Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Bruce E. Warner

Bruce E. Warner

Principal Associate Director for Global Security

Breakthroughs Advance U.S. Competitiveness

At Lawrence Livermore, we foster an environment where mission and national needs combine with state-of-the-art science, technology, and computational capabilities to deliver innovative solutions to a wide range of problems. In this issue of Science & Technology Review (S&TR), we focus on innovation and its importance to U.S. industry and our mission sponsors.

As the feature article, Computational Innovation Boosts Manufacturing, describes, we are applying our expertise in high-performance computing (HPC) and materials science to improve manufacturing capabilities, and in doing so, advance the nation’s economic competitiveness. Through the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) Program, the Laboratory applies modeling, simulation, and data analysis to manufacturing challenges. The goal is to help the industry optimize processes, improve efficiency, enhance quality, reduce waste, and shorten the time needed to adopt new more energy-efficient technologies.

Since its inception in 2015, the HPC4Mfg Program has expanded from 5 seedling projects to 28. Our industrial partners propose which manufacturing issues to target, a formal selection process follows, and the selected projects and companies team with experts at Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge national laboratories to address longstanding technical energy and manufacturing challenges using HPC. This program demonstrates how the synergy of the national laboratories’ world-recognized expertise in materials science, additive manufacturing, and computational codes and simulations is helping us predict materials performance and enhance manufacturing processes.

This issue also includes highlights on innovative ways Laboratory researchers conduct research at the intersection of basic and applied science. In 2016, the Laboratory garnered three R&D 100 Awards from R&D Magazine in its annual competition to honor top scientific and engineering technologies with commercial potential. The gadolinium–lutetium–oxide (GLO) transparent ceramic scintillator dramatically increases high-energy radiography throughput, enhancing the ability to look inside large, high-density metal parts such as turbines, jet engines, and ship welds. GLO provides seven times faster imaging than glass scintillators and decreases the x-ray dose required to obtain detailed imagery. The polyelectrolyte enabled liftoff (PEEL) technology allows freestanding polymer films to be fabricated that are larger, stronger, and thinner than conventional methods can produce. PEEL can fabricate membranes as thin as 30 nanometers daily, and because the process is easily scalable in size and manufacturing quantity, it could eventually be applied for sensing, catalysis, filtration, and wound-healing applications. The Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI) toolset is a suite of computational tools and models for accelerating the development of carbon-capture technologies. CCSI is a partnership between national laboratories, industry, and academic institutions. In addition to the three winners, a Livermore team was also nominated as a finalist in the 2016 competition for developing a technique for growing large-scale, economical stilbene crystals that can accurately distinguish neutrons from gamma rays to identify and distinguish nuclear materials.

The final highlight explains how we are using resonance ionization mass spectrometry (RIMS) to rapidly identify interdicted nuclear and radiological materials. Livermore’s laser ionization of neutrals (LION) laboratory uses RIMS to analyze materials and provide answers about their origins and intended use. Because sample materials are laser vaporized and then immediately probed with resonant ionizing lasers, this process can be completed in hours. We can measure isotope ratios of elements such as uranium and plutonium and determine the level of threat they pose. Although the RIMS technique is typically used in cosmochemistry research for identifying isotope concentrations in cosmic dust, LION is one of a few laboratories that has a dedicated RIMS capability for nuclear forensics.

The scientific and technological breakthroughs discussed herein are a testament to the exceptional staff and technical capabilities of the Laboratory and demonstrate the diversity of challenges we endeavor to overcome through innovative thinking. Furthermore, as seen by these examples, partnerships with industry, academia, and other laboratories are an essential component to advancing solutions that address pressing national needs and boosting U.S. competitiveness.