Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Laboratory Captures Five R&D 100 Awards

Five technologies developed by Livermore researchers and their collaborators have been honored with R&D 100 awards in R&D Magazine’s annual competition for the top industrial inventions worldwide. The winning technologies are as follows:
• DNA-tagged reagents for aerosol experiments (DNATrax) is a safe, versatile material that can quickly diagnose airflow patterns and problems at indoor and outdoor venues.
• Efficient mode converters for high-power fiber amplifiers allow researchers to increase the power levels of fiber-based lasers while keeping the laser effectively focused.
• Laser SHIELD is a high-throughput screening tool for identifying energetic laser distortion in experiments at the National Ignition Facility.
• Movie-mode dynamic transmission electron microscopy is a versatile imaging technique, developed in partnership with Integrated Dynamic Electron Solutions, that captures material and biological processes in action at the nanometer scale. (See A Bright Idea for Microscopy.)
• Mantevo Suite 1.0, a collection of software prototypes or small sections of code, allows computational scientists to measure the performance of new computing environments and to design future applications. Sandia National Laboratories led the development effort for this software in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, the United Kingdom’s Atomic Weapons Establishment, and NVIDIA Corporation.

Livermore has received 148 R&D 100 awards since 1978, when the competition began. The October/November issue of S&TR will highlight the winning technologies and their development teams.

Contact: Richard A. Rankin (925) 423-9353 (

Testing Legacy Confirms Neurogenesis

An international collaboration involving Livermore scientist Bruce Buchholz has found that the brain makes new neurons well into adulthood—a finding that may profoundly influence research on human behavior and mental health. The research team used carbon-14 dating techniques to establish the age of cells in the hippocampus. The technique is based on the spike in global levels of carbon-14 that resulted from aboveground nuclear weapons testing between 1955 and 1963, when atmospheric tests were banned.

The team examined hippocampal tissue acquired from 60 people who had died between the ages of 19 and 92. Results showed that the brain adds about 1,400 new neurons every day, and the annual turnover rate is 1.75 percent, declining modestly in older individuals. The team also found significant variability in the individual levels of incorporated carbon-14. These findings provide support for further research into harnessing adult neurogenesis to treat age-related cognitive disorders and psychiatric conditions.

The carbon-14 study was led by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and included scientists from University of Lyon, Uppsala University, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, and University of Miami. The team’s results appeared in the June 6, 2013, edition of Cell.

Contact: Bruce Buchholz (925) 422-1739 (

Underground Movie of Carbon Sequestration

Using the world’s deepest electrical resistance tomography (ERT) system, a research team led by Livermore geophysicist Charles Carrigan broke the record for tracking the movement and concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a geologic formation. Results from this study provide insight into the effects of using geologic sequestration to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

From December 10, 2009, to March 12, 2010, researchers collected time-lapse electrical resistivity images while more than 1 million tons of CO2 was injected more than 3,000 meters deep into an oil and gas field in Cranfield, Mississippi—the deepest application of ERT imaging to date. “The images provide information about the movement of injected CO2 within a complex geologic formation,” says Carrigan. “They also show how the distribution of CO2 changes over time in a porous sandstone reservoir.”

The team’s success points to other potential applications for high-resolution ERT. For example, the technique might be used to monitor the caprock, or geologic barrier, of a sequestration site, providing an early-warning system for the formation of fractures before pathways could open into overlying or nearby water resources. Another potential application involves monitoring the boundary of an area leased for sequestration to ensure that CO2 does not migrate into an adjacent parcel.

Results from the ERT project appeared in the June 1, 2013, online issue of International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control.

Contact: Charles Carrigan (925) 422-3941 (