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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 54, No. 6        March 22, 2002
[Sandia National Laboratories]

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

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Solid state lighting advances MESA facility takes big step forward RSVP system reports disease outbreaks

Quiet revolution in solid-state lighting may change the way we light our homes, offices, and world

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By Chris Burroughs

A revolution is quietly going on that promises to change the way we light our homes, offices, and world. And Sandia is at the forefront.

Some 20 Labs researchers are working on a Grand Challenge project in the Laboratory Directed Research and Development Program (LDRD) that will establish the fundamental science and technology base to replace the country's primary lighting sources, incandescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes, with semiconductor light-emitting diodes (LEDs) -- solid state lighting.

Senior Scientist James Gee (6200), together with Department Managers Jerry Simmons (1123) and Bob Biefeld (1126), head up the project.

"In some ways the revolution in lighting can be compared to the revolution in electronics that began 50 years ago and is only now reaching maturity," James says. "Just as for electronics, glass bulbs and vacuum tubes are giving way to semiconductors. And as in the microelectronics revolution, many of the possible applications for solid-state lighting will occur in ways that have not yet been envisioned."

LEDs are already found in toys, electronics, traffic lights, automobile signals, and large outdoor displays -- devices that require durability, compactness, and cool operation. In some applications they also enable significant cost savings due to their lower consumption of energy: LED-based red traffic lights, for example, consume one-tenth the energy of their incandescent counterparts, enabling them to pay for themselves in as little as one year.

As LED technology matures, revolution leaders expect solid-state lighting to also rapidly outdistance conventional lighting sources in both performance and cost.

"This new white light source could change the way we live, and the way we consume energy," James says. "LEDs are 10 times more efficient than incandescent bulbs and two times more efficient than fluorescents. Clearly, LEDs' replacement of conventional light sources would significantly reduce worldwide energy consumption."

LEDs were first demonstrated in 1962 by General Electric. The first products were introduced in 1968 -- indicator lamps by Monsanto and an electronic display by Hewlett-Packard. LEDs were limited to small-signal applications until 1985 when LED power was increased, resulting in new applications. In 1993 researchers at several universities in the US and Japan developed a fairly efficient blue light LED based on gallium nitride. Efficiency improvements followed quickly. Today, efficient LEDs are available from red to green to blue light, making it possible to generate white light for illumination.

However, James says, LED-based light sources are expensive -- more than two orders of magnitude more expensive than commercial incandescent light bulbs -- and will not be practical until their costs are reduced and efficiency is increased.

As part of the LDRD Grand Challenge, some 20 Sandia researchers are exploring ways to do exactly that -- make LEDs more efficient and less costly. They are working on the fundamental science and technology challenges where Sandia has unique capabilities. Among those challenges are:

"These are exciting challenges that will engage our scientists over the next several years," James says. "Our work will position Sandia to become a leading developer of the science and technology for this revolution in lighting."

Chris Burroughs

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Massive MESA project advances to next step

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By Neal Singer

On a cold day in February, MESA program director Don Cook (1900) stands with his hands in the pockets of his black overcoat, looking through a chainlink fence at two huge front-end loaders digging up the field west of Bldg. 897 at the southeast corner of Area 1.

Sixty-eight million dollars will come in this year from the NNSA to push further forward a $423 million project expected not only to renovate much Sandia physical plant and equipment but also revive any flagging Sandia spirit (if any still remains to be energized post-9/11).

"This is where the Weapons Integration Center will be -- three stories, with 181 weapon engineers," Don says. Gesturing to the east of the Microelectronics Development Lab, he says, "There is where the MicroFab will be, with new cleanrooms and equipment to replace CSRL [the Compound Semiconductor Research Laboratory].

"The pedestrian walkway will be here where we're standing. We'll have a Starbucks and maybe a cafeteria."

Pointing north of MDL, he indicates the site for the upgrade of major support systems, and in MDL, the installation of the latest equipment for producing radiation-hardened circuitry.

"We've already paid $9 million for rad-hard tools for MDL, with another $30 million to be spent this year," he says.

To the west, almost to the Technology Transfer Center, will be the Joint Computational Engineering Laboratory building, a construction project managed separately from MESA but integrated functionally, where facilities and equipment for computational research and engineering will be located.

After several years of occasionally frustrating, line-by-line budget discussions with staff of the Senate, House, DOE, and NNSA, Don -- a flexibly strong person who is calm on the outside but driven on the inside -- has developed so intense and unswerving a belief in this project that he can make listeners almost see buildings otherwise invisible already standing on bare earth.

He points out the contributions of others as he itemizes the varied achievements of the massive project as it moves from paper to physical reality:

The point of the huge project is to combine microsystems, advanced computation, and engineering design to create 21st century weapons and sensors for the United States, as well as to provide facilities for joint work with researchers from universities and business. "Ten years from now, we will have very few weapons engineers who aren't using microtechnologies and new, high-speed computational techniques in their design work," Don says.

Don nevertheless commends those Sandia engineers who have asserted that current control systems are more than adequate to direct nuclear weapons and that microtechnologies are as yet too unproven to control weapons of mass destruction. "Those are the right questions at this time. You need such folks to keep saying, 'It's not proven,' to keep us working on improving the technologies."

On the other hand, he says, "People don't often point out that we can't use vacuum tubes in these systems, even if we could buy them, because new hires don't know how to design circuits using tubes anymore. Technologies advance. Vacuum tubes have been replaced by microelectronics. The question is the amount of work we have to do to get new technologies ready for prime-time, high-consequence applications."

To this end, two design teams are working together programmatically to integrate nanotechnology and microsystems.

