Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Photo of A. J. Simon

A. J. Simon

2013 Scientific Editor of Science & Technology Review

Diversity of Science Addresses Broad Missions

As this year’s scientific editor of Science & Technology Review (S&TR), I have been tasked with exploring the remarkable diversity of research being undertaken at Lawrence Livermore. My assignment has afforded me the opportunity to learn what our researchers are doing and why. It has been a yearlong immersion with extraordinary technical experts, who are just as passionate about making the world a safer place as they are about pursuing scientific research.

This diversity, of both science and the national mission it supports, is on display in this issue of S&TR, which features the Laboratory’s R&D 100 Award winners for 2013. Each year, R&D Magazine presents these “Oscars of Innovation” to the top 100 technological advances that contribute to meeting an important national or societal need. Livermore garnered five awards in 2013, bringing the Laboratory’s total to 148 since 1978. These highlights showcase the winning technologies: DNA-tagged reagents for aerosol experiments, efficient mode converters for high-power fiber amplifiers, movie-mode dynamic transmission electron microscopy, a high-throughput screening tool for identifying energetic laser distortion, and a collection of software proxies (mini-apps) that allow developers to measure the performance of new computing environments. The development teams included computer scientists, electrical and optical engineers, laser scientists, biologists, material scientists, and electron microscopists, who together worked to find innovative solutions for various government agencies: the National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and Department of Defense.

The intellectual range and applicability of the Laboratory’s work are further exemplified by two other stories in this issue: enterprise modeling and seismic simulation. These projects effectively span the Laboratory’s mission scope—from support for decision making to sustain our nation’s strategic deterrent, to application of the Laboratory’s capabilities for enhancing science education in our local community.

Livermore’s work in systems analysis and optimization science are an integral part of our nation’s planning for how to maintain an effective nuclear weapons enterprise in a rapidly changing global environment. This mathematically demanding work depends on the application of expertise, detailed knowledge, and copious data gathered from across the enterprise. The data pertain to the nation’s weapons, facilities, and personnel as well as the dynamic interactions of system components. A team of analysts and engineers has risen to meet the challenge, delivering computer models and analysis products to personnel in the departments of Energy and Defense whose enduring mission is nuclear deterrence.

At the other end of the spectrum, the collaboration between a team of Livermore seismologists and the California Academy of Sciences illustrates how high-fidelity seismic data can be rendered into animations that both inform and entertain the general public. Since the Laboratory’s inception in 1952, education and public outreach have been essential ingredients in our culture and mission responsibility. Therefore, distilling the complexity of a global, three-dimensional seismic-wave propagation simulation into an IMAX movie was a natural step for the Livermore team. The results are spectacular: the production team at the Academy stitched gigabytes of data from two separate simulations into a single shot that renders earthquake physics at multiple scales into a scene that is technically accurate, but accessible to the general public.

By developing a completely different but no less impressive movie-making technology, a team from Livermore has won an R&D 100 Award for the movie-mode dynamic transmission electron microscope (MM-DTEM). With a combination of precision lasers, an ultrahigh-resolution microscope, and sophisticated electron-beam optics, MM-DTEM captures video of previously unseen fleeting phenomena at the nanometer scale. This sophisticated instrument enables the intuitive understanding of complex natural systems that can only be achieved by direct observation.

The Laboratory addresses global, national, and local security challenges, through interdisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers. As individual experts, we are immersed in a community of technical knowledge, exchanging ideas with colleagues who are also expert in a multitude of other fields. As teams, we systematically eliminate the unknown and achieve what was thought to be impossible. Exploring the interests and accomplishments of my colleagues could satisfy the most voracious scientific curiosity. It has truly been a pleasure to work with the staff of S&TR, helping to bring these diverse stories to life.