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[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 55, No. 15           July 25, 2003
[Sandia National Laboratories]

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

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Sandia researchers win seven R&D 100 Awards Sandia microdevice rapidly separates proteins, researchers report in Science Public health officials, Sandia test Labs-designed antiterrorism planning tool

Sandia researchers win seven R&D 100 Awards

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By Neal Singer

Showing great competitiveness, Sandia researchers won seven R&D 100 awards this year. The annual contest is sponsored by the Chicago-based trade magazine R&D Magazine to determine the best applied new technologies.

The seven winning technologies that Sandia either spearheaded or had a hand in are the SnifferStar TM chemical sensor, MEMS-based adaptive optics phoropter, extreme acoustic telemetry, the low emissions atmospheric metering separator (LEAMS), inert cast-to-shape microvalves for high-pressure fluidics, the extreme ultraviolet lithography full-field stepscan system, and the emitter turn-off (ETO) thyristor.

Most are in partnership with private companies, other labs, or universities.

Three of the awards are for work primarily at the Sandia/California site.

The seven prizes won by Sandia this year are the most the Labs has won since it garnered eight, its most ever, in 1997. Last year Sandia received two, and in the four years before that never received more than three. The seven this year was second only to Los Alamos National Laboratory, which won eight. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory took third place with six.

One hundred winners are selected by the magazine's editors and technical experts from an international pool of contestants from universities, private corporations, and government labs. The research community's recent emphasis on technology transfer has boosted the number of joint public-private submissions.

The R&D 100 Awards sometimes hopefully 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. Over the following decades, entries that later became household names include 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 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."

Electro-optics, high-tech materials, and energy innovation are staples of the R&D 100 Awards, but the magazine has responded to new technologies by creating additional categories. Winners have been chosen in the fields of analytical instruments and processes, electronics, testing and measurement, software, environmental technology, and advanced biomedical devices and systems.

Winners will be presented plaques at a formal banquet in October at Chicago's Navy Pier.

Brief descriptions of the seven winning Sandia technologies follow:


It's hard enough to keep track of where you are on a battlefield. Imagine trying to keep track of what you are breathing.

Helping US forces of the future may be an extremely lightweight mobile chemical sensor created by Doug Adkins with George Dulleck, Greg Frye-Mason, Pat Lewis, Richard Kottenstette, Edwin Heller, Ronald Manginell (all Sandians), and Clifford Megerle, formerly a Senior Technical Staff Member at Lockheed Martin.

SnifferStar mounts on a drone aircraft for remote surveillance of battlefield situations where suspect plumes or clouds are present. The detector's primary purpose is to save lives by warning soldiers that chemical weapons are present on a battlefield. Developed under a Shared Vision program with Lockheed Martin, the entire module weighs less than a golf ball, operates on less than 0.5 watts, and uses the wind generated by the motion of the craft to collect samples for analysis. SnifferStarTM is sensitive to both blister and nerve agents. It ignores common interferents and analyzes chemical warfare agents in 20 seconds.

Says Doug, "Such rapid analysis currently is not possible with any other package near this size."

The device also has possibilities for use in or near the ventilation systems of buildings, or, with addition of small pumps to force air into the device, on posts surrounding military bases.

Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography Full-field Step-Scan System:

More than 50 Sandians and collaborators from Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) and Lawrence Berkeley national laboratories were honored for this technological advance that will lead to dramatic improvements in the speed and memory of computer systems.They created the only system that can pattern full chip-size areas on silicon wafers with features as small as 50 nm. It is the embodiment of a set of groundbreaking technologies that were considered by many to be impossible as recently as a few years ago. Commercialization of this breakthrough will allow advances in microelectronics to continue into the next decade.

In addition to the national laboratory team, the award is also being given jointly to Northrop Grumman Space Technology/Cutting Edge Optronics. The work was done in partnership with an industrial consortium comprising Intel, Motorola, AMD, Infineon, IBM, and Micron. Intel ordered the first production-level instrument based on this technology last year.

