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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 55, No. 5        March 7, 2003
[Sandia National Laboratories]

Albuquerque, New Mexico 87185-0165    ||   Livermore, California 94550-0969
Tonopah, Nevada; Nevada Test Site; Amarillo, Texas

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Paul Robinson and Joan Woodard on the State of the Labs Labs plays role in standup of Homeland Security Department Synthetic aperture radar coming of age

Paul and Joan upbeat about Sandia's present, future in series of three State of the Labs presentations

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By Ken Frazier

Rising responsibilities in combating terrorism, aiding homeland security, and supporting a possible war with Iraq. . . . A flurry of new technological advances being quickly adapted to urgent applications in national security. . . . A nearly $2 billion budget this year, the largest ever. . . . A "renaissance" in new construction at the Labs. . . . Thirteen hundred new employees added in the past two years. . . . A proud national lab basking in some note worthy recent accolades.

All these were themes of the three State of the Labs presentations -- one each to employees in New Mexico and California and one to Albuquerque community leaders -- given last week by Sandia President and Labs Director C. Paul Robinson and Executive VP and Deputy Director Joan Woodard.

Technology changes quickly, but among those things that "do not change," said Paul in his talk to a capacity crowd of New Mexico employees in the Steve Schiff Auditorium, "are the spirit and culture that is Sandia. . . .We want to continue to create the kind of national security lab that is worthy of the freest nation in the world. . . . There is no question that our work can make a difference."

Leading off the community presentation at the Marriott hotel, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., took only two sentences to sum up his take on the Labs: "This is a period of enormous challenge for our country. I for one sleep better at night knowing that we have Sandia and all the capable people of Sandia in meeting these challenges."

Mike Camardo, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin Technical Services and also chairman of the board of Sandia Corporation, also spoke at the community presentation. He thanked Paul for "his exceptional leadership," which combined with the world-class work of Sandia researchers has brought distinction to the Labs. He said Lockheed Martin was proud of its association with Sandia.

Camardo said Lockheed Martin has contributed $14 million to statewide projects since it took over management of Sandia in 1993. He also recognized the work of Lockheed Martin's Technology Ventures Corporation, established in Albuquerque that year, in helping find millions of dollars of venture capital for scores of new startup companies based on Labs-initiated technologies.

"We're proud to be a small part of the partnership."

Each session started with a 10-minute video prepared by Video Services Dept. 12610. It highlighted recent work of the Labs and the praise DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham heaped on Sandia in his Dec. 13 Sandia visit announcing renewal of Lockheed Martin's management contract (full text in Jan. 10 Lab News). This was the talk Abraham concluded: "You do outstanding, outstanding work, and the country is safer because of it. Thank you very much."

Paul began on a somber note, offering thanks and prayers for the "men and women in the armed services ready to sacrifice their lives" in a possible military action against Iraq. "If force is required in Iraq, we stand ready to help in any way we can as well."

To employees Paul added: "A number of Sandians now are in harm's way providing support to the military that we should remember as well."

Paul noted with pleasure the election to the National Academy of Engineering this month of Sandians Al Romig, Jack Jakowatz, and Jim Asay (Lab News, Feb. 21). All three have worked in the classified realm, he noted. Jack in particular, said Paul, "has spent almost all his career in the deepest, deepest of departments" developing synthetic aperture radar to its present advanced state (see "Beyond images" on page X). Their elections, Paul said, "should make us all proud."

Research advances to counter terrorism

Paul highlighted some recent Sandia research advances for the war on terrorism. Here are a few he mentioned:

"One of the marvels of Sandia," Paul said, "is that you jump quickly from teraflops to nanometers, from the incomprehensibly vast to the vanishingly small."

Biology at the nanolevel

Paul also highlighted what he called "our move toward the biological sciences," noting that the 21st century may be "the century of biology." Said Paul: "We're putting together all the major technologies we have in solving biological and health problems. . . . We see a convergence among biological sciences, computation sciences, microelectronics, photonics, micromachines, and nanotechnology."

One of the goals is "programmable microsystems" based on biology, and he noted the observation by Nobel laureate chemist Richard Smalley last year at Sandia that at the most basic level biology begins to look like "wet nanotechnology."

Despite all the new scientific fields and new terms and language Sandians must deal with, said Paul, Sandia's "distinctive work ethic" has not changed. "Our work can make a difference. It can help to change the world for the better. We are each expected to provide exceptional service in the national interest."

Joan on addressing immediate threats

Joan Woodard picked up on that theme in her presentation: "It's gratifying to come to work every day knowing that what we do is making a difference in providing for the safety and security of the nation." She outlined several examples:

Sandia has accelerated an effort to develop a standoff biological detection system for giving advance warning of a biological weapon threat.

"And thanks to another Sandia technology," said Joan, "our adversaries are finding it harder to hide from our military forces." She referred to "the fascinating technology" of synthetic aperture radar (SAR, Lab News, June 29, 2001), an area where Sandia "has been at the forefront" for 15 years. For some intriguing details about that she introduced SAR researcher Ireena Erteza (see "Beyond images" below).

