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Lab News -- May 11, 2007

May 11 , 2007

LabNews 05/11/2007PDF (650KB) 05-11-07

Sandia out in full force for Intel International Science and Engineering Fair

By John German

At the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2007 in Albuquerque next week, a thrown tube of glue stick stands a very good chance of hitting a Sandian. Labs volunteers will be out in force all week, and Sandia is supporting the event in a number of other ways, say Sandia organizers.

“This is such an important event for Sandia and for education,” says Karen Gillings (3550), who leads a team coordinating the Labs’ contributions. “It shows promising young people that we care about improving the state of science and engineering education in this nation.”

The event begins Sunday and continues through Friday and features science fair projects of some 1,500 precollege students representing 47 countries, regions, and territories — all winners in their regional competitions. The last time Albuquerque hosted ISEF was in 1983.

At least nine 2007 Intel ISEF participants worked at Sandia as interns or have Sandia parents or mentors. (See “Intel ISEF finalists who have ties to Sandia” below.)

Planners and volunteers

Two Sandians have played major roles in getting ready for ISEF since local planning began three years ago. Len Duda (5715) and Ted Wolff (3652) are serving as judging cochairs on the ISEF host committee.

Among New Mexico institutions, Sandia is contributing the largest number of volunteer judges. More than 125 Sandia employees will judge, along with another 700-plus technically trained New Mexicans. The judges will review projects on Tuesday and spend Wednesday talking with ISEF finalists and scoring their projects based on ISEF criteria, says Len.

More than a dozen Sandia ISEF volunteers will perform other critical functions during the event as well.

“I want to let students know there are great, interesting careers in engineering,” says Cole Shaw (6432), who volunteered to give middle and high school students tours during ISEF’s public visitation days. “Science and engineering can change the world, and it’s important to show visiting students what they could achieve.”

Two-week internships

Sandia will offer some ISEF participants an all-expenses-paid two-week internship at the Labs this summer. The goal during ISEF is to get acceptances from 15 students whose projects fare well in ISEF’s 17 judging categories, says Kim Maxwell (3555), ISEF internship project lead.

While they are in Albuquerque, the students will be housed at Menaul High School and assigned to shadow members of the technical staff during the work day. The Labs is gearing up to make the program a rewarding experience for the interns, she says. Watch the Lab News for more.

Event sponsorship

Sandia will offer a $2,500 college scholarship to one ISEF project related to the application of nanotechnology in one of three categories: materials & bioengineering, electrical & mechanical engineering, or chemistry.

The winner, selected by three top Labs researchers, will be offered participation in the summer ISEF internship as well.

The scholarship will be presented during a Friday morning Government Awards Ceremony title-sponsored by Sandia. During the ceremony, Julia Phillips, director of Physical, Chemical, and Nano Sciences Center 1100, will give a five-minute welcome presentation.

In addition to the $25,000 Sandia provided to sponsor the Government Awards Ceremony (paid for out of royalty income), the Labs provided another $25,000 to sponsor ISEF itself (through Lockheed Martin funds to support community outreach).

Complements outreach

ISEF complements Sandia’s year-round community and education outreach efforts, says Ted Wolff of the Community Involvement Department. Most of Sandia’s programs — School to World, Family Science Night, and other Sandia K-12 programs — have a strong science component. They all aim to nurture a new generation of scientists and engineers.

“Having the Intel ISEF in Albuquerque generates enthusiasm and passion for science that will carry over long after the fair,” says Ted. “Without knowing that adults are genuinely interested in what they are discovering, many students would not continue to explore solutions to real-world challenges.”

Undoubtedly, he says, some who participate in science fairs will continue to develop as professional scientists and engineers. Those who don’t will be better informed citizens in a world where science and engineering are driving forces, he says.

Sum of support

The sum of all this support, says Rick Stulen, VP for Science & Technology and Engineering Div. 1000, is a brighter future for science and engineering in the US.

“Science and engineering are the foundations of our country’s future security and prosperity,” he says. “We have a duty to help inspire and encourage students to go into technical fields. Participating in ISEF is a way for us to give back to the educational community and ultimately help our students succeed.” -- John German

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Liz Holm serves on committee to study new technologies to deter counterfeit currency

By Michael Padilla

Changes are coming to US currency, thanks in part to recommendations by Liz Holm, a Sandia scientist with expertise in how various materials function.

Liz, a DMTS in Computational Materials Science and Engineering Dept. 1814, was part of a group that helped identify potential new currency features that will use 21st-century materials and technology to help deter counterfeiting.

The goal of the group’s work was to identify and evaluate significant emerging counterfeiting threats against Federal Reserve notes and recommend technologically feasible counterfeit deterrent features for use in future currency.

For the past two years, Liz served on a National Academies committee to study and report on technologies to deter currency counterfeiting. She joined a national panel of scientists and engineers in a series of meetings and site visits in Washington, D.C., and around the country. The committee, sponsored by the National Research Council’s Board on Manufacturing and Engineering Design at the request of the Treasury Department, gathered data on both the counterfeiting threat and possible solutions.

The report was recently released by the National Academies.

The previous National Academies report on this topic led the Treasury Department to redesign currency in the 1990s, adding color, changing the portraiture, and including a watermark and security thread.

A unique service in the national interest

Liz used her expertise in materials science to contribute to the study. For the past 15 years at Sandia, she has worked on computer simulations to understand the behavior of materials in a variety of applications, including advanced lighting, prediction of microcircuit aging and reliability, and the processing of innovative bearing steels. The underlying thrust of her work has been to understand how a material behaves when it performs its job, she says.

Studying technologies and concepts to help deter counterfeiting threats brings her research into the national spotlight.

“Not only is this topic something that resonates with a lot of people,” Liz says, “but it was also a unique kind of service in the national interest.”

Next-generation currency

The committee submitted several recommendations in two categories to the Department of the Treasury: Features in the first category could be fully developed and ready for incorporation in a banknote within seven years, while features in the second category would likely require longer than that. The second category includes revolutionary options that would dramatically shift currency away from the ink-on-paper paradigm of the past 200 years.

The committee suggested 16 changes that could be incorporated in new currency within the next seven years. Since the current counterfeiting threat centers on digital reproduction of paper money using scanners and inkjet printers, these suggestions focus on features that can’t be successfully scanned. The ideas included the possibility of altering the feel of the bill (including analog printed patterns that create artifacts when digitally reproduced) adding a see-through registration feature, and incorporating holograms and visual effects. Patterns using metametric ink, designed to appear the same color under a particular illumination, could be used to change the color of the money in different lighting conditions. Adding a pattern of small holes in the paper using a laser, called microperforation, could also be done.

Genetically engineered cotton, twinkling eyes

Nanotechnology offers some counterfeit protection concepts that would be difficult for the casual counterfeiter to duplicate, Liz says. For instance, nanocrystal pigments could be used to provide unique color and spectral characteristics in an ink format that could be used to form images on the currency. Nanoscale printing techniques could produce printed text, images, or regular arrays of patterns at the micron and submicron range.

Long-term features include bills created from genetically engineered cotton, and solar chips implanted in bills to power electronic features — like a twinkling eye in a bill’s portrait.

“It’ll be exciting to see what changes are incorporated in future notes based on the recommendations the committee provided,” Liz says. “Many of the recommendations may show up in the newly created $100 bill due out in the next few years.” -- Michael Padilla

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Sandia invention to make parabolic trough solar collector systems more energy efficient

By Chris Burroughs

A mirror alignment measurement device, invented by Sandia researcher Rich Diver (6337), may soon make one of the most popular solar collector systems, parabolic troughs, more affordable and energy efficient.

Rich’s new theoretical overlay photographic (TOP) technology is drawing interest from the solar industry because of its simplicity and the need to find solutions for global warming.

“TOP alignment could cure a significant problem with trough systems — inaccurate mirror alignment that prevents sunlight from precisely focusing on solar receivers,” Rich says. “Improperly aligned mirrors result in lost and wasted energy.”

Working with Rich on the project is Tim Moss (6337), who serves as project manager and primary software and hardware developer.

Parabolic troughs use mirrored surfaces curved in a parabolic shape. The mirrors focus sunlight on a receiver tube running the length of the trough. Oil runs through the focal region where it is heated to high temperatures and then goes through a heat exchanger to generate steam. The steam is then used to run a conventional power plant.

The world’s largest parabolic trough facilities, located in the Mojave Desert near Barstow, Calif., consist of nine plants producing 354 megawatts of power at peak output. The plants range in size from 14 to 80 MW. The 30 MW plants, for example, each have about 10,000 modules with each module comprising 20 mirrors. A similar 64 MW trough plant, which will supply power to Las Vegas, Nev., is expected to go on line soon. A 1 MW plant also exists in Arizona.

An issue with parabolic trough systems, says Rich, has been lack of accurate mirror alignment that prevents maximum energy use.

Borrowing from variations on methods used to align mirrors in solar dish systems, Rich came up with TOP alignment, an optical approach to rapidly and effectively evaluate the alignment of mirrors in parabolic trough power plants and prescribe corrective actions.

“This method could be used during trough power-plant construction, to improve the performance of existing power plants, or for routine maintenance,” Rich says. “It should be an ideal mirror alignment technique because it is simple to set up, requires a minimum of sophisticated hardware, and does not require removal of the receiver.”

The TOP approach consists of a pole with five cameras positioned along it. Four of the cameras take digital photographic images of the four rows of mirrors on the parabolic module. The middle camera photographs the module’s center, where a boresight gauge is attached, which is used to vertically center, or “boresight,” the pole to the trough module.

‘Like picking money off the ground’

Vector algebra and projection theory are then used to predict the theoretical projected image of the receiver for perfectly aligned mirrors. The calculated theoretical image of the receiver for perfectly aligned mirrors is overlaid on the photographs of the actual receiver image position in the mirrors. The images and the actual image are compared to show how the mirrors should be aligned. It then becomes a matter of adjusting the mirrors to the correct alignment.

“This whole process is very simple,” Rich says. “Once the mirrors are aligned, the energy savings start. It’s like picking money off the ground. And the mirrors are aligned for the life of the plant.”

To address the needs of commercial-scale trough power plants such as those at Kramer Junction in the Mojave, Rich and Tim have mounted a TOP fixture on a trailer that can be moved to parabolic power plant locations. The TOP system would photograph the modules at the plants. The images would be processed later, and work orders detailing alignment adjustment would be created. Alignment adjustments could be made when convenient, even while the plant is operating.

Rich says people have been trying to come up with ways to align mirrors in parabolic modules for at least 20 years, but their methods have always been “cumbersome and took too long.”

Next steps

He and Tim have developed the TOP technique using a 20-year-old parabolic module at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility in Albuquerque. The module is the same as those at Kramer Junction. They did “shakedown” testing of TOP at a trough plant outside Tucson, Ariz., in March and October 2006. The next steps will be to test the system at Kramer Junction later this year and eventually license the technology to parabolic trough power plant operators and/or trough project developers. -- Chris Burroughs

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