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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 56, No. 12           June 11, 2004
[Sandia National Laboratories]

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

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Desalination, removal of arsenic to be focus of water research at Sandia for next few years Researchers from Sandia, LANL achieve wireless nanocrystal breakthrough Youssef Marzouk, Gregory Nielson named Sandia's first Truman Fellows Paul Robinson addresses challenges, possibilities for post-Cold War strategic deterrence

Desalination, removal of arsenic to be focus of water research at Sandia for next few years

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By Chris Burroughs

Research in the areas of desalination and removal of arsenic in water will step up at Sandia over the next few years, the result of a $6 million allocation in the FY2004 federal Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill.

The allocation includes $3 million for desalination and $3 million for arsenic cleanup. The American Waterworks Association (AWWA) and WERC -- a consortium consisting of New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, and Diné College -- will share the arsenic cleanup money with Sandia. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., secured the funding as chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

"Water issues are some of the most pressing and ominous facing New Mexico and the West, and that is not likely to change anytime soon," says Domenici. "I have worked to provide the resources needed to harness the expertise at Sandia and other agencies to find better, more affordable ways to provide new resources of affordable potable water."

Tom Hinkebein, Manager of Geochemistry Dept. 6118, says that both desalination and removal of arsenic in water are important to the economies of New Mexico and the country.

"Many areas of the US are experiencing water shortages, and desalination of brackish water will provide much needed additional water," he says. "Also, new EPA standards for drinking water, which reduce allowable amounts of arsenic in drinking water, make research in the field essential."

The $3 million in support of the desalination research is consistent with the Desalination and Water Purification Technology Roadmap developed in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation last year. Tom was the roadmap's editor.


Tom says the desalination program will focus on the development of novel research projects. These projects can be tested at the Tularosa Basin National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo, now beginning construction. In 2002 Congress appropriated funds to Sandia and the Bureau of Reclamation to develop a conceptual design for the facility. The Bureau has been responsible for the engineering design and construction.

With the conceptual design "90 percent completed, it's ready to go," Tom says. Groundbreaking for the research facility is set for June 29 with completion scheduled for March 2005.

Mike Hightower (6202), the Sandian heading up the project, says the facility will focus on research and development of technologies addressing the technical, economic, and environmental issues associated with the treatment and utilization of inland brackish groundwater.

Several entities that fund desalination research, including Sandia, the Bureau of Reclamation, Office of Naval Research, and others, will use the facility to study new desalination technologies, salt concentrate management and reuse technologies, and use of renewable energy in the desalination process.

"Current emphasis has been in developing new technologies for removing salt from brackish water," Mike says. "But equally important is what to do with the salt once it is removed."

For example, if brine water contains a ton of salt per one million gallons of water and if a plant desalinizes 10 million gallons of water a day, some 10 tons of salt is generated a day.

This is not a problem in coastal communities because salt can be returned to the ocean. Inland, it becomes an issue because locations or methods to dispose the salt may not be available. For this reason, a major part of research at the facility will focus on concentrate management.

Another area of research at the facility will be using renewable energy to power the desalination.

"One of the biggest costs of desalination is energy," Mike says. "For that reason it is important that alternate ways to power these processes be developed."

The Tularosa Basin in south-central New Mexico was selected as the desalination facility location because it contains a range of brackish water -- from almost fresh to twice as salty as sea water, all within a five-mile radius. A set of wells has already been drilled at different brackish levels in the basin.

The desalination facility will consist of six indoor bays where testing can be done side by side. Testing will also be conducted outside in three additional test pads.

Tom says the goal of the facility is to ultimately "improve economics of water production to meet expanding regional needs.

"This includes both quality and quantity concerns," he says. "Water desalination will be important, not only to southern New Mexico, but also West Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California."

Arsenic removal

The $3 million for research of arsenic removal from water stems out of new Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. The revised standards, which go into effect in 2006, change the allowable amounts of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion gallons of water to 10 parts.

"Many areas of the country are going from having no treatment of water to now having to do advanced treatment," Tom says. "Small and large communities alike will have to adapt to the new standards."

Albuquerque is one of the many communities affected by the new ruling. Arsenic concentrations in drinking water in the area are highly variable but average around 20 parts per billion.

