CSD's major scientific capabilities include studying chemistry under extreme conditions, high-performance computational chemistry, physical and analytical chemistry, radioanalytical chemistry, synthetic chemistry and advanced material synthesis, cosmochemistry, and chemical and nuclear engineering. In addition, CSD scientists carry out cutting edge research in nuclear forensics, geomicrobiology, environmental radiochemistry, energetic materials, and material development for national security applications, including energy and detection.

A new Gadolinium Garnet ceramic scintillator.
LLNL's Transparent Ceramics team developed a new Gadolinium Garnet ceramic scintillator for gamma ray spectroscopy with DHS/DNDO funding, that provides 4% energy resolution at 662 keV, better than any other oxide scintillator.

Advanced Material Synthesis and Creation.
CSD's synthesis chemists and materials scientists have designed novel materials for multiple national security applications, ranging from radiation detectors (R&D 100 award) and nanoporous carbon electrodes for desalination applications, to the first nano-crystalline diamond aerogel.

Livermore scientists use the Laboratory's supercomputers to perform molecular dynamics (MD) simulations.   Livermore scientists use the Laboratory's supercomputers to perform molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. One of our goals is to develop a first principles understanding of the chemistry of detonation. A simulation of carbon cluster formation during detonation is shown, above.

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CSD Sol Gel Capabilities.
CSD Sol Gel Capabilities.

Livermore is internationally recognized for synthesizing extremely low-density materials with specialized compositions. We recently produced a solid-phase sample of silica aerogel with the lowest density (1 mg/cm3) ever reported for a solid. An important new development has generalized the synthesis technique for low-density materials so that aerogels and other ultralow density materials can now be synthesized incorporating almost every element in the periodic table, rather than the four or five elements previously available, thus increasing the flexibility and variety of applications of such materials.

We have extensive expertise in creating highly controlled nