Principal Technologist Richard Simpson adjusts an igniter assembly at a lake Sandia built a few years ago to conduct the world’s largest liquefied natural gas fire tests ever done on water. (Photo by Randy Montoya) Technologist Richard Simpson: Helping solve Sandia's unique problems

Principal technologist Richard Simpson at DOE's Sandia National Laboratories has filled a canyon with soap bubbles, shot photos of flaming liquefied natural gas from a helicopter, floated balloons hundreds of feet in the air to calibrate cameras, chopped out pieces of a Cape Canaveral launch pad to haul across the country for tests and hoisted a beer with Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan in World War II.

He also has been audited for buying such things as party bubble juice on his government procurement card.

“You buy 20 party bubble machines, they kind of wonder why. You buy 50 gallons of party bubble juice, and they really wonder why,” he said.

Richard Simpson has a pretty interesting job.

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Milind Diwan, Brookhaven Lab physicist and LBNE co-spokesperson.Long baseline neutrino experiment moves forward

According to current understanding, the most abundant particle in the universe is the neutral, almost massless, and virtually undetectable neutrino.

In recent years, technological improvements have revealed that neutrinos have tiny masses, and they constantly change (oscillate) their “flavor” (muon, electron, or tau), a property that governs their interactions with all matter. Moreover, the oscillation frequency depends on the mass differences of the three known neutrinos.

A new project is needed to synthesize this new understanding and, perhaps, finally address a central question in particle physics: What happened to all the anti-matter in the universe? If the oscillating behavior of neutrinos is different from anti-neutrinos, it could hint at how the difference between matter and anti-matter arose in the early universe, eventually leading to matter domination.

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See also…

DOE Pulse
  • Number 381  |
  • February 4, 2013
  • Egg-cellent world-record battery performance

    The yolk-shell nanoparticles are made by coating sulfur with a nanoporous layer of hard titanium dioxide, and then using a solvent to dissolve away some of the sulfur while leaving the shell in place. (Credit: Zhi Wei She, Stanford University) Scientists from DOE's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University  have set a world record for energy storage, using a clever “yolk-shell” design to store five times more energy in the sulfur cathode of a rechargeable lithium-ion battery than is possible with today’s commercial technology. The cathode also maintained a high level of performance after 1,000 charge/discharge cycles, paving the way for new generations of lighter, longer-lasting batteries for use in portable electronics and electric vehicles.

    The research was led by Yi Cui, a Stanford associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a SLAC/Stanford joint institute. The team reported its results Jan. 8 in Nature Communications.

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  • The birth of a very-high-field superconductor

    Fermilab scientist Tengming Shen and his collaborators have discovered how to make better superconducting wires for magnets. The strong magnetic fields of an MRI scanner or a particle accelerator are generated efficiently by electromagnets that have superconducting wire in their coils. A group of scientists has discovered how to make better wires using a promising material known as Bi-2212. With this discovery comes the possibility of creating magnetic fields in excess of 30 Tesla, three to four times higher than those generated by present accelerator magnet technology.

    Bi-2212 (Bi2Sr2CaCu2Ox) is one of the copper-oxide high-temperature superconductors discovered 27 years ago.  Since then, attention has focused on the use of such HTS materials in electric power transmission and other electrical applications not related to high-field magnets.  In those applications, Bi-2212 loses out to other HTS materials.

    Yet scientists had recognized for a long time the potential of Bi-2212 for use in superconducting magnet coils. When cooled with liquid helium, many HTS materials, including Bi-2212, can conduct large electric currents without resistance even in the presence of huge magnetic fields.  But so far scientists only have managed to turn three of these HTS materials into the long wires that are necessary to make coils. Among these materials, Bi-2212 stands out as the only HTS that can be fabricated as a round wire.  This makes Bi-2212 a perfect candidate for winding cables and coils without significantly changing present magnet technology.

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  • Nanoscale "Goldilocks" phenomenon could improve biofuel production

    A computer graphic showing a fructose molecule (white, gray and red chain-like structure) within a zirconium oxide nanobowl (at center). Other nanobowls in the array are unoccupied. The red atoms are surface oxygen and the blue atoms are zirconium. Click on the image to view a larger version. Larry Curtiss, Argonne National Laboratory.

    In a case of the Goldilocks story retold at the molecular level, scientists at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University have discovered a new path to the development of more stable and efficient catalysts.

    The research team sought to create "nanobowls" — nanosized bowl shapes that allow inorganic catalysts to operate selectively on particular molecules.

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  • Containing cotton-ball clouds

    Cotton-ball-like cumuli cloud effects are now captured in a regional climate model. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility.

    The large impact of the small, fair-weather clouds on the amount of sunshine reaching Earth's surface is now more accurately modeled, thanks to scientists at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The team's new method includes variations in temperature and humidity near the surface and their role in forming these clouds. Their method improves climate forecasts and yields better cloud predictions, including the amount of sunshine the clouds reflect.

    Looking like stretched-out cotton balls, these common clouds reflect the sun's energy back to space. Because they are so small, researchers have not been able to track their reflecting properties with global or regional climate models. Improved understanding of the impact of these clouds will provide scientists with more detailed information on weather and climate that was frequently misread.

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  • Ames Lab to lead Critical Materials Innovation Hub

    Extruded Europium (Eu) Metal. The colors arise from various levels of oxidation. The banding is from surface texture variation arising from the extrusion process. Photo by the Materials Preparation Center.

    A team led by DOE's Ames Laboratory has been selected to establish a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that will develop solutions to the domestic shortages of rare earth metals and other materials critical for U.S. energy security.  The new research center, which will be named the Critical Materials Institute (CMI), will bring together leading researchers from four Department of Energy national laboratories, academia and the private sector.

    The new $120 million CMI will focus on technologies that will enable us to make better use of the materials we have access to as well as eliminate the need for materials that are subject to supply disruptions. These critical materials, including many rare earth elements, are essential for American competitiveness in the clean energy industry.  The DOE’s 2011 Critical Materials Strategy reported that supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the coming years.

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