"The intent is to develop a 'Home Depot' approach to water cleanup," Tom says. "By 2008 we will have the technologies ready for the utilities to buy and install."

One of the best methods is the use of adsorbants, man-made materials that have been designed for the purpose of cleaning up arsenic. The material is placed in big vessels over which water is flowed. The arsenic adsorbs into the material and water comes out arsenic free.

Sandia researchers have already developed one type of adsorbant that has been shown to work, the Specific Anion Nanoengineered Sorbents (SANS). Others are also being researched.

Development of the new arsenic removal technologies is the responsibility of the American Water Works Association. Sandia's role will be to pilot promising new technologies as they get close to commercialization. WERC will transfer the technologies to companies that will commercialize them and sell them to the water utilities.

Malcolm Siegel (6118) is the project manager.

Tom says that besides the $3 million for the arsenic project, Sandia will soon be receiving an additional $1.8 million for other arsenic program research.

"The strict arsenic standards that take effect in 2006 are placing a tremendous burden on rural communities that simply can't afford to meet the standard," Domenici says. "With this appropriation, we are investing in scientific expertise at Sandia to try to develop technologies that will allow the standards to be met in the most cost-effective manner." -- Chris Burroughs

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Researchers from Sandia, LANL achieve wireless nanocrystal breakthrough

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By Neal Singer

A wireless nanodevice that functions like a fluorescent light -- but potentially far more efficiently -- has been developed in a joint project between Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.

The experimental success, reported in the June 10 issue of Nature, efficiently causes nanocrystals to emit light when placed on top of a nearby energy source, eliminating the need to put wires directly on the nanocrystals.

The energy source is a so-called quantum well that emits energy at wavelengths most easily absorbable by the nanocrystals.

The efficiency of the energy transfer from the quantum well to the nanocrystals was approximately 55 percent -- although in theory nearly 100 percent transfer of the energy is possible and might be achieved with further tweaking.

The work is another step in creating more efficient white-light-emitting diodes -- semiconductor-based structures more efficient and hardier than the common tungsten light bulb.

Reduction of lighting costs is of wide interest because on a world scale, lighting uses more electrical energy per year than any other human invention.

Nanocrystals pumped by quantum wells generate light in a process similar to the light generation in a fluorescent light bulb.

There, a captive gas permeated by electricity emits ultraviolet light that strikes the phosphor-coated surface of the bulb, causing the coat to emit its familiar, overly white fluorescent light.

The current work shows that the nanocrystals can be pumped very efficiently by a peculiar kind of energy transfer that does not require radiation in the usual sense. The process is so efficient, reports LANL researcher Marc Achermann, because unlike the Truman fluorescent bulb, which must radiate its ultraviolet energy to the phosphor, the quantum well delivers its energy to the nanocrystal very rapidly before radiation occurs.

Because the emissions of nanocrystals (a.k.a. quantum dots) can be varied merely by controlling the size of the dot rather than by the standard, cumbersome process of varying the mix of materials, no known theoretical or practical barriers exist to pumping different-sized quantum dots that could individually emit blue, green, or red light, or be combined to generate white light.

The quantum well, about three nanometers thick, is composed of a dozen atomic layers. It coats a wafer two inches in diameter and is composed of indium gallium nitride. The film is not fabricated but rather grown as crystal, with an energy gap between its different layers that emits energy in the ultraviolet range at approximately 400 nm.

In this proof-of-principle work, the energy in the quantum well was delivered with a laser. Although the difficulties of inserting energy into the quantum well using an electrical connection rather than laser light are significant, it is considered to be feasible.

The thin-film quantum well crystal film was grown at Sandia by chemist Daniel Koleske (1126).

"My role was small," jokes Daniel, "but they couldn't have done it without me."

Sandia personnel are reputed to be among the finest epitaxial crystal-growers in the world.

LANL researchers Achermann, Melissa Petruska, Simon Kos,

Darryl Smith, and Victor Klimov attached the semiconductor nanocrystals, made the measurements, and created the theory.

LANL's LDRD program funded the Sandia work. -- Neal Singer

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Youssef Marzouk, Gregory Nielson named Sandia's first Truman Fellows

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By Michael Padilla

Two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) postdoctoral students have been selected as the first recipients of the President Harry S. Truman Research Fellowship in National Security Science and Engineering at Sandia.

