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December 2001

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Rokaya Al-Ayat

Design of
Microfluidic Devices

Small Science
Gets to the Heart
of Matter

When Lethal
Agents Rain from
the Sky

Technology to
Helps Diabetics





The Laboratory
in the News

In the aftermath of terrorism
A number of capabilities at the Laboratory, developed as part of Livermore’s national security mission, have come to public attention since September 11, 2001.
Livermore scientist Graham Bench led a team from the University of California at Davis to analyze air quality at the disaster site. The team used a device called a Davis Rotating Unit for Monitoring, or DRUM, to collect information about the size and type of particles in the air. The information revealed whether the particulate matter was organic, inorganic, or toxic, and helped officials to determine the best safety measures for the site.
Harry Martz, director of the Center for Nondestructive Characterization in the Engineering Directorate, is on a National Academy of Sciences committee that reviews the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety regulations. Martz’s expertise is in x-ray and industrial computed tomographic scanning technologies, and he has been called on by news media to discuss scanning technologies for passenger and baggage screening.
The Laboratory is researching several technologies for combating terrorism. Among them are the Handheld Advanced Nucleic Acid Analyzer, or HANAA, which can quickly analyze sample DNA in the field to detect the presence of pathogens such as anthrax or plague. In a related effort, biologists are identifying the DNA signatures of a number of pathogens for use in HANAA and other biodetection instruments. Another technology is the Autonomous Pathogen Detection System, or APDS, which also searches for the presence of pathogens in the environment by continuously monitoring the air inside buildings or public venues where the system has been installed. Livermore researchers also are developing gene chips that store genetic information about unique regions of various pathogen strains. Yet other researchers are developing monitoring networks to “sniff” the air over a geographic area for biological agents. And the Laboratory has developed L-Gel, a silica-based oxidizer material that can be sprayed onto any surface to kill biological agents or to neutralize chemical warfare agents.
Contact: Gordon Yano (925) 423-3117 (

Teller symposium educates science teachers
More than 100 high school and community college science teachers from throughout California arrived at the Laboratory on September 21 for the second annual Edward Teller Science & Technology Education Symposium.
The teachers spent two days talking with scientists and engineers about their latest research; attending hands-on workshops in physics, chemistry, biology, and environmental science; and touring state-of-the-art research laboratories.
John Gage, chief researcher and director of the Science Office of Sun Microsystems, was the event’s keynote speaker. He talked about the future of the Internet in education. Director Emeritus Edward Teller also addressed the participants.
The symposium was cosponsored by the Laboratory and the University of California at Davis’s Department of Applied Science as well as other educational, professional, and corporate organizations.
Livermore’s Richard Farnsworth, who coordinated the symposium for the Laboratory’s Science & Technology Education Program, summarized the relevance of the symposium to science education. “It often takes 8 to 10 years to get the information that comes out of research laboratories into the classroom. With this symposium, the Lab and the symposium’s cosponsors are building a bridge so teachers see how today’s science research can affect their science education teaching. . . . We’re giving the teachers materials that come out of our laboratories to take back to their classrooms immediately.”
Contact: Richard Farnsworth (925) 422-5059 (

Lab astrophysicists on grant-winning team
Scientists from Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and the University of Arizona have received a $2-million, 3-year grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to research the physics of supernovas, one of nature’s most fantastic events.
A supernova is literally the explosion of a star. Such explosions are observed in nearby galaxies at the rate of more than once a week. They release great bursts of energy, in amounts that can temporarily rival that of the host galaxy.
Although the temporary “new stars” have been witnessed for centuries, no one knows in detail exactly how they work. The scientists who received the grant will be trying to find out what causes supernovas and what happens when a star explodes.
The team will be attempting to produce accurate two- and three-dimensional models of supernova explosions. Each of the institutions will be applying its specialties to the research. “With this grant, we are trying to understand some of the most challenging issues in theoretical and computational physics,” says Rob Hoffman, one of two principal scientists from Livermore on the project. He and Frank Dietrich, the other Livermore scientist, will be studying such processes as hydrodynamics, neutrino and radiation transport, the nuclear equation of state, convection, thermonuclear fusion, and flame propagation. All are subjects at the forefront of research at the national laboratories and are of importance to both national security and basic science.
Contact: Anne M. Stark (925) 422-9799 (

Bomber convicted with help from Lab scientist
Rodney Blach was arrested in October 1999 for planting six bombs, four of which exploded. They were such powerful bombs that it was a wonder no one was killed, although two of the exploded ones did cause extensive property damage.
Blach thought he could outsmart authorities in their attempts to convict him for the attempted murder of governmental officials in Fremont, California. To do so, they had to link him and his bomb-making supplies to the pipe bombs. Blach, a former forensic investigator, hadn’t counted on the district attorney of Alameda County to bring in expertise from Livermore in the form of Brian Andresen of the Laboratory’s Forensic Science Center. Andresen, trained in chemistry, electronics, and forensics, was able to demonstrate how Blach had been able to adapt a sparkplug for use as a detonator and how Blach’s lack of experience in electronics engineering showed up in inexpertly soldered bomb circuit boards.
Blach was found guilty of 11 felony counts, including attempted murder, after an 11-week trial. Andresen said that the case is similar to the kind of terrorist activity the Laboratory is dedicated to thwarting as part of its national security mission.
Contact: Brian Andresen (925) 422-0903 (

Livermore wins eight Lab–University proposals
The Laboratory’s scientists will join forces with University of California (UC) researchers on eight collaborative projects or exchanges being funded by the Department of Energy. The collaborations are among 11 projects proposed by universities and the Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories. UC officials selected the winning proposals and announced the awards in late August.
The selected projects and exchanges that involve Livermore scientists are: (1) a study of how low levels of unwanted radiation exposure that occur near a tumor during radiation therapy affect the genes and proteins in nearby healthy tissue; (2) development of techniques to measure the carbon-14 content of individual amino acids isolated from oceanic organic matter, which will provide insight into marine ecology, ocean upwelling, and global climate processes; (3) development of noninvasive techniques for the diagnosis of breast cancer with optical lasers; (4) development of new capabilities in medical imaging using gamma-ray detectors originally developed for astronomy; (5) a study of the pathogenic characteristics of the bacteria Chlamydia, which has been implicated in a range of illnesses, so a vaccine against it may be developed; (6) development of catalytic flow technology for small, long-lasting fuels to provide power for telemetry and other remote applications; (7) a study using accelerator mass spectrometry to determine the means by which carbon can be stored in or released by the soil and the implications for climate change and global warming; and (8) development of targeting agents to make cancer cells more susceptible to damage by radiation and thereby improve the effectiveness of therapy using injected radiopharmaceuticals.
The University of California takes some of the management fees paid to it by DOE to fund the collaborations, explained Laura Gilliom, director of the Laboratory’s University Relations Program. She added, “Programs like this really show UC’s commitment to the scientific vitality of the Laboratory. The University being our manager is a great benefit to us.”
Contact: Laura Gilliom (925) 422-9663 (



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UCRL-52000-01-12 | January 25, 2001