[About Sandia]
[Unique Solutions]
[Working With Us]
[Contacting Us]
[News Center]
[navigation panel]

[Sandia Lab News]

Vol. 54, No. 23        November 15, 2002
[Sandia National Laboratories]

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

Back to the Lab News home page

Blast mitigation foam could contain chem-bio-rad dispersion Sandia assuming larger role in fusion research Sandia concurrent design and manufacturing marks milestone TVC model embraced for NNSA labs

Labs-developed blast-suppression foam would be put to use in future chem, bio, or dirty bomb scare<

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

By John German

If US authorities ever found in our midst a ticking terrorist bomb laced with chemical, biological, or radiological materials, the on-scene response team likely would reach for a foam developed at Sandia years ago.

The foam, studied and tested extensively at Sandia and the Nevada Test Site in the 1980s to support federal emergency response operations, is similar to common firefighting foams but is specially designed to trap radioactive particles thrown into it by the detonation of a so-called "dirty bomb."

The foam also suppresses an explosive blast by absorbing the force of the shock wave within its chemically engineered bubble structure.

A bonus feature of the Sandia foam -- one that might come in handy in today's terror-conscious world -- is its ability to envelop chemical or biological aerosols in its aqueous bubble structure, thereby thwarting a terrorist's plan to sicken or kill many people or render an area unusable by dispersing contaminants over a wide area, says Bill Rhodes (5817), manager of the Sandia team evaluating the foam for such applications.

Typically a tent or bag would be placed over a suspect bomb and then filled with the foam. Then, if the device detonated, observers would hear a thump and see the tent collapse into a wet mass, rather than hearing a loud bang and seeing the flash, smoke, and pressure wave that would accompany an unmitigated bomb.

The foam is available to first-responders from ChemGuard, Inc. (Mansfield, Texas) under the brand name Aqueous Foam Concentrate-380 (AFC-380).

Few agencies at the local and state level are aware of it, however, says Paul Johnson (5817).

That means it might not be within the reach of the on-scene teams that would need to deal with a suspect device in a timely manner, before it goes off.

It might be days, certainly hours, before federal responders could get to the scene. And if they don't have the foam concentrate, tents, and spraying equipment with them, the chances of foaming the device in a timely fashion are diminishingly small, he says.

But much can be done at Sandia to put the foam into the hands of first-responders all over the country, says Bill.

The foam-generation equipment needs to be optimized to the needs of first-responders -- local firefighters, mostly, on limited budgets and with little time for training. Thus, the gear needs to be inexpensive and easy to use.

And lightweight, adds Bill. Firefighters might need to pump the foam up to a high elevation to fill a large tent, climb a ladder with a tank strapped on, or fill a third-story room from outside. Extremely lightweight pumps, hoses, and containers are needed.

"It doesn't sound like tough science, but you need lightweight materials and reliable designs," he says.

Also, while the foam's blast-suppression and rad-trapping effects are well characterized, Sandia has yet to study adequately its ability to capture chemical and biological particles dispersed in a blast. Variations in foam structure, densities, and neutralizing additives might be considered for response to a broader range of suppression needs.

"Although we know it's effective, its ability to trap these aerosols is not fully tested," he says. "We'd like to quantify these capabilities."

Moreover, a wider variety of terrorist bomb-scare scenarios needs to be studied, and a suite of tents, cones, bags, and other coverings created and evaluated for each situation.

Currently, a limited number of configurations are available -- essentially a few sizes of tents and cones for different-sized explosive charges, and a fillable bag for hanging over the sides of buildings to keep particles from escaping through windows.

DOE and the FBI have sponsored evaluation of the foam in recent years, although the project currently is idle.

Sandia team members include Fred Harper (5817), Marvin Larsen (5854), Paul, and Bill. Others who have made major contributions to the foam's development include primary developer Pete Rand (ret.), Ed Graeber (ret.), Kermit Goettsche (ret.), and Billy Marshall (2552) - - John German

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

Sandians help shape the future of fusion energy

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

By Chris Burroughs

Several Sandians, including Mike Ulrickson (6428) and Craig Olson (1600), have helped shape the future of fusion energy and extended Sandia's Z machine into the fusion energy area.

They were among 280 scientists from the United States and the international fusion community who attended the second Snowmass Fusion Summer Study in Snowmass, Colo., this summer (July 8-19, 2002), assessing the major next steps in fusion energy research.

The report resulting from the meeting will be studied by the DOE Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee (FESAC) to form a strategy to go forward with fusion projects for the US. The report will also be reviewed by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences. A final strategy will be recommended by both entities to the DOE Office of Science early next year -- in time to influence the 2004 fiscal year.

"The result might mean a change in direction for our department or a thrust in a different area," says Mike, Manager of Fusion & Structural Technology Dept. 6428. "The future of fusion hinges on what the DOE Office of Science decides."

"The clear presence of the z-pinch approach to fusion energy at Snowmass marks the potential start of a significant effort to extend the impressive single-shot results of Z to a repetitive concept for fusion energy," says Craig, Scientific Advisor for Pulsed Power Sciences Center 1600.

Sandia has been working on fusion since the 1960s. Mike's department currently has about 10 people devoted to studying plasma-facing components for magnetic confinement fusion research. The Pulsed Power Center, under Jeff Quintenz, Director, and Keith Matzen, Level II Manager of 1670, currently has about 150 people devoted to high-energy density physics and inertial confinement fusion research on Z for the weapons program.

During the Snowmass conference, the two major approaches to fusion energy were discussed. One is magnetic fusion energy in which a large-volume plasma of low density deuterium/tritium fuel is heated to more than 100 million degrees and held in place by powerful magnetic fields. Mike, together with Dennis Youchison (6428), participated in the magnetic fusion discussions.

The other approach is inertial confinement fusion energy, in which small fuel capsules containing a small volume of high-density deuterium/tritium fuel are heated and compressed rapidly by intense energy pulses, and held together briefly by their own inertia. Craig, along with Keith Matzen (1600), Roger Vesey (1674), Steve Slutz (1674), Tom Mehlhorn (1674), Charles Morrow (64150), and Tina Tanaka (6428), participated in the inertial fusion energy discussions.

Magnetic fusion energy

Some 230 people participated in the magnetic fusion discussions, and advocates of three different burning plasma devices presented their cases. A burning plasma is one in which the energetic alpha particles produced in the deuterium/tritium fusion reactions dominate the plasma behavior. The three devices are all tokamaks -- the Russian name given to a particular magnetic field configuration shaped like a donut. The three devices are:

"We weren't permitted to say which type we liked best or which one we would endorse, but ITER has the greatest capabilities and is the boldest step," says Mike.

ITER would cost $5 billion or more and would be built outside the US, possibly in France, Japan, or Canada. ITER has been supported by a comprehensive research and development program.

Sandia researchers worked on ITER between 1992 and 1998, and since 1998 have been working on FIRE.

The scientists attending the meeting concluded that the study of burning plasmas is at the frontier of magnetic fusion energy science and that a burning plasma device must be the next step.

Inertial fusion energy

Some 50 people participated in the inertial fusion energy discussions. Inertial fusion energy already has a burning plasma experiment under construction -- the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at LLNL. NIF, a multibillion-dollar facility,has been under construction for several years and is scheduled to show ignition and modest energy gain in exploding fusion targets during the next decade. However, NIF uses glass-laser technology that can be used only in single-shot experiments. For fusion energy, the process must occur repetitively, and three major approaches to achieving this repetitive operation were discussed at Snowmass.

Just as in the magnetic fusion sessions, advocates of the three different approaches to inertial fusion energy explained the development paths needed for each approach to achieve fusion energy. Particular emphasis was on the next large step, an Integrated Research Experiment, for each approach. The three approaches are:

Scientists attending the inertial fusion energy portion of the summer study concluded that all three approaches to fusion energy show promise and should be explored further for the next several years.

"Since z-pinches are the 'new player' in fusion energy, it was pleasing to essentially hear universally at this Snowmass conference that 'lasers, heavy ions, and z-pinches' are the options for inertial fusion energy," says Craig. - - Chris Burroughs

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

Concurrent Design and Manufacturing program completes its second year of failure-free weapon component deliveries

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

By Bill Murphy

Here's a little thought experiment for you.

Imagine you're doing something innocuous, routine, humdrum. Let's say you're mowing your lawn. Not too many things to remember in order to get it right:

Now go out there and mow that lawn.

But here's the catch: mow it without making any mistakes. Make sure everything -- and that means everything -- is done to perfection (your significant other just hates it when you clip the grass an eighth of an inch too short). You did it? No mistakes. Are you sure? Okay. Now do it again. And again. And again. In fact, do it 9,000 times -- without ever making the slightest little error.

All of a sudden that simple job of mowing the lawn begins to sound a bit daunting.

All of which serves to highlight the scope of the achievement of the Product Realization Teams (PRTs) in Sandia's Concurrent Design and Manufacturing program. The PRTs just celebrated the completion of a second year of failure-free delivery of thousands of components for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.

And we're not just talking about mowing the lawn here; we're talking about the zero-defect delivery of some of the most complex devices ever contrived. That's an impressive achievement in itself; what's even more significant, says CDM Program Manager Cesar Lombana (14011), is that the program's zero-failure-rate delivery of components has saved the nuclear weapons complex -- that is, the taxpayers -- millions of dollars. You see, every failure in a delivered component launches a Significant Finding Investigations, or SFI. As the SFIs mount up, so do the costs. It's neither cheap nor easy to find out why a component designed to function flawlessly for years in the most lethal machines ever built has malfunctioned. So, the fewer SFIs the better.

The story of the CDM effort is a story of hard-won success. As Cesar notes, DOE's decision in 1991 to close down some of its weapons production capability and fold those functions into Sandia (among other facilities) marked a full-circle return for the Labs.

In its early days, when it was still Z Division of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Sandia had a significant manufacturing role. The stockpile was small then, and the manufacturing was not unlike producing unique one-off pieces for very specialized devices.

After the Soviet Union developed its bomb and launched the Cold War arms race that occupied the subsequent 40 years, it became clear to US policy makers that an independent production capability -- able to industrialize the weapons-making process -- was going to be needed. The weapons industrial base grew to a scale capable of producing thousands of increasingly complex devices each year.

Now fast-forward to the other end of the Cold War era and the accompanying treaty-based agreements to limit and then reduce the size of the stockpile. DOE decides to ramp down the complex; under the new stockpile management paradigm the manufacturing requirements of a smaller stockpile would be transferred to Sandia and other facilities. (Los Alamos, Pantex, Savannah River, and Kansas City also received new manufacturing/product delivery roles.)

There was some skepticism in the complex as to whether the new approach would work. And early experience seemed to demonstrate that there was indeed, much to be skeptical about. Mistakes were made; the learning curve was steep. And you can be sure that there were a few old hands in the complex who were saying to themselves, "I told you so."

But realistically, DOE had no choice; there was no going back. The complex had to be scaled back, but without losing any functionality.

Sandia made a critical personnel choice at about this time: it brought in as manufacturing VP Lenny Martinez, a manufacturing top gun who earned his stripes at Digital Equipment Corporation when DEC was still a high-flyer in the high-tech sector.

Lenny knew manufacturing; studied it and savored its principles the way chess legend Gary Kasparov studies books on arcane end game strategy. He understood the special requirements of a high-consequence, low-volume, high-complexity manufacturing capability and launched steps to implement the capability at Sandia.

He hired key staff -- eventually including such leaders as Kathleen McCaughey, John Sayre, Cesar Lombana, and others -- established proven quality principles, and worked to ingrain them into the Labs' manufacturing culture. He set expectations higher than even DOE's own demanding requirements and rewarded success. Success came, but not without a fight.

Under the CDM approach, product realization teams work with (mostly) private vendors to produce Sandia-designed components to DOE/NNSA-established standards.

While not all of Sandia-supplied components fit the CDM model -- notably neutron generators, and certain microelectronic components, which are actually manufactured at Sandia -- most Sandia supplied components in the modern stockpile are produced through a design-to-buy approach, which is the heart of the CDM program.

There are 17 PRTs involved in Sandia's Concurrent Design and Manufacturing effort, with responsibility for weapons components ranging from actuators, thermal and special batteries, to igniters, gas generators, capacitors, magnetics, frequency devices, and electronic components. These components, many previously manufactured by now-closed production agencies, are now concurrently designed and manufactured in a partnership among Sandia, manufacturers across the nation, and the remaining production agencies at Kansas City, Pantex, Savannah River, and Los Alamos. A separate product realization team coordinates the process for each component family. Since 1992, when the program started, the PRTs have overseen the delivery of more than 40,000 components.

Before it found ultimate success, however, the Sandia manufacturing effort hit its share of snags.

"There wasn't a year between 1992 and 2000 where we didn't have failures," says Cesar. "There are just so many ways that something can go wrong in components of the complexity we're dealing with." Because of persistent problems, there appeared to be a chance that Sandia could lose its CDM manufacturing capability entirely -- to Kansas City or some other facility.

"As a program," Cesar says,

"we simply weren't as good as we could be."

With its very future on the line, he says, a commitment was made in the CDM program and among the PRTs: "We are going to be the best production program in the complex; we're going to do things no one has ever done before. We will not accept product failures."

With the completion of a second year of failure-free delivery, the product realization teams have delivered on that commitment they made to themselves -- and to Sandia. -- Bill Murphy

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

TVC to open technology commercialization offices in California, Nevada, Northern New Mexico

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

By Bill Murphy

From now on, when someone refers to Technology Ventures Corporation as a "model program" of its kind, they won't be talking in purely figurative terms.

TVC is a model program -- literally, officially.

With a new $1.5 million contract -- in the form of a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) -- from the National Nuclear Security Agency to adopt its business model to NNSA facilities in Los Alamos, N.M., the Nevada Test Site (near Las Vegas, Nev.), and Livermore, Calif., TVC moves to the very front of the class among organizations designed to move technologies from national laboratories to the marketplace.

The CRADA stems from efforts that originated with Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who has long recognized the substantial and unique role that TVC has played in advancing the New Mexico economy over the past decade.

TVC model has worked well

"I want to thank Sen. Domenici for leading the effort for this funding," says TVC president Sherman McCorkle. "I look forward to the opportunity to augment the great work going on at these other facilities to create private sector jobs."

In addition to Domenici's leadership role in helping secure the funding, key support was offered by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M.

Lockheed Martin established TVC in 1993 as a nonprofit subsidiary. Its role was to foster technology commercialization by working with potential entrepreneurs from publicly funded research labs, helping them secure venture capital for their technology-based start-ups. According to McCorkle, the TVC proposal was one of the key distinguishing elements, along with its plan for increasing diversity opportunities in the Labs, that tipped the balance in Lockheed Martin's favor when DOE awarded it the contract to manage Sandia after a 44-year run by AT&T.

The $1.5 million award from NNSA (with the potential for up to $3 million in FY03, pending Congressional approval) is explicit recognition that the TVC model has worked -- and worked well. With its infusion of new funds, TVC will open staffed offices in Los Alamos, Livermore, and Las Vegas to become more proactive in identifying and moving to market the labs' most commercially viable technologies. McCorkle emphasizes that the new TVC offices will augment -- and not compete with -- existing commercialization efforts at the NNSA labs.

"We don't get into licensing of IP [intellectual property], we don't get into royalty payments or patents. We help technology-based businesses secure equity capital," McCorkle says. "Our function will be complementary to existing commercialization efforts at the other labs, just as it has been at Sandia."

Raising capital is heart of TVC success

The TVC model is simple, really. And, as McCorkle says, it hasn't changed "one iota" since TVC's inception more than nine years ago: You identify the most promising technology-based business start-ups you can find. (A lot of the entrepreneurs TVC has helped over the years come out of Sandia, but its doors are open to any promising technology start-up.) You work with entrepreneurs, coach them in the ways of the marketplace, help them refine their business model, assist with market research, and, finally, help them find and secure risk investment.

That last -- securing investors -- is the real heart of TVC and the point and purpose of its signature event, the annual New Mexico Equity Capital Symposium. That's the forum that gives entrepreneurs a platform for making their "sales pitch" to an audience of professional equity investors from across the nation.

Based on the proven model, TVC since its inception has played an instrumental role in the formation of more than 5,600 jobs in the region. It has helped attract some $330 million in equity capital investment. Even more telling -- and potentially significant for New Mexico's economy -- is the fact that, as McCorkle notes, when TVC was formed there wasn't a single venture capital firm operating in New Mexico. Now there are 11 such firms with staffed offices in the state. And that means there's a better-than-ever chance that innovative New Mexico start-ups will attract the attention of the folks whose business it is to identify and invest in speculative business propositions.

"One of the unique things about TVC, and one of the key reasons for our success," McCorkle says, "if that we believe that we have two customers -- the entrepreneur and the investor. And we act on that belief. Since we're not-for-profit, both our customers know that we're not trying to sell them anything except success."

Lockheed Martin deserves huge credit

"This was a new concept when we started," says TVC Business Operations Director Randy Wilson, who has been with TVC side-by-side with McCorkle since the beginning. "For the first year, we spent our time defining how we would make this model work. And subsequently, I think it's fair to say that our success has exceeded people's expectations. I'm proud of what we've accomplished. The next challenge is to create the same success at the other NNSA labs. I look forward to it."

Says Domenici: "Since TVC's establishment I've been impressed with their ability to generate results. Their focus on small business start-ups and equity funding is an important addition to traditional partnerships involving larger corporations."

McCorkle, a New Mexico native who has a long track record of involvement in economic development in the state, offers high praise for Lockheed Martin.

"Of course, I'm personally gratified to be involved in a successful enterprise," he says. "But more to the point, I'm thrilled as a New Mexican that we're helping bring high-quality jobs to the state and helping to diversify the economic base.

"I give all the credit to Lockheed Martin. It had the vision to see that this concept could succeed and the willingness to back it up with financial support. I understand that none of this would have happened if it weren't for Lockheed Martin." -- Bill Murphy

Back to topBack to Lab News home page.

Last modified: November 15, 2002

Back to the Lab News home page

Browse current and past Lab News articles

View Sandia news releases and fact sheets Back to top of page

Questions and Comments || Acknowledgment and Disclaimer