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Lab News -- July 4, 2008

July 4, 2008

LabNews 07/04/2008PDF (500 kb)

Sandia takes three R&D 100 awards

By Neal Singer

Every 12 months, teams of experts selected by Chicago-based R&D Magazine name their choices of the year’s 100 most outstanding advances in applied technologies.

Sandia researchers — competing in an international pool that includes universities, private corporations, and government labs — this year were selected for three of those hundred awards.

These were for the Xyce™ Parallel Electronic Simulator 4.0.2., submitted by Eric Keiter (1437); the Silicon Micromachined Dimensional Calibration Artifact for Mesoscale Measurement Machines, submitted by Hy Tran (2541); and the Superhydrophobic Coating, submitted by Jeff Brinker (1002). (For the names of all researches, see “R&D 100 team members” on page 2.)

“This is yet the latest example of how the Department of Energy and our national laboratories are continuing to demonstrate world-class leadership in innovation as we enhance our energy security, national security, and economic competitiveness,” Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said. “On behalf of the Department, I would like to congratulate all of our employees who have earned R&D 100 awards and in particular this year’s winners.”

Simulating extremely complex circuits

Xyce™ is the world’s first analog tool capable of full simulation of large digital circuit systems through the use of massively parallel computation, rather than resorting to accuracy-compromising simplifications used by other tools. Given the complexity of large-scale integrated circuits, trial-and-error circuit testing is prohibitive and lower-fidelity digital simulation fails to take effects like parasitic currents and electrical-interconnects into sufficient account. Existing analog simulators are limited to single processor workstations. Xyce, under development at Sandia since 1999, accurately simulates more than 10 million circuit elements on hundreds of processors, far exceeding any other simulation tool. Originally used to help certify integrated circuits in the presence of radiation and other hostile effects, today it also helps the electronics industry create simulations that cope accurately with decreasing feature size and the increasing number of integrated circuit components.

Calibrating production devices

To calibrate a device, an accurate calibration artifact is of primary importance. The Silicon Micromachined Dimensional Calibration Artifact for Mesoscale Measurement Machines has a long title but will help improve measurement accuracy for producing miniaturized devices such as fuel injectors, watch components, and inkjet printer parts as these high-volume parts are being manufactured. The Sandia MEMS-based three-dimensional physical artifact is 10 times more accurate and much less expensive than the former gold (so to speak) standard of patterned chrome on glass — a fundamentally two-dimensional device lacking the ability to be calibrated by high-accuracy methods. The Sandia artifacts, formed through the classic MEMS technology of anisotropic bulk micromachining, have nanometrically sharp, long-lasting crystalline edges that are macroscopically long. Such artifacts can be used to calibrate a variety of inspection systems.

A coating that really, really doesn’t like water

A transparent coating that isn’t just impermeable to water but actually makes it bounce off a surface has a number of potentially interesting applications. It could prevent corrosion, protect electronics and antiquities, or provide a new, more efficient surface to collect pure water. Modeled from nature — the lotus leaf’s micro-craggy roughness and the hydrophobic regions of the Namib Sternocara Desert beetle — the Brinker group used sol-gel chemistry to make a patent-applied-for, simple-to-prepare coating solution that, upon simple drying, develops a nanoscopically rough silicon dioxide surface decorated with hydrophobic (water-hating) ligands. The coating can be applied by any standard method — including spin-coating, dip-coating, aerosol spraying, and ink-jet printing — to any surface regardless of composition, size, and shape. An additional benefit is its nearly perfect optical clarity, important for applications like self-cleaning, non-fogging displays, avoiding ice formation on optical elements, and protecting — in a transparent fashion — culturally important statuary from acid-rain corrosion. Importantly, the contact angle of the water droplet can be patterned with light to vary from a sphere to a pancake and to control whether and where a drop may roll. Competing hydrophobic products on the whole require very complex processing, are often opaque, and are generally substrate-specific. Furthermore, they do not provide optically defined spatial control of the coating’s love-hate relationship with water.

Groups led by Brinker have won three R&D 100 awards.

The R&D 100 awards — occasionally referred to as “the Nobel Prizes of technology” — were first awarded in 1963 as the I-R 100s, in keeping with the original name of the magazine, Industrial Research.

Many entries over the ensuing years became household names, including Polacolor film (1963), the flashcube (1965), the automated teller machine (1973), the halogen lamp (1974), the fax machine (1975), the liquid crystal display (1980), the full color graphics printer (1986), the Kodak Photo CD (1991), the

Nicoderm antismoking patch (1992), Taxol anticancer drug (1993), lab on a chip (1996), and HDTV (1998).

