Office of Science
- Program Director
- Don Rej
- (505) 665-1883
Science programs: performing scientific research in service of the nation
Los Alamos conducts scientific research designed to transform our understanding of energy and matter and advance the national, economic, and energy security of the United States.
Performed through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE's) Office of Science and connected closely with the best researchers and facilities in the world, these often high-risk, high-payoff efforts enable remarkable discoveries in a wide range of areas.
The research projects also help Los Alamos National Laboratory attract, retain, and develop an inventive and innovative workforce.
Research projects help scientists early in their careers
Each year, recent Laboratory PhDs are invited to submit ideas for research projects for funding by the Department of Energy, as part of its early career research program. Awards of a half-million dollars per year help outstanding scientists develop individual research programs early in their careers, while conducting science in the service of the nation.
Preliminary proposals are due to the Office of Science in September, with formal proposals due in October. Details about the early career research program, eligibility requirements, and research topics for the current year can be found on the Office of Science's Early Career Research Program website.
Diverse research portfolio pays scientific dividends
Our science programs support DOE with a diverse portfolio of research that
- advances science needed for revolutionary energy breakthroughs
- seeks to unravel nature’s deepest mysteries
- provides researchers opportunity to use most advanced, large-scale tools of modern science
We conduct this research through these six core programs:
Imagine exploring the inner workings of a supernova or traveling through time to observe Earth's global climate as it changes.
Scientists today can explore these realms thanks to a hundred-fold increase in computing power delivered over the past five years and the software and algorithms developed to harness the power of these advanced computers.
Advances in mathematics and computing are providing the foundation for models and simulations that permit scientists to gain new insights into problems ranging from bioenergy and climate change to Alzheimer's disease.
A particular challenge of this program is fulfilling the science potential of emerging computing systems and other novel computing architectures. These will require numerous significant modifications to today's tools and techniques to deliver on the promise of exascale computing—systems that can handle a million trillion calculations per second.
A Hulk-like leap in computing power
With a common mission of settling the exa-frontier, DOE's Office of Science's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Advanced Simulation and Computing program are coordinating the United States’ Hulk-like leap in computing power and capability to the exascale.
To make this happen in less than a decade, the agency has established “co-design centers” where everyone who has anything to do with the problem collaborates closely to solve scientific challenges.
One of these co-design centers is the Exascale Co-Design Center for Materials in Extreme Environments, or ExMatEx, headquartered at Los Alamos.
ExMatEx partners with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, other national laboratories including Oak Ridge and Sandia, and universities such as Stanford and Caltech. Using the world’s most powerful computers, its goal is to create an exascale computing environment that will enable research into extreme materials, with an emphasis on simulating how these materials respond to shock waves.
The DOE Office of Science's Basic Energy Sciences program equips scientists with a powerful new generation of tools, including advanced-light and neutron-scattering sources, to explore matter on the atomic and molecular scales.
Over the past 20 years, this work has led to six Nobel Prizes.
Through its Energy Frontier Research Centers and Nanoscale Science Research Centers, the Basic Energy Sciences program supports research to understand, predict and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels. This research is fostering the fundamental scientific discoveries needed to meet energy, environmental, and national security challenges.
Los Alamos leads research at five of these centers:
- The Lujan Neutron Scattering Center provides an intense pulsed source of neutrons to a variety of spectrometers for neutron scattering studies. The Lujan Center features instruments for measurement of high-pressure and high-temperature samples, strain measurement, liquid studies, and texture measurement. The facility has a long history and extensive experience in handling actinide samples. The Lujan Center is part of the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center, which comprises a high-power 800-MeV proton linear accelerator, a proton storage ring, production targets to the Lujan Center, the Weapons Neutron Research facility, proton radiography, and ultracold neutron beam lines, in addition to an Isotope Production Facility, along with a variety of associated experiment areas and spectrometers for national security research and civilian research.
- The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) focuses on exploring the path from scientific discovery to the integration of nanostructures into the micro- and macro-worlds. This path involves experimental and theoretical exploration of behavior, understanding new performance regimes and concepts, testing designs, and integrating nanoscale materials and structures. CINT focus areas are nanophotonics and nanoelectronics, complex functional nanomaterials, nanomechanics, and the nanoscale/bio/microscale interfaces. CINT is jointly administered by Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. It makes use of a wide range of specialized facilities including the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Los Alamos.
- The Center for Materials at Irradiation and Mechanical Extremes is designed to understand, at the atomic scale, the behavior of materials subject to extreme radiation doses and mechanical stress to synthesize new materials that can tolerate such conditions. It is a collaborative effort led by Los Alamos National Laboratory that includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Carnegie-Mellon University.
- The Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics seeks to provide solutions to global energy challenges by exploring novel concepts for converting solar light into electric current or chemical fuels through the design of nanoscale structures guided by theory and modeling. This work is designed to build practical foundations for generation-III solar energy conversion technologies that produce efficiencies using nonthermalized carriers, inexpensive scalable structures, and routine chemical fabrication methods.
