December 19th, 2003

Radiation 101: Firefighters Learn Basics from Lab Experts
Short Takes
New Diversity Council’s Task: Creating an Outstanding Workplace
A Golden Opportunity: Watching the Atoms Dance
A New Way to Measure Carbon in Airborne Particles
To Get to Mars, Use Wheat
ALS & NCEM: Anniversaries to remember
December Paycheck Distribution
Mozilla Adopted as Standard for Email, Web Browser
Happy Holidays from the View
Flea Market
Flea Market Policy
Ringing in the Holidays

Berkeley Lab, UCSF Unite Against Cancer


Joe Gray

Berkeley Lab and the University of California at San Francisco have joined forces in the fight against cancer. Their partnership, the fruits of a Nov. 15 memorandum of understanding between Berkeley Lab and UCSF’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, will promote a multidisciplinary inquiry into the fundamental causes of cancer and help parlay this knowledge into effective therapies. It also underscores the changing nature of cancer research.

“We are moving toward understanding cancers in their totality, which is a technically complex exercise,” says Joe Gray, newly appointed director of Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division and current leader of UCSF’s breast oncology and cancer genetics research programs. “It requires expertise in cell and molecular biology, functional imaging, computational biology, nanotechnology, quantitative systems biology, and clinical investigations — no single lab can do this.”

The collaboration will capitalize on the complementary strengths of both institutions. UCSF’s Compre-hensive Cancer Center, under the direction of Dr. Frank McCormick, brings expertise in basic cancer biology and genetics, a strong translational cancer research program, and a well-developed clinical program geared toward adopting new advances in cancer management. Berkeley Lab will contribute expertise in fundamental cancer research and state-of-the-art capabilities that quantitatively measure and model the molecular and cellular characteristics of single molecules, cells in culture, and living organisms, including humans.

“We want to bring UCSF’s cancer program in contact with Berkeley Lab’s expertise in physical, computational and biological research, and in developing and managing advanced technologies, to accelerate efforts to improve cancer management,” says Gray, adding that Berkeley Lab, with its long history of big science, is well suited to stimulating multidisciplinary, project-oriented science.

McCormick, who is also director of UCSF’s Cancer Research Institute, adds, “We are delighted to strengthen our ties to LBNL; we see tremendous opportunities for synergy in our research efforts and opportunities that would be out of reach at the Cancer Center alone. This collaboration should accelerate our efforts to improve the ways that cancer is treated and detected.”

An example of this collaborative research is the integrative cancer biology program, recently initiated with Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) funding. The program will pair Berkeley Lab’s analytic expertise with UCSF’s clinical expertise to determine how signaling pathways become deranged in cancer. The research could help scientists identify new therapeutic targets, and even predict which patients will respond to these therapies.

Ultimately, such research could expedite the development of therapies and molecular diagnostics that indicate how these should be applied. As Gray explains, one goal of the burgeoning field of quantitative biology is to predict which subsets of patients will respond favorably to specific therapies. If, for example, a clinical drug trial examines a broad population, and only five percent of the patients respond to the drug, then the drug will likely be discarded. But if researchers could predict in advance which patients will respond, and only include those patients in the trial, then the same drug could approach a 100 percent response rate and would be enthusiastically received.

“This is important because cancers will be attacked incrementally,” says Gray. “We’ll find one drug that works in one subpopulation and another drug that works in another subpopulation.”

To further expedite drug development, Gray and McCormick want to engage biotechnology companies that have the ability to commercialize successful therapies.

“If we’re going to have an impact on cancer, we’ll need a cohesive effort involving Berkeley Lab, academia, and the private sector,” says Gray. “Collaborations like ours are beginning to form because biology is changing. It’s moving to the point where big problems can’t be engaged in a single lab — much like big physics in the 1960s.”

Another Magnet, Another World Record


Shlomo Caspi (left) and Steve Gourlay stand next to a dewar that contains their record-breaking 16-tesla magnet.

Only two years after building the world’s most powerful dipole electromagnet, a Berkeley Lab team has upstaged itself with an even stronger magnet: a 16-tesla design that paves the way for substantial upgrades to existing and under-construction accelerators like the Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

The record-breaking design could also lead to a new breed of powerful yet cost-effective magnets that drive the next generation of particle accelerators and help scientists unlock the enduring secrets of physics.

The magnet, which in October generated a magnetic field more than 300,000 times stronger than that of the Earth, cements Berkeley Lab’s place as the leader in high-field superconducting magnets. Dubbed HD-1, it owes its performance to a niobium tin alloy that offers unprecedented field strengths but requires innovative fabrication and analysis techniques.

“Our goal is to push magnetic field strengths as high as possible,” says Steve Gourlay, head of the Accelerator and Fusion Research Division’s Superconducting Magnet Group. “To get there, we need to develop ways to use niobium tin at its full potential. That’s the trick.”

Dipole magnets like the HD-1 are used to steer particle beams at near relativistic speeds as they zip around an accelerator ring. In accelerators with a fixed radius, the stronger the magnets, the greater the particles’ energies, and, in the case of colliders, the more fierce the particles’ collisions and the more spectacular the shower of debris. The LHC, for example, is slated to use 8.3-tesla magnets in order to accelerate protons to 7 trillion electron volts before smashing them into each other. The collisions will hopefully yield theorized but never-before-observed particles like the Higgs boson.