The sole criterion for winning, according to a description released by the magazine, is “demonstrable technological significance compared with competing products and technologies.” Properties noted by judges include smaller size, faster speed, greater efficiency, and higher environmental consciousness.

Winners are presented plaques at a formal banquet in Chicago in early fall. -- Neal Singer

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Nano, bio research contributions by Labs’ 2008 Truman Fellows will boost Sandia, nation

By Bill Murphy

After a nationwide search, researchers Patrick Hopkins and Bryan Kaehr have been selected as Sandia’s 2008 Truman Fellows. They join eight other researchers who have been appointed since the President Harry S. Truman Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering was established in 2004.

Patrick earned his PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia in May 2008. His dissertation title was “Scattering processes affecting thermal boundary conductance solid-solid interfaces in nanomaterial systems.”

During his Truman fellowship, Patrick will examine “Interfacial electron and phonon scattering processes in high-powered nanoscale applications” (the title of his research proposal). Patrick will conduct his research in Microscale Science and Technology Dept. 1513. Patrick was a graduate student intern at Sandia in 2007.

Bryan earned his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Texas-Austin in August 2007. His dissertation title was “Defining cellular microenvironments using multiphoton lithography.”

Bryan’s research interests encompass nonlinear photochemistry, biocompatible microfabrication, smart materials, engineered cellular networks and populations, biohybrid nanomaterials, and microdevices. During his Truman fellowship at Sandia, Bryan will focus on “Development and characterization of 3-D, nano-confined multicellular constructs for advanced biohybrid devices” (the title of his research proposal). He will conduct his research in Ceramic Processing & Inorganic Materials Dept. 1815.

Chief Technology Officer and VP in charge of the Truman Fellowship Program Rick Stulen (1000), says he expects Patrick and Bryan will make important contributions to Sandia’s mission — and ultimately to the national interest.

According to the selection committee, Patrick’s proposed research will address crucial issues in the continued reduction in feature size and growth in performance of integrated electronics. The results of his research could have significant impact at Sandia and in US industry on the continued development of innovative nanoscale devices and unique materials.

Bryan will arrive at Sandia with a new and unique technology for building almost any structure with proteins. As the proteins are functionalized the possibilities seem almost endless for making new technology of value to Sandia. His research has been picked up by the widely read science literature and appeared in Scientific American, C&E News, and Biophotonics. This work has brought wide acclaim to him and Jason Shear, his advisor at UT-Austin.

Here are brief descriptions provided by Patrick and Bryan of the work they hope to accomplish during their three-year fellowship at Sandia:

Patrick Hopkins

“The goal of my research is to study how thermal transport in nanostructures is affected by the resistances of interfaces and junctions between two nanomaterials. The large heat fluxes generated from novel nanoelectronic applications are a significant limiting factor in next-generation devices. As such, a greater understanding of the causes of this thermal interface resistance is imperative for design and development of high-powered sensor, signal processing, and energy conversion systems.

“During my Truman fellowship, I will examine heat transfer processes around structurally imperfect regions at interfaces involving both traditional and novel nanostructures. Nanomaterials and structures will be fabricated subject to different deposition and processing conditions to induce various degrees of structural variants around the nanomaterial interfaces. The electronic and phononic interfacial processes will then be measured with various electrical and optical techniques. The experimental data will be supplemented with theoretical quantum transport models.

“The Truman fellowship gives me the necessary means to accelerate my research in nanoscale heat transfer and significantly advance the current physics involved with high-flux device design. This multidisciplinary research project will allow me to interact with the world-class scientists at Sandia and give me the opportunity to conduct experiments in state-of-the-art laboratory environments. I am extremely pumped to be given this opportunity and work with fellow Sandians to study this critical aspect of high-powered nanosystems.”

Bryan Kaehr

“This fellowship provides the opportunity to explore an exciting frontier at the cutting edge of materials science and bioengineering. Cells and microorganisms employ nanomachinery of enormous variety and sophistication to sense, navigate, communicate, and adapt to the environment. The ability to control and manipulate cellular machinery in artificial systems may hasten the development of smaller, more responsive sensors and actuators, and those are important goals for nanotechnology.

“A promising avenue for research in this area is to integrate whole cells into devices and materials, an approach that confers a number of advantages over other approaches that have been tried with only limited success. In order to develop a new platform for the fabrication and manipulation of robust, whole-cell biohybrid materials, I will take advantage of recent breakthroughs accomplished at Sandia that enable cells to direct the assembly of functional interfaces to solid-state nanomaterials.