Youssef Marzouk and Gregory Nielson were selected after an intensive nationwide search. The Truman Fellowship is the only position at Sandia where the candidate proposes a research project, presents it, and, when selected, gets to do it for the next three years.

"We are indeed fortunate to have selected Youssef Marzouk and Gregory Nielson as Sandia Truman Fellows," says Sandia's Chief Technology Officer Pace VanDevender (1000). "Youssef and Gregory set a strong precedent for excellence as the first class of Truman Fellows. They will work with other engineers and scientists at both the New Mexico and California sites as corporate-wide fellows addressing the national security challenges of the new century."

Truman Fellowship 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. Youssef will be working in Reacting Flow Research Dept. 8351 at Sandia/California, and Gregory will be in MEMS Device Technologies Dept. 1769 at Sandia/ New Mexico. Their work is funded by Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD).

Youssef received his bachelor's, master's, and PhD degrees from MIT. He was the recipient of the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship. He received the Young Researcher Fellowship Award at the MIT Computational Fluid and Solid Mechanics conference, and was the recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship. Recently, he was awarded the Joseph H. Keenan Prize for outstanding graduate student in the thermal sciences at MIT. His research experience includes work at the MIT Reacting Gas Dynamics Laboratory, the MIT Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, and the Sandia/California Combustion Research Facility. He also did research at Washington University and at the Monsanto Company in St. Louis. Youssef says he excited to be joining Sandia as a Truman Fellow, and particularly excited to be chosen for the program's first year.

"This will be a great opportunity to enhance my technical skills, establish collaborations with excellent people working on meaningful projects, and extend my research into new areas," Youssef says. "I look forward to working with members of the technical staff and contributing to the research environment at Sandia."

His research at Sandia will focus on Bayesian inference for inverse problems and optimization, with applications to fluid dynamics, source inversion, and gene regulatory networks.

"I would like to establish a strong program of fundamental, mostly computational research on thermofluid and biological systems," Youssef says.

Gregory received his bachelor's degree from Utah State University, and his master's and PhD from MIT. He has received numerous scholarships and awards including an MIT Entrepreneurship Competition Award, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Sandia Technology Transfer Merit Award. His research experience includes graduate work at MIT designing optical microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices as a PhD candidate, and studying and applying micro-scale plasticity material models as a master student. He has also conducted research at Sandia's Parallel Computing Sciences Department and at Utah State University.

Gregory's research project at Sandia will be a continuation of his doctoral research. As part of his thesis, he invented and developed the theory for a completely new actuation technique for MEMS switches that will allow switching speeds 10 to 1,000 times faster than current MEMS devices.

The new actuation technique also reduces the voltage and energy required for switching. For example, currently the fastest RF (radio frequency) MEMS switch operates at about one microsecond and needs 70 volts for actuation. His technique will allow an RF MEMS switch that switches in 100 nanoseconds and uses less than 10 volts.

While at Sandia, he will implement and refine the actuation technique and then apply it to both RF and optical MEMS switches. "One thing that I really like about the fellowship is that it gives me the opportunity to independently pursue research in an environment of world-class researchers," says Gregory. "As a Truman Fellow I'll be able to pursue research that I'm really excited about at a place that is particularly well-suited to supporting the research. I wouldn't be overstating it by calling it a dream job for me."

The Truman Fellowship provides the opportunity for recipients to pursue independent research of their own choosing that supports the national security mission of Sandia. The appointees are expected to foster creativity and to stimulate exploration of forefront science and technology and high-risk, potentially high-value R&D.

"We senior scientists and engineers on the Truman Fellowship selection committee are extremely pleased with the outcome," says Ron Loehman (1843), chair of the selection committee. Attracting such exceptional young scientists to Sandia makes all the time we spent in the reviews and interviews worthwhile. I expect Youssef and Greg to make important contributions to Sandia during their time here." -- Michael Padilla

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Paul Robinson addresses challenges, possibilities for post-Cold War strategic deterrence

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Editor's note: On June 10, Labs Director C. Paul Robinson addressed the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Project on Nuclear Issues on the subject of deterrence. Specifically, his speech asked: "Is there a purpose for deterrence after the Cold War?" In his remarks, Paul offered a historical overview of deterrence, noting that "the concept of deterrence has been applied for millennia." He spoke in broad terms of the vital role deterrence played in keeping the Cold War from ever erupting into total nuclear war. His remarks then turned to the subject of post-Cold War deterrence. Here are some excerpts. (The entire presentation can be read ) here:

I believe that when the history of the Cold War is written, it will show that -- on the whole -- the thinkers and planners of that day should be commended by all of us who came afterwards, for their accomplishment in developing a strategic deterrence formulation which has endured remarkably well to usher us to today. Moreover, the Cold War never became "hot" -- at least not with "nuclear heat."

