Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Photo of Monya Lane

Monya Lane

Associate Director for Engineering

Long-Term Investment Drives Engineering Innovation

LIVERMORE’S broad, diverse missions are both enduring and ever-changing. They demand foresight, rigor, and an unwavering commitment to making innovative scientific and technological advances. Accomplishments throughout the Laboratory’s history have demonstrated how our multidisciplinary team approach to problem solving leads to improved capabilities for addressing tough national security challenges. These efforts are further enhanced through long-term investment strategies, extensive research and development programs, and the ability of Livermore’s scientists and engineers to anticipate the future needs of our sponsors and our missions.

The benefits of long-term investment and forward thinking are readily apparent in the Laboratory’s Joint Department of Defense/Department of Energy Munitions Technology Development Program (JMP). As discussed in Advanced Engineering Delivers More Exact Weapons Performance, JMP is leading efforts to develop advanced technologies to meet the evolving needs of the nation’s warfighters. Through this program, many emerging technologies for advanced weapons capabilities get their start and transition to military applications. The program incorporates high-performance computing, material processing and mechanical behavior studies, and computational and design engineering to rapidly deliver new technologies to our sponsors.

JMP was the starting block for what has become one of the Laboratory’s recent crowning achievements: the design, fabrication, and manufacture of an advanced conventional munition called BLU-129/B. Together with the U.S. Air Force and an industrial partner, the Laboratory developed BLU-129/B in response to an urgent need for a low-collateral-damage weapon with improved near-field lethality. Our past research to examine the dynamic behavior of composite materials, characterize explosives, and design filament winding carbon-fiber composites made us ideally suited for the task.

The Laboratory’s multiyear foundational work in fiber composites is exemplary project showing how long-term investment in a particular technology can lead to its use in various applications. Over the last several years, the Laboratory’s research has increased the use of fiber composite materials in our programs and in many industrial applications. During this time, Livermore also established its advanced composite engineering facility to fabricate and manufacture fiber composite materials for broader applications. Designs for low-collateral-damage weapons such as the BLU-129/B would not have been possible without the continued investments and research efforts dedicated to fiber composites and explosives characterization. This ongoing work allows us to quickly address sponsor needs as they arise and deliver solutions to problems that demand almost immediate results. As noted in the feature article, the BLU-129/B warhead was completely fielded in record time: a mere 18 months.

Our sponsors depend on us to stay at the leading edge of technology advancement. We rely on our engineering technology leaders to have the vision for and knowledge of our mission to imagine what is possible in the future. Every year, we look at what technologies we are currently developing and what new ventures should be pursued to advance technologies for mission-related and sponsor-driven applications. The task is not an easy one, but it has yielded fruitful results over the years.

In late 2012, Laboratory Director Parney Albright outlined three key initiatives for Lawrence Livermore programs for 2013 and the immediate future: big data (supercomputing), materials development and manufacturing, and bioengineering systems. Under these initiatives, we are tasked with developing novel material compositions and integrating an advanced manufacturing strategy to produce certified parts and prototypes at Livermore. Our core competencies in computational and materials engineering have positioned the Laboratory to be a leader in accelerating the development and manufacture of advanced materials to meet the demands of our broad missions. As with the BLU-129/B project, we have successfully applied our expertise in large-scale, high-fidelity simulations and materials synthesis, characterization, and fabrication to predict the performance of engineering design and deliver reliable technologies to our sponsors.

Our continued investment in high-quality research and development work, coupled with our ability to anticipate future needs, has been an extremely successful recipe for success. Through scientific and engineering innovation, Livermore is embracing its role as a broad national security laboratory and becoming the “go-to” institution for meeting the diverse needs of our sponsors and the nation.