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Lab News -- September 16, 2005

September 16, 2005

LabNews 09/16/2005PDF (650KB)

Answering the nationís call: Sandia part of team assessing aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

By Michael Padilla

What began as Sandia helping with computer simulations to determine the potential impact of Hurricane Katrina on infrastructures has turned into a series of nearly daily analyses of one of the nation’s worst natural disasters.

A team from Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories is looking at Katrina’s long-range implications on infrastructure, including energy, telecommunications, agriculture, and the chemical industry.

Consisting of scientists, engineers, and economists, the group is part of the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), organized by the Department of Homeland Security

NISAC began its work on the Saturday prior to Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast region. Sandia’s main goal is to look at flooding and infrastructure failures; LANL focuses on electricity systems.

“We help determine the long-range industrial consequences regardless of the cause,” says Kevin Stamber (6226), a NISAC member.

The idea is to use the models to warn officials of potential problems before they happen. The team often has less than one day from the time they are notified by DOE or DHS to generate reports concerning an event’s potential effects on infrastructure.

Nancy Brodsky (6222), the Fast Analysis and Simulation Team lead, says the reports are not made public but are given to DHS for analysis and planning. Reports are not issued to the public because they could be misrepresented.

“We’re looking at a variety of things, including economic effects and what sectors of the nation will be affected,” Nancy says. “We don’t play the numbers game and we can’t predict everything.”

Tom Corbet (6222), a member of NISAC, says the supply of oil and gas could be problematic during the winter months. Refineries in the Gulf Coast region account for 14 percent of US refining, and refineries in other parts of the country will not be able to make up for capacity lost because of Katrina, he says.

Tom says the team looks at other areas that oil will impact. This includes other businesses, commerce, and competition from other products. “We’ll potentially see something happen in one or two months,” Tom says.

Ongoing analysis

The pre-event analysis included an estimate of outages to electric power and wireless telecommunication infrastructure due to wind damage, and an estimate of the potential impacts on other infrastructure sectors based on projected power outages, including identification of critical assets in the storm’s path.

The post-event analysis includes almost daily reports on implications for recovery and rebuilding operations based on known damage to infrastructure. This also includes identification of critical electric power substation/generation facilities for balanced restoration and operation of the power grid in the southeastern United States.

Theresa Brown (6222), NISAC project manager at Sandia, says analysis is based on estimated flood zones and telecommunication industry switch location data. This identifies what the probable loss and recovery steps will be.

NISAC has conducted a supply chain analysis of chemical production in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge region, and performed a series of analyses of disruptions to rail commodity flow assuming different levels of disruption to the rail network in the affected region.

In addition, models have been created to simulate the national petroleum system to evaluate potential distribution and magnitude of fuel shortages and post-event economic analysis.

Potential economic impacts of chemical supply and transportation disruptions are also studied.

NISAC will continue to look at stresses on infrastructures and demand for services in communities supporting large numbers of the displaced populations. -- Michael Padilla

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Labs project advances next-generation secure wireless networks

By Michael Padilla

A new secure wireless network can soon be used to help monitor soldiers in the field and help protect US Air Force bases and DOE nuclear facilities.

Matured from work over the last decade, Ultra Wideband (UWB) has recently surfaced upon the radar screen of wireless technologies.

“Although the first certified product appeared in 2002, UWB is becoming an important player with wireless security and other applications,” says Timothy Cooley (6428), principal investigator of the project. “The role of Sandia has been to spearhead and accelerate the development of UWB for secure wireless communication networks used for sensor networks and for wireless controlled operated weapons systems.”

Sandia’s task was to develop an “ultra-secure wireless network communication,” says Timothy. A highly secure wireless communication was defined to be a highly secure physical layer such as that offered by UWB that is combined with highly encrypted data.

This secure form of wireless communication leverages UWB with the unyielding encryption protection of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) to form UWB/AES.

UWB transmits a flood of ultra-short microwave pulses of energy on the order of 100 picoseconds (one picosecond is one-millionth of one-millionth or 10-12 second) in duration that extend over an extremely wide band covering several gigahertz of frequency.

“With the spreading of impulse energy over such wide frequency spectrum, the signal power falls near or within the noise floor, making these signals extremely difficult to detect, intercept, or jam, and when combined with AES, virtually impossible to crack,” he says. “Utilizing the immense available spectrum of UWB also improves wireless performance to accommodate the increased data rate needed by advanced sensors.”

UWB — often called fast frequency chirp, super wideband, carrierless, or impulse radio — is unique since its classical form is non-carrier based communication and the FCC has allotted it a very wide frequency spectrum ranging from 3.1 to 10.6 GHz or 7.5 GHz, he says.

“While UWB impulse provides a new form of wireless communication, its impulse signal can also be used for radar,” says Timothy.

According to Timothy, the new wireless technology promises to be a gateway for a new generation of advanced sensors created by fusing UWB communication with UWB radar. The new technology can be used to detect intrusion of adversaries or insurgents for the protection of tactical forces and forward bases such as those deployed in the Middle East or Iraq. He says this technology is of particular value to the US Air Force Electronic Systems Center (ESC), whose mission is to provide the latest in command, control, and information systems for the Air Force. The ESC sponsored the work, he says.

UWB wireless communication can help soldiers in the field where stealth operation and covert technology are crucial.

Any RF detection by an adversary can target critical operating positions, jeopardizing assets and forces. UWB can offer lower probability of detection and interception “This lowers the risk posed by enemies or combat adversaries from detecting our positions and from jamming our vital wireless communication,” he says.

An advanced form of UWB wireless network located on each soldier can send his state-of-health information — heart rate, respiration, and a biometric identifier to distinguish the soldier from a foe.

“This helps eliminate accidental death from fratricide,” he says. “GPS can be also combined to provide his location at all times as well.”

Other advantages are in size, weight, and battery life. UWB transceivers can be small and use less power for longer operation and greater battery life in the field.

At this point the current UWB technology is too large and expensive for troops, but progress to miniaturize and reduce costs is expected within the next five years. The cost could fall from $10 to $100 per soldier when mass-produced.

Based upon tests conducted at the KoolSpan Encryption Laboratory in Santa Clara, Calif., earlier this year, Sandia with KoolSpan Inc. demonstrated a wireless UWB network bridge with real-time 256-bit AES encryption for live-streaming video images generated from a surveillance camera or thermal imager.

The tests used only microwatts of transmitted power, approximately 1,000 times less power than typically used by conventional wireless IEEE 802.11b or Wi-Fi. Timothy says research on the technology will continue and will eventually be used to help secure DOE labs. -- Michael Padilla

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Education and learning focus of Sandia/Lockheed Martin gift


By Iris Aboytes

Sandia National Laboratories/Lockheed Martin recently presented the National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) and its Foundation with a $100,000 gift. Pam Catanach (3652) says that brings the total to $432,125 over the last several years.

The $100,000 will support the National Hispanic Cultural Center’s education program, completion of the fresco in the Torreón (watchtower), and a naming in the future education building. Groundbreaking for the education building is slated for early next year.

The Torreón fresco is a masterpiece in the making. Images ranging from Mayan, Aztec, and Peruvian gods, to Anasazi and Christian religious saints, Celtic and Roman symbols, Phoenician and Moorish figures, Spanish missions in the Southwest, and historical icons grace more than 100 interconnected panels. When complete, the Torreón will have the distinction of containing the largest concave fresco in the United States, covering approximately 4,000 square feet.

New Mexico native Frederico Vigil (at the top of the lift in the photograph at right) is the creator of the fresco depicting the history of people of Hispanic origin in the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula.

“Each image will depict an event or a character in Hispanic history,” says Vigil. “Before I began sketching, five PhD’s in Hispanic history and I met to discuss people and events spaning more than 500 years. The sketches were reviewed for accuracy, and a final design was approved.”

The ancient form of Buon Fresco dates back to 3000 B.C., with its popularity peaking in Italy with Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel, and in Mexico with Diego Rivera’s works in the last century. It was also used by Native Americans in their pottery. Fresco refers to the process of painting lime and inorganic pigment on wet plaster. The process of bonding plaster is time-consuming, as lime and paint mixtures are prepared and five coats of plaster are applied. Should mistakes be made, the plaster must be scraped off and the process begins again. Completion should take about three and a half years.

“What I paint today, tomorrow, and what I painted yesterday, will be here forever,” says Vigil. He is now teaching the next generation, interns Adriana Felix and César Chávez, as he was taught by disciples of world-renowned artist Diego Rivera.

“Sandia/Lockheed Martin and its employees have been involved in the NHCC since its inception in 2000,” says Katherine Archuleta, executive director of the NHCCF. “They have generously offered us human and financial resources.” Even before that time, CFO Frank Figueroa played an instrumental role as the chair of the National Hispanic Culture Center Foundation Board of Trustees.

“Art, music, theatre, and performance are so important to provide opportunities for children to express themselves,” says Mike DeWitte (3650). “We must enable and engage our children in the interconnectivity of the arts and science/math.”

The Torreón is not open to the public so that Vigil can continue his work. There will be a reception on Oct 27, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the Torreón will be open for viewing. For more information on the Torreón contact Heather Norfleet at (505) 766-9858, or visit -- Iris Aboytes

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