Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

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Nuclear & Chemical Sciences | Resources
On the frontier of nuclear physics, particle physics, and chemistry

User facilities are LLNL scientific instruments and computational capabilities that are made available to collaborating researchers and institutions. These facilities provide world-premier, one-of-a-kind capabilities to the broader scientific community.

Capability centers provide specialized resources—from nanoscale materials synthesis to biological agent identification to high-performance computing—across a range of scientific disciplines.

Institutes support collaborations between LLNL and academic collaborators.

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  • the accelerator facility

    Accelerator Facilities

    Contact: Scott Anderson All Nuclear & Chemical Facility

    The LLNL 100 MeV electron linear accelerator (LINAC) facility has been operational since 1967. The LINAC was originally built to perform neutron cross-section measurements in support of the nuclear weapons program and boasts a shielded underground cave complex capable of supporting very high average power particle beams and radiation fields.

    While the radiation areas and much of the LINAC equipment have been repurposed over the years to support program development in photon, neutron, and ion beam sources, legacy equipment removal and infrastructure revitalization are needed to address new challenges relevant to the discovery of novel signatures for the identification and characterization of Special Nuclear Materials (SNM) for Global Security and the quantification of difficult to measure cross-sections for Stockpile Stewardship.

  • autoradiography tools

    Autoradiography Imaging

    Contact: Kim Knight All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Sub-millimeter resolution alpha and beta radioactivity imaging

  • The HVEC 10 MV Model FN Tandem Van de Graaff Accelerator.

    Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS)

    Contact: Nanette Sorensen or Graham Bench All Atmosphere & Earth Nuclear & Chemical Facility

    CAMS is a signature facility of LLNL that uses diverse analytical techniques and state of the art instrumentation to develop and apply unique, ultra-sensitive isotope ratio measurement and ion beam analytical techniques to address a broad spectrum of scientific needs important to the Laboratory and the nation.

    Additional information is available on the CAMS website.

  • A scientist detects chemical signatures using a NMR spectrometer.

    Center for National Security Applications of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)

    Contact: Harris Mason All Materials Science Nuclear & Chemical Facility

    This center houses multiple high field and low field NMR spectrometers with capabilities for analysis of solids, liquids and gases, including explosives, radiological, and highly toxic industrial chemical, and chemical and biological threat agents.

  • artist's rendition of computational data

    Computational Nuclear Physics

    Contact: Bret Beck All Nuclear & Chemical Physics Capability

    Modern technologies based on nuclear processes, such as nuclear weapons, power reactors, radiation and materials detectors, medical imaging devices, and radiation therapies often require more accurate and complete knowledge of nuclear reaction dynamics and nuclear structure. We measure, collect, and evaluate nuclear data and incorporate these data into libraries to be used in simulations. We provide nuclear data, physics simulation, and data processing tools for experimental and theoretical nuclear data.

    Additional information is available on the Computational Nuclear Physics website.

  • a scientist uses a machine at the FSC

    Forensic Science Center (FSC)

    Contact: Bradley Hart All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    The FSC is home to nationally recognized scientists and capabilities that support chemical, nuclear, explosive, and biological counterterrorism. As one of two U.S. laboratories with international certification to handle chemical warfare agents, the FSC analyzes interdicted samples, provides radiological assistance 24/7, and engages in the critical research and development needs of the intelligence community including law enforcement, homeland security, and health professionals. FSC personnel are experts in analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, nuclear chemistry, and forensic instrument design and fabrication.

    Additional information is available in the FSC Fact Sheet and on the FSC website.

  • Two scientists look at data on a computer.

    Glenn T. Seaborg Institute

    Contact: Mavrik Zavarin All Nuclear & Chemical Institute

    The LLNL branch of the Glenn T. Seaborg Institute conducts collaborative research between LLNL and the academic community in radiochemistry and nuclear forensics. The Seaborg Institute serves as a national center for the education and training of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, and faculty in transactinium science.

    Additional information is available on the Seaborg Institute website.

  • An ICP-MS instrument.

    Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS)

    Contact: Rachel Lindvall or Josh Wimpenny All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Renowned for its speed and precision, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) technology is a mainstay of LLNL’s Earth and nuclear science capabilities. Electromagnetic induction heating combined with ion-transfer optics provides high mass resolution at low detection limits.

    LLNL’s suite of ICP-MS instruments includes both single- and multicollectors for analyzing a wide range of elements—from lithium to uranium and, in some cases, the actinides. Multicollector ICP-MS enables measurement of multiple isotopes simultaneously, resulting in rapid analysis and high throughput. LLNL scientists leverage these capabilities for studies of planetary geology and Solar System formation. Other cosmochemistry research using ICP-MS includes analysis of lunar rocks from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Apollo missions.

  • A scientist stands next to a mass spectrometer.

    Livermore Noble Gas (LNG) Laboratory

    Contact: Bill Cassata All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    The LNG Lab is a state-of-the-art facility for noble gas isotope ratio and abundance measurements. The lab houses several noble gas mass spectrometry instruments, including:

    • An instrument to automate the analysis of noble gases and tritiogenic helium in water samples.
    • A multi-collector instrument with a versatile sample introduction system.
    • A field-portable membrane-inlet mass spectrometry system for unique groundwater tracer experiments.

    Additional information is available on the LNG Lab website.

  • a mass spectrometer

    Mass Spectrometry

    Contacts: Carolyn Koester All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    State-of-the-art mass spectrometers include NanoSIMS, 2 NU multi-collector ICP-MS, a multi-collector TIMS, a Noblesse noble gas mass spectrometer, several quadrupole ICP-MS, several stable isotope mass spectrometers and a magnetic sector ICP-MS equipped with an excimer laser ablation system.

