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LSST Camera Sensors Nears Production Phase

Preparing a test chamber

Preparing a test chamber used to evaluate digital sensors

A single sensor for the world’s largest digital camera detected light making its way through wind, air turbulence, and Earth’s atmosphere, successfully converting the light into a glimpse of the galactic wonders that this delicate instrument will eventually capture as it scans the night sky. When installed in the camera of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), these sensors will convert light captured from distant galaxies into digital information that will provide unprecedented insight into our understanding of the universe.

But the sensor wasn’t on the telescope yet; it was in a clean room at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. And the “atmosphere” was being projected from a custom piece of glass made to replicate what the sensor will actually see once it is part of the camera inside the LSST, which every three days will survey the entire night sky visible from its location atop a mountain in Chile. The meticulous laboratory test was one of many that scientists in the Lab’s Instrumentation Division are conducting on the 201 sensors they are designing for the digital “film” of the telescope’s camera.

Scheduled to see “first light” in 2020, and start surveying in 2022, the LSST will ultimately survey 20 billion galaxies and 17 billion stars in a 10-year period. The data gathered from those distant galaxies will offer scientists insight into the seemingly unreal: the dark matter and dark energy that in fact comprise more than 95 percent of our universe (the planets, stars, and other visible matter make up the remaining 5 percent).

In working on sensors for the camera, Brookhaven is partnering with dozens of public and private organizations, including universities, national laboratories, and Google, Inc., to make the LSST a reality. The project is jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and DOE’s Office of Science. NSF leads the overall LSST effort, while DOE is responsible for providing the camera, with the DOE-supported effort led by the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

To learn more visit:

2014-5102  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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Biosciences Interns Welcomed

Interns and their mentors

Interns and their mentors

This summer, the Lab welcomed six interns to the newly established Virginia Pond Scholarship Program. The program, funded by a Work for Others agreement from the estate of Richard Pond, is in memory of his sister Virginia Pond, a researcher in the biology department from 1948 to 1991. 
The interns, guided by their mentors, are working in a variety of bioscience research areas that include tracking sugar transport in plants, developing feedstock for biofuels, biosynthesis, operating systems used for radiolabeling and radiosynthesis of plant molecules, using x-ray scattering to expose protein structures, and performing acoustic surveys to protect an endangered bat species.

“It was exciting to welcome this first group of Virginia Pond Scholarship interns to our already vigorous summer student programs,” said Noel Blackburn, manager of university programs for the Lab’s Office of Educational Programs. “Their very specific interests and studies in bioscience made them a perfect fit to help carry on the legacy of the late Virginia Pond.”

Learn more about the interns: and Virginia Pond:

2014-5103  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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Research May Lead to New Ultra-Strong Materials

IBM supercomputer Blue Gene/Q

IBM supercomputer Blue Gene/Q at BNL

Interested in an ultra-fast, unbreakable, and flexible smart phone that recharges in seconds? Monolayer materials may make it possible. These atom-thin sheets – including the famed super material graphene – feature exceptional and untapped mechanical and electronic properties. But to fully exploit these atomically tailored wonder materials, scientists must pry free the secrets of how and why they bend and break under stress.

Fortunately, researchers have now pinpointed the breaking mechanism of several monolayer materials hundreds of times stronger than steel with exotic properties that could revolutionize everything from armor to electronics. A Columbia University team used supercomputers at Brookhaven to simulate and probe quantum mechanical processes that would be extremely difficult to explore experimentally.

They discovered that straining the materials induced a novel phase transition – a restructuring in their near-perfect crystalline structures that leads to instability and failure. Surprisingly, the phenomenon persisted across several different materials with disparate electronic properties, suggesting that monolayers may have intrinsic instabilities to be either overcome or exploited. “To see the beautiful patterns exhibited by these materials at their breaking points for the first time was enormously exciting – and important for future applications,” said study coauthor and Columbia University Ph.D. candidate Eric Isaacs.

To learn more visit:

2014-5104  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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PubSci – Storyville American Table, Huntington

PubSci logo

Mark your calendars! The next BNL PubSci science café will take place at Storyville American Table, 43 Green Street, Huntington, New York, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, September 17. Come discuss Illumination: Exposing the Secret Structures of the Atomic World with top researchers, Lisa Miller, Karen Chen-Wiegart, and Stuart Wilkins, from our Photon Sciences Division.

For details visit:

2014-5105  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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  • September 10 – Noon Recital – The Dali Quartet will perform works by Mozart, Beethoven, and seven 20th century composers from South America. Berkner Hall Auditorium.
  • September 11 – Community Advisory Council meeting. 6:30 p.m., Berkner Hall, Room B.

*The event above is free and open to the public. Visitors 16 and over must bring a photo ID for access to BNL events.

2014-5106  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office