Innovations: Celebrating 70 Years
Since 1943, some of the world’s smartest and most dedicated technical people have accomplished the difficult, the unexpected, and what sometimes seems impossible at Los Alamos.
- Faces of Science
- Radical Supercomputing
- 70 Years of Innovations
- Top Ten Innovations of 2013
- Energy Sustainability
- 50 Years of Space
70 YEARS OF INNOVATIONS Addressing the nation's most complex security challenges
WAR-ENDING INVENTIONSThe Laboratory was created with one crucial objective: gather the world's brightest scientific minds to design and build a weapon that would help to end World War II.
Fight power with power
REVOLUTIONARY PHYSICSLos Alamos scientists—many of whom fled Europe’s Fascist regimes—designed and rapidly built the first atomic bomb, helping defeat these World War II aggressors.
World's first atomic weapon
FIRST REACTORClementine, the first fast-neutron reactor fueled by plutonium, provided intensities necessary to advance nuclear science.
High-intensity neutron source
NOVEL MATHUnable to solve problems using conventional mathematical methods, we created algorithms, starting with the Monte Carlo method, which continues to enable discoveries.
Monte Carlo code
DAWN OF COMPUTINGComputer development exploded during the war. One of the first electronic computers, MANIAC supported atomic energy research, solving hydrogen-bomb design problems.
MANIAC solves design problems
FIRST HYDROGEN BOMBScientists replicated the source of the sun’s energy, fusion, to create a more powerful weapon: the thermonuclear bomb.
Combines fission and fusion
NEUTRINO DETECTEDA building block of life, this elusive elementary ghost particle is finally detected: the neutrino.
Revolutionary particle physics
NUCLEAR POWERThe scientific prowess that ended a world war was next directed at peaceful use of the atom: empowering the planet with nuclear energy.
Atomic energy for electricity
THE SPACE AGEThe first nuclear reactor-rocket program was launched to provide nuclear energy to propel an aircraft or rocket.
First nuclear reactor-rocket
PHERMEX HYDROTESTSHow to test the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile without aboveground tests? Hydrodynamics simulations on PHERMEX.
Mock nuclear explosions
GAMMA-RAY BURSTSDesigned and built to warn of banned nuclear tests, our Vela satellite instruments discovered cosmic gamma–ray bursts.
Satellites support science
Accelerator aids physicsEnhancing previous designs, Los Alamos built vertical and horizontal Van de Graaff accelerators to deliver a steady beam of particles, supporting the study of nuclear physics.
Enhancing materials research
Investigating spaceSupporting investigations in space, we created an electrical generator that obtains its power from radioactive decay: the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG).
Enabling space missions
Most powerful acceleratorLos Alamos introduced the world's most powerful proton linear accelerator to help address problems related to materials, nuclear medicine and national security.
Vital user facility
Bursts discoveredOur sensors aboard Vela satellites discovered gamma-ray bursts that emit as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will emit during its entire 10-billion-year lifetime.
Detecting dying stars
First medical isotopeLos Alamos produced and shipped our first radioisotope. Today, we continue to supply international medical and research communities with certain types of this precious commodity.
Isotopes support medicine
Vector supercomputerLos Alamos acquired its first vector supercomputer. Such supercomputers used vector processors that greatly improved performance on numerical simulations important to nuclear weapons research.
Neutron researchThe newly constructed Weapons Neutron Research (WNR) Facility used the proton beam from the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center to produce spallation neutrons for decades.
Producing protons, neutrons
Guarding the worldWe trained the first class of international atomic inspectors to ensure that nuclear technology and material does not fall into the wrong hands.
IAEA inspector training
Powering pacemakersA nuclear-powered pacemaker sounds like something out of science fiction. But we produced plutonium to power longer-lasting pacemakers.
Heart-pumping atomic battery
GenBank foundedBiophysicist Walter Goad and colleagues created GenBank, the national genetic-sequence database used by millions internationally to support health research.
Unraveling the human genome
Largest gas laserLos Alamos built some of the largest and most powerful laser facilities in the world. Gas lasers are powerful and quite efficient, and we built the largest: Antares.
Laser fusion ignites
Detonation detectionLos Alamos X-ray detector launched aboard GPS Satellite. The goal of these satellites was to support space–based positioning, navigation and to monitor for nuclear detonations.
Piggybacking on GPS
Creating supercomputersLos Alamos developed HIPPI, an interface that transmits large amounts of data and interconnects computers to perform as a supercomputer.
Parallel computing is born
Missile defenseLos Alamos fired a beam of hydrogen particles in the first space test of the accelerator technology as a potential anti–missile weapon.
Space shield technology
Superconductor supportWe established the Superconductivity Technology Center (STC) to help develop electric power and electronic device applications for high-temperature superconductors.
Fastest connection machineInstalled at Los Alamos, CM-5 had a theoretical peak speed of 130 gigaflops, more than a factor of 1,000 over the Cray-1. The parallel supercomputer ran the most demanding algorithms.
Speed is the thing
Nuclear testing endsWith the end of nuclear testing, science and simulation shape a new direction for ensuring reliability of the nuclear deterrent, combining advanced theoretical and experimental capabilities with supercomputing.
Mapped Chromosome 16Chromosome 16 contains genes associated with blood disorders, kidney disease, leukemia and various forms of cancer.
Detecting disease causes
Proton radiographyIn 1995, Los Alamos rivaled Superman by inventing its own form of X-ray vision, proton radiography, which can image light materials encased in heavy metal objects.
Exploring SaturnLos Alamos developed scientific sensors, launched aboard NASA's Cassini mission that studies Saturn's atmosphere, magnetic fields, rings and diverse moons.
First plutonium pitWe produced the first pit for the W88, a thermonuclear weapon deployed by the U.S. Navy on Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Mastering pit development
Quantum dotsAble to manipulate at the atomic level, scientists are creating new materials and devices billionths of a meter small, aiding bio-med, electronics, quantum computing and solar energy.
First weapon simulationResearchers completed the first full-system 3D nuclear weapon explosion simulations (two of the largest ever) so dangerous tests were unnecessary.
Revealing 3D Simulations
Water on MarsLos Alamos instruments find indications of massive amounts of water on Mars, further supported by our analysis and mapping that detected telltale signs—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Providing the evidence
Largest bio simulationMulti–million–atom computer simulation—first to observe the entire ribosome in motion at the atomic level reveals genetic detail that aids drug development and medical breakthroughs.
Largest biology simulation
Predicting space radiationSpace is stormy and filled with radiation that destroys space systems, including satellites. A new model helps predict hazards to steer clear of danger.
Novel nanoscienceWe opened a world-class user facility, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), to investigate all aspects of the manipulation of matter at atomic scales.
CINT user facility
First thinking telescopeWithout human guidance, our telescope found an anomaly: the birth of stellar–size black holes, possibly the most powerful events since the Big Bang.
RAPTOR sees into space
Fastest supercomputerThe world’s most powerful computer, Roadrunner, was the first to exceed one quadrillion calculations per second—about a million times a laptop’s capability.
Breaks petascale barrier
Powerful X-rayThe world’s most powerful X-ray machine, DARHT, produces freeze–frame 3D radiographs of materials imploding at speeds greater than 10,000 miles per hour.
First 3D radiographs
Cheaper, faster securityMagViz, utilizing MRI technology fine-tuned for airport security and more portable, quickly discerns between benign and harmful liquids—even concealed in a beverage bottle.
MagViz: better than X-ray
First cytometersWe invented tools to sort and analyze millions of individual cells per second, accurately and efficiently enabling biological and drug discoveries.
Better cell analysis
Hand-held satellitesMiniscule satellites are inexpensive and versatile, and fit on almost anything launched into space. We built and launched four CubeSats within a few months, validating inexpensive design methodology that could withstand space radiation.
Afforable space research
Disaster supportOur experts were called in during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where we conducted the world’s deepest underwater gamma radiography to determine condition of Blow Out preventer valves.
Deepest underwater radiography
Fuel CellsWant an energy source that doesn’t require recharging, doesn’t use fossil fuels and only emits heat and water? Fuel cells create electricity to power a motor. We created novel scientific methods to increase efficiency, lower costs and make them more environmentally friendly.
Cheaper, cleaner electricity
Radiation belt mysteriesSpacecraft roam the harsh space environment within the Van Allen radiation belts, studying the belts’ behaviors and their Earth impacts. Discoveries rewrite textbooks.
Probe results surprising
Chemcam meets MarsWe continue to aid exploration of the Red Planet. Researchers discovered a streambed and tracked a trail of minerals that suggests water—lots of it—may have flowed.
Biosignatures in space
Green energyHow to power seven billion people with dwindling resources? Researchers are exploring competitive alternatives to crude oil. One environmentally friendly option? Pond scum.
Better cancer detectionWomen may soon have safer, inexpensive and accurate scans that find early-stage breast cancer. We developed a better way to screen, using sound waves instead of dangerous X-rays.
Safer breast screening
Argus II: bionic eyeWith Los Alamos research developments, the bionic eye is one step closer to becoming a reality, helping people suffering from loss of vision caused by diseases and aging.
HIV vaccineRacing for a cure, scientists may overtake AIDS, the disease that has killed 25 million people. With our mosaic vaccine to fight AIDS scheduled for human trials this year, is the three–decade race’s finish in sight?
AIDS’ Achilles’ heel
Fuel from wasteCreating fuel from stumps, stalks or weeds is highly desirable but difficult. We developed multiple methods to efficiently covert grass into gold.
QUANTUM FINGERPRINTSWe developed an impenetrable line of defense known as QKarD, which loads quantum cryptography onto a smartcard or phone to secure private information.
IBEX SATELLITEInstruments aboard NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission probe the edge of our solar system, providing new panoramic views of our galaxy’s gateway.
INVISIBLE INTERACTIONS OBSERVED
TRIDENT LASERSeveral important discoveries and first observations have been made at the record-breaking laser facility. Physics capabilities not found elsewhere in the world.
NUCLEAR MATERIAL DETECTION
Predicting challengesPredicting how materials will behave, forecasting how a hurricane may affect a coastline or calculating energy needs for an expanding nation—a few examples of how we solve tomorrow’s problems today.
Preparing for tomorrow
Extreme materialsUnderstanding the structures and properties of materials, the foundation of modern life, and designing them to perform better is one of our greatest strengths.
Unique facilities, challenges
Threat detectionDetecting and discerning signatures—recognizable patterns or marks—helps us protect the world from nuclear threats, biothreats and environmental hazards on Earth and in space. These signatures also lead to new discoveries.
A changing climateEarth and climate variations affect safety, from earthquakes to extreme drought, flooding to hurricanes. Diverse research supports accurate modeling and mitigation.
Radical computingTo solve tomorrow's complex science problems, supercomputing needs to exponentially increase. High–performance computing is changing directions.
Hidden dangersNew dangers require new defenses. We are experts at seeking and identifying threats in the skies, on the ground, underground and around the world.
Satellites and surveillance
Our evolving missionThe men and women of Los Alamos apply the most advanced science and engineering solutions to address the world's most complex and pressing security challenges.
The future of Los Alamos Lab