WHILE research and development budgets have recently declined, the nation's and the world's economies continue to grow, to a large extent fueled by scientific and technological innovations. The growing economic importance of innovation creates opportunities upon which the Laboratory can capitalize, especially as private long-term R&D investment continues to decrease. The flexibility of people and the breadth and depth of core technologies in Livermore's Engineering Directorate together enable Laboratory programs to make the most of these opportunities.|
One example of the strength within Engineering is nondestructive evaluation (NDE), a capability like many in Engineering that contribute to most Laboratory program missions and enable successful outcomes of Laboratory technology. The following article, "Advancing Technologies and Applications in Nondestructive Evaluation," reports on the kinds of specially tailored engineering approaches for which Livermore is particularly known. And with collaborations outside the Laboratory, the NDE capability also broadens Livermore's influence among the technical disciplines of measurement, monitoring, and controls.
In meeting the increasingly faster-paced cycles of innovation and change, Engineering's role is to foster unique, science-based technologies that will substantially enhance the Laboratory's ability to initiate and execute programs. For example, NDE's unique facilities, a variety of energy sources (such as x-ray and gamma-ray instrumentation), and the ability to digitally acquire, process, and image data place the Laboratory at the forefront of inspection, characterization, and certification techniques. Other examples of Engineering's contributions to applied science programs include microtechnologies (see S&TR, July/August 1997), regenerative fuel cells (S&TR, May 1997), and computational electromagnetics (S&TR, March 1997).
Engineering also works to enhance the Laboratory's external visibility by supporting external collaborations. For many years, we facilitated productive interaction between the scientific community and the marketplace, providing insight from industry to Laboratory programs while gaining greater external recognition for our capabilities and achievements in the process. The following article, for example, illustrates how the NDE staff couples the Laboratory to other external collaborators, especially the Department of Energy, with its noninvasive assays of waste drums.
In Engineering, as in other Laboratory directorates and programs, we routinely must sort through our toolbox of intellectual and physical resources to provide what's needed today and what scientists and conceptual engineers will need tomorrow. We find that one key to the next success is the flexibility of the tools that are chosen. For example, most of us discarded the analog world of pocket protectors and slide rules for the digital realm of computers some years ago. Today Engineering's tools include:
In fact, these tools look surprisingly like tools elsewhere around our Laboratory and in successful companies. Our biggest ongoing challenge in Engineering is developing the next generation of tools to enable programmatic success while sustaining the most appropriate level and breadth of our expertise with these tools.