Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Featuring some of our top Engineering innovations in 2016.

Novel Bioprinting Approach Extends the Frontiers of Medical Treatment

Three-dimensional (3D) printing continues to drive innovations in many disciplines, including engineering, manufacturing, aerospace, global security, and medicine. Most 3D printed products are made of plastics or metals, but cutting-edge 3D printing techniques have been leveraged in the biomedical engineering field using bioinks—a fluid with biological components—to manufacture vascularized tissue. In 2016, a team led by Engineering’s Monica Moya and Elizabeth Wheeler refined a bioprinting approach that involves producing and printing bioinks with cell-containing materials and a viscosity like that of honey. A bioprinter deposits the bioink into a specially designed sectioned device that acts as a sort of dynamic petri dish, establishing a feeding system to direct the growth of a vascularized network. The team used two different bioinks, each with ingredients engineered for specific printing approaches. The first type is a self-assembly bioink, which forms the tissue material and contains endothelial cells, fibrin, and fibroblast cells. The endothelial cells form the lining of blood vessels and generate a microvascular structure, the fibrin provides a temporary scaffold for tissue formation, and the fibroblast cells create structural supports. The self-assembly bioink is lined on two sides by printed biotubing, which is formed using a second type of bioink consisting of fibroblast cells and alginate, a biocompatible, viscous polysaccharide obtained from seaweed. The tubular structure is created by flowing the bioink and its cross-linking solution through a coaxial needle.

Once printed, the fibrin-and-cell bioink begins to generate vascular networks. The process is guided by engineering mechanical and chemical gradients to tap into the cells’ natural ability to form networks. The cells self-assemble into the final form of a tissue patch. These patches could transform approaches to organ repair, disease remedy, toxicology, and medical treatment testing. Eventually, this technique could even be used to engineer complete human organs for implantation and to assess medical treatments.

Contact: Monica Moya;, or Elizabeth Wheeler;

Breakthroughs in Advanced Manufacturing Earn Five Journal Covers

LLNL’s Advanced Manufacturing (AM) team continued its groundbreaking research in architected multiscale materials and other areas, resulting in the work being featured on the covers of five different scientific journals.

  • The October 2016 issue of Nature Materials featured the work of LLNL engineers Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng, William Smith, Julie Jackson, Bryan Moran, Todd Weisgraber, Nick Rodriguez, Chris Spadaccini, and others (including university partners Virginia Tech and MIT) in building multiple layers of fractal-like, hierarchical lattices with features ranging from the nanometer to centimeter scale. This resulted in a nickel-plated metamaterial with a higher than expected tensile elasticity not common for these types of materials.
  • In an article featured on the cover of the June 2016 edition of Nano Letters, a team of researchers from LLNL (including Engineering’s Cheng Zhu, Eric Duoss, and Chris Spadaccini as well as Marcus Worsley, Fang Qian, Joshua Kuntz, and Yong Han of PLS) and UC Santa Cruz report the fabrication of 3D periodic graphene composite aerogel microlattices for supercapacitor applications, via the direct-ink writing (DIW) 3D-printing technique.
  • In research appearing on the cover of the March 9, 2016 issue of Advanced Materials, a team of LLNL and Harvard researchers demonstrated that 3D printing can be used to tailor the dynamic behavior of materials, so long as the feature sizes are made commensurate with the length scale of the governing phenomena. LLNL coauthors included Kyle Sullivan, Cheng Zhu, Eric Duoss, Alexander Gash, Josh Kuntz, and Chris Spadaccini.
  • As featured in the July issue of ChemNanoMat, researchers from LLNL and the UC Santa Cruz have demonstrated a facile-ion-intercalation strategy that can considerably improve the capacitance of graphene-based materials, including commercially available graphitic papers and 3D-printed graphene aerogels, without significantly affecting their rate capability performance and structural integrity. LLNL team members included Cheng Zhu, Marcus Worsley, Fang Qian, Eric Duoss, and Chris Spadaccini.
  • The October 7, 2016 issue of Chemical Communications featured the work of Fang Qian, Tammy Olson, Cheng Zhu, Eric Duoss, Chris Spadaccini, and Yong Han, who developed a new method to purify copper nanowires with nearly 100% yield from undesired copper nanoparticle side-products formed during batch processes of copper-nanowire synthesis.
  • The LDRD Program assisted in funding aspects of this important work.

