Featuring some of our top Engineering innovations in 2015.
Advanced Manufacturing (AM) remained one of Engineering’s major thrust areas in 2015, and continuing technological developments, recognition, and a new partnership were hallmarks of ongoing success in this important area.
In the U.S., tractor-trailer “big rigs” burn 36 billion gallons of fuel annually, and each truck expends more than 50 percent of its usable propulsion energy to overcome aerodynamic resistance at highway speeds. In an effort to make trucks more efficient, the Department of Energy (DOE) established the Heavy Vehicle Aerodynamic Drag Consortium in 1997. As one of the collaborating organizations, LLNL has over the years helped develop drag-reducing technologies that can be retrofitted to existing semi trucks. Within the past two years, research has evolved from producing add-on aerodynamic devices for existing trucks to completely redesigning the tractor–trailer rig. According to Engineering’s Jason Ortega, “We can’t change much more on existing vehicles. To significantly optimize vehicles, we need to take a different approach.” To this end, Ortega, PI Kambiz Salari, and their colleagues are developing aerodynamic specifications to benefit DOE’s SuperTruck initiative, a collaborative effort to create a next-generation, highly aerodynamic, integrated tractor–trailer geometry, reduce tractor–trailer weight, and improve heavy-duty engines.
Livermore’s first-generation highly aerodynamic integrated truck model, the Generic Speedform One (GSF1), was created using a one-eighth reduced-scale clay model in NASA Ames’ wind tunnel last year. Initial testing for the new model involved 132 wind-tunnel experiments. The proposed GSF1 model reduces the aerodynamic drag compared to existing road vehicles by more than 65 percent. Ortega and the Livermore team plans to further refine and enhance the GSF1 shape through scaled-model wind-tunnel testing and computational optimization of surface geometry. “We make approximations in our simulations,” says Ortega. “Wind-tunnel experiments and their resulting data help validate our device designs.” A full-scale wind-tunnel test of an aerodynamic tractor–trailer is planned for 2016 at the NASA Ames National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex.Contact: Kambiz Salari; email@example.com
The triennial external recertification audit of Engineering Services’ ISO 9001 Quality Management System(QMS) was completed successfully on March 6, 2015. As a result of the five-day review, the external auditor recommended renewal of ISO 9001 certification for the 22 Engineering Services certified work centers encompassed by the QMS. The external certifying body, Bureau Veritas Certification, subsequently validated this recommendation on April 17, 2015, and issued a new certificate. The auditor noted a high degree of professionalism and dedication to customer service by all of the employees he met. He was especially impressed with efforts made to ensure customer needs and expectations were understood and met prior to performing work. This focus on customer service has produced a consistently high level of customer satisfaction, as expressed in over 1800 customer surveys received in the last year alone (representing a 41% feedback rate, which is about 10 times the industry average). The auditor offered valuable suggestions for further improving the Engineering Services QMS. These refinements are helping to pave the way for an easier transition to compliance with the 2015 revision of the ISO 9001 standard, which became effective in October and contains major changes that will be in force for the next recertification.Contact: Robert Dillman; firstname.lastname@example.org
A number of Engineering people were recognized by prestigious outside organizations for their contributions in 2015. These included:
Groundbreaking advances in neural interfaces, along with new funding awards from Federal agencies to further develop our neurotechnologies, were significant highlights of 2015.
Important research being conducted by various Engineering teams was featured on the covers of several peer-reviewed journals in 2015.
As analysts struggle with sifting through vast and ever-increasing amounts of raw data, deep learning neural networks have been shown to perform well in a wide variety of tasks, including text analysis, speech recognition, classification tasks, and unsupervised and supervised feature learning on natural imagery. LLNL engineers, in conjunction with colleagues at Stanford University, employed the Lab’s Edge high-performance computing (HPC) system to train a 15-billion-parameter deep-learning network using the Yahoo! Flickr Creative Commons 100 Million (YFCC100M) dataset. This effort involved cutting-edge hardware (the 206-node Edge HPC system, with two NVIDIA graphical processing units [GPUs] per node); the massive, 15-billion-parameter network (15 times larger than the “Google Brain”); and the largest-ever publicly available dataset ever published, YFCC100M, which comprises approximately 99.2 million images and 800,000 user-created videos from Yahoo’s Flickr image and video sharing platform. After training the network for eight days, the research team achieved very encouraging results, which suggested the network was capable of learning highly complex concepts such as cityscapes, aircraft, buildings, and text, all without labels or other guidance. This achievement, along with continuing efforts to increase efficiency and train even larger networks, will have significant impacts for national security, science, and economic competitiveness applications.Contact: Barry Chen; email@example.com
Building on the adaptive optics expertise gained with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), in 2014 the Laboratory launched an effort to design, fabricate, and test x-ray deformable mirrors (XDM) equipped with adaptive optics. An XDM provides the capability to change or correct the electric field in an x-ray experiment. Use of an XDM at a next-generation light source could both enable very high-resolution, coherent measurements and provide customized beam shaping for specific experiments. LLNL, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman, has developed a 45-cm long, 45-actuator XDM made from a superpolished single-crystal silicon bar and controlled its surface to just 0.7 nanometer RMS—a length-to-height error ratio of better than 500,000,000 to 1. In collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, this best-in-class XDM has been fielded at the Advanced Light Source (ALS) synchrotron. In 2015, experiments have demonstrated vacuum operation and used x rays to measure the XDM’s surface with 1 microradian precision. By enabling delivery of more coherent and better-focused x rays, the mirrors are expected to produce sharper images, which could lead to advances in physics, chemistry, and biology. Additionally, the technology may enable new types of x-ray diagnostics for experiments at the National Ignition Facility. Continuing research will focus on fielding and understanding higher-precision metrology as part of a real-time adaptive x-ray optics system.Contact: Lisa Poyneer; firstname.lastname@example.org
In early February 2015, a team led by LLNL engineers Andy Young and Dave Milhous executed the inaugural testing of one of LLNL's pulsed power systems at the Ancho Canyon Firing Facility in Los Alamos. Research teams from LLNL and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) had been working together for some time to improve the Ancho Canyon facility and establish the capability of firing LLNL’s family of flux compression generators there. The first test consisted of discharging a single-point fireset into exploding bridgewires. This initial success was followed by two tests for the Phoenix program: Mini-Generator (MiniG) test #10 was executed in April, and Full Function Test 5 (FFT-5) was executed in September. The FFT pulsed-power driver was an LLNL-designed explosive flux compression generator that used nearly 1,000 lb of high explosive to compress magnetic fields into small volumes. The device was capable of delivering many tens of megajoules of energy and hundreds of mega-amperes of current to inductive loads. The MiniG was nearly identical to the FFT but was half-scale in physical size.
Together, these experiments marked the culmination of a significant, multiyear collaborative effort between staff from LANL and LLNL to modernize and upgrade the Ancho Canyon firing facility. LANL Director Charlie McMillan attended the FFT-5 experiment and noted that it was a good example of what could be accomplished by LLNL and LANL working together.Contact: Adam White; email@example.com
Culminating a two-year effort, the new Lab-wide unclassified Enterprise Lifecycle Management (ELM) system was launched in 2015. ELM, based on the PTC Windchill product, is a state-of-the-art Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system that integrates people, tools, data, and business practices. ELM acts as a powerful “umbrella” tool for managing all forms of electronic technical data. Engineering led the effort to replace four disparate, aging PLM systems with a single, modern system that is now used across the Laboratory. ELM integrates functions such as change and configuration management, bills of materials, document and CAD data management, approval workflows, and records retention. To facilitate acceptance, the ELM team developed a comprehensive training plan that helped users transition to the new system. Later in the year, the ELM team added an index searching capability, a powerful utility that allows users to search for keywords within the attributes and file content of the 4 million objects stored within the ELM system.
In recognition of their efforts, the ELM team was honored with a 2015 Director's Institutional Operational Excellence Award, which is given to recognize excellence in operations or business areas.Contact: Scott Perfect; firstname.lastname@example.org
LLNL engineers were the recipients of three awards among the top 100 industrial inventions worldwide for 2015. Considered the “Oscars of invention,” this year’s winners raised the total number of awards captured by the Laboratory since 1978 to 155. This year’s winners and their inventions included: