Los Alamos National Labs with logo 2021

2009 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.
Artificial Retina Project: Restoring sight through scienceR&D Winner

Artificial Retina ProjecMembers of the Artificial Retina Project developed a bioelectronic implant that restores useful vision to patients blinded by retinal diseases. The project, funded by the Department of Energy's Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Second Sight Medical Products, was jointly submitted by Los Alamos, Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California, California Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, the University of California at Santa Cruz and Second Sight Medical Products. John George of the Lab's Applied Modern Physics Group led the Los Alamos team.

High Resolution UV Relay Lens: A New Lens for Particle Size DistributionR&D Winner

High Resolution UV Relay LensIt has long been recognized that under shock-loaded conditions, metals can create complex ejecta phenomena depending on the properties of the specific material and the initial shock conditions. Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) researchers have been collaborating with National Security Technologies, LLC, the management and operating contractor for the Department of Energy’s Nevada Test Site (NTS), to develop a high-resolution UV holography lens for use in experiments conducted by LANL scientists at the NTS and other locations. This lens is part of an in-line Fraunhofer holography diagnostic that will help scientists measure the size, shape and position of metal (liquid) particles emitted from a shock-loaded metal. With these measurements, Los Alamos scientists can extract the ejecta particle size and velocity distributions for a variety of metals and shock-loaded conditions. These data will be used to develop theoretical models for conducting nonnuclear experiments that safely simulate atomic experiments.

Holography offers the unique capability to record distributions of particles over a 3-D volume. This holography diagnostic using the new UV holographic lens can be integrated with other diagnostics such as x-ray radiography to fully characterize ejecta size, velocity, and mass distributions. These measurements can be done for a variety of shock conditions and metals leading to a better understanding of how materials respond under shock-loaded conditions. One of the benefits of the holographic diagnostic is that it allows scientists to capture 3-D information of the fast-moving particles (many km/sec), making it easier for them to assess the size and velocity distributions of the particles. The new UV holography lens will improve the current resolution capability significantly, potentially allowing particles down to 0.5 microns (a human hair measures 80 to 100 microns) in diameter to be measured. There are no other UV holography systems on the market capable of measuring ejected particles of this size.

Lasonix: A New Method to Fabricate Three-Dimensional MicroelectronicsR&D Winner

LASONIXLasonix is a new approach for fabricating insulators, semiconductors and metallic conductors to form standard semiconductor microcircuits, metallic connections and pathways and vertically integrated circuits. The fabrication method grows electronics in three dimensions, rather than on a particular substrate, allowing for vertical interconnection and integration of planar substrates into electronic “blocks” or micromodules. In addition, microscale vacuum electronics, high-frequency electromagnetic devices, optoelectronics and power-switching electronics can all be created with Lasonix, thus enabling hybrid systems to be fabricated. Vast improvements in device and system performance can be achieved through vertical integration of complex micromodules and devices. Lasonix combines all the advantages of a rapid prototyping technology with advanced microelectronics fabrication.


  • 3-D semiconductor devices for high-speed systems
  • Power electronic switching systems
  • Specialized power relays
  • Hybrid optical, semiconductor and terahertz systems
R&D Winner MagViz: MRI for Carry-On Liquids

MAGVIZMagViz is the first product based on a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a form that uses ultralow magnetic fields. Like traditional MRI, MagViz identifies chemicals by measuring the magnetic interactions of their protons with the local molecular environment. However, to measure the proton signal, MagViz uses an applied external magnetic field about 10,000 times weaker than that used with traditional MRI and therefore provides a proton signal whose frequency is 10,000 times lower than traditional MRIs. This signal is detected using highly sensitive magnetic-field detectors called superconducting quantum-interference devices, or SQUIDs. Traditional MRI uses radio receivers.


  • Detection of liquid explosives in airport carry-on luggage
  • Medical imaging for patients for whom traditional MRI is unsafe (e.g., people with active medical implants, pregnant women or soldiers with embedded shrapnel)
  • Medical imaging in remote or underdeveloped areas (e.g., battlefields, accident sites, rural areas, Third World countries)
  • Quality control on production lines
R&D Winner SIMTECHE: CO2 Capture Process

SIMTECHEThe SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process captures and compresses the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by advanced fossil fuel power plants and other industrial operations. Based on the reversible reaction of CO2 and cold water, our process pulls CO2 out of flowing mixtures of gases and traps individual CO2 molecules within tiny molecular cages made of water. Once separated from the gas stream, the CO2 hydrate can be decomposed to regenerate CO2 gas at elevated pressures for sequestration or sale on the emerging CO2 market. Informed control of thermodynamic conditions throughout the process and efficient reactor design reduce parasitic power losses and minimize incremental costs. The SIMTECHE CO2 Capture Process is proven and now poised to reduce CO2 emissions at industrial scales.


  • Captures CO2 emitted by integrated gasifier combined-cycle (IGCC) power plants burning coal, petroleum coke, natural gas or biomass
  • Captures CO2 emitted by coal-fired power plants using high-purity oxygen for combustion
  • Compresses CO2 and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) for use in enhanced oil recovery or sequestration in underground geological formations
  • Purifies high-pressure hydrogen for use in hydrotreating, petrochemical synthesis and refinery operations
R&D Winner TeraOps Software Radio: Supercomputing Power for Space Applications

Our innovative TeraOps Software Radio moves the concept of software radio into space, where it can be used to dramatically extend the lifetimes of electronic systems aboard satellites and in space payloads. Proving off-the-shelf commercial products for use in unique space-saving, lightweight, and cost-effective configurations, our resultant system generates supercomputing power in a compact unit that weighs only 14 pounds. Our TeraOps Software Radio also uses revolutionary high-level languages to program the software. Despite the sophistication of the underlying hardware, such languages are easy to use and are flexible enough to ensure that the latest innovations in software are incorporated into high-performance hardware.


  • Principal application is for space-based products, such as satellites, spacecraft and other payload functions
  • Extended application is ground and airborne communications, including vehicle-mounted communication systems, reconnaissance systems and cell-phone base stations
BAM: Breath Acetone Monitor: A Pain-Free Way to Check Blood Sugar

BAM: Breath Acetone MonitorAlmost everyone knows someone who has diabetes. According to the National Institutes of Health, in 2007 approximately 23.6 million people in the United States alone had this disease. Every day, diabetics must prick their fingers anywhere from 3 to 10 times to test blood-sugar levels. Such tests help doctors adjust diet, medication, and exercise to ensure patient health. Because such testing is painful, many diabetics minimize daily testing routines, which in turn puts them at risk for myriad complications. The Breath Acetone Monitor (BAM) replaces painful blood-based testing with pain-free breath analysis. BAM uses a microplasma discharge in conjunction with either a small spectrometer or a single-channel photo detector to analyze breath acetone. The sensitivity of these sensors is so acute that BAM can easily measure breath acetone levels of healthy individuals. With the frequent use of BAM, a diabetic’s improved health is but a breath away.


  • Enables diabetics to painlessly monitor blood-sugar levels.
  • Allows clinics, hospitals, and other public-health facilities to quickly and easily screen patients who are at risk for diabetes.
  • Helps medical personnel and trainers monitor how diet and exercise affect fat burning. Such monitoring would help the obese lose weight safely and prevent athletes who train heavily from experiencing debilitating fatigue or other ill health effects.

R&D Winner = Winner