THIS summer the Laboratory demonstrated once again its technical and scientific creativity by winning seven R&D 100 awards. The awards, given annually by R&D Magazine for the world's most technologically significant products and processes, are often called the "Oscars" of applied research.Absolute Interferometer from Laser Programs. This instrument significantly improves the measurement accuracy of spherical and nonspherical optical surfaces. Today's commercial instruments are accurate to between a fiftieth and a twentieth the length of a visible light wave. However, this instrument features an accuracy of nearly a thousandth of a visible light wave (about the width of one atom). The instrument uses diffraction to generate and then compare two perfectly spherical light waves, one as a reference and one to illuminate the part being measured. This new instrument will expand the frontiers of the semiconductor, optical, and metrology industries. It will also help make possible the high-resolution optical systems that are required for extreme ultraviolet lithography.
Ultra Clean Ion Beam Sputter Deposition System by teams from Veeco Instruments and Laser Programs. This high-precision instrument significantly advances the state of the art in low-defect, thin-film deposition technology. The system produces precise, uniform, thin films on substrates, reducing defects by a factor of 100,000. The tool is applicable to a large class of thin-film coatings used in current semiconductor production and very low defect-density films needed for ultrahigh-density multilayered magnetoresistive heads for the magnetic recording industry. The achievement is also a significant step toward realizing the potential of extreme ultraviolet lithography for manufacturing the next generation of computer chips.
Femtosecond Laser Materials Processing from Laser Programs and Defense and Nuclear Technologies. This new tool features full computer control of a laser to accurately machine all kinds of materials (i.e., steel, ceramic, heart and dental tissue) with minimum waste. The machine uses extremely short laser pulses so that material is removed atom by atom. As a result, material even within 0.1 micrometers of the machined surface is not damaged. Because the process does not require melting or boiling, the laser can cut and drill objects that cannot be machined by conventional techniques. In addition, the technology permits the machining of slots and holes down to about 1 micrometer in size.
Multiscale ElectroDynamics (MELD) from Engineering and Physics and Space Technology researchers. This simulation software has the potential to revolutionize the design process for opto-electronics by creating a "virtual optical bench." MELD models very different elements, such as semiconductor waveguides, fibers, and lenses and provides a seamless interface between them. The software enables designers to quickly and accurately explore new designs and packaging approaches, eliminating trial-and-error methods, thereby drastically reducing development cycle time and nonrecurring engineering costs. By reducing fabrication cycles, optimization time, and cost, the software offers the potential to increase the U.S. share in the worldwide opto-electronic component market.
Oil Field Tiltmeter, a collaboration between Livermore Energy and Environmental Programs scientists and Pinnacle Technologies Inc. of San Francisco. This tool detects very slight changes in rock cracks down to 10,000 feet in oil wells. An array of these instruments is used to monitor oil-well hydrofracturing--a technique of cracking deeply buried rock to provide channels through which oil can flow. The information produced from the instruments is used to generate a map of the surface deformation around the oil well for choosing optimal sites for neighboring oil wells. Previous technology could monitor hydrofractures only 6,000 feet deep, a considerable limitation because about 80% of hydrofracturing is done deeper than that.
Ultra High Gradient Insulator from Livermore's Defense and Nuclear Technologies and Laser Programs and the AlliedSignal Federal Manufacturing and Technology Plant. This breakthrough insulator technology improves the ability of insulators to resist breakdowns by up to a factor of 4. It is constructed of ultrafine, alternating layers of insulating and conducting materials. The insulator's marked increase in performance should revolutionize linear accelerators and reduce the size and cost of high-voltage applications, including x-ray machines, neutron sources, power transmission equipment, and plasma radiation sources. The insulator will also permit smaller and entirely new types of high-voltage equipment that were not previously possible.
High-Performance Storage System, a collaboration of Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Sandia national laboratories and IBM Global Government Industry. This new system, based upon innovative scalable architectural concepts, increases both the performance and capacity of storage systems for large-scale computation by a factor of 100 or more. The system will help advance diverse applications such as modeling and simulation on supercomputers, storage and real-time delivery of motion pictures, medical image processing, oil exploration, high-energy physics, satellite data gathering, and the finance and insurance industries. In particular, the system will meet the needs of the DOE's Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative, a major element of the Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program.
Corporations, government labs, private research institutes, and universities throughout the world vie for the awards. Winners are chosen by the editors of the magazine and a large panel of experts in a variety of disciplines. The judges look for breakthrough products or processes that promise to improve people's lives through technological advances.
Past R&D 100 Award winners include products that have become fixtures of modern society--Polacolor film, electronic video recorder, antilock brakes, fax machine, halogen lamp, nicotine patch, color computer printer, and automated teller machine.
Since they began competing in 1978, Lawrence Livermore researchers have garnered 68 R&D 100 awards. Past Livermore winners include the precision engineering research lathe, ultralow-density silica aerogel, the hard-x-ray lens, the three-dimensional chemical x-ray microscope, the miniature mass spectrometer, and the electronic dipstick.
"The awards show that our mission-related work is clearly recognized for its strong potential to strengthen American industry and spawn innovative new products," noted Karena McKinley, director of Livermore's Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization office, which coordinated the entries.
The Laboratory's seven awards match its previous record for awards, set in 1987 and 1988. Four of the seven awards were won or shared by the Laboratory's Laser Programs, which has earned 34--or half--of the awards to date.
"This last year we challenged every directorate to make submissions," McKinley noted. "It is very exciting that this year's winners represent Engineering, Physics and Space Technology, Energy, Defense and Nuclear Technologies, Computation, and Laser Programs."
McKinley also expressed satisfaction that the past year has seen a stronger emphasis on collaboration. Some 41 Lawrence Livermore scientists and engineers had their names on submissions, the largest number ever. Collaborators include three private companies (Veeco Instruments, Pinnacle Technologies, and IBM) and four DOE centers (Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Sandia national laboratories, and Allied Signal Federal Manufacturing and Technology Plant).
Livermore's award winning technologies are:
These seven R&D 100 Award-winning technologies and their creators are featured in more detail in the articles that follow.