Sandia LabNews

Annual State of the Labs address

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

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:

  • The SnifferStar chemical sensor for mounting on a drone and sensitive to both blister and nerve agents (see Lab News, Jan. 24, and the special Labs Accomplishments issue of the Lab News distributed this week).
  • Laser-induced fluorescence sensor that can detect and discriminate biological agents used in bio-weapons.
  • Sensors deployed in tests in airports and subways on both coasts are leading to a new generation of sensors to help protect our borders and harbors.
  • Sandia is working with the City and Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach to serve as security consultant and project manager for Operation Safe Commerce, to improve the security of maritime commerce.
  • Establishment of a Cooperative Monitoring Center in Amman, Jordan, modeled after the CMC in Albuquerque. It will provide a forum for regional training on nonproliferation technologies, development of new monitoring capabilities, and interactions among scientists, engineers, and policy-makers.
  • Work with Cray to build the world’s fastest computer, Red Storm. When it comes on line in 2004, it’ll be capable of at least 40 trillion operations per second.
  • The Extreme Ultraviolet Light (EUVL) consortium, working with industry and other national labs to produce the next-generation tool for making computer chips with feature sizes 100 times smaller than current chips.
  • Collaboration with IBM on nanotube transistors with unique characteristics not seen in silicon transistors. These tiny devices are about 2 nanometers, or about 10 atoms, across. They "promise to extend computer power well into the future."

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.

  • The Labs is working to cope with the "two-edged" sword of the "volumes and volumes of data" from new generations of sensors for homeland security and military antiterrorism applications. "Sandia has been working on reducing rivers of raw data into meaningful information — into intelligence. We’ve produced breakthroughs in computer and heuristic sciences that are now indispensable tools for data analysis."
  • The merging of robotics capabilities with sensor technologies, remote video capabilities, and bomb-disablement know-how to develop robots "that can go in and disarm a bomb." She noted that Albuquerque police used a Sandia robot in December after a tragic triple homicide to assess the situation without further risk of life.
  • The Gunshot Residue Detection Kit that can help police determine — directly at the crime scenes — if an individual has recently fired a gun.

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.