A number of years ago, as it finally seemed clear that we could place the Cold War into history and begin facing whatever was to come next, the Commander in Chief of the United States Strategic Command -- then Admiral Hank Chiles -- tasked the Policy Committee of the Strategic Advisory Group (which I led) to examine the fundamentals of the deterrence that had served us so well during the Cold War and try to sort out what lessons or principles might be used going forward. . . .

As we examined how deterrence had emerged and how it matured in its effectiveness during the Cold War, we began to see deterrence not as a theory, a concept, a doctrine, or even just a strategy, but as an active and dynamic process. . . . Use of the terms "active" and "dynamic" as modifiers for the deterrence process is meant to capture the thought that, just like human history, deterrence has no end point. Each generation must try to understand, adapt, and apply it to the unique circumstance and the world actors of their times. . . .

We . . . concluded that communication with an adversary is central to deterrence. Just as it is said that a "voodoo hex" will not work unless the target of the hex knows of the enmity plotted against them, so in deterrence we must communicate in a convincing manner to adversaries our capability to hold at risk what they value. . . .

While it is crucial to explicitly define and communicate the acts or damages that we would find unacceptable and, hence, what it is that we are specifically seeking to deter. We should not be very specific as to exactly what our response would be. . . .

Without saying exactly what the consequences will be if the United States has to respond, or whether the reaction would either be responsive or preemptive, we must communicate in the strongest ways possible the unbreakable link between our vital interests and the potential harm that will be directly attributable to anyone who damages (or even credibly threatens to damage) that which we value. . . .

Thus, our deterrence plan must always be country-specific and leadership-specific. . . .

We must be ambiguous about details of our likely actions if what we value is threatened, but it must always be made clear that our actions would have terrible consequences. Because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the United States may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts deterrence if we portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed. . . . This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence. That the United States may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries. Finally, we pointed out that without perceived national will, and actual military capability, none of the above steps work. An adversary must always perceive that we have the national will to carry out decisive responses. . . .

. . . I believe we can improve our deterrence message by declaring and meaning the following: (1) The United States will never directly target civilians or non-war-fighting populations. (2) We do not maintain nuclear weapons for war-fighting purposes, but as "weapons of last-resort." (3) We keep our nuclear arsenal only to ensure any potential adversary that our capability to destroy those four essential categories of their military power is so certain that it will restrain them from committing aggressions in the first place. It is in this prior restraint that we want them to have no doubts about as they contemplate our deterrent message. . . .

There will be those in the audience who will notice that I did not mention terrorist groups and other non-state actors. . . . [I]f there is no "return address" or lands or sanctuaries with physical assets to be targeted, the deterrent becomes hollow. Acts by terrorists apparently cannot be directly deterred with nuclear (or other) weapons.

However, we can substantially cap the level of violence by ensuring that any nation-state that gives either assistance or sanctuary to terrorists will be held directly responsible should major aggression occur. The threat of retaliation to any state regimes that support terrorists can be a powerful disincentive to such adventurism, and we should not rule out any weapons in order to give maximum effectiveness to our deterrent message.

As a final comment in that regard, those of us who watch these rogue states have noted that, for several decades, they have been seeking ways to escape the otherwise sure United States deterrent by either hiding their valuable targets or burying them so deeply underground that they are out of reach to attack by United States weapons. Uninformed (or uncaring) critics have falsely attributed United States motives in developing new nuclear weapons (to deal with these changes) as a desire to build new "tactical or battlefield weapons." That is not the case. Our interest is clear: We need to have some of these weapons available that could strike strategic targets to make sure that no aggressor can escape our deterrent and its effects in securing peaceful behaviors. Earth penetrators prevent anyone from breaking the deterrent equation -- thus they are needed to preserve the peace -- Bill Murphy

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Last modified: June 25, 2004

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