When completed in Geneva, Switzerland in 2007, the LHC will be the most powerful accelerator in the world. But it could be even more powerful. If higher field magnets are installed, then the LHC’s luminosity increases, meaning it produces more proton interactions per second. And more interactions means more events to study, a crucial advantage in experiments in which scientifically important debris like the Higgs boson are expected to be extremely rare.

“As the luminosity increases, there are more collisions, which means more junk as well as more interesting phenomena,” says Gourlay. “Our work could facilitate upgrades to the LHC when they’ll be needed, about eight years after it’s turned on.”

In addition, stronger magnets could increase the LHC’s physics reach, or the probability that it will create particles that have never been observed.

In pursuit of more powerful magnets and their promise of exotic particles, physicists have coaxed ever-stronger magnetic fields from superconducting alloys. The most commonly used alloy is niobium titanium. It’s easy to work with, but its field strength tops out at approximately 10 tesla at extremely low temperatures. To push above 10 tesla, the Berkeley Lab team switched to niobium tin, another low temperature superconducting alloy. They used this compound to string together several record-breaking designs, including a 13.5-tesla magnet in 1997, a 14.5-tesla magnet in 2001, and this fall’s 16-tesla magnet.

Although they make it seem easy, their success hinged on overcoming a daunting engineering obstacle. Niobium tin has excellent magnetic properties, but it’s as brittle as glass — an unfortunate characteristic if it’s to be incorporated into a magnet subject to 3 million pounds of pressure, or the equivalent of balancing a dozen trucks on a couple of toy Lego pieces.

“Niobium tin hasn’t been embraced for accelerator magnet applications because it has horrible mechanical properties,” says Gourlay. “But we knew that it could become an important high-energy physics tool if we overcame its limitations.”

This computer simulation reveals the temperature distribution in a superconducting coil 150 milliseconds after a quench is initiated, an event that leads to the development of a resistive zone (non-blue color).

First, that meant zeroing in on the optimum magnet design, and this meant using software to digitally render and test the magnet before its first coil is fabricated. To do this, the Berkeley Lab team developed a unique protocol that models how the entire magnet — from its niobium tin core to its hundreds of other components — respond to tremendous swings in thermal, mechanical, and electrical forces in three dimensions and through time. This comprehensive approach is an improvement over conventional computer-aided analyses that only test a magnet’s most fundamental parts, an inexact method that postpones much of the trial-and-error phase until after the magnet is built.

“Our software captures the whole magnet,” says Shlomo Caspi, a senior mechanical engineer in the Engineering Division who heads the design and analysis team. “It enables us to predict how the magnet’s components react to changing voltages, temperatures, and stresses before it’s constructed. We can solve problems before they occur.”

Armed with this virtual trouble-shooting, Gourlay’s team worked the superconductor into the world’s most powerful dipole magnet. Strands of niobium and tin made by Oxford Superconducting Technologies are formed into a cable, and fashioned into double-layer, flat racetrack coils designed to withstand extreme forces. The coils are then heated to 680 degrees Celsius for more than 100 hours. This yields a potentially superconducting but brittle alloy. To strengthen the coils, they’re impregnated with an epoxy that protects them from extreme pressure. It becomes bulletproof, as Gourlay says. Finally, the coils are encased in an iron yoke and wrapped in an aluminum shell.

To reach the magnet’s peak field strength, it’s cooled to 4.2 Kelvin — a temperature at which niobium tin is superconducting — then the current is increased until the magnet reaches its theoretical limit, in this case 16 tesla.

So what does this mean for high-energy physics? HD-1 is experimental and not destined for an accelerator. But the lessons Gourlay’s team learned in pushing to 16 tesla could translate to relatively inexpensive production magnets for accelerators that eclipse even the LHC in power, such as the aptly named Very Large Hadron Collider. Although still on the drawing board, this collider would probably require hundreds of magnets operating at 10 to 12 tesla.

“And that would be a piece of cake after building and training a 16-tesla magnet,” says Gourlay.

Radiation 101: Firefighters Learn Basics from Lab Experts


Gary Zeman of Environmental Health and Safety (left) and Life Sciences researcher Ellie Blakely instruct Berkeley firefighters on the science behind radiation.

That firefighters do everything from extinguishing flames to rescuing cats stuck in trees is well known. But since Sept. 11, this intrepid group of public servants has had to add new skills that would allow them to respond safely and effectively to acts of terrorism.

Berkeley firefighters have received training in chemical and biological terrorism, says Craig Green, an assistant chief at the department, but lacked a resource for learning about radiation.

The solution to their problem lay right up the hill. The Lab is home to many experts on the topic, and several of them recently taught a class on the subject to a group of nearly 100 Berkeley firefighters.

Instructors included Peggy McMahan Norris, Rick Norman and Howard Matis from the Nuclear Science Division; Bob Fairchild and Gary Zeman with Environmental Health and Safety; and Life Sciences Division researcher Ellie Blakely.

The trainings — which took place at Station 6 in West Berkeley — covered several areas of radiation, says Norris. Using hands-on activities and experiments, she and others explained the properties of ionized radiation, background radiation levels in Berkeley, the risks of radiation, and what detectors to use for particular situations. The firefighters also received information on the health effects of radiation, “stop-work” limits, and the use of survey meters.

“I think the material was well accepted, “ she says, “and it relieved some of the anxiety the firefighters had about working with radiation.”

Nuclear Science Division researcher Lee Schroeder coordinated this educational outreach effort. He chaired a federal working committee on conventional weapons and explosives, convened after Sept. 11. Among their findings was the need for scientists to provide training to “first-responders,” such as firefighters.

Schroeder decided to act locally by setting up classes for Berkeley’s fire department. Working with his former colleague, Lab retiree and city council member Gordon Wozniak, he met with the fire department’s chief and the deputy mayor. Shortly thereafter, an agreement was reached and the training scheduled.

Assistant Chief Green is excited about the budding relationship between the fire department and the Lab. “We don’t really have all the knowledge, resources, or equipment needed to deal with radiological emergencies.” he says. “Building a connection with the Lab helps us dramatically on all these fronts, and better prepares us to deal with these kinds of disasters should they arise.”

Short Takes

This Month In Lab History


Forty-two years ago in December, the Lab launched its downtown bus service. “No more does lunch in town mean giving up a precious parking space, or footing it through campus in the rain,” said the December 1961 issue of the Magnet, the Lab’s monthly newspaper. The onsite service began 19 years earlier in 1942.

The system started with two buses that ran at 15-minute intervals and made a “figure 8” pattern from the Lab around campus. The route started from the south gate, down Cyclotron Road to Gayley Road, then around Bancroft Ave., Oxford St., and Hearst Ave., and back on Gayley, up Strawberry Canyon Road, returning to the Lab.

The buses, the Magnet wrote, “will stop at any posted public bus stop along their route; just wave to make sure the driver notices you.”

Not too much has changed over the last four decades. The bus route has stayed virtually the same, staff still wave at the drivers to get their attention, and Lab parking is still at a premium!

Ten Years and Going Strong

Mary Jo Ibáñez of the D.C. office at the party.

With food, congratulatory speeches, and plenty of beltway schmoozing, the Lab’s Washington D.C. Projects Office celebrated its 10th anniversary last week. Among the well-wishers was Deputy Director Sally Benson, who addressed the gathering of about 120 people via video conference. A continual slide show and a timeline poster were set up to provide historical background during the event.

The office, established in 1993, assists the Lab in providing technical research and policy analysis to the Department of Energy and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies. The staff also provide an additional outlet for transmitting the results of Lab research and analyses to federal and other groups. In addition, the office coordinates research, analysis, and technology-transfer activities with the Washington offices of other national laboratories.

Not-So-Easy Rider

Dick DiGennaro welds a bike frame.

By day, Lab employee Dick DiGennaro, deputy project manager for the SuperNova/Acceleration Probe (SNAP), is helping design, build and launch a space telescope to study the rate of the universe’s acceleration. But in his spare time, this mechanical engineer tinkers with technology that is nearly 100 years old: building single-speed, fixed gear bicycles for what he calls “a small community of whackos who enjoy the simplicity and challenge of riding without gears or a derailleur.” He sells the bicycles locally and nationwide through the Internet.

DiGennaro doesn’t just build them, but also rides and races these unique cycles. He commutes to the Lab daily on one of his custom machines … that’s right, up the steep hill with no gears. He also rides on weekends with the Berkeley Bicycle Club to such locales as Danville, Sunol, or Pleasanton. And during the summer track season, he competes at a velodrome in San Jose. In 2001, he placed in the top 10 of his age group at the Masters National Track Championships in Seattle.

“Riding a fixed gear bike is just fun,” says DiGennaro. “Its simplicity adds to the aesthetics of the machine and enhances our awareness of what a magnificent invention this really is.”

New Diversity Council’s Task: Creating an Outstanding Workplace


What does it take to make an outstanding workplace environment, where all employees can do their best work?

Experts will tell you that the answer lies largely in promoting diversity in the workforce by creating an environment in which all employees are valued, are respected, and can thrive irrespective of their ethnicity, gender, culture, religion, social class, physical ability, or lifestyle. And as Berkeley Lab’s Best Practices Diversity Council approaches its first birthday, it is busy formulating a roadmap that will help the Laboratory turn those idealistic words into reality.

In 2001, Lab Director Charles Shank started converting this vision into practice by charging each Berkeley Lab division with developing and executing a diversity plan. In Shank's words, these plans “provide strategies and actions to enhance the work environment for all employees and methods of outreach and recruitment to promote equality of opportunity.” The resulting divisional Diversity Action Plans were submitted to Shank, approved, and then posted on the Internet.

Next, the Director formed the Best Practices Diversity Council, which convened early this year to coordinate and build on the divisional plans. Shank charged the Council with developing and helping to implement concrete proposals — “best practices” — that will be embedded in the Laboratory’s daily practices and culture, thus ensuring permanent change.

As conceived by Harry Reed, head of the Workforce Diversity Office, and now adopted by the Laboratory, the Best Practices Diversity Council will integrate the Laboratory’s various diversity initiatives. Comprised of representatives of each division, the Council is advisory to senior management. Chairperson Mark Biggin sees one of its most important functions as “representing the workforce to management on a broad range of issues relating to diversity that affect all of us at the Laboratory.”

The Diversity Council has set up three working groups to focus on major areas for improvement: Recruitment and Pipeline Develop-ment, Work Environment and Retention, and Measurement and Accountability. They will try to address a series of issues identified by the Council, including respect for and treatment of staff, under-representation of women and minorities, inadequate job pools for recruitment, insufficient career opportunities for staff, and lack of evaluation tools and tracking data.

Rollie Otto, head of the Center for Science and Engineering Education who chairs the Recruitment and Pipeline Development working group, says, “Because of its historical commitment to education and stated mission to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, Berkeley Lab has a special obligation to contribute to science, engineering and technical workforce diversity.”

The committee has focused on two strategies: to ensure that highly qualified candidates who are under-represented in the Lab’s workforce are included in applicant pools, and to develop stepping stones of support and encouragement for students, especially those from the Bay Area communities as they proceed from precollege to postgraduate level and to employment at Berkeley Lab.
The Workplace Environment and Retention Group, chaired by Envi-ronmental Energy Technologies scientist Rick Diamond, is seeking ways to develop and maintain a workplace culture that ensures equal opportunity for the full diversity of people and ideas. “Our task group has been looking at the problems that staff face in the workplace, and we have identified a set of common themes across the Lab, such as career development, mentoring, workforce planning, and community building,” Diamond says. “For each of these, we have identified candidate ‘best practices’ drawing on experiences from both inside and outside the Lab. The challenge will be to tailor these best practices to the specific needs of our employees.”

The Measurement and Accountability Working Group, chaired by Peggy McMahan Norris of the Nuclear Science Division, is working closely with the other two groups to develop performance measures, which will constitute a best practice for Berkeley Lab. The group is working on ways to achieve greater shared accountability for promoting workforce diversity.

The Council will keep the Laboratory community apprised of their progress through articles in the View and “Today at Berkeley Lab,” as well as through postings on its website ( Workplace/diversity). All Berkeley Lab employees are encouraged to participate in the process by providing feedback to their divisional representatives, who are listed on this page.

Members of the Best Practice Diversity Council are (front row, from left): Weyland Wong, Gary Zeman, Teresa Rossi, Hoi-Ying Holman, Harry Reed, Mark Biggin, Steve Holbrook; (back, from left) Amy Pagsolingan, Delia Clark, Musahid Ahmed, George Reyes, Gary Krebs, Rick Diamond, Peggy McMahan Norris, Enrique Henestroza, Juan Meza, Rollie Otto, Alex Liddle. Not shown are Kristen Kadner, Gerry Abrams, Ed Sayson, Jose Millan, Matty Chen.

Best Practices Diversity Council

Accelerator & Fusion Research
Enrique Henestroza

Advanced Light Source
Gary Krebs

Administrative Services
Delia Clark

Chemical Sciences
Musahid Ahmed

Computing Sciences
Juan Meza

Earth Sciences
Hoi-Ying Holman

Environmental Energy Technologies
Rick Diamond

Environment, Health & Safety
Gary Zeman

Weyland Wong

George Reyes

Financial Services
Teresa Rossi

Kristen Kadner

Human Resources
Amy Pagsolingan

Life Sciences
Mark Biggin, Chair

Materials Sciences
J. Alexander Liddle

Nuclear Science
Peggy Norris

Gerry Abrams

Physical Biosciences
Stephen Holbrook

Council Staff

Public Affairs
Rollie Otto

Edward Sayson

Workforce Diversity
Harry Reed, Principal
Jose Millan
Matty Chen

What diversity means …

Members of Berkeley Lab’s Best Practices Diversity Council were asked what diversity meant to them. As their responses indicate, the viewpoints are … well, diverse, and all applicable to the Laboratory culture. Here’s a sample:

“Diversity is a tool to make a better workplace and make me proud of belonging to the organization.” Gerry Abrams

“It’s about fairness!” Mark Biggin

“Diversity means awareness and acknowledgement of differences.” Delia Clark

“The constant tension is between addressing the real barriers that different individuals face, for whatever reason, and the desire to treat everyone fairly. It all comes down to valuing and respecting everyone.” Rick Diamond

“Diversity means having a wide range of different backgrounds, training and experience from which to draw ideas and obtain solutions to problems of interest.” Steve Holbrook

“To me, diversity in a workplace means an environment where people of all types are given equal opportunities to be their best.” Hoi-Ying Holman

“Realizing the potential of the workforce; to have an efficient workforce and utilizing it.” Gary Krebs

“Inclusion. There’s no ‘good old girls’ network in the sciences. Exclusion is unfair.” Peggy Norris

“Diversity is currently the drive for us to take an earnest look at where the Lab is now. In the future, I hope we can get to a point where the various elements of diversity occur naturally, beyond surface considerations.” Amy Pagsolingan