Another process that runs in parallel, Don says (returning mentally to the paper chase as he stands in the cold air at the MESA site), is the work authorization process within NNSA. "Under that process, the part for completing the engineering design has been freeing up nicely."

As he turns for a last look at the far reaches of MESA's rising domain, he looks in profile strikingly like a hawk. "We recently got approval from NNSA to begin final engineering for all of MESA," he says.< -- Neal Singer

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RSVP system deployed on US-Mexican border reports disease outbreaks

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By Howard Kercheval

A system developed by Sandia and the New Mexico Department of Health to detect disease outbreaks more quickly and now deployed in southern New Mexico has demonstrated one of the goals of the Bi-National Sustainability Lab (BNSL) concept -- the application of new technologies for economic development and better public health along the US-Mexican border.

In late January, the Rapid Syndrome Validation Project (RSVP) provided timely information on FluType-A and RSV -- a children's respiratory ailment -- to physicians using the system even before a major upswing in patient visits in Las Cruces, N.M. The information augments the traditional notification of outbreaks such as those from the Department of Health.

RSVP was conceived by Senior Scientist Al Zelicoff, a physician/physicist working in Cooperative International Programs Dept. 5320, and spearheaded by Dr. Gary Simpson of the New Mexico Department of Health.

Al is also a member of the team led by VP/Principal Scientist Gerry Yonas (16000) that is developing the Bi-National Lab concept (Lab News, April 2, 2001). The idea was conceived by Gerry after a trip to Juarez, Mexico, during which he was struck by the grinding poverty and absence of technology development on both sides of the border.

Since then, US and Mexican officials have met at various levels with Gerry and other members of the BNSL team. Those discussions have centered on ways to jointly develop the concept and exploit US and Mexican technology as a way to realize sustainable economic development and lessen tensions where international borders separate areas of need from areas of plenty.

Firsthand look for Bingaman

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., an early supporter of the BNSL concept, got a firsthand look at the RSVP system Feb. 19 during a visit to Memorial Medical Center, the largest comprehensive medical-care campus in Las Cruces. It was demonstrated by Dr. Catherine Torres, a pediatrician and commissioner on the US-Mexico Border Health Commission, who entered an actual case she was handling -- a child with influenza-like symptoms.

Vipin Gupta (16000), on assignment in the Las Cruces-El Paso area as part of the BNSL initiative, was present for the demonstration and pointed out to Bingaman that it is the same

system he had seen only a couple of weeks before when he and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., hosted a briefing for Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., on counterterrorism technology being developed by Sandia and Los Alamos (Lab News, Feb. 8). Reid, Senate majority whip and chairman of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Committee, said in a news conference following his Sandia tour that he had been impressed with Al's briefing on RSVP's potential.

Vipin said 33 members of the Memorial Medical Center staff -- including physicians, nurse-practitioners, and nurses -- now have RSVP log-in privileges. He said each case takes a minimum of 30 to 40 seconds to enter. The right combination of symptoms automatically notifies the New Mexico Department of Health by pager, fax, and e-mail. Public health officers can then call and talk to the care provider right away.

Torres said the system is a valuable aid in her practice. "Before, we never really knew what the rest of the state was doing," she said. "The reporting system was slow and more difficult. Now, we can just push a button and get information."

Simplicity of use is key

RSVP's simplicity is key to its use, Al said recently after evaluating the numbers that show its growing popularity since the code was rewritten late last year.

"The good news is that Version 2.0 works very well," he said. "Hospitals and clinicians like it. We keep stats on when they look at it, and it's more or less while they're drinking their morning coffee. They look and get a sort of 'lay of the land.'

"It creates sort of an 'index of suspicion' -- the aches and pains could be flu, or something else," he said. "Docs never had that data before. We gather it once a week and put it on the RSVP web page and, finally, we have people in public health updating.

"We really are trying to capture their experience," Al said, "because public health has the official role of declaring an epidemic. The system alerted physicians in Las Cruces to a sudden increase in flu and RSV, even before they began to see patients in their offices. By Saturday afternoon, stats were up on the Web, and they began to see patients in their offices Monday morning.

"In practical terms, they probably avoid lots of unnecessary tests, and probably lots of unnecessary drugs," he added. "We are going to try to evaluate these and other parameters as part of the implementation in all clinics."

Torres agreed. She pointed out that there are medicines to prevent RSV in "preemies" -- who might be at particularly high risk from pulmonary complications -- and detecting the presence of the disease by way of high numbers of symptoms delivered on RSVP makes treatment more likely to succeed.

She said she hopes the system will eventually be functioning in at least 150 sites strung out along both sides of the border. At the time of Bingaman's visit to see the system in action, Al was in Brownsville, Texas, setting up three stations in public health facilities for beta-testing prior to putting them on-line as part of the system.

Widespread use predicted

RSVP also got a favorable nod from Dr. Bert Garrett, program director for the Southern New Mexico Family Practice Residency Program.

"Having RSVP in areas along the border would allow for immediate input and useful information to be disseminated to a broader group of providers," he said. "We predict that when the usefulness and potential of this program are generally understood, it will find widespread acceptance and application in the medical community."

Bingaman, who watched the RSVP system operate in Las Cruces just a couple of days before joining Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and NNSA Administrator Gen. John Gordon for briefings and demonstrations of counterterrorism technology at Sandia and Los Alamos, pointed out its utility in the current environment of the country's war on terrorism.

"The Rapid Syndrome Validation Project could play a vital role in maintaining the public health, whether [health problems were] caused by Mother Nature or terrorists using biological agents," he said. "This system could help quickly track illness outbreaks before they become a major threat. I'm pleased this system is now being deployed in communities along the border, and I also hope this technology can be put to use across the public health system." -- Howard Kercheval

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Last modified: April 1, 2002

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