Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Photo of Gregory Suski

Gregory Suski

Acting Deputy Director of Science and Technology

Exploration and Vision Lead to New Solutions

Continuing the Laboratory’s long history of extraordinary success in garnering R&D 100 awards, four Lawrence Livermore teams received this coveted prize in 2014 for their innovative technologies. Their accomplishment adds to an impressive record of 152 R&D 100 awards that began with our first award for diamond machining of optics in 1978. Over the years, Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) investments have led to many of our R&D 100 awards. This year is no exception with two of the four award-winning technologies evolving from LDRD-funded research.

Since 1963, R&D Magazine has selected 100 technologically significant new products or processes each year and honored them with the now widely recognized R&D 100 Award. Winning nominations, which come from private industry, government agencies, universities, and research institutes around the world, are chosen by the magazine’s editors based on peer reviews from panels of experts in relevant disciplines. The judges look for technologies that promise to change people’s lives in one or more of 20 categories, spanning such areas as software and communications technologies, materials science, chemistry, electronics, life sciences, consumer goods, safety, and security.

Many award-winning technologies have become household names or game-changing technical advances, including the Polacolor color film (1963), flashcube (1965), automated teller machine (1973), facsimile machine (1975), liquid crystal display (1980), touch-sensitive screen and color graphics printer (1986), digital compact cassette (1993), and high-definition television (1998). Livermore’s previous R&D 100 awards are among winning technologies that have had huge impacts on U.S. industry. These include a laser-shot peening system for strengthening metals (1998), a technology that has saved the world’s aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars, and DYNA3D (1994), which revolutionized crash simulation in the auto industry by accurately predicting vehicle behavior in collisions. More recently, the Laboratory’s winning technologies include plastic scintillators to better detect nuclear smuggling, the first long-term artificial retinal prosthesis, and enabling capabilities for fusion experiments.

R&D 100 awards captured by Livermore are a metric of successful innovation and an indicator of influence beyond the Laboratory. They are also a testament to the uniqueness of the work done by Livermore’s talented and dedicated scientists and engineers. A considerable amount of research and development is required before a technology or product is ready to enter the R&D 100 competition. Our developers then work with the Laboratory’s Industrial Partnerships Office, and in some cases external partners, to describe the principal applications of the product or technology and how it may benefit the market it serves. This teamwork has contributed to the Laboratory’s exceptional track record of successes in the annual competition.

This year’s four winners are described in this issue of Science & Technology Review. A superconducting tunnel junction x-ray spectrometer for characterizing materials offers more than 10 times higher energy resolution than current x-ray spectrometers based on silicon or germanium semiconductors. The spectrometer was developed in collaboration with STAR Cryoelectronics, LLC.

The microTLCTM (thin-layer chromatography) field-portable kit, originally developed to detect and identify military explosives, has been modified in collaboration with Field Forensics, Inc., to also identify illicit drugs, pesticides, and other compounds.

Another 2014 winner is a Livermore-developed convergent polishing process and system that quickly and inexpensively finishes flat and spherical glass optics in a single iteration, regardless of a workpiece’s initial shape.

Finally, the development of an extreme-power, ultralow-loss, dispersive element is a technical innovation that spectrally combines many small laser beams to reach unseen output levels. Developed in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and Advanced Thin Films, Inc., this novel approach produces a single high-power, high-efficiency, near-diffraction-limited beam.

Congratulations to the many researchers featured in the articles describing these R&D 100 awards for their outstanding efforts. Being listed as one of the top 100 innovations worldwide is an honor, and four awards for Livermore is truly an impressive accomplishment and an indicator of exceptional work, fertile imaginations, and talented people shaping our nation’s future.