Acoustic telemetry technology

Acoustic telemetry technology, developed at Sandia in cooperation with Extreme Engineering Ltd. of Calgary, Alberta, and with support from DOE, represents the fulfillment of an oil industry quest that goes back to the 1940s.

The problem: As oil and gas wells have gone deeper and deeper, the need for better communication between the driller and the drill bit has become more critical.

Standing next to a drilling rig, you see a simple well head; beneath your feet, well-casing strings, production tubing, and other drilling equipment extend miles beneath you, often reaching "out" more than "down." Steering the bit at the end of this serpentine connection has become more and more difficult.

Existing MWD (measurement while drilling) communication methods, based on mud-pulse techniques, were revolutionary when introduced in the early 1980s. But mud-pulse is slow -- much, much slower than the first-generation telephone modems you used at home. Thus, a process that represented a breakthrough a generation ago has become a bottleneck to the precision drilling needs of the 21st century.

Acoustic telemetry technology uses the well-drilling tubing as the data transmission medium and sound waves as the data carrier. Among the advantages compared to existing techniques: a 10-fold improvement in data rates and no blocking of the fluid flow path.

Doug Drumheller (6211), Sandia project lead for the technology, says that although the acoustic telemetry concept has been around for more than 50 years, the industry's trial-and-error approach to solving the technical problems involved led nowhere.

"We applied some science to the problem," Doug says. "We approached the problem carefully over a long period of time."

Doug praises the contribution Extreme Engineering has made to the effort.

"They are licensees of our technology," he notes. "They've jumped into this field with both feet. They've contributed to the design of hardware, the intellectual property, and the field-testing of the prototype devices. It's rare to find a company that steps up to the tasks as well as Extreme."

LEAMS (Low Emissions Atmospheric Metering Separator)

The Low Emissions Atmospheric Metering Separator is a family of atmospheric geothermal separators used in the development of geothermal power. The primary function of the LEAMS is to safely contain and clean the atmospheric vented steam of polluting solids, liquids, and noxious gasses. This system is designed to be environmentally friendly, intrinsically safe, and relatively easy to transport and assemble. LEAMS has a wide operating range and can be used in drilling, well testing, and geothermal power plant start-up.

The LEAMS technology was supported by work done by Allan Sattler (6113), and was developed by Two-Phase Engineering and Research, Inc., Santa Rosa, Calif. Most fabrication was accomplished by Drill Cool Systems, Inc., Bakersfield, Calif. Allan was in charge of Sandia/DOE support of the project. He provided field and instrumentation support for a separator field test at a large geothermal well in California. Allan consulted, collaborated, and was in constant contact with the designer and fabricator, especially during the design and fabrication phases of most LEAMS units. He and his Sandia colleagues also provided much of the documentation for the project.

"I am delighted that the talent, creativity, innovation, and competency of these two firms was formally recognized, and I am honored to be associated with them and the technology developed," says Allan. "It provides a critical new capability to the entire geothermal industry."< p> MEMS-Based Adaptive Optics Phoropter

Sandians Steve Eisenbies and Steve Haney (both 8731) contributed to the opto-mechanical design and integration of a compact, transportable adaptive optics system that expands upon traditional devices currently used in optometrists' offices. In addition to determining correction needed for near-sightedness or far-sightedness and astigmatism, it also determines correction needed for high-order aberrations that can interfere with night vision and can provide a preview of correction to a patient. The effects of aberrations can be compared to distortions seen in a pool due to ripples on the surface. Diminished night vision or a perception of "halos" can sometimes result from aberrations introduced during laser eye surgery.

The Adaptive Optics Phoropter is a system that uses MEMS-based deformable mirror technology to correct wavefront aberrations in the eye. It combines technologies from astronomy and micromachining to advance the study and treatment of retinal diseases. Applications for the tool include generation of improved prescriptions for custom contact lenses or laser eye surgery, as well as high-resolution retinal imaging. The award is shared by LLNL, which led the project, Sandia, the University of Rochester, Wavefront Sciences, Boston Micromachines Corp., and Bausch & Lomb. -- Nancy Garcia

ETO: Mitigating electrical network problems

Lightning strikes, equipment failures, or other anomalies in electric powered transmission systems can cause brown-outs or even network failures. But a fast-response semiconductor device developed under the direction of Stan Atcitty (2522) allows a utility to rapidly convert energy stored in a DC device into AC power and minimize the negative effects of such interruptions on electrical devices.

Under the auspices of the DOE Energy Storage Systems Program, Stan led researchers at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., in the development of the advanced semiconductor unit. Called an ETO (emitter turn-off thyristor), the three-terminal semiconductor device is similar to a MOSFET but capable of switching greater power at high frequencies.

The ETO, rated at 4000A and 4500V, can switch power at 1-3 kHz.

"This component could become a critical part of inverters, motor controllers, and many other power electronics systems that require medium voltage and high-current switches," says Stan.

Another possible use for the device is in the US Navy's All-Electric Ship Initiative. Says Stan, "Once you mention an all electric ship, you need high-power switching devices like the ETO to manage power flow on a ship."

The DOE program that supported the ETO development is managed at Sandia by Energy and Transportation Security Center 6200.

The ETO R&D 100 application was a joint entry with Solitronics (a Blacksburg small business marketing the ETO), Virginia Tech (ETO inventor), Sandia (which supported the development of the ETO from a concept to an actual product suitable for utility energy storage applications), and the American Competitiveness Institute in Philadelphia (which assisted the team with manufacturing engineering and prototype production of the device).

Isolated Cast-in-Place Microvalves

Brian Kirby (8358), Tim Shepodd (8722) and David Reichmuth (8358) were honored for creating microvalves that allow fluids to be shuttled as easily in microfluidic chips as they are on a traditional laboratory benchtop.

For the first time, these valves enable micro-scale systems to combine high-voltage and high-pressure analytical or synthetic techniques. Previous micro-scale systems could not effectively control both electrokinetic and high-pressure hydraulic flow. The new valves are commercially applicable to miniaturization of techniques crucial to drug discovery and evaluation in the pharmaceutical industry -- in particular, gradient liquid chromatography analysis.

The polymer valves are photopatterned in seconds and moved by pressure to isolate and manipulate fluids in channels. Different analytes can be shuttled from one place to another on a chip where measurements can be made, such as identification of a species or its concentration. The results can then be used to select a path for additional analysis. Miniaturization advantages include greater process speeds using minuscule volumes of reagents, which saves money and minimizes impact to the environment. - - NealSinger

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Sandia microdevice rapidly separates proteins, researchers report in Science

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By Neal Singer

A microdevice has been demonstrated at Sandia to easily collect and release proteins in aqueous solution in less than a second. The development was reported last Thursday (July 17) in the journal Science.

The business end of the device looks like the gold-coated spine of a very tiny mouse, with each "vertebrae" line separated from the next by about a third the width of a human hair. The device separates proteins from solution and from each other by electrically heating the tiny metal lines to alter surface properties, say Dale Huber (1122) and Bruce Bunker (1141). Other members of the team are Ron Manginell (1764), Michael Samara (no longer at Sandia), and Byung-Il Kim (1141).

"We capture and release on command very quickly and from very definite locations," says Dale of the research group's ability to send current to selected heat lines, mimicking electrically the chemical separation methods of industry-standard chromatographs.

The device could fit easily into the hand-held sensors familiarly referred to as labs-on-a-chip and aid in detecting terrorist attacks by near-instantaneously concentrating classes of suspect proteins for immediate analysis.

"Our methods make proteins very obedient," says Dale. "They hang on or let go as we tell them, and they don't denature [that is, they stay healthy] even after 24 hours." The proteins are thus available for more extensive analysis than conventional separation methods ordinarily permit.

The device works by sending minute currents of electricity for microseconds through the gold crosspieces called heat lines to warm a four-nanometer-thick polymer film. The film, called poly(NIPAM), responds to heat by changing from a hydrophilic (water-loving) to a hydrophobic (water-hating) state. The water-hating state makes it easy for the film to adsorb proteins passing over it in an aqueous solution, while the cooler hydrophilic state means the proteins will be outcompeted by water molecules and be released in a natural cleansing action.