“My efforts at Sandia will focus on incorporating complex cellular functions — such as replication, differentiation and intercellular communication — into solid-state platforms. The development of this technology will permit the design of solid-state cell-based circuitry to be explored across a broad spectrum of applications including environmental sensing, biocomputation, bioenergy conversion, and artificial tissue fabrication.

“This fellowship is a great honor and tremendous opportunity for learning and interacting with some of the best scientists and engineers working today. I plan to take advantage of the wide range of expertise at Sandia and am confident that this research will result in valuable insights, tools, and technologies important for Sandia’s missions.”

The Truman Fellowship

The Truman fellowships are three-year appointments. Candidates are expected to have solved a major scientific or engineering problem in their thesis work or have provided a new approach or insight to a major problem, as evidenced by a recognized impact in their field. The program fosters creativity and stimulates exploration of forefront science and technology and high-risk, potentially high-value R&D. A panel of eight senior scientists and engineers reviews and ranks each application. This year’s members were Anita Renlund, chair (2550), Ron Loehman (1815), Patrick V. Brady (6310), David Chandler (8350), Lyndon Pierson (5629), Mel Baer (1500), Bob Benner (1422), and Al Watts (5400).

Sandia’s University Research Office (1012) and Human Resources/University Partnerships (3555) teamed more than five years ago to create the Truman Fellowship Program and develop the processes necessary to implement the prestigious position.

Chief Technology Officer Rick Stulen says the Truman Fellowship Program offers Sandia unique opportunities to take giant steps in critical research areas.

“The Truman Fellows bring high-risk, novel ideas to the laboratory that we might not have identified from our current R&D or mission technology base,” says Rick. “This in turn stimulates exploration that can help us connect the science and technology dots and innovate in the future.

“For example, we have a current Truman Fellow developing chameleon-like reconfigurable metal/dielectric surfaces that could enable future synthetic-aperture radar advances, another who is bridging our systems engineering and renewable energy expertise to elucidate the complicated trade-offs among alternative energy solutions for the nation, and a third who has developed a novel electron microscopy tomography technique that is being used to unlock the secrets of 3-D nanoparticles in order to exploit their properties. All of the Truman Fellows are opening R&D doors that might not otherwise have occurred to us.

“Not only is the Truman Fellowship Program living up to all the expectations we had when we launched it in 2004, it is far exceeding them.”

* * *

Previous Truman fellowship recipients: Youssef Marzouk, Gregory Nielson, Ilke Arslan, David Scrymgeour, Jacques Loui, Whitney Colella, Anatole von Lilienfeld, and Darin Desilets. — Bill Murphy

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Everyone’s reading about JBEI

By Mike Janes

Two articles on the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), published in ACS Chemical Biology and written by members of the DOE JBEI leadership team, are among the most-accessed ACS Chemical Biology articles for the first quarter of 2008. “Synthetic Biology for Synthetic Chemistry” heads the list of most-accessed articles, while “Addressing the Need for Alternative Transportation Fuels: The Joint BioEnergy Institute” is fifth on the list.

“Synthetic Biology for Synthetic Chemistry” was written by Jay Keasling, JBEI’s chief executive officer and the director of the Physical Biosciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The article discusses the intersection of synthetic biology and synthetic chemistry in creating new energy sources, producing new drugs, and remediating polluted sites. The article reviews some of the most important tools for engineering bacterial metabolism and the use of these tools to produce artemisinin, an antimalarial drug, at a low cost.

Sandia’s Blake Simmons (8755) is a coauthor of “Addressing the Need for Alternative Transportation Fuels: The Joint BioEnergy Institute.” The other authors are Harvey Blanch (University of California, Berkeley), Paul Adams (Berkeley Lab), Katherine Andrews-Cramer (ChemGenuity), Wolf Frommer (Stanford University), and Keasling. This article examines the potential of biomass as a renewable resource for high-energy-content transportation fuel and the possibility that this fuel may be carbon neutral over its complete life cycle.

Blake, who serves as vice president of JBEI’s Deconstruction Division and heads up the Energy Systems department at Sandia/California, describes this accomplishment as “more good news on JBEI, indicating that interest is very high in the ongoing research programs at this DOE-funded institute.”

For more information on JBEI, see the article “Sandia to play key role in Bay Area-based DOE bioscience center” in the July 6, 2007, issue of

Sandia Lab News, or visit To see the full list of most-accessed articles, go to, and choose “ACS Chemical Biology.”-- Mike Janes

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