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In 2013, the Laboratory celebrated its 70th anniversary. This feature provides, in image format, highlights of our 70 years of science for national security, now and then.
Then In the 1940s, people working at the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos had to enter through the Los Alamos Project Main Gate, where guards checked passes that allowed access to the mesa.
Now Built in 2006, the 275,000 square-foot National Security Sciences Building (NSSB) houses 700 staff members and includes a 600-seat auditorium and lecture hall.
Then In September 1945, J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves returned to ground zero of the Trinity Site atomic bomb test in southern New Mexico. Here, they stand by a small portion of twisted metal that was the only remnant of the 100-foot steel tower that had held the bomb.
Now Today’s scientists extend their understanding of the stockpile with modern facilities and capabilities such as supercomputing modeling and simulation. Here, researchers use the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE), an immersive virtual reality environment, to investigate details of an astronomical simulation.
Then In December 1975, huge magnets were lifted into place at the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility. These magnets were capable of producing extremely uniform fields for the most sensitive spectrometer in the world at the time.
Now A scientist works on the assembly of the 100-tesla multi-shot magnet at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory’s Pulsed Field Facility in Los Alamos. LANL achieved a 100-telsa pulse world record with the magnet in 2012. The study of how materials behave under the influence of very high magnetic fields is a vital component of Los Alamos research aimed at understanding the physics of structurally complex systems at a quantum level.
Then Beginning in the late 1950s, Los Alamos scientists worked on nuclear-powered rockets for space exploration. Project Rover rocket engines were tested at the Nevada Test Site. Here, the Kiwi-B4-A is fired on a May night in 1965 at Jackass Flats.
Now Scientists prepare the Helium Oxygen Proton Electron (HOPE) analyzer for testing and calibration. The HOPE instrument is part of NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission, launched in 2012. The mission is designed to help understand the Sun’s influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying our planet’s radiation belt, a mysterious region that can create hazardous space weather for spacecraft.
Then Nicholas Metropolis (foreground) and James Richardson both worked on the MANIAC computer—the Laboratory's first electronic, digital, programmable computer. Metropolis led the Los Alamos team that designed MANIAC, which became operational in 1952. Today's Roadrunner supercomputer is one trillion times faster than the MANIAC.
Now Today’s high-performance computing includes an immersive virtual reality environment, called the Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) and located at the Metropolis Center for Modeling and Simulation. Here, a scientist interacts with a three-dimensional CAVE simulation.
Then The Harvard Cyclotron, a particle accelerator, was brought to Los Alamos in 1943 to help with Manhattan Project work.
Now Working at the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT) facility, Joe Sandoval (left) and Gabriel Olivas (right) seal up one of the giant induction cells, 74 of which will be used to accelerate electrons to within a hair’s-breadth of the speed of light. The electrons will produce x-rays that capture images of the inside of an imploding nuclear weapon mockup.
Then Los Alamos has conducted explosives research since its founding days, setting up a special Explosives Division initially focused on "implosion gadgets" for the Manhattan Project and then transitioning to broader explosives science and engineering today. Pictured here is an explosives experiment conducted at Los Alamos.
Now Scientists continue to discover details about properties of common explosives, such as TNT and HMX. Los Alamos researchers are growing single crystals of explosives of interest and characterizing their fundamental properties. These investigators will gain a better understanding of how explosives work and establish baseline properties critical for counterterrorism applications. Here Los Alamos postdoctoral researcher John Yeager studies an explosive crystal.
Then In 1957, Los Alamos achieved the first controlled thermonuclear plasma. The Scylla theta pinch device used a rapidly rising axial magnetic field to heat plasma through a combination of shock and compression heating. Los Alamos contributed to the development of controlled thermonuclear research by taking part in Project Sherwood, a national program involving several laboratories to achieve magnetic fusion energy.
Now Ph.D. student Despina Milathianak performs experiments at the TRIDENT Laser Facility. In August 2012 at the facility, Los Alamos scientists observed for the first time how a laser penetrates dense, electron-rich plasma to generate ions. The process has applications for developing next-generation particle accelerators and new cancer treatments. The results also confirm predictions made more than 60 years ago about the fundamental physics of laser-plasma interaction.
Then In 1959, the Laboratory started the Ultra High Temperature Reactor Experiment (UHTREX), a gas-cooled nuclear reactor experiment lasting about 12 years. The reactor first achieved full power in 1969. Here, Hurshel Ainsworth and Richard W. Johnson check the UHTREX fuel-element hole spacing.
Now In current energy research, Laboratory scientists are studying ways to convert lipids from algae into high-energy hydrocarbon biofuels that could be used in airplanes. In the photo, Los Alamos chemical engineer Munehiro Teshima monitors algae growth.
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Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's NNSA © Copyright 2013-14 LANS, LLC