MIR being adapted to detect land mines

Land mine detection may become the newest use for Lawrence Livermore's popular Micropower Impulse Radar technology, already licensed for a variety of commercial applications because its cost, size, and power consumption are dramatically less than conventional radar's. In April, the Defense Department's Defense Nuclear Agency awarded the Laboratory $300,000 to adapt the technology for detection of metal and plastic land mines. During the initial year of funding, Lab researchers will develop and test a prototype system and evaluate different radar frequencies for land mine detection. If its efforts prove successful, the MIR land mine project could run for two more years and receive an additional $1 million in funding. Toward the conclusion of the project, the Laboratory expects to work closely with private industry to prepare for large-scale manufacturing of land mine detectors developed under the project. One detector envisioned is a handheld, lightweight sweeper that would be waved back and forth about 10 centimeters above the ground. Other configurations include robotic and vehicle-mounted systems.
Contact: Steve Azevedo (510) 422-8538 (azevedo3@llnl.gov).

Lab to supply adaptive optics for Keck II

Keck II, the new 10-meter telescope atop Hawaii's dormant Mauna Kea volcano, soon will receive an adaptive optics system being developed by Lawrence Livermore and Keck scientists. The adaptive optics system, an outgrowth of the Lab's Guide Star research, will rapidly correct for image blurring due to turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. This system will thus allow the Keck II telescope to see almost as clearly as if it were in space. In May, Livermore Director Bruce Tarter was on hand in Hawaii for the dedication of Keck II. Lawrence Livermore's Large Optics Diamond Turning Machine was used to create Keck II's infrared secondary mirrors. The Laboratory also has about a half dozen research projects that will rely on the Keck scopes.
Contact: Claire Max (510) 422-5442 (max1@llnl.gov).

Bubbles may explain x rays from neutron stars

Powerful x-ray emissions from rotating, magnetized neutron stars may be governed by the turbulent motion of "photon bubbles" rapidly rising from the surface of such stars. That theory, first proposed in the 1980s, appears to be supported by early observations from a new NASA satellite, the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer. If further confirmed, the theory could provide expanded insight into the extraordinary conditions that exist on and near the surface of a neutron star, a once-large star collapsed to a radius of about 10 kilometers (6 miles). Theoretical astrophysicists Richard I. Klein and Jonathan Arons fashioned the photon bubble theory more than a decade before joining observational astrophysicist Garrett Jernigan, who was involved with development of the NASA satellite. Before the satellite's launch, the trio made a major effort to predict what it would see. Because it is so difficult to test, astrophysical theory is often debated for years before gaining or losing favor as evidence slowly accumulates. But in this case, NASA's satellite provided a remarkable range of confirmatory data only weeks after an updated version of the theory was published. The theory and its confirming satellite observations were highlighted in April during a high-energy astrophysics meeting in San Diego. Leading the discussion was Klein, who works at Lawrence Livermore and in the Astronomy Department of the University of California at Berkeley.
Contact: Richard I. Klein (510) 422-3548.

DOE to extend University of California contracts

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced it will enter into negotiations with the University of California to seek a five-year extension of the contracts to manage Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley, and Los Alamos National Laboratories. The present contracts expire September 30, 1997. "The University's record of scientific achievement at the three laboratories and its reputation for `world class' science are unparalleled," said DOE Secretary Hazel O'Leary, in announcing the decision. In response, Lawrence Livermore Director Bruce Tarter said he sees "the University providing unique experience and continuity at a time of sweeping change, particularly during the critical phase of the nation's development and implementation of the science-based nuclear stockpile stewardship program." The stockpile stewardship program is a key element in President Clinton's commitment to maintain a safe and reliable nuclear weapons stockpile without underground nuclear testing. Livermore and Los Alamos are the United States' laboratories responsible for the nuclear components of the stockpile. In recognizing the University's long-standing relationship with the federal government, President Clinton said, "Over the last five decades, the University of California made an enormous contribution to our success in winning the Cold War. We look forward to working with the University of California to promote both our economic and national security."
Contact: Lawrence Livermore Media Relations Office (510) 423-3118.

Celebration pays tribute to patent recipients

Lawrence Livermore this spring honored 127 employees for their work on 88 1995 patent-winning technologies that deal with everything from chromosome staining to groundwater purification. During the spring ceremony, Alan Bennett, director of the Lab's Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization office, spoke of the importance of patents for the Laboratory and the nation. "Patents help Livermore carry out R&D partnerships with industry," he said. "They also help us see that technology developed in the course of our mission-related work has the maximum positive impact on the U.S. economy." In addition, patents generate revenue for LLNL. Last year, Bennett reported that the Laboratory received a total of $1.1 million in royalty income from licenses granted to private industry for use of patented Lab technologies.
Contact: Alan Bennett (510) 423-3330 (bennett18@llnl.gov).

Chiao returns to tell of spacewalking adventures

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, who made his first journey into space in 1994 and ventured from NASA's Endeavor Space Shuttle in January 1996 for a pair of spacewalks, says he hopes to stay at NASA for at least one more mission, perhaps to get involved in building the space station. Chiao made the comment this spring as he related his spacewalking experiences to an audience at Lawrence Livermore, where he has strong ties. Selected by NASA as an astronaut in January 1990, Chiao has been on a leave of absence from the Laboratory since July of that year. Before joining NASA, he worked in the Chemistry and Materials Science Department on processing research for fabrication of filament-wound and thick-section aerospace composites.
Contact: Lawrence Livermore Media Relations Office (510) 423-3118.

Fisher named to lead Lab's DoD Programs Office

Roger E. Fisher has been selected to serve as director of Lawrence Livermore's Department of Defense (DoD) Programs Office. His appointment was announced in May by Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter. In the position, Fisher is responsible for assisting Livermore directorates in development of new R&D initiatives that match Laboratory capabilities with Defense Department technical requirements. Fisher also facilitates and coordinates the Laboratory's interactions with DoD, and oversees the quality and effectiveness of the Laboratory's support efforts for DoD. Fisher brings to Lawrence Livermore many years of experience in national security work, including holding a number of senior-level positions in the Department of Defense. He served most recently in the Department of Energy as deputy assistant secretary for Research and Development in Defense Programs, reporting to DOE Assistant Secretary Vic Reis.
Contact: Lawrence Livermore Media Relations Office (510) 423-3118.

What's that fungus among us?

Long recognized for its depth and breadth of expertise, the Laboratory recently was contacted for its know-how in an arcane field: molds. The national Centers for Disease Control came to the Laboratory for technical assistance on the toxicity of household molds. CDC is considering possible contamination of some Fresno homes by a mold that can produce toxic chemicals. The chemicals-called mycotoxins-can be harmful to the immune and nervous systems. Lab industrial hygienist Rick Kelly specializes in the identification and control of exposure to toxic chemical and physical agents. He has a particular interest in mycotoxins formed by molds that can be found in offices and industrial sites and that eventually are released to the air. Kelly is consulting with the CDC in their investigation.
Contact: David Schwoegler (510) 422-6900 (newsguy@llnl.gov).