Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Photo of Bruce Warner

Bruce E. Warner

Principal Associate Director for Global Security

When Every Minute Counts

Former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz once said of the Laboratory, “Your mission is to make the nation safer.” National security is our greatest responsibility, and through the years, we have applied innovative science and technology to address this challenge. Lawrence Livermore uses multidisciplinary capabilities, including in physical and life sciences, computation, and engineering, to reduce global threats and solve pressing national security problems. As part of this mission, we support the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in preparing for disasters such as a chemical accident, a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Helping Cities Prepare for Disaster describes how Lawrence Livermore is applying its expertise in atmospheric modeling, WMD materials, and explosion dynamics to help first responders and community leaders prepare for emergencies, from a railcar chemical spill to a nuclear explosion in a U.S. city. Police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and city emergency response managers make crucial decisions in the first minutes to hours after a catastrophic event that affect how many lives can be saved. The Laboratory is providing the tools that first responders and city organizations need to make informed decisions. These tools consist of science-based emergency response plans, realistic training, and advanced computer models and simulations that show what can be expected during and after emergency situations.

Our models demonstrate the complexity of material and fallout plumes and how the transport and deposition of hazards change over time. With this information, the Laboratory helps first responders and state and local agencies develop contingency plans that can be as detailed as block-by-block guidance. We enthusiastically support these efforts, which may one day help save lives.

This issue of Science & Technology Review also includes three highlights that demonstrate how Laboratory researchers apply their expertise to develop novel materials and techniques to meet mission objectives. The research is conducted at the intersection of basic and applied science and as such provides vivid examples of how fundamental understanding of complex processes can lead to practical, beneficial applications. The highlight Energy Applications Drive Carbon Aerogel Innovation describes recent advances in carbon aerogels that may be useful for a range of new energy and environmental purposes, including hydrogen storage, electrical energy storage, catalytic support in fuel cells, and desalination using capacitive deionization.

A new Laboratory-developed additive manufacturing (AM) technique that uses photoconductive electrodes to create three-dimensional multimaterial composites is discussed in the highlight A Guiding Light for Designer Materials. Building on traditional electrophoretic deposition (EPD) methods, the researchers involved in this effort have made advances in material flow and dynamic patterning to improve AM capabilities. Called light-directed EPD, this method shows promise for developing novel materials with unique properties, improving component quality, and significantly reducing associated production time and cost.

The final highlight, Diving into the Dynamics of Evolving Hydrogen, describes Lawrence Livermore’s simulation and modeling work on photoelectrochemical processes for producing hydrogen fuel, a DOE-sponsored project. Through their computational efforts, researchers are bolstering understanding of the complex atomic and molecular interactions of sunlight, water, and semiconductors in the hydrogen evolution process, which could provide a basis for cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally responsible solar-to-chemical energy conversion.

Together, these articles exemplify what a federally funded research and development center is meant to do: make scientific discoveries and technological advances that support our nation’s needs, and in the case of Lawrence Livermore, ensure national security. The work has urgency and practicality and spans government agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. It shows our ability to respond to current challenges and anticipate future ones. Whether we are helping to provide communities with disaster preparedness plans or establishing ways to improve the nation’s economic competitiveness, national security is always our end goal. At Livermore, we excel at research, development, and implementation because we understand that when it comes to saving lives and meeting national needs, every minute counts.