London to San Francisco in less than two hours

A revolutionary design for a hypersonic aircraft that could fly between any two points on the globe in less than two hours has been developed by a researcher at Lawrence Livermore. HyperSoar could fly at approximately 6,700 mph (Mach 10), while carrying roughly twice the payload of comparable subsonic aircraft. The HyperSoar concept promises less heat buildup on the airframe than previous hypersonic designs-a challenge that has until now limited the development of aircraft.
The key to HyperSoar is the skipping motion of its flight along the edge of the Earth's atmosphere-much like a rock skipping across water. A HyperSoar aircraft would ascend to approximately 130,000 feet-lofting outside the Earth's atmosphere-then turn off its engines and coast back to the surface of the atmosphere. There, it would again fire its air-breathing engines and skip back into space. The craft would repeat this process until it reached its destination.
"We believe the design not only addresses the primary issues in building hypersonic aircraft but does so in a way that creates a number of different uses for HyperSoar, thereby helping offset its development costs," said Livermore aerospace engineer Preston Carter, developer of the concept. Potential applications for HyperSoar include passenger aircraft, air freighters, military aircraft, and space lifts.
Contact: Preston Carter (925) 423-8293 (

Livermore interactions help Laughlin win Nobel Prize

Lawrence Livermore extends its congratulations to Robert B. Laughlin, one of three sharing the Nobel Prize for physics in October 1998. Laughlin, a professor of physics at Stanford University, has been associated with the Laboratory for 17 years.
Laughlin credits the Lab's multidisciplinary approach to science as being extremely useful to him in his career. "It is my opinion that the national labs, and Livermore in particular, have tremendous potential for making important scientific contributions," he said.
Laughlin's prize-winning work reveals fundamental insights in quantum mechanics, providing the explanation for the experimental findings of Stormer and Tsui, who discovered the so-called fractional quantum Hall effect. The key surprise of the effect is that collective motions of electrons can behave like a fraction of a given electrical charge for one electron. Previously the only clear example of fractional charges in the laboratory had been quarks.
Contact: Robert B. Laughlin (925) 422-7369 (

Plutonium experiment successful

In work aimed to further the understanding of the properties and microstructure of plutonium as it ages in the U.S. nuclear stockpile, Livermore scientists conducted an experiment deep in the Nevada desert some 900 feet below ground at the Nevada Test Site, 85 miles north of Las Vegas. The experiment, a year in the making, went off without a hitch.
Four coin-sized disks of plutonium were shocked with explosives into a fine dust. Four clocking devices measured the particles' velocities, while a holographic camera recorded three-dimensional images of the particles in flight, all made possible by a complex array of dozens of lenses directing images to the camera. The data will be used to refine nuclear physics computer models.
Contact: Richard Lear (925) 422-5870 (

Thwarting terrorists with a new vehicle barrier

Engineers from the Laboratory conducted a successful test of a new roadblock, dubbed a "terrorist vehicle barrier," at the Nevada Test Site, north of Las Vegas. The concept was developed by Livermore consultant Bill Wattenburg in the wake of the truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In the experiment, a three-quarter-ton pickup truck loaded with 400 pounds of sand (simulating the weight of explosives) was driven by remote control into the barrier system. Ten ordinary steel pipes-each 24 inches in diameter and weighing 1,300 pounds-were strung together in a U-shaped formation resembling a child's macaroni necklace. Running through the pipes was 1-inch steel cable, anchored at each end with 1,200-pound concrete blocks.
"While the truck did surmount the barrier, it was left totally incapacitated and couldn't have moved another inch," reported project investigator David McCallen. "It was dead on arrival."
Contact: Richard Lear (925) 422-5870 (

Calling for NIF optics synergy

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser under construction at Lawrence Livermore will use 22,000 small optics components, a number that inspired NIF project managers to invite optics manufacturers and NIF engineers to a NIF Small Optics Manufacturing Summit in September. Representatives from more than 60 optics manufacturing firms attended the conference.
Participants discussed NIF's technical specifications and manufacturers' capabilities and shared how to meet NIF requirements, form partnerships, and familiarize themselves with the Laboratory's procurement process.
NIF will be the world's largest optical system, a mammoth 192-beam laser facility dedicated to research in national security, energy, and basic science. When complete in 2003, it will contain 33,000 square feet of precision optics-more than in all the telescopes in the world combined.
Back to December 1998