“Diversity is about understanding and respecting the community in which we live.” Harry Reed

“Diversity is the vehicle we deploy to foster an environment where all staff can prosper and reach their full potential. It is inclusive and places great value on the contributions of every member of the Laboratory community.” George Reyes

“To me, diversity means being open. This openness should benefit an organization in seeking and achieving success in every aspect of its existence.” Weyland Wong

“Diversity means to me that our workplace welcomes people of all types, and we can see that by the range of different types of people who work as valued members of our team.” Gary Zeman

A Golden Opportunity: Watching the Atoms Dance


Top: In a video made by NCEM’s Chris Nelson, individual atoms of gold (lower left) are seen migrating to join a growing gold crystal (upper right).
Bottom: In this video sequence, a gold nanocrystal continually reorients itself in three dimensions before finding just the right way to fit onto the larger crystal. White arrows indicate examples of the directions of this rapid movement.

At the National Center for Electron Microscopy (NCEM) some months ago, Chris Nelson was helping a Life Sciences Division group investigate gold particles, useful for labeling protein structures. Nelson noticed unusual movement under the microscope, and when the users broke for lunch, he got their okay to record video images.

What Nelson captured on video was an extraordinary phenomenon: visible against the background of the thin carbon film that supported the samples were individual atoms of gold, moving about and attaching themselves to gold crystals.

Nelson was working with the One Ångstrom Microscope (OÅM), whose information limit of 0.78 angstroms allows computer reconstruction of images at better than 1-angstrom resolution, but whose 1.6-angstrom native resolution is sufficient by itself to image massive atoms. The veteran Atomic Resolution Microscope is also capable of 1.6-angstrom resolution, but, says Nelson, “We would never have seen this with the ARM.”

“It’s the signal-to-noise ratio that determines what you see,” says NCEM’s Christian Kisielowski, “which is why a column of atoms looks sharper than an individual atom — the more atoms contributing to the signal, the stronger.”

Kisielowski explains that the OÅM incorporates recent enormous improvements in signal-to-noise ratio, made possible by computers and image-reconstruction software but also by increased stability and correction of lens aberrations. Even so, the movie’s individual gold atoms were visible only because their signal was relatively strong against the “quiet” background of the lightweight carbon.

Nelson says the video has “implications for the TEAM project,” the multi-institutional Transmission Electron Aberration-corrected Microscope program now underway to build a microscope with half-angstrom resolution. For one thing, the gold movie shows what can be achieved even with the short exposures (about 1/60th of a second) of a video camera running at 30 frames per second.

Kisielowski has made sharper pictures with the pioneering aberration-corrected microscope in the Jülich Research Center in Germany. At one-second exposure times, however, the individual atoms appear to pop into existence from nowhere and out again. “For TEAM we’re aiming for contrast even better than the Jülich microscope, at exposure times even shorter than our video,” Kisielowski says.

The gold movie shows other fascinating behaviors, including “crystallites” of a few hundreds or thousands of atoms continually reorienting themselves, until suddenly they snap into place on the larger crystal.

Says NCEM director Uli Dahmen, “We’d love to know whether these changes in orientation are purely random” — like the Brownian motion he and his colleagues have observed in molten lead nanoscale inclusions in solid aluminum matrices — “or whether their rotation is constrained by atomic forces, or just what’s going on.”

Dahmen agrees the gold movie “is useful to help guide us where we want to go in the future,” but he stresses that “these are two-dimensional projections. We can see the columns of atoms in the crystal, and we can see crystallites and individual atoms in the plane attaching themselves, but we can’t tell how thick the crystal is or what’s happening on top of it.”

Moreover, says Dahmen, there are other fascinating things going on. “We’ve seen carbon buckyballs forming themselves on the gold, as if the gold is catalyzing them. The carbon atoms can’t be seen individually, but once they have begun to form structures the signal is strong enough to make them visible.”

The process of crystal formation alone, whether by atomic attachment or through the coalescence of crystallites, opens vistas of research. Chris Nelson’s gold movie hints at just one way the TEAM microscope promises to widen our view of basic science, materials design, and new possibilities for nanostructures.

A New Way to Measure Carbon in Airborne Particles


Scanning transmission x-ray microscopy has found aromatic carbon molecules in particles from burning biomass in Arizona.

At last week’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, a team of scientists from Berkeley Lab and Northern Arizona University, led by Mary Gilles of the Chemical Sciences Division, introduced a new technique for analyzing carbon in airborne particles. They use scanning transmission x-ray microscopes, STXMs, at the Advanced Light Source’s Molecular Environmental Science beamline, 11.0.2, and at beamline 5.3.2.

“With this instrument we are mapping the association of metal species with organic compounds on aerosol particles and, perhaps more important, seeing if we can distinguish between organic carbon and ‘black’ carbon,” says Gilles.

The two kinds of carbon have different implications for pollution and global warming, depending on their proportions in smoke and haze. But since most methods for telling them apart destroy the particles — many less than a millionth of a meter in diameter — “it can be hard to tell if two kinds of carbon came from the same particle or different ones,” Gilles says.

