Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL)
█ K. LEE LERNER
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), located near the University of California Berkeley campus, is operated by the University of California for the United States Department of Energy (DOE).
Founded in 1931 by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence, LBL was designed to be a model for use of the interdisciplinary approach to scientific research. Initially dedicated to World War II military projects, in 1942, LBL became the first in a string of federal laboratories. Research at LBL brings scientists from a variety of disciplines to work on military and non-military funded projects. LBL scientists have developed a number of technologies related to national security interests, technology advancement, and environmental research.
LBL researchers developed a hand-held radiation detector that was able to distinguish between radioactive isotopes intended for biomedical research or clinical medical applications, and the form of isotopes most likely to be used by terrorists to construct a "dirty bomb" (a bomb that spreads radioactive materials by a non-nuclear explosion). The Cryo3 detector, developed in collaboration with researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employs radiation spectrometry to identify radioactive materials. The battery-powered unit utilizes a high purity germanium crystal that absorbs photons emanating from isotopes. By comparing differences in charge characteristics, the detector can further characterize both quantitative and qualitative attributes of a radioactive source. The development of new generations of detectors useful in identifying radioactive, chemical, and biological weapons detection remains a research interest. LBL researchers also developed a highly portable device capable of detecting explosives.
Although LBL's early work was heavily devoted to weapons research, in addition to making direct contributions to the technology of security, LBL scientists now engage in—and as an institution emphasize—a variety of research projects that advance both basic science and industry related projects to improve the quality of life.
The scientific divisions at LBL provide evidence of the emphasis on both physical and biological sciences. As of March 2003, LBL maintained divisions in Accelerator and Fusion Research; Advanced Light Sources; Chemical Sciences; Computational Research; Computing Sciences; Earth Sciences; Engineering; Environment, Health and Safety; Environmental Energy Technologies; Genomics; Information Technologies and Services; Life Sciences; Materials Sciences; NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center), Nuclear Sciences; Physical Biosciences; and Physics.
LBL scientists contributions to medical science and biotechnology include development of radiation therapies for treating cancer and research into HDL and LDL cholesterol physiology. LBL projects have also allowed a more complete understanding of how radon exposure increases cancer risk. Radon (usually in the form of the Radon-222 isotope) is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas formed from radioactive decay. The most common geologic source of radon derives from the decay of uranium. Radon is commonly found at low levels in widely dispersed crustal formations, soil, and water samples. Produced underground, radon moves toward the surface and eventually diffuses into the atmosphere or in groundwater. To some extent, radon can be detected throughout the United States. Specific geologic formations, however, frequently present elevated concentration of radon that may pose a significant health risk.
Scientists at LBL, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories California have also collaborated on the development of environmental remediation technologies useful in the cleanup of military disposal sites (e.g., the nearby Alameda Naval Air Station). LBL scientists also support the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) (hosting the most powerful computer in the U.S. used for unclassified research) and an 88-inch cyclotron used to advance basic nuclear science.
█ FURTHER READING:
Berkeley Lab. 88" Organization. 88-inch cyclotron. <http://www-nsd.lbl.gov/LBL-Programs/nsd/user88/> (March 23,2003).
Berkeley Lab Research News. "DOE's NERSC Center deploys 10 teraflops per second IBM supercomputer." March 10, 2003. <http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/NERSC-10-teraflop-IBM.html.> (March 23, 2003).
United States Department of Energy, Office of Science. National Laboratories and User Facilities. <http://www.sc.doe.gov/Sub/Organization/Map/national_labs_and_userfacilities.htm> (March 23, 2003).
United States Department of Homeland Security. Research & Technology. <http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/display?theme=27&content=374> (March 23, 2003).
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Brookhaven National Laboratory
DOE (United States Department of Energy)
Environmental Measurements Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
Los Alamos National Laboratory
NNSA (United States National Nuclear Security Administration)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
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Sandia National Laboratories