The DOE Office of Science's Biological and Environmental Research program addresses diverse and critical global challenges related to biofuels, carbon storage, the cleanup of contaminants, and climate prediction. The program conducts research into sustainable biofuel production, improved carbon storage, or contaminant bioremediation.
This research advances our understanding of the roles of Earth’s atmosphere, land, oceans, sea ice, and subsurface in determining climate—helping us plan for future energy and resource needs.
Los Alamos provides research activities and facilities in support of this mission, through the following:
- Los Alamos is the second largest partner institution of ’s DOE's Joint Genome Institute, which supports research related to clean energy generation and environmental cleanup. The facility provides integrated genome sequencing and computational analysis to help scientists develop scientific approaches to these environmental challenges.
- The Protein Crystallography Station at Los Alamos provides the international scientific community with resources needed to conduct experiments related to the structure and dynamics of proteins, biological polymers, and membranes.
The DOE Office of Science's Fusion Energy Sciences program conducts research related to developing fusion energy sources.
Fusion energy sciences studies the physics of plasma, hot gases of ions and electrons found in places as diverse as the sun’s center, bolts of lightning, fluorescent bulbs, and televisions. Its goal is to advance the understanding of how matter behaves at very high temperatures and densities, and, ultimately, to develop the capability needed for a sustainable fusion energy source.
Los Alamos’ fusion energy program conducts experiments on fusion energy concepts and performs theoretical modeling of fusion energy plasmas. It also contributes to fusion energy science in the areas of tritium technology and inertial fusion target fabrication. Laboratory research in this area spans conventional concepts of fusion energy, such as magnetic confinement fusion, as well as alternative concepts like reversed field pinches and magnetized target fusion.
Los Alamos’ fusion program is closely integrated with related work throughout the United States, including the work of the international ITER project for fusion. ITER represents an unprecedented international collaboration of scientists and engineers working to design, construct, and assemble a burning plasma experiment that can demonstrate the feasibility of fusion as a commercial power source.
Los Alamos also collaborates with U.S. ITER, the DOE project that contributes personnel, equipment, and funding to the international effort.
The DOE Office of Science's High Energy Physics program seeks to understand how our universe works. It involves exploring the basic nature of space and time itself, discovering the elementary constituents of matter and energy, and probing the interactions between them.
Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and engineers investigate the field of high energy physics through experiments that strengthen our fundamental understanding of matter, energy, space, and time. Los Alamos projects in this area include the following:
- On the trail of one of the greatest mysteries in physics, Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers working on the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment seek to discover why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. The experiment will use the most intense neutrino beam ever created and one of the largest neutrino detectors ever built. Read more: LBNE: The inside buzz on a new science project
- Los Alamos has a long history of neutrino research, from the Nobel-prize winning 1950s Cowan-Reines experiment that confirmed the existence of the antineutrino to modern experiments using large water Cherenkov detectors. Read more: Observing NEWtrinos
- The High Altitude Water Cherenkov gamma-ray observatory seeks to help solve the mystery of cosmic-ray origin. Surveying the sky with 300 detectors arrayed on the slopes of Mexico’s Pico de Orizaba volcano, the telescope builds on the experience of the Milagro, a detector experiment in the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos, which discovered new sources of gamma rays. YouTube Video: “Probing Nature’s Highest Energy Particle Accelerators”
- Assembled in a cavern 2 kilometers beneath the surface of the Earth, the Mini-CLEAN project will search for a rare signal associated with weakly interacting massive particles, hypothetical particles making up dark matter, the most dominant form of matter in the universe.
Nuclear physics leads us on a journey of exploration into the nucleus of the atom—the very heart of matter.
Scientists do not yet have a complete understanding of how the particles that make up nuclear matter fit together and interact to create different types of matter in the universe. To help solve this mystery, the DOE Office of Science's Nuclear Physics program supports experimental and theoretical research, along with the development and operation of particle accelerators and advanced technologies, to explore the different forms and complexities of nuclear matter.
Nuclear physics research is also fostering important advances in medicine, chemistry, and other sciences.
Los Alamos National Laboratory’s isotope production facility supplies nuclear isotopes—radioactive chemical elements—for a wide range of uses, including the following:
- The Laboratory’s nuclear medicine isotope production is critical to ensuring a safe and reliable domestic supply of isotopes for medical diagnosis and treatment. Los Alamos also produces isotopes for toxicology research and conducts research into targeted radionuclide therapy for cancer.
- Los Alamos produces isotopes that are used for oceanographic tracing, contributing to a better understanding of climate change and its effects. Other isotopes produced at the Laboratory help ecologists understand the impact of acid rain. Still others are used to track the flowpaths of water.
The Laboratory also provides training in radiochemistry, including all levels of isotope production and application, for students, postdocs, and visiting scientists.