STXMs shine a beam of x-rays through the particles, leaving them intact. When combined with NEXAFS (near-edge x-ray absorption fine structure), which identifies atoms by electrons scattered at different x-ray energies, an STXM can make images showing precisely where different chemical species are concentrated in the sample.

Organic carbon comes from living or dead organisms and from anthropogenic sources like power plants and automobiles; it even occurs in carbonaceous meteoroids dating from the origin of the solar system.

Black carbon is essentially soot. Unlike organic carbon, it vaporizes at a high temperature and does not readily react with other chemicals. Atmospheric particles with an abundance of black carbon don’t reflect much solar radiation.

The researchers have examined particles from forest-fire smoke in northern Arizona with the new technique and found aromatic carbons, ring-shaped hydrocarbon molecules. Haze particles from other locations reveal the presence of metals in various states of oxidation.

To Get to Mars, Use Wheat


Traveling from Earth to Mars and back will require a life-support system in which nothing goes to waste. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

Sometime in the future, on a spacecraft en route to Mars, an astronaut may reach into a container and grab a handful of wheat straw. She’ll hold the key to a sustainable mission, something that converts incinerated waste into fertilizer for the plants she eats and nitrogen for the air she breathes.

Not bad for straw, the inedible portion of wheat used to fill horse stables on Earth — and not much else. Its journey from the farm to Mars comes by way of a team of Berkeley Lab and NASA scientists whose work brings our closest planetary neighbor even closer.

“To get to Mars, we need to develop a fully regenerative life-support system,” says Ted Chang, a senior scientist in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division who led the research.

Here’s the problem, and the opportunity: a roundtrip mission to Mars, a distant goal of the space program, will take about three years. It’s impossible to pack several years of provisions into a tiny spacecraft, so the crew will have to grow food such as wheat along the way. This means they’ll also have to somehow acquire enough fertilizer to sustain several harvests.

But with food comes waste. The astronauts must incinerate unused plant fiber and their own waste, a process that yields reusable compounds like carbon dioxide, water, and minerals, as well as noxious pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide.

Ted Chang

It’s the making of a short-lived cycle: a dwindling supply of plant fertilizer and a growing pool of pollutants. But it also has the making of a sustainable system. Locked in the pollutants are nutrients that can help grow the next batch of plants. Nitrogen oxides can be converted into the fertilizers ammonia and nitrate. They can also be converted into nitrogen, which can replenish nitrogen in the spacecraft’s air supply. And sulfur dioxide can be converted into sulfate, another fertilizer. Food to waste to nutrients, then back to food — a textbook sustainable system.

The trick is stripping nutrients from the pollutants, a routine technology on Earth. One method uses catalysts with limited life spans. Another relies on spraying an alkaline solution through incinerated waste. Although the methods work down here, space travel presents complications. Short-lived materials are an instant deal-breaker on a multi-year mission, and sprays misbehave in a low-gravity environment. Constraints pile up quickly in a tiny capsule hurtling toward Mars.

“You can’t use expendable materials, gravity-dependent processes, or dangerous gases,” says Chang. “So we focused on material that is available and can be continuously regenerated.”

Chang didn’t look far. As long as astronauts grow wheat they’ll have a steady supply of straw. And if straw is converted into activated carbon, it could facilitate a cyclical flow of food, waste, and nutrients. To determine if the system works, Chang’s team shredded straw into tiny bits and heated it to 600 degrees Celsius in an oxygen-free chamber. This converts the cellulose into char, a hydrocarbon product formed during the incomplete burning of organic material. Next, the char is activated by heating it in the presence of carbon dioxide or water, which breaks the char’s carbon-carbon bonds. This increases the substance’s surface area and porosity. The broken carbon bonds also create unpaired electrons that are ready to bind with new compounds.

NASA is developing ways to grow wheat using a nutrient solution and artificial sunlight. The crop could feed astronauts destined for Mars and, thanks to research by Lab scientists, ensure a continual supply of life-giving compounds (Photo courtesy of NASA)

This activated carbon is placed inside a steel tube and exposed to a gaseous stream of incinerated waste, and its pollutants. Nitrogen oxides are grabbed with the aid of oxygen by the carbon column’s unpaired electrons and adsorbed onto its pores. A final step, in which the column is heated, regenerates the activated carbon and converts the adsorbed pollutants into nitrogen gas. Alternative steps yield other useful compounds. Exposing the column to water produces nitrate. And if the column has adsorbed sulfur dioxide as well as nitrogen oxides, exposing it to water produces ammonia. To replenish the small portion of activated carbon lost in the final heating step, the astronauts can simply harvest more wheat straw.

But is it sustainable month after month? Early calculations are optimistic. A six-person crew would eat 1.5 kilograms of wheat per day, a pace that could yield 203 kilograms of wheat-straw-derived activated carbon each year — enough to supply the crew’s needs.

“Waste has nutrients that shouldn’t be thrown away, and in fact could help sustain a mission for its entire duration,” says Chang. “Our method could allow astronauts to reuse valuable resources.”