  • two scientists work with an MC-ICP-MS instrument

    Multi-Collector ICP-MS (MC-ICP-MS)

    Contact: Ross Williams All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Isotope ratio measurements on actinides, tungsten, lead, tellurium, zinc and others; preparation and certification of reference materials

  • Nano SIMS

    NanoSIMS (Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry)

    Contact: Peter Weber All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    LLNL’s suite of imaging SIMS instruments includes a NanoSIMS 50, which has 50-nanometer spatial resolution and two standard SIMS instruments. With these capabilities, a wide range of solid samples can be analyzed, including polished and ultramicrotome sections; focused ion beam foils; and particle, cell, and biofilm dispersions. LLNL scientists use SIMS for research in nuclear forensics, nonproliferation, bioforensics, biofuels, soil carbon, bioscience, cosmochemistry, geoscience, materials science, optics, and more.

    The LLNL NanoSIMS group has experience with a wide range of samples, including uranium, metal, mineral, glass, aerosol, soil, and biological. Samples can be polished sections, ultramicrotome sections, focused ion beam foils, and dispersions.

  • a scientific instrument in the NCF

    Nuclear Counting Facility (NCF)

    Contact: Keenan Thomas All Nuclear & Chemical Facility

    Located in the basement, two floors down from the ground surface, and with a layer of low-background ferrous shielding materials between floors for ultra-low background nuclear measurements, the NCF has been providing high-sensitivity radiation measurements since the inception of radiochemical diagnostics in support of the U.S. Nuclear Test Program.

    NCF assets include a wide range of low- and high-resolution gamma spectrometers (some equipped with automated sample changers, various others work in standalone mode, and units that are portable/fieldable) and alpha- and beta counting systems employing ionization gas chambers, solid-state detectors, and liquid scintillation techniques. NCF supports applications in basic nuclear science, stockpile stewardship, NIF diagnostics, nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation, nuclear forensics and counterterrorism, consequence management and emergency response (the most recent high-visibility response was the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis), and environmental monitoring.

    LLNL developed the cutting-edge GAMANAL software used to interpret high-resolution gamma spectra without the need for a fixed-geometry calibration, hence broadly expanding its application, is now in use globally and forms the basis of the analysis engines of several commercial software. Additionally, NCF is supported by several low-level, high-resolution gamma detectors and liquid scintillation counters in the Environmental Radioanalytical Monitoring Laboratory (EMRL), a facility that primarily supports environmental and stack monitoring for LLNL’s site performance metrics but also supports the national security mission.

  • A scientist works with the Laboratory's automated ion chromatograph fraction collection system.

    Radiochemistry Facilities

    Contact: Dawn Shaughnessy All Nuclear & Chemical Facility

    The Laboratory’s Radiochemistry Facilities were opened in 1967 to perform radioanalytical and nuclear chemistry experiments in support of the nuclear weapons program. These facilities include 75 laboratories with approximately two-thirds of the space dedicated to wet chemistry processes and one-third dedicated to analytical measurements. Type I, II, and III workspaces are available to handle dispersible radioactive materials to support sample dissolution and separation processes as well as the preparation of sources and samples by evaporation, electro-deposition, or volatilization for nuclear counting.

    The facilities’ atom-counting, analytical capabilities include inorganic mass spectrometry (ICP-MS, TIMS, SIMS, NG-MS, SIMS, NanoSIMS, IRMS, and RIMS), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, X-ray Diffraction, X-ray Fluorescence, and Scanning Electron Microscopy. A satellite building completed in 1993 provides low level laboratory space to support sample preparation for contamination-free, ultra-low measurements.

  • RIMS

    Resonance Ionization Mass Spectrometry (RIMS)

    Contact: Brett Isselhardt All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    LLNL’s Laser Ionization of Neutrals (LION) laboratory supports international nuclear forensics investigations with world-class expertise and finely tuned instrumentation. A key technology in this effort is resonance ionization mass spectrometry (RIMS). LION scientists use RIMS to analyze illicit nuclear material for information about its origin, composition, and intended use.

    Using lasers tuned to unique resonant frequencies that ionize only the atoms of a specific element, RIMS can identify and measure samples with precision. The highly sensitive analysis process is fast because it leverages small sample quantities with minimal preparation. As one of only a few RIMS facilities in the world, LION is uniquely positioned to apply this technology to today’s nuclear forensics challenges.

  • SEM and EDS equipment

    Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Energy Dispersive X-ray Spectroscopy (EDS)

    Contact: Zurong Dai All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, electron diffraction

  • A mass spectrometer

    Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry

    Contact: Mike Singleton All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Isotopic measurements of H, C, N, O, S

  • Two scients work with a TIMS instrument.

    Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS)

    Contact: Lars Borg All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Within LLNL’s portfolio of spectrometric capabilities, TIMS offers efficient analysis of elements with low ionization energy. TIMS’s precise isotope ratio measurements of chrome, lead, barium, strontium, neodymium, and other rare-Earth elements have numerous applications for nuclear forensics, cosmochemistry, geochemistry, geochronology, and environmental science. This technology enables scientists to perform highly reproducible analyses of small sample sizes and achieve part-per-million resolution for a range of materials.

    TIMS measurements of stable heavy isotopes found in materials such as chondrites and lunar rocks help LLNL scientists understand Solar System formation and terrestrial planet differentiation. This capability is a key asset in LLNL’s research partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. TIMS-based studies also support forensic investigations of the origin of illicit nuclear materials.

  • A scientist works with an XRD instrument.

    X-ray Diffraction (XRD)

    Contact: Charlotte Eng All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Crystallography of bulk solids

  • an X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy instrument

    X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy

    Contact: Charlotte Eng All Nuclear & Chemical Capability

    Bulk elemental analysis with PPM level detection limits