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In each issue of Science & Technology Review, readers learn about Lawrence Livermore research and technologies pushing beyond the state of the art. This issue continues that trend, but with a touch of glitter and gold. The feature article, A Tradition of Excellence in Technology Innovation, presents the Laboratory’s ongoing success in achieving an industry-wide indicator of innovation excellence: R&D 100 awards. In 2021, Lawrence Livermore received three awards, raising the Laboratory’s total awards to 173 over nearly 45 years of participation.
While our mission motivates the range of research conducted at Livermore, awards and recognition confirm that the work done here truly merits the title “innovative.” Livermore research is frequently cited in peer-reviewed journals—a mark that our scientific outcomes have broken new ground. Our people receive professional society awards as well. Adding to this list, R&D 100 awards acknowledge Laboratory research nurtured and developed from the earliest stages into devices or software that benefit unique users as well as society as a whole. Beneficial and broad impact is clear for each of our 2021 winners. The Multiplicity Counter for Thermal and Fast Neutrons advances radiation detection technology to better support emergency response to suspected nuclear devices. By optimizing how computing resources are used to solve complex scientific problems, the Flux workflow manager speeds important developments in areas such as effective treatments for disease, among others. The Optical Transconductance Varistor holds the promise to improve electricity delivery on the nation’s electrical grid and speed integration of renewable resources into the power mix.
Stepping back to view the success of the Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory complex as a whole in achieving R&D 100 awards points to the incredible contribution of the enterprise. DOE national laboratories consistently receive approximately one-third of the awards, which are chosen by expert judges reviewing an international pool of industry and research institution nominations. Such consistent outcomes reflect that DOE national laboratories live up to their mission of tackling the critical scientific challenges of our time by translating basic science into innovative applications. The expertise and one-of-a-kind facilities within DOE yield research that, when developed in partnership with industry and with other academic institutions, address worldwide concerns. The power of DOE’s innovation ecosystem to advance federally funded research into beneficial products and services cannot be understated.
The three research highlights in this issue further demonstrate the Laboratory’s strengths and ingenuity. The first highlight, A Serious Game for Incident Response Training, presents TARANTULA (Tactical Augmented Reality Applications for Nuclear Emergency Support Team Training Using Livermore Analytics), an interactive simulator set to change the course of nuclear emergency response training. Unlike devices that focus on contamination after a nuclear device is detonated, TARANTULA simulates response in seeking and preventing a nuclear explosion and subsequent fallout. The second highlight, Charging Up and Rolling Out, describes the Laboratory’s multiyear project to complete infrastructure upgrades required for exascale computing and the introduction of the El Capitan supercomputer. Livermore teams delivered utility-scale power, sequenced controls, and an energy-saving cooling solution that eliminates traditional chillers. The final highlight, Taking Implantable Microsystems to the Next Level, details implantable probes that reveal never-before-seen views of human brainwaves. Building off a 2009 R&D 100 Award–winning technology, Livermore’s latest probes are designed to be uniquely flexible, small, and light weight.
I am delighted to close my commentary with news that reached the Laboratory as this issue went to print: Lawrence Livermore received three 2022 R&D 100 awards for technologies advancing 3D printing and laser science. DOE national laboratories earned 40 R&D 100 awards in 2022 and seven Special Recognition awards, some of which included multilaboratory collaborations. Overall, national laboratory winners offer improvements in clean energy, clean water, spectroscopy, epidemiology, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, optical sensors, manufacturing, and many other fields. The trend of innovation—at the Laboratory and across the DOE complex—continues.