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NASA is funding a Livermore project to further develop the Laboratory’s volumetric additive manufacturing (VAM) printing technology for producing artificial tissues in orbit. Alongside private space and life sciences company Space Tango, Livermore researchers will refine VAM system prototypes specialized to produce artificial cartilage tissue in low gravity.
Departing from traditional 3D printing methods that deposit layer upon layer of material, Livermore’s VAM technique forms complete objects at once. Devised jointly with researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, the revolutionary system projects computed tomography (CT) images of an object onto a volume of photosensitive resin. The CT views, obtained by scanning the object to be replicated from all angles, rapidly advance as they are cast onto the rotating container of resin, similar to a video being projected onto a surface (see image below). Sufficient interaction between the resin and incident light causes the resin to solidify into the desired 3D shape.
The fabrication technique is well suited to experiments aboard the International Space Station because the environment eliminates the risk of gravity-caused complications such as polymer settling and convection flows, allowing for more precise prints than on Earth. Principal investigator Maxim Shusteff adds, “Cartilage tissue was chosen as a good balance of market need, impact to patients, technical feasibility, and our available expertise.” Similarly, artificial tissues grown in microgravity are expected to exhibit inimitable structural properties, making them valuable medical resources.
Three of Lawrence Livermore’s computing systems placed among the 200 highest performing supercomputers worldwide, as announced by Top500 following the International Supercomputing Conference in May 2022. “We’re proud to add three machines to the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, where we were already well represented,” says Chief Technology Officer for Livermore Computing Bronis de Supinski. Lawrence Livermore now claims nine slots among the Top500 list, the most of any U.S. high-performance computing center. Lawrence Livermore’s highest ranked system is Sierra at No. 5.
Tested individually, Livermore’s lauded systems—rzVernal, Tioga, and Tenaya—will each serve as components for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA’s) first exascale computer, El Capitan. Garnering the highest rank of the three, rzVernal executed 4.1 petaflops (4.1 quadrillion floating-point operations per second) as measured by the High-Performance Linpack (HPL) benchmark. While no single metric can fully capture a system’s design and performance, HPL reflects a machine’s ability to solve systems of linear equations served in variably sized batches of problem sets.
These three systems were constructed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and are equipped with state-of-the-art AMD processing units and HPE accelerator blades. Each machine serves as a supercomputing test bed to experiment with hardware combinations, elements of which might later reside within El Capitan. The forthcoming system’s unparalleled computing power will aid NNSA affiliate laboratories in carrying out mission‑critical research and simulation projects.
A key part of the nation’s nuclear warheads is plutonium “pits.” The new plutonium target fabrication facility at Lawrence Livermore will help advance understanding of the physical characteristics of plutonium as it ages, research crucial to maintaining the reliability of the U.S. nuclear deterrent without underground testing. Researchers have developed experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) to help determine plutonium’s equation of state (EOS)—the relationship between pressure, temperature, and density—as well as its strength and phase transitions. The results are integrated with data from related experiments at Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories as part of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program.
NIF offers the world’s largest and highest energy laser system, creating pressures up to 50 million times Earth’s ambient air pressure, and state-of-the-art diagnostics capable of making dynamic measurements of plutonium. “Combined, these unique capabilities are key to exposing plutonium’s least known properties,” says Heather Whitley, associate program director for High-Energy-Density Science. The new facility is intended to rapidly produce plutonium targets for experiments designed to understand plutonium’s EOS under different conditions. Target production must meet precise specifications for dimensions, surface finish, and alignment. The facility will achieve this goal with equipment including diamond-turning lathes and an integrated team of physicists, materials scientists, chemists, engineers, technicians, and machinists. Targets to measure changes in plutonium’s crystal structure and strength under pressure are also fabricated at the new facility.