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Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Delivering science and technology to protect our nation and promote world stability

Innovation Timeline

LANL has a proud history and heritage of almost 70 years of science and innovation. The people at the Laboratory work on advanced technologies to provide the best scientific and engineering solutions to the nation's most crucial security challenges.


  • Alan Carr
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Whether it was helping end World War II or creating a technology that makes every car’s airbags inflate fast enough to save your life, the world benefits from contributions made by the people here.

Since 1943, some of the world’s smartest and most passionate technical people have accomplished the difficult, the unexpected, and what sometimes seems impossible at LANL

Los Alamos National Laboratory designed the atomic bombs used to bring history’s most violent and devastating conflict, World War II, to an abrupt end.  Since the war, LANL has ensured the safety, security, and reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. Over the past 70 years, the Laboratory has also developed into a multidisciplinary research institution, which has emerged as a world leader in scientific endeavor and technological development. This timeline will introduce you to just a few of the LANL innovations that have truly changed history.

As scientific pioneers, innovators, and the people who support those capabilities, that’s what scientists and researchers at LANL live for.

They’ve even helped create ways that technologists across the globe make their own innovations—providing the world with fundamentally new approaches to (for example) software codes and computerized simulations.

It was here, for instance, that the Human Genome Project began. . .and other crucial efforts that many people don’t associate with Los Alamos National Laboratory.


The small mesa-top town of Los Alamos before World War II The mission to build the atomic bomb brought scientists from around the globe to the small mesa-top town of Los Alamos and contributed to the abrupt end of World War II.

Physicists worked together seeking solutions to mathematical problems Physicists John von Neumann, Stanislaw Ulam, and Nicholas Metropolis developed the powerful statistical technique known as the Monte Carlo method, which sought solutions to mathematical problems using a statistical sampling method of random numbers.

Clementine, the world's first plutonium reactor World's first plutonium-fueled nuclear reactor, "Clementine", achieves criticality.


Code named The United States detonated the world's first hydrogen, or thermonuclear, device on October 31, 1952. Code named "Mike", this device stood three stories high and exploded with a force of 10.4 megatons.

Rover nuclear reactor rocket Rover nuclear reactor rocket program launched.

Existence of the neutrino proved Existence of the neutrino proved.


Satellite Vela Vela satellite sensors developed to detect nuclear explosions and one of the Laboratory's early nonproliferaton activities to monitor for clandestine nuclear tests (1963).

Van de Graff accelerator World's highest-voltage
Van de Graff accelerator used for nuclear physics experiments goes operational (1963).

Heat Pipe Heat pipe invented in 1963 by George Grover.


LAMPF Clinton P. Anderson Meson Physics Facility (LAMPF) achieves full energy beam (1972).

Radioisotope production First radioisotope for medical research shipped from LAMPF. (1974)

IAEA Inspectors are trained at LANL First class of International Energy Agency inspectors trained at Los Alamos.

Vela satellite Discovery of cosmic gamma-ray bursts by detectors aboard the Vela nuclear-test surveillance satellites.


GPS satellite Global positioning system (GPS) satellite launched with Los Alamos x-ray detector on board. (1984)

GenBank Established GenBank, a database that serves as a national repository for genetic sequence information. Los Alamos was later designated as one of three national centers for human genome studies. (1988)

Plutonium Lab produces 63 grams of high-purity plutonium-238 metal for pacemakers, significantly increasing the longevity of the devices.


stockpile stewardship modeling Science-based stockpile stewardship program begins. (1994)

chromosome 16 Laboratory scientists complete map of chromosome 16.

Underground nuclear test Operation Julin: U.S. conducts its last underground nuclear test named “Divider”.


weapons modeling First full-system, three-dimensional simulations of a nuclear weapon explosion are performed. (2002)

Mars Odyssey Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched with Los Alamos neutron spectrometer on board detects hydrogen, an indicator of water-ice on the Red Planet.

Roadrunner supercomputer Roadrunner supercomputer exceeded sustained speed of 1 petaflop/s, or 1 million billion calculations per second.

LANS Los Alamos National Security (LANS) transition.


CubeSats Four tiny "cubeSats"—satellites small enough to hold in one hand—are launched into orbit in December 2010.

NHMFL National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has successfully produced the world's first 100-Tesla nondestructive magnetic field roughly equivalent to 2 million times Earth's magnetic field.

Hydrogen storage New technology developed in hydrogen storage, which makes hydrogen a more attractive fuel for vehicles or other transportation modes.

Innovations for a secure nation

Plasma Technology for Textile Finishing Applications Gets a Boost from LANL

Plasma Technology for Textile Finishing Applications Gets a Boost from LANL

A new way to stay dry: APJeT is revolutionizing the textile industry with new plasma technology.

» All Innovations

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