in the News
A New Look at a
Chemistry and Material Science
Science Supports National Needs
EXPLORATORY, basic scientific research is key to
the Laboratorys success in fulfilling its missions. Our primary
mission is to provide for national security in a changing world.
At the same time, we must also respond to an array of enduring national
needs. We are improving energy security and environmental management,
advancing bioscience to improve human health, and pursuing breakthroughs
in science and technology. In all of this work, we are pushing the
frontiers of science and often must know the basics before we can
proceed with the more complex.
Stockpile stewardship provides
a particularly dramatic example of the need for basic science. Few
other institutions are responsible for maintaining an aging nuclear
stockpile, one for which no new weapons are being manufactured.
When the weapons program started, no one knew what would happen
to plutonium and other materials in the weapons as they age. Today,
fundamental science plays a critical role in evaluating the effects
of aging on plutonium.
Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) recognize the importance of fundamental research. In addition
to the considerable funding that comes to the Laboratory through
NNSAs Stockpile Stewardship Program each year, DOEs
Office of Basic Energy Science (BES) funds an array of projects,
including two of the four research endeavors addressed in this issue.
The research described in the lead article on the science of welding,
Welding Science: A New Look at a Fundamental
Technology, was funded in part by BES, as was the work on hydrogen
bonding in liquid water, described in the research highlight entitled
Probing the Liquid Water Surface. The results
of both projects have ramifications that extend far beyond the laboratories
where the experiments took place.
is critical to all aspects of national security. Virtually all systems
used in the defense of our country are welded. And the fabric of
the worlds civilian infrastructure, including highways and
bridges, power generation and distribution, and high-rise construction,
depends on effective, robust welds. Reliable welds also help protect
the environment. The Alaska Pipeline, for example, delivers millions
of barrels of oil a year across the fragile Alaskan tundra through
dates back centuries to when humans first began to work with metal.
Yet, only in recent years have scientists had the tools that allow
them to take a close look at this technology in real time. Synchrotron
radiation, a tool used to unlock the structure of proteins, is being
applied to the science of welding with the goal of making welds
safer and more reliable. Livermore experimental results indicate
potential problems with existing welding technology. To counteract
potential safety problems related to weld integrity, developers
are incorporating Livermore data into the design of new welding
electrodes to create more reliable welds.
Until recently, hydrogen
bonding in liquid water has been difficult to examine experimentally.
Livermores work on this basic problem also takes advantage
of synchrotron radiation, using it to determine for the first time
the distance between hydrogen atoms and oxygen atoms at the surface
of liquid water. Details of hydrogen bonding in liquids are important
for almost all biological or environmental research. DNA is a double
helix because of hydrogen bonding. The structure of proteins, which
exist in the liquid water of our cells, is defined in part by hydrogen
bonding. Any system that involves liquid water is affected by the
way that hydrogen bonds. The research presented here is helping
to unravel the secrets of hydrogen-bonded materials.
As long as Lawrence
Livermore is performing science in the national interest, basic
research will continue.
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Department of Energy
December 30, 2001