| July 10, 2006
Qbox revs BlueGene's performance
The world's fastest supercomputer, BlueGene/L (BG/L), located at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is now officially even faster. Already ranked No. 1 by the Top500 organization for its peak speed capabilities, BG/L set a new record in June for sustained performance of 207.3 trillion floating-point operations per second (teraFLOPS), utilizing the “Qbox” computer code for conducting materials science simulations critical to national security. The performance of the Qbox code, specially designed to run on large-scale platforms such as BG/L, has implications for the broader research community and will likely enable the development of new materials of interest to many industries.
[Don Johnston, 925/423-4902,
Online fitness tool users tour the USA
Want to walk across America without leaving your hometown? A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has launched an online exercise log that allows people to enter the number of miles they walk, run or cycle each day. The tool then tracks their progress as if they are traveling from Virginia to Oregon along the TransAmerica Trail.
To entice even the most stubborn couch potatoes into action, the website also allows participants to enjoy the scenery along the way, thanks to images that depict every quarter-mile of the 4,025-mile route.
“There's no lack of information about the benefits of exercise,” says Paul Williams, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division who developed the tool. “What's lacking is motivation.”
The website was developed for an ongoing exercise study, but it is available to anyone for free. It provides a calendar on which participants can enter their daily exercise mileage. They can also view the mountains, roadways, and vistas that mark the cross-country trek from Yorktown, VA to Florence, OR. For example, a participant who runs 5 miles today, walks 7 miles tomorrow, and cycles 14 miles the next day, will see pictures of the trail at 5, 12, and 26 miles.
[Dan Krotz, 510/486-4019,
Hydrogen separation membrane exceeds targets
Eltron Research, Inc., in partnership with DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory, engineered novel membrane materials for producing pure hydrogen from coal-derived synthesis gas. In bench-scale tests, the materials met DOE 2015 targets for sulfur tolerance, economic life, and operating conditions and surpassed those for hydrogen production rate, product purity, and cost. Scaled-up membrane materials and modules will produce 1.3 lb/day of hydrogen from simulated coal gas, and follow-on work will build and test a 220 lb/day sub-scale engineering hydrogen production prototype. Conceptual design of a 4 TPD FutureGen test module will be completed, establishing a benchmark of commercial-scale hydrogen separation modules for future coal-to-hydrogen plants.
[Linda Morton, 304/285-4543,
NREL, universities form energy collaboratory
Colorado Governor Bill Owens recently signed legislation that provides funding to a new Colorado renewable energy research collaboration. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado have been working together since March to create the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory. The Collaboratory will receive up to $2 million per year for three years, beginning in fiscal year 2007. Although the formal establishment of the Collaboratory is still in process, NREL and the Universities have already joined forces to compete for a DOE contract for research on the utilization of solar energy.
[Sarah Barba, 303/275-3023,
New system trains good grid operators with bad data
Power grid operators now have the ability to train like pilots, with simulators providing faulty readings designed to throw them off - thanks to engineers at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Better training to identify and resolve bad data was one recommendation in the final report on the August 2003 blackout. However, PNNL researchers discovered that training with misleading data was not standard industry practice. They teamed with AREVA T&D, a provider of grid simulator software, to create the ability to intentionally insert false data into a training scenario. In a pilot program, operators were trained how to identify bad data caused by instrument failure or malicious hacking. After training, the operators were generally able to troubleshoot faster when confronted with a situation that could lead to widespread power outages.
[Susan Bauer, 509/375-3699,
A natural for science
As the daughter of a Shell Chemical Company chemist and a frequent participant in school science fairs, DOE's Los Alamos National Laboratory Technical Staff Member Kimberly DeFriend found it natural to go into the sciences after high school. Her first interest was environmental chemistry, particularly issues related to water treatment and pollution removal.
"I wanted to try and solve the real important problems," DeFriend says. "And at the time that involved environmental issues." Her work with ultrafiltration membranes eventually led her to a doctorate in inorganic chemistry at Rice University working with Andrew Barron and into a lifelong love of experimenting with materials in the laboratory.
Arriving at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2002 as a postdoctoral research associate, DeFriend originally worked on the laser-assisted chemical vapor deposition processing of materials. Although she'd heard of aerogels before, she didn't know precisely how they were made or what their many applications could be. After discussing the Laboratory's aerogel research project with staff members Doug Loy and Kenny Salazar, DeFriend decided to join the team, which seemed more in keeping with her chemistry background than other opportunities.
Aerogels are highly porous, transparent, fragile materials composed of as much as 99 percent air. Extremely versatile, they can be used in a range of applications and products from thermal insulation and shock absorption materials to body armor and cometary dust capture agents.
Over the years, DeFriend has become the "aerogel person of Los Alamos." She does basic research and development focused on making stronger aerogels with controllable compositions combined with producing them for high energy physics experiments. Her recent efforts on the gas phase chemical modification of aerogels have already generated new intellectual property for the Lab that is already leading to new industrial collaborations. For DeFriend, nothing could be more natural.
Submitted by DOE's
Los Alamos National Laboratory