Furthermore, because smaller proteins adsorb faster, a brief pulse of electric current is all that's needed to separate them from solution. The solution can then be disposed of, leaving only the small proteins. If large proteins are of interest, the runoff becomes valuable and the smaller proteins can then be disposed of by later letting the heating current die down. The small proteins release and can be disposed of by draining this solution. There is no fouling.

Lengthier application of current shows that because of their larger surface areas, larger proteins tend to displace the smaller, first-arriving proteins and attach to the polymer. Draining the solution then removes the small proteins.

Thus the device acts not only as a fast, low-power preconcentrator of proteins, it can be used to change the ratio of large to small proteins as desired for easier analysis in specific applications.

For further microanalysis, Bruce says, "You could envision different streams perpendicularly across our fluid-carrying channel. We could release across any given channel, then further separate proteins based on charge or size."

A spin-off application that seems possible to the research team would be to use the method to grab antigens in saliva or blood serum that would indicate a disease in progress. "Think of the use for GI Joe in the field," says Bruce. "We'll insert antibodies specific to particular diseases. Turn on the battery, raise the heat, and trap the antibodies to create a film. Then see if this film interacts with a blood serum or saliva sample. No? Turn off the heat, release the antibody, enter another antibody, and retry."

Another difference between the new method and standard chromatography columns is that the latter use the same separation materials to get the same results every time. The Sandia approach enables researchers to program changes into the characteristics of the "column" by varying the temperature of the heat lines, as well as the length of time they are hot, along the channel through which the protein-carrying liquid passes. This enables researchers to vary the final spacing between protein classes of different size or weight to provide clearer outcomes.

"Also," says Bruce, "we can work with smaller volume and very small quantities of protein." Finally, he says, "It's also a good antifouling system. Proteins stick only where we tell them to."

Currently, the researchers are working at the proof-of-concept phase, and have shown that proteins adhere, release, and displace one another on squares of heated poly(NIPAM) formally, poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide). One goal of the research is to have a 3-D tube packed with coated micropebbles that would increase sensitivity by creating a 1,000-square-meter-per-gram surface area to analyze larger volumes of intake material. This could be integrated onto a microchip and heated with a larger resistive heater, or by an infrared laser.

While the device is envisioned to function near the front-end of an analysis unit, a still-prior device would be needed to provide proteins, either by opening cells to make their proteins available for analysis, providing fluids from humans, or by collecting protein from the environment.

"Currently, we're working with a group at Sandia/California led by Bryan Kirby (8358) to make the technology useful by building it into their integrated platform," Dale says.

Sandia has applied for a patent for the work, which is funded by DOE's Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, and by an LDRD grand challenge for Molecularly Integrated Microsystems. - - Neal Singer

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Public health officials, Sandia test Labs-designed antiterrorism planning tool

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By Nancy Garcia

Two dozen officials from Alameda County and environs teamed up with Sandia recently to practice responding to a mock anthrax attack using a response and planning tool designed by Sandia.

Participants in the exercise included the Alameda County Public Health Department (ACPHD), Contra Costa Health Services, the City of Berkeley Public Health Department, Highland Hospital, Kaiser Oakland Hospital, California Department of Health Services (DHS), Alameda County Office of Emergency Services, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

"The scenario, while vast in scale, was quite realistic," says Tony Iton, M.D., who participated in the exercise that evaluated the county's new 300-page bioterrorism plan. Dr. Iton is the Alameda County Health Officer at ACPHD. "The exercise re-emphasized that the core components of bioterrorism response are surveillance, disease control, communication, and coordination," he says. "The Sandia folks have developed an excellent tool to help local public health agencies test drive their response plans."

Iton was also pleased to work with such a large collection of bioterrorism experts. "The benefits of the planning process are in establishing relationships and understanding what our various roles are," he says.

It was far more helpful than handing out business cards to collaborative agencies, agrees Jim Morrissey, the disaster coordinator with the Emergency Medical Services division of ACPHD. "It was much better to actually meet the related disaster staff in-person and to work with them side-by-side to provide a more efficient, interagency effort with the hopes of then having this become standard in the real events," he says. "I feel this was a tremendous opportunity to not only test out the Sandia system with them, but also to try our combined skills and expertise in a particular type of simulated event."

In a disaster situation, ACPHD coordinates the county-wide medical response, shifting around county staff and resources to stabilize the situation. Sandia and ACPHD got together to test ACPHD's readiness to respond to a bioterrorism attack after ACPHD learned about Sandia's decision-analysis computer program.

For this six-hour drill, participants gathered in Sandia's Visualization Design Center, where information was displayed and updated via maps, charts, and text on three large screens lining the walls. Representatives from Sandia's Weapons of Mass Destruction-Decision Analysis Center (WMD-DAC) described an increasingly severe, simulated scenario involving a release of a few ounces of highly infectious, weapon-grade anthrax at the Berkeley Marina.

Participants were asked to imagine that it was January, the weather was cloudy, the country had recently gone from "code orange" to "code red," and there appeared to be a spike in the number of respiratory illnesses in Alameda County. As they made decisions, the outcome of the simulation changed to reflect their choices.

"This is the first exercise I've been in that actually feels like the real thing to me because we were forced to make some decisions," says Dr. Poki Namkung, the Public Health Officer for the City of Berkeley.

Divided into groups of four to six people, participants had about ten minutes to decide how to respond to the change in alert status and discuss it in their groups. Decisions included asking hospitals to be on the alert for unusual symptoms and reschedule elective surgeries, increasing security in Alameda County, and getting an inventory of prophylactic drugs.

Then participants were told the situation had worsened. The "spike" turned into 35 cases of suspected inhalation anthrax. The groups stepped up their response: treating the affected individuals with antibiotics, investigating the cases, conducting press briefings, and communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state DHS.

During the next 24 hours modeled in the scenario -- requiring just a few minutes of computer simulation time -- the situation got even worse. The 35 cases were confirmed as anthrax, and 613 more "suspect" cases were reported. In talking again, the groups decided to close all schools in Alameda County and set up clinics to administer prophylactic drugs, while holding more press briefings and issuing news advisories.

By the 11th day of the simulated attack, roughly half of the population exposed to the anthrax had died -- but those deaths would be reduced significantly if there had been earlier detection and antibiotic distribution, the public health experts concluded.

"It was an excellent opportunity to come together and to participate in an experience like this that we hope will not be real, but may be one day," says Linda Frank of the Alameda County Communicable Disease Department.

ACPHD was not the only group to benefit from the experience. "I feel like we definitely learned a lot," says Advanced Technologies Dept. 8101 Manager Howard Hirano, who arranged the visit. "And that's the point of WMD-DAC -- to provide a learning tool for decision-makers who are tasked with protecting us and responding to potentially catastrophic events."

Initially conceived in early 2001, the WMD-DAC bioterrorism simulation engages the perspectives of many decision-makers as they seek to deal with a complex event that unfolds over days, often having to make decisions along the way with incomplete information. Sandia researchers began with the premise that it was only a matter of time until the US suffered a terrorist attack, and it would be wise to prepare for one.

There are several ongoing enhancements to the models. Epidemiological work by Los Alamos National Laboratory and analysis for atmospheric releases created by scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are being incorporated. A nuclear terror scenario has also been developed. Another feature in the works will allow health officials to track the spread of diseases, such as smallpox, that spread person-to-person. Recent news coverage of the rapid worldwide spread of SARS underscores the importance of this capability.

In addition to the Bay Area models -- including Alameda/Contra Costa County as well as San Francisco -- another model involving a simulated bioterrorism attack on the 1.9 million residents of New Mexico has been completed. The CDC in Atlanta has also requested a presentation on the model this summer.

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Last modified: July 28 , 2003

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