Every day, we rely on energy and likely take for granted the complex infrastructure behind the simple flip of a light switch. Power plants, electrical grids, and natural gas pipelines are more than modern conveniences—they are the bedrock of our society, which makes them desirable targets for our enemies. Although deliberate physical and digital attacks could be catastrophic, less tangible evolving threats, such as fossil fuel depletion and climate change, also put the health and safety of the United States and its citizens at risk. For many reasons, energy security is national security.
This issue of National Security Science sheds light on the efforts of Los Alamos National Laboratory to ensure that the United States has access to the expertise for maintaining our quality of life, improving our resilience, and protecting our planet for generations to come. We are actively exploring various types of energy research, including nuclear, hydrogen, biological, and geothermal.
This past December and again this August, the National Ignition Facility, based at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, had major research breakthroughs toward solar-inspired, clean fusion energy production. Despite not being in the spotlight, Los Alamos has made significant contributions to the nation’s fusion efforts dating back to the early 20th century. The Laboratory’s National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (MagLab) continues to make strides toward high-temperature superconductors, which get us closer to creating commercial fusion energy.
Building on decades of innovation, Los Alamos is also investing in the hydrogen economy through collaborations with industry, academia, and government. Read more about the Lab's efforts to develop hydrogen fuel cells here.
Reducing greenhouse gasses is essential to mitigating climate change. We are seeing more and more electric vehicles on the road, which is fantastic. However, some fuels and chemicals will remain carbon-based and need alternate routes to production—for example, sustainable jet fuel produced from leftover biomass. We need an improved understanding of both carbon in the environment and in engineered systems, such as options in biological manufacturing. Los Alamos contributes research and design in both of these areas and is aggressively pursuing solutions in our own operations.
Nearly every challenge facing our society becomes simpler to address when abundant, low-cost energy is available. In this issue, you will discover the ways that Los Alamos National Laboratory helps provide the energy needed to drive our national security, economy, and society. ★