    Contact: Chris Spadaccini;

LLNL Team Wins American Welding Society’s McKay-Helm Award

A team consisting of John Elmer, Holly Carlton, Randy Pong (LLNL retired), and Jay Vaja (UK Atomic Weapons Establishment) was awarded the McKay-Helm Award by the American Welding Society (AWS). The award is presented for the best contribution to the advancement of knowledge of low-alloy steel, stainless steel, or surfacing welding metals involving the use, development, or testing of these materials, as represented by articles published in the AWS Welding Journal during the previous calendar year. The researchers received the award for their paper, “The Effect of Ar and N2 Shielding Gas on Laser Weld Porosity in Steel, Stainless Steels, and Nickel.” The paper describes how complete, or near-complete, elimination of porosity in 304L stainless steel keyhole laser welds had been observed when using N2 instead of Ar shielding gas. To investigate this effect further, the researchers conducted experiments where laser welds were made in N2 and Ar gas on three additional metals, (A36 steel, 21-6-9 stainless steel, and pure nickel) that have varying properties, degrees of reactivity and solubilities with the shielding gases. Several techniques were then used to characterize the porosity in the welds; specifically, 3D x-ray tomography was shown to be very useful as a nondestructive technique to quantify porosity size and distribution. Based on the results, team members believe that the reactivity of N2 with alloying elements and/or its solubility in the liquid weld pool play a significant role in reducing the amount of retained porosity in unstable keyhole welds as they solidify and cool to room temperature. The findings from this study apply equally well to additive manufacturing processes where lasers are used to fabricate 3D components through the repeated overlapping of small welds to build a component from powder or wire forms, and often contain porosity when made under inert gas conditions.

Contact: John Elmer; or Holly Carlton;

LLNL Team Wins Award for Outstanding Technology Development

A team of Laboratory researchers was awarded a 2016 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) for Technology Transfer, Far West Regional Award for “Outstanding Technology Development.” The team, which was led by LLNL and includes partners Colorado State University, Eagle Picher Technologies–Yardney Division, and eNow, received the award for their Wireless Battery Sensing and Failure Eliminator (WiBSAFE) technology. WiBSAFE is a compact sensing system that enables users to wirelessly monitor and manage the health of high-capacity power cells, such as lithium-ion batteries, at the cell level through continuous measurement of vital battery characteristics like voltage, current, temperature, strain, and chemistry. The system operates by embedding multiple miniature, precision sensors into production-battery cell structures. Information from the sensors is wirelessly communicated to a command-and-control center, where advanced signal processing, archiving, and directed action takes place. The WiBSAFE components are constructed using a proprietary circuit design that incorporates standard circuit board fabrication techniques, reducing production costs and component size to levels acceptable for original equipment manufacturers. WiBSAFE is especially useful for monitoring power cells in critical environments (e.g., cars, planes, spacecraft,) where predicting and avoiding battery-related problems is crucial. LLNL team members included John Chang (PI), James Zumstein, Jack Kotovsky, Noel Peterson, Marianne Ammendolia, Anne-Marie Meike, Joe Farmer (retired), and Todd Bandhauer (formerly LLNL). This effort was made possible in part by the LDRD Program and DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The award was presented during the FLC Far West/Mid-Continent Regional Meeting, held September 13–15, 2016. The FLC is a formally chartered organization mandated by Congress to promote, educate, and facilitate technology transfer among more than 300 federal laboratories, research centers, and agencies.

Contact: John Chang;

Harry Martz and Colleagues Publish New Book on X-ray Imaging

Culminating several years’ work, in 2016 LLNL physicist Harry Martz, Jr., engineer Clint Logan (LLNL retired), and computer scientist Daniel Schneberk, along with Penn State University associate professor of engineering Peter Shull, published a book on industrial applications of x-ray imaging, entitled "X-Ray Imaging: Fundamentals, Industrial Techniques and Applications". While a number of books exist that address the medical applications of x-ray imaging, none have focused on industrial and security applications as the authors have in this work. The book reviews the fundamental science of x-ray imaging and addresses equipment and system configuration, and also looks at the rapid development and deployment of digital x-ray imaging systems. The book’s 17 chapters cover numerous technical areas, including the physics of x-ray and gamma-ray sources; simulation of radiation transport; types of radiation sources, such as x-ray tubes, electron accelerators, and pulsed sources; radiation detectors; image quality; and a brief discussion on neutron and proton imaging. In addition, the authors discuss the application of modern imaging technologies across a broad spectrum, including x-ray imaging inspection of art objects and aerospace components; characterization of munitions; screening luggage and cargo for contraband or explosives; additively manufactured parts; and in-service inspection of components to inform repair-or-retire decisions.

