov Prize for his work as a principal investigator of the Soviet-American Gallium Experiment (SAGE), a major solar-neutrino investigation. He shared the prize with Vladimir Gavrin and Vadim Kuzmin, both of the institute.

The annual award is named for the institute’s founder, Moisey A. Markov, and recognizes substantial contributions to fundamental physics and the development of major research directions for the institute. Since 1986, Bowles, who works in the Laboratory’s Physics Division, has led the American effort in SAGE, the first experiment to directly detect low-energy neutrinos from proton-proton fusion in the sun. These neutrinos, which are made in the primary reaction that provides the sun’s energy, are the major component of the solar-neutrino flux.

Buried deep beneath the Caucasus Mountains at the Baksan Neutrino Observatory, SAGE counts solar-neutrino reactions inside tanks that contain 50 metric tons of gallium. Results reported by the SAGE team in the early 1990s, when it observed a few solar-neutrino signatures every month, electrified the scientific world. The neutrino capture rate was well below that predicted by the Standard Solar Model, a discovery that suggested the solution to the solar neutrino problem lay in the neutrino itself. The significant suppression of the solar-neutrino flux that SAGE and other solar-neutrino experiments have observed gives strong credence to the existence of neutrino oscillations.

"This is a great honor and shows the importance the Russian science community places on this groundbreaking, 17-year partnership," Bowles said. "SAGE is often cited as one of the very best examples of Russian-American scientific collaborations."—Jim Danneskiold



Yixiang Duan and his portable air-particulate monitor
Yixiang Duan adjusts a filter in his portable air-particulate monitor; the front panel has been removed to show the monitor’s microwave-plasma torch, a key to its capabilities.

Leonardo Civale, Fred Mueller and Adriana Serquis
Leonardo Civale, Fred Mueller, and Adriana Serquis of the MST team.


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