Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

2007 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.
Camera on a ChipR&D Winner

Camera on a Chip Our Camera on a Chip is a 2-centimeter by 2-centimeter "hybrid chip," a combination of a microelectronic chip with a 720×720-pixel array of silicon photosensors and a metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) chip with a corresponding array of control-and-processing circuits. The resulting device achieves performance far exceeding that possible with either of those technologies alone. It has light-detection (quantum) efficiency of greater than 90 percent from 450 to 650 nanometers, a minimum exposure time of 50 nanoseconds, and a minimum interframe time of 300 nanoseconds. The camera can be triggered to capture frames at the times of greatest interest during a fast event or an event with changing time scales. It also stores three frames “on-chip” and is relatively insensitive to the stray radiation normally present in radiography experiments. It gives scientists a single sub-microsecond imaging tool that combines 20 years of advances in silicon CMOS microelectronics and photosensor technology.


  • Making radiographic movies of ultrafast phenomena, with protons (instead of x-rays) as the illuminating source
  • Capturing events that start slowly but evolve rapidly, such as the behavior of slowly cooked high explosives
  • Producing high-speed movies of fast processes over a wide range of visible or near-visible wavelengths
R&D Winner Portable Acoustic Cytometer

Portable Acoustic Cytometer The Portable Acoustic Cytometer is the world’s first truly portable and affordable flow cytometer. Our instrument uses acoustic waves instead of a complex fluidics system to focus the cells into a tight stream for analysis. Acoustic focusing concentrates the cells as they are focused and gives the cells more time in the laser beam, making possible both greater throughput and greater sensitivity. Our cytometer’s capabilities surpass those of conventional flow cytometers without the complex and expensive components that drive up their size, complexity, and cost. In addition, our instrument eliminates the need for large volumes of purified water, a scarce resource in many parts of the world. The Portable Acoustic Cytometer brings the diagnostic power of high-performance flow cytometry to more researchers and healthcare providers around the world.


The Portable Acoustic Cytometer can be used for any of the analyses currently done with conventional flow cytometers in research and clinical laboratories:

  • High-throughput screening of potential new drugs
  • Typing blood cancers and analyzing compatibilities for tissue transplants
  • Screening for cancer markers or infectious agents
  • Monitoring cell populations and subpopulations to assess patients’ responses to anti-retroviral or chemotherapy drugs
EpiCast: Epidemiological Forecasting Simulation Model

EpiCastMedical researchers around the globe are racing the clock to develop a vaccine to combat a deadly strain of avian influenza that could trigger a global human pandemic. While the H5N1 avian virus is highly infectious among birds, it has not yet spread among humans. However, the fear is it could soon mutate into a form that can. To help epidemiologists understand the spread and impact of the next influenza pandemic, we developed EpiCast (Epidemiological Forecasting), a software package that creates a synthetic model population based on census data, randomly assigning “virtual people” to households, workplaces, schools, and other community settings where disease transmission could occur. Each person has an individual probability for infection and can become infected or infect others. Taking advantage of EpiCast’s unprecedented level of detail, epidemiologists have successfully evaluated various medical and nonmedical mitigation strategies that could be used to counter a pandemic influenza outbreak.


  • Obtaining realistic preparation and response data for policy makers and health officials to develop mitigation strategies to counter potential pandemics
  • Modeling potential bioterrorist attacks to enable development of preparation and response strategies
  • Simulating alternative models such as social epidemics (trends in crime and drug use), idea adoption behaviors, etc.
Muon Tomography Scanner

Muon Tomography ScannerOur muon tomography scanner uses ambient cosmic-ray muons as the radiographic probe to scan cargo for high-density threat materials such as uranium or plutonium. The scanner plots the incoming muons’ initial trajectories, then registers all outgoing muons on the opposite side and correlates them to the first measurements. The software compares the muon-track plots and notifies the operator when it determines that outgoing muons have been deflected by a dense object within the scanner. The complete scan and data analysis are conducted in less than one minute—allowing customs officials to maintain border security without impeding commercial traffic flow.


Our muon tomography system can scan

  • tractor-truck trailers at border-crossing points
  • cargo containers as they are unloaded at port facilities and airport cargo terminals

Cities and high-security installations also can use these scanners to provide highly selective protection of their geographic area and people.

Muon tomography scanners will greatly increase border security against nuclear threat materials by

  • detecting unshielded materials via their emissions and density
  • detecting shielded materials via their density without additional radiation dose
  • performing the scan quickly without additional risk to personnel
RaveGrid: Raster-to-Vector Graphics for Image Data

RaveGridRaveGrid software converts a digital image represented by pixels to a “vector” image represented by polygons. (Such a vector image is far easier to scale or process than a pixel image.) On a Pentium IV laptop with 1 GB of RAM, RaveGrid vectorizes an image containing up to 20 megapixels at a rate of 0.5 megapixel per second. RaveGrid also compresses an uncompressed pixel image as it vectorizes the image, typically reducing storage requirements by a factor of 4. RaveGrid can also identify objects in an image from specified criteria such as size, shape or color. RaveGrid is compatible with the new scalable vector graphics (SVG) standard of the World Wide Web Consortium as well as with the Encapsulated Postscript (EPS) format.


RaveGrid enables

  • image scaling to the pixel resolution of a particular digital display or Web-page layout
  • image compression to reduce image-storage or bandwidth requirements
  • encryption of vectorized images in text files
  • image searches in large databases or on the Internet
  • automatic analysis of reconnaissance or surveillance images
Super CNT Fibers

Super CNT FibersSpun from carbon nanotubes—the strongest, stiffest material known—our Super CNT Fibers have one-tenth the density and four to five times the specific strength (strength per density) and specific stiffness (stiffness per density) of the best carbon fibers now used to make advanced structural composites. We achieve this superior performance by spinning Super CNT Fibers from ultralong (~1 millimeter) carbon nanotubes that have only two walls and a hollow center, giving them low density. The use of Super CNT Fibers will ultimately increase the fuel efficiency of commercial aircraft by reducing aircraft weight and increase the stealthiness of combat aircraft by reducing aircraft radar cross-section. The use of these fibers will also reduce space-launch costs by reducing the weight of rockets and spacecraft and improve sports-equipment performance by reducing weight and increasing strength and stiffness.


Super CNT Fibers will enhance the performance of the advanced carbon-fiber structural composites used in

  • aircraft
  • spacecraft
  • automobiles
  • sports equipment
WAIL: Groundbreaking Approach to Ground-Based Cloud Probing

WAILWAIL (wide-angle imaging lidar) is a ground-based lidar system specifically designed for probing dense clouds. Like standard lidar, WAIL uses a vertically aimed pulsed laser to illuminate the atmosphere and a receiver to collect the laser photons that are scattered back to Earth. Because its receiver collects only those photons that strike the cloud base and travel straight back along the beam, standard (“on-beam”) lidar reveals primarily a cloud’s height. In contrast, WAIL works “off-beam.” Its receiver collects photons that have scattered throughout the entire cloud and have returned from large distances beyond the incident beam. Therefore, WAIL’s signal carries information from deep inside the cloud, and users can infer cloud thickness and mean opacity in addition to height.


  • Probing clouds to increase our understanding of their role in the global climate system and hydrological cycle
  • Assessing how clouds and fog affect atmospheric visibility for aviation safety
  • In the future, environmentally supporting troops confronted with fog, dust, sand, smoke and other impediments to visibility
  • Also in the future, probing any strongly scattering medium in the environment such as turbid coastal waters, sea ice, snow, icy moons, such as Jupiter’s Europa, etc.

R&D Winner = Winner