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S&TR Staff

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Steven R. Patterson
Associate Director of Engineering

Bridging the Gap between Scientific Discovery and Solutions to National Needs

BRIDGING the gap between scientific discovery and solutions to national security needs is a profoundly creative process. It requires multidisciplinary teams that can achieve an intimate understanding of extraordinary problems. They must have a command of the enabling science and possess the engineering ingenuity and discipline to create deployable technology solutions.
As national security needs evolve, we are presented with increasing challenges for which no “off-the-shelf” solutions exist. Multidisciplinary research combined with technology innovation and rigorous engineering makes for compelling contributions to our overarching national security missions. This approach has helped us to develop and test nuclear weapons that are safe, secure, and reliable. It has also led to extraordinary capabilities to capture experimental results through high-speed diagnostics systems, groundbreaking biodetection devices for national security, modeling and simulations that extend the boundaries of our knowledge, and unprecedented high-power laser systems. A systems engineering approach to current and future challenges ensures that we engage all the elements required for success—from concept to reality
to deployment.
Today, in support of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s strategic nuclear stockpile strategy, we are faced with the challenge of ensuring the safety, security, and reliability of our current weapons stockpile without nuclear testing. Extraordinary scientific and technical objectives are associated with this mission. As the article Measuring Contact Stress inside Weapon Systems describes, one of these objectives is to develop reliable new sensor technologies for measuring and retaining information about the physical and environmental phenomena that a weapon experiences during its life cycle.
This work is being carried out by coupling innovative concepts with Laboratory capabilities in micromachining, materials engineering, and rapid prototyping. Recent developments in micro- and nanotechnology at Livermore, and elsewhere, are being used to manipulate and control materials at the nanometer scale. Livermore scientists and engineers from diverse disciplines, including engineering, chemistry, biology, physics, materials science, and computer science, are making rapid advancements in device development, systems integration, and platform technology in support of multiple missions.
These multidisciplinary collaborations at the forefront of research and development (R&D) have led to novel capabilities such as highly integrated biomicrosystems for sensors and medical devices, photonic microsystems for high-speed signal and data acquisition, microelectromechanical systems for advanced sensing and actuation, and scalable power systems for powering micro- and mesoscale devices. The combination of a talented workforce and unique fabrication facilities has led to highly innovative, full-system solutions to technology needs in stockpile monitoring and stewardship, homeland security, and intelligence programs.
The nuclear stockpile sensor technologies described herein represent a case in point. Unique, microfabricated sensors have been developed that, for the first time, can take repeated measurements of changing loads perpendicular to a surface in a weapon system. The technology stems from earlier work on medical applications and highlights the benefits derived from the Laboratory’s multidisciplinary, multimission environment. These microfabricated sensor technologies are providing the breakthroughs in reliability, longevity, and functionality that are required to develop new measurement systems to carry out our stockpile monitoring and stewardship mission.

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UCRL-52000-06-4 | April 12, 2006