To further evaluate the Berkeley Lab system, scientists at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California, are currently conducting larger scale tests. The research, which appears in the September/October issue of Energy & Fuels, was supported by the NASA Ames Research Center through the Department of Energy.

ALS & NCEM: Anniversaries to remember

Last Tuesday, Dec. 9, Berkeley Lab paid tribute to two of its most distinguished national user facilities, which celebrated significant anniversaries this year: the Advanced Light Source (10 years) and the National Center for Electron Microscopy (20 years). The celebration included a special noontime program of talks by (clockwise from left) Neville Smith, ALS deputy for science; NCEM Director Uli Dahmen; Jay Marx, who was project director for the development of the ALS; and NCEM founding scientist and UC Berkeley faculty member Gareth Thomas. Videotape copies of the talks are available on loan from the Lab Library in Building 50.

December Paycheck Distribution

Berkeley Lab employees who do not have electronic deposit may pick up their December paychecks from 10 a.m. to noon in Building 69-102 according to the
following schedule:
  • biweekly-paid employees on Friday, Dec. 26
  • monthly-paid employees on Wednesday, Dec. 31

Photo ID will be required. All paychecks not picked up on the assigned date will be forwarded to the employee’s Lab mail stop for receipt on Jan. 2.

Direct bank deposit advice forms will be sent through the Laboratory mail system on Dec. 23, although some employees may not receive them before the holiday shutdown.

You may view your paycheck data online as of the check dates using the Employee Self Service website at

Mozilla Adopted as Standard for Email, Web Browser



The Lab’s Information Technolo-gies and Services Division (ITSD) is continuing its plan to gradually roll out Mozilla 1.4 as the new Lab standard application for both email and web browsing, replacing Netscape. Due to limited technical support and a more complex installation procedure, the transition will happen gradually, with the target date for having all Lab divisions converted to Mozilla in June of 2004.

Rather than “blitzing” divisions with blanket installations, ITSD’s desktop support staff is phasing in Mozilla by installing the application when they are called out to do other work on desktop systems. Those divisions with desktop support staff matrixed from ITSD (about 40 percent of the Lab’s computers) are being transitioned first, with others to follow. In some cases, technical support staff within certain research divisions are moving forward on their own. In parallel, ITSD is working with ASD to identify ways in which ITSD can conduct “train the trainer” sessions for support staff in divisions that have internal support for deployment of desktop software and who need assistance.

Moreover, all newly purchased computers are being loaded with Mozilla when they arrive. Lab employees are discouraged from downloading the generic version of Mozilla and should instead use the Lab-tailored version, which has customized settings.

ITSD has also been monitoring the use of Netscape 4.75, which is still supported by the Lab, though not by the vendor. Between May and August, the average number of daily “launches” of Netscape 4.75 was 4,195, but that daily average dropped to 3,773 between September and November, a seven percent decline in the use of Netscape.

While there have been no major glitches in the move to Mozilla, the support staff is building its knowledge base and adding to its list of Frequently Asked Questions at

Happy Holidays from the View


This is the last issue of the View for 2003. Our first issue of 2004 will be out on Friday, Jan. 9, as we resume our regular publication schedule.

The Lab officially shuts down for the holiday break from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1, 2004. A minimum work force will continue to function, including safety personnel and the Mail Room.

Our staff wishes everyone a very happy holiday.

Flea Market


‘01 TOYOTA PRIUS hybrid, 4 dr sedan, silver, leather seats, avail 12/03-1/04, exc cond, 49K mi, $12,500/bo over trade in, Ed, (925) 933-4719,
‘96 CHEVY S-10 BLAZER, 90K mi, exc cond, 4.3L vortec v6 engine, alarm, all power, leather int, 4-whl drive, ac, am/fm/radio/cass, 10-disk CD changer, premium wheels, roof rack, mud/snow tires, $6,990/bo, pictures on request, Deborah or Paul, (925) 429-2431
‘94 NISSAN SENTRA, 89K mi, 5 sp, new clutch & muffler, a little damage at the front part, $1,500, Yingqi, X2983, 527-7451, leave msg