Contact: Harry Martz;

James Candy Becomes IEEE Life Fellow, Publishes Second Edition of Book

In 2016, James Candy received the special honor of being named a Life Fellow of the IEEE. This designation is reserved for individuals who have distinguished themselves through their sustained and lasting contributions to the organization. He is also a recipient of the IEEE Distinguished Technical Achievement Award for his development (and texts) on model-based signal processing. An IEEE member for 29 years, Candy has been involved in many conferences as a lecturer, organizer, and chair; as a chair for various technical committees; and as an author and reviewer of numerous books and articles. A partial list of his service includes IEEE Distinguished Lecturer in Model-Based Signal Processing; Conference Session Chair, Reviewer, Administrative Committee member for the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society; Chair of the Signal & Image Processing Technical Committee; and author of over 50 short IEEE courses and tutorials on model-based signal processing, digital signal processing, spectral estimation, and model-based oceanic signal processing.

Additionally, Wiley-IEEE Press published the second edition of Candy’s Bayesian Signal Processing: Classical, Modern, and Particle Filtering Methods, including updates since the book's original publication in 2009. Written for students, scientists, and engineers who investigate and apply signal processing to solve everyday problems, Candy's book deals with extracting critical information from “noisy,” uncertain data using the Bayesian approach, which incorporates non-Gaussian and nonlinear processes along with other currently available methods. In the second edition, Candy included a new chapter on “Sequential Bayesian Detection” and a section on “Ensemble Kalman Filters.” It also features expanded case studies delving into detailed particle filter designs, adaptive particle filters, and sequential Bayesian detectors. Some sections were also expanded from the previous edition, such as discussion of the expansion of information-theory metrics and their application to particle filter designs.

Contact: James Candy;

John S. Taylor Receives ASPE Distinguished Service Award

John S. Taylor, LLNL's Group Leader for Precision Engineering, was presented with the American Society for Precision Engineering's (ASPE) Distinguished Service Award for his continued dedication to supporting fellow engineers. The award was given during the 2016 annual meeting of the ASPE in Portland, Oregon. "I'm honored by the society's recognition of my efforts to shepherd technologies that I feel are essential for the country and in maintaining the vitality of the organization," he said. Taylor served as the ASPE's director-at-large, secretary, vice president, and president during his 31-year membership. He has seen the organization grow around developing precision systems and real-world technologies, in addition to developing education and networking between engineers. "The spirit of the society is embodied by a dedication to determinism in carrying out engineering. This provided me a philosophical foundation that has extended into every project that I have supported at LLNL," Taylor said. "As a senior engineer, I would like to give back to the society by ensuring that its technology, philosophy, and management structure remain strong and can benefit new generations of engineers." Also rolled out during the course of the meeting was a new management paradigm championed by Taylor, where members of the Board of Directors are explicitly charged with understanding and maintaining the society’s core competency in six key areas.

Contact: John S. Taylor;

Adaptive X-ray Optics System Demonstrates Exceptional Performance

An adaptive optics (AO) system employs a deformable mirror to correct optical errors in real time. In recent years, this technique has revolutionized astronomical research, opening entirely new scientific frontiers such as the first ground-based direct images and spectra of faint exoplanets. AO has the potential, when applied to bright, nearly coherent x-ray light sources, to correct internal distortions and provide new, adaptive modes of operation such as customized beam-shaping for scientific use. Enabled by funding support from the LDRD Program, in 2016 a team led by Lisa Poyneer built and evaluated the performance of an adaptive x-ray optics (AXO) system. Using Livermore's best-in-class 45-actuator x-ray deformable mirror (XDM) and a custom-designed wavefront sensor, experiments were conducted at Lawrence Berkeley's Advanced Light Source (ALS). In testing and evaluating system performance, the team achieved the following milestones:

  • Flattening of the XDM to just 0.7 nm RMS height figure error using visible-light metrology—at the time, the longest or flattest XDM yet built by a factor of three.
  • Fielding and successful vacuum operation (at 2e-6 Torr) of the XDM with x rays and low-precision metrology.
  • Development of robust, physically accurate simulation codes that had been validated against x-ray experimental results as correctly capturing the important effects of Fresnel propagation and the grazing-incidence use of the XDM.
  • Demonstration of accurate absolute beam-shaping of the near field, producing customized intensity profiles. Nonlinear optimization was also used to make arbitrary profiles.
  • Fielding of an x-ray grating interferometer, and demonstrating measurement of a 2.5-nm RMS height figure change on the XDM at a signal-to-noise ratio of 8.
  • Using the grating interferometer to drive the XDM to a known shape in closed loop. The best flat shape was reached with 3-nm RMS height residual error at a control rate of 0.25 Hz.
  • The demonstration of both distortion-correction and beam-shaping capabilities by this AXO system are key milestones toward validating this technology for use in DOE x-ray light source user facilities, such as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford, as well as advanced diagnostics for laser-based user facilities such as Livermore’s National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Contact: Lisa Poyneer;

Vincent Tang Named a DARPA Program Manager of the Year for 2016

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) named LLNL engineer and physicist Vincent Tang as a Program Manager of the Year for 2016, recognizing him for leading a program involving multiple agencies to develop and deploy networked sensors for dynamic, real-time radiological and nuclear threat detection over large urban areas.

Since July 2013, Tang has been on assignment to DARPA's Defense Sciences Office, where he has created and lead multiple efforts, including the SIGMA program. SIGMA is aimed at creating cost-effective, continuous, city-to-region-scale radiation-monitoring networks to help prevent attacks involving radiological “dirty bombs” and other nuclear threats. Key elements of this program, which began in 2014, have been to develop and test radiation sensors with an order of magnitude improvement in performance and cost compared to current technology, as well as to develop the ability to network and analyze up to 10,000 of the advanced detectors simultaneously to provide a comprehensive real-time overview of the radiological environment. The program achieved its goal of producing and procuring 10,000 of these advanced detectors at $400 per unit in 2016. These new devices, when combined with larger SIGMA detectors along roadways, bridges and other infrastructure, promise significantly enhanced awareness of radiation sources and more advanced warning of possible threats, according to DARPA.

Contact: Vincent Tang;

Engineers Play Key Roles on Two Research Teams that Earn R&D 100 Awards

LLNL engineers were important contributors on two of the Laboratory’s three teams that received 2016 R&D 100 Awards for technical accomplishment considered the “Oscars of invention.” This year’s winners raised the Laboratory’s total number of awards to 158. This year’s Engineering winners and their innovations included:

  • Scott Fisher, GLO (gadolinium-lutetium-oxide) scintillator. Scott was part of a Livermore team that developed a first-of-its-kind transparent ceramic scintillator that significantly improves throughput for computed tomography (CT)-based 3D imaging for manufacturing and other applications. The GLO scintillator substantially reduces data-acquisition time and enhances the spatial resolution of images from CT systems, capturing highly detailed views of objects in real time. With this capability, scientists and engineers can improve the assessment and quality control of high-density parts, such as those used in power plant turbines and jet engines. The technology is a great boon for the Stockpile Stewardship Program, allowing researchers to obtain imagery of stockpile components more quickly.
  • Brenda Ng and Jeremy Ou, Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative (CCSI) Toolset. To reduce the environmental impact of CO2 by preventing its emission into the atmosphere, scientists are working to develop efficient carbon-capture technologies. The CCSI Toolset is the only fully integrated suite of computational tools and validated models specifically designed to support the development and scale-up of various innovative technologies into carbon-capture solutions. The CCSI Toolset addresses key industry challenges such as improving identification of factors contributing to error or uncertainty in process-simulation results, quantifiying and reducing that uncertainty, and assessing the risks of scaling-up a particular technology.
  • Contact: Scott Fisher,; Brenda Ng,, ; Jeremy Ou,

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