Los Alamos National Laboratory helps maintain the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear stockpile. It also conducts research for new defense programs as well as for a wide range of global security missions. The laboratory, near Santa Fe in northern New Mexico, addresses such problems as energy security, climate change, terrorism, and nuclear weapons proliferation. Focus areas include space exploration, geophysics, materials science, supercomputing, medicine, and nanotechnology.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory focuses on nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, technology development in support of national security and defense, high-performance computer simulation, and materials and energy research. An hour from San Francisco, Lawrence Livermore concentrates on such strategic missions as biosecurity, counterterrorism, energy, and intelligence. The lab is home to the National Ignition Facility, a leading-edge nuclear fusion research center.
Inside the projects
Bechtel and University of California formed partnerships that manage and operate the two labs. Bechtel and UC's partners are Babcock & Wilcox and URS. At Livermore, the partnership also includes Battelle and Texas A&M University. Their combined record of accomplishments and awards is unmatched in both science and industry.
The parent organizations provide oversight through a board of governors, one for Los Alamos and another for Livermore, and the corporate partners share with the labs their best practices, processes, systems, and tools. The contracts are separate, but the partnerships work toward economies of scale and share best practices that benefit both laboratories.
The labs have expertise in nearly every scientific discipline. Personnel there work tirelessly to maintain and enhance national security and advance such crucial efforts as understanding climate change and developing sustainable sources of energy.
Technical staff from both Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos have more than 200 prestigious R&D 100 Awards, presented annually by R&D Magazine to recognize the top 100 technology innovations of the year.
One recent award to Lawrence Livermore recognized a revolutionary imaging technique that captures material and biological processes in action at a nanoscale-level of detail.
Los Alamos was honored for a digital X-ray imaging system that is battery-powered, self-contained, lightweight, and portable. The device will aid efforts in homeland security, inspection, and testing as well as in disaster relief and medicine.
Manufacturers take their electronics products and chips to Los Alamos to be bombarded with neutrons from a massive accelerator there—a beam of particles a million times more intense than in nature.
Why? To simulate in a very short time the long-term effects of cosmic radiation on integrated circuits—effects that engineers at such companies as Texas Instruments, Fujitsu, and Honeywell need to understand. Airplane manufacturers, for example, want to know of a circuit failure in a test bed, not in the air.
The regimen at Los Alamos helped set a global standard for the microelectronics industry.
Recognized for excellence in sustainability
Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos won the majority of the sustainability excellence awards presented in 2013 by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. The sites earned these honors for exemplary efforts to improve energy, water, and vehicle-fleet efficiency as well as to reduce greenhouse gases, pollution, and waste.
At Los Alamos:
- IAEA weapons inspectors learn precisely what to look for—and how
- Scientists channel some of the most potent computing power on the planet to tackle such problems as climate change
- NASA sourced the ChemCam instrument for its Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity
- Cybersecurity experts developed a novel, quantum-particle approach to data encryption
- World-class researchers model AIDS vaccines in partnership with Duke University and others
- Specialists helped develop the first bionic eye
- Leaders in the field of nanotechnology make remarkable advances in nanoscale materials
- Liquid identification technology is being refined for potential use at airport security stations
- Chemists discovered more environmentally sound and less expensive ways to create cellulosic biofuels
At Lawrence Livermore:
- Engineers working with colleagues at MIT developed new ultralight, ultrastiff material for micromanufacturing
- Researchers are developing an implantable device to restore human memory
- Chemists and engineers are working on new technology that converts natural gas to methanol using biologically engineered enzymes
- Scientists discovered new materials with which to capture methane
- National Ignition Facility physicists confirmed that nuclear fusion reactions there generated more energy than the amount deposited into the fusion fuel by the world's most powerful laser
- Specialists are working with Czech counterparts to build an advanced laser system for use in Prague by European Union scientists who will perform unprecedented research in everything from medical imaging to quantum physics
These two laboratories play major roles in several core missions: maintaining the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and emergency response.
Creating entrepreneurs at Los Alamos
With our partners at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, we launched the Venture Acceleration Fund to help local entrepreneurs create new businesses, grow existing ones, and diversify the local economy. To date, more than $3 million has gone to nearly 50 businesses. The fund garnered the entrepreneurship award from the International Economic Development Council, the world’s largest membership organization promoting economic development.
The primary mission of both labs remains the U.S. nuclear deterrent. At the same time, society benefits from an extremely wide range of science, technology, and engineering innovation. The work from each of these laboratories advances everything from industrial efficiency to medicine to energy security.