Energy, LEDS, and nuclear futures

Joan also talked about Sandia's energy research, especially the "solid state lighting initiative." Its goal is to establish the fundamental science and technology to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting with semiconducting light-emitting diodes (LEDS). "The newest LEDS are long-life, bright, and can be made to emit a range of different colors, including something very close to natural sunlight."

She said LEDS could be as much as 10 times more efficient than incandescent and twice as efficient as the best fluorescents, a potential savings of "billions of dollars over the next 20 years in energy costs alone."

The hydrogen economy President Bush spoke of in his State of the Union address has great potential, but there's a possible "Catch-22," said Joan. "The hitch with hydrogen is that it requires a lot of energy to produce." The solution may be "a Sandia-generated vision that is attracting attention nationally," the "global nuclear future." This vision "provides a synergistic, systems-based way of thinking about nuclear energy," she said. "If nuclear energy were to experience a renaissance in this country, there could be clean surplus energy available to produce hydrogen."

All in all, said Joan, Sandia is involved in so many exciting projects that it is hard to decide "what to present in a forum like this." She urged Sandians to read the new Lab News Labs Accomplishments issue -- "an amazing read," she said -- and the annual report. - - Ken Frazier

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Sandia helping shape the new Department of Homeland Security

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By Ken Frazier

A new feature of this year's State of the Labs events were short presentations by two younger Sandians, TJ Allard (Org. 50) on homeland security and Ireena Erteza (5912) on synthetic aperture radar (see "Beyond images . . . " below).

TJ, director of Sandia's homeland security office, outlined the Labs' role in the new federal department. He pointed out that Sandia has been trying to anticipate and guard against terrorist threats for years, at least since the 1972 Munich Olym pics attacks. "This is what being a national laboratory is all about -- anticipating needs and working on solutions before problems arise so the solutions are available when the country needs them," TJ said.

So Sandia was well prepared on the people side, he said. "We have a wide array of experts."

Since last August, many of them have been working in Washington, helping get the new Department of Homeland Security up and running. Most of Sandia's interactions are with the Science and Technology Directorate; others are with the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate. Here's what some of the Sandians are doing:

TJ said several other Sandians have gone back to Washington recently "to put meat on the implementation plans."

"In short, Sandians have taken on major responsibilities in defining the science and technology aspects of the Department of Homeland Security," said TJ, "-- more so than any other laboratory." . . . "It's a big job," and "it's taken them away from families and loved ones," but they are being praised for their quality. He said he is "extremely proud" of them. "In fact," he said, "John Vitko, John Cummings, and Holly Dockery have been asked to take long-term assignments in the Department." - - Ken Frazier

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Beyond images: SAR's precision tracking and mapping

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By Ken Frazier

In her presentations to New Mexico employees and to the community, Ireena Erteza offered a glimpse of why there is so much excitement about the capabilities of synthetic aperture radar (SAR). She has worked in Jack Jakowatz's Radar Algorithm Development Laboratory Dept. 5912 for the past five of its 15 years. Much other SAR work is in Electronics Systems Center 2300.

SAR is a computed imaging technique, like medical tomography, relying on a "synthetic aperture" created by flying the device above the target area. Sandia first got started on SAR because of a strong radar hardware heritage for weapons systems. That expertise, based in Center 2300, has been coupled with Sandia's strong signal processing research. That combination, said Ireena, "made it natural for Sandia to become a world leader in SAR systems."

"Through continued steady funding from DOE and an outstanding group of researchers, Sandia has been able to make significant contributions to the national radar community during the past decade and a half," said Ireena. "It is really inspiring to work with this group."

SAR was originally seen only as a day/night, all-weather imager. Sandia has made "significant enhancements to the imaging capabilities of SAR, but more important, we have shown the community that SAR offers much more than just imagery," she said.

The work has resulted in "many significant and unique capabilities" to exploit SAR imagery. In fact, she said the goal is to develop innovative techniques for exploiting SAR imagery, applied specifically to nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, and national security.

She showed two examples of innovative SAR products produced at Sandia:

Coherent change detection (CCD). CCD, developed at Sandia, compares a pair of SAR images taken of the same scene but at different times. "CCD allows us to detect physical changes on the order of a wavelength on the surface of a scene. A radar wavelength is measured in a few centimeters." She showed two SAR images of Hardin Field north of Sandia's Tech Area 1 taken 20 minutes apart. The resulting computed comparison shows the path of a lawn mower and the footsteps of the operator walking around the machine and of two people walking diagonally across the field to lunch (from the bending of the grass). It even reveals the different positions of leaves on the tree caused by the wind. And this is from computed images made from an aircraft flying 10,000 feet up and three miles laterally away.

Interferometric terrain mapping.Here pairs of images are used to determine the heights of objects in a scene. Through a breakthrough in automation of a complicated technique called phase unwrapping, Sandia has been able to build completely automated terrain mapping systems. The aircraft-based system can in a day provide maps of a 30-square-mile area with height data every 3 meters and 0.8 meter relative accuracy.

"These high-accuracy maps are critical for security and military mission planning and training," said Ireena. Sandia's new system produces maps that are more than 1,000 times more detailed than current maps that exist worldwide.

Concluded Ireena: "Sandia's SAR program has produced many technical breakthroughs that give our nation information that couldn't be obtained otherwise." -- Ken Frazier

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Last modified: March 14, 2003

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