BERKELEY HILLS, house in wooded neighborhd, furn, 3 bdr/2 baths, lge kitchen, liv rm, din rm, study, priv yard, avail 3/1 to 9/15/04, $2100/mo, Gisela, 841-2066,
BERKELEY, clean, sunny, convenient room in duplex, avail 01/08/04 for semester or longer, nr UCB/shuttle/BART/shopping, own phone, furn avail $500/mo incl utils, Lisa, 849-2148,
BERKELEY, good size rm well furn, fast internet access, priv phone line, offstr parking, washing machine, cooking appliance, walking dist to pub trans/BART/ shops/UC, quiet priv area, tennis court, pool, park, pref gentleman, no smoker/pet, no overnight guests, $600/mo+fees, internet, fees, dep fee $650,, 524-3780
BERKELEY, HEARST COMMONS 1146-1160 Hearst, studio townhouses w/ decks, hardwd flrs, skylights, dw, ac, sec, wired for cable/sat, Ian, 548-1831, $825/mo, lease through 7/04, for pictures
BERKELEY, nr UC, furn 1 brdm apt, hardwd flrs, $1,575 incl PC, DSL & some util, 845-5959,, Paul, X7363
BERKELEY, rm for rent in 4 bdrm house, 5 blocks to campus on Euclid & Cedar, close to shuttle, tennis courts, supermarkets, share with 2 vis scholars and one professional lady, $650/mo, 548-1287
BERKELEY, rm with priv bthrm in lovely house in Berkeley Hills nr lab, sunny, decks, views, gourmet kitchen, internet, laundry, $850/mo, Fred, 486-4892
BERKELEY, pleasant furn inlaw apt, Claremont Elmwood area, quiet resid street, nr transportation/shopping, sep ent, spacious, garden, deck, individual/not couple, no smoking/pets, $895/mo incl util, avail 1/1/04, call after 12/28, Aslihan, 848-4487,
CENTRAL BERKELEY, nice furn rms, kitchen, laundry, PC, DSL, hardwd flrs, brkfst, walk to campus/shops, $950/mo incl everything, 845-5959,, Paul, X7363
NORTH BERKELEY, bed & breakfast, $750/mo or $325/wk, breakfasts daily, 1 person per room, walk to UCB/LBL shuttle, avail immediately, Helen, 527-3252
OAKLEY, 4 bdrm/2bth, 4754 La Vista Dr, quiet area, $1,800/mo + dep, Michael, X5457


FEMALE looking for house to share in Alameda, Orinda/Lafayette or other small peaceful town in East Bay, non-smoking, quiet & responsible person, Christina, 865-0863,
FURN APT for family with 2-yr-old daughter, starting early 1/04 for 2 to 4 mo, within driving dist to LBNL, 1BR or 2BR,, Juerg, +41 (22) 767 2030
ROOM needed for 3 mo beg 03/04, nr campus, visiting female grad student from Italy, X2792,, Hanna, X2792, 845-8971
VISITING SCHOLAR seeks furn apt/house, 1 bdrm, liv rm, kitchen, need for 1 year. pref close to UC or 2 bdrm apt to share with a flatmate, from Feb 1,


BASS GUITAR, Carvin LB70, 4 string, 2 stacked/active humbuckers, sperzel locking tuners, strap locks, hard case, blue/ maple neck, exc shape, $400, TReese, X6025, (707) 426-0717
PATIO TABLE, beautiful wooden w/ 4 chairs, incl chair pads, $105; Panasonic 21” TV w/stereo & FM, $145; 2 Swedish design lounge chairs, $60 ea; 1000 watts microwave oven, $40; grey wooden bookcase 3 shelves $20; computer table $75; 2 counter stools $35; Samsung DVD/VCR player $130; cordless phone w/ ans mach, $40; Rowenta iron powerglider $30; rug $10; wooden stool/ladder, 8-cup thermal carafe coffee maker, 2 lawn folding chair $15; elect can opener, Lee, (925) 945-0243
LIGHTED HOLIDAY POTPOURRI JARS w/ scented potpourri & christmas lights $10 each or 3 for $25; holiday planters filled w/ candy, $5 ea or 3 for $12; Deborah, X5372, (925) 429-2431
SALAMANDER, archetype 5.0 solid cherry stereo rack $100; 36” maple dinette table $25, Dave, X4506
WHEEL COVERS, two used 14”, fit most cars, $2/ea, basic telephone, digital clock, msg pad, $3; med size microwave, very good cond, $35/bo; porcelain dinnerware (4 sm plates, 4 med plates, 1 lge plate), $10; set of 4 lge dinner plates, $8; mugs, 1 glass container w/ lid & handle, spoons, forks, chopsticks, Minmin, 847-5130


CARPOOL from Alameda to lab, however many days as convenient for driver, will contribute gas money, Christina, X4615, 865-0863


FOUR SNOW TIRES, Bridgestone 185/70R14,used for two winters & still like new, Mahiko X4479
PANASONIC VCR, 12 yrs old still works, Dave, X4506


North Lake Tahoe house at Kings Beach, 3 bdrm/2bth, sleeps 6, full kitchen, liv rm & din area w/ fp, quiet cul de sac, great neighborhd, minutes from Northstar, $150/night, 2nights min + $75 cleaning fee, avail after holidays, Vlad or Linda, 849-1579,

Flea Market Policy

Ads are accepted only from Berkeley Lab employees, retirees, and onsite DOE personnel. Only items of your own personal property may be offered for sale.

Submissions must include name, affiliation, extension, and home phone. Ads must be submitted in writing

(e-mail: fleamarket@, fax: X6641,) or mailed/delivered to Bldg. 65.

Ads run one issue only unless resubmitted, and are repeated only as space permits. The submission deadline for the Jan. 9 issue is Friday, Jan. 2.

Ringing in the Holidays

Left: Director Charles Shank addresses revelers at the annual Holiday Reception on Tuesday, Dec. 16 at the cafeteria.
Right: The eighth annual Berkeley Lab Craft Fair kicked off the holiday festivities on Thursday, Dec. 4. Sponsored by the Employees Activities Association, the fair was held at the cafeteria and featured items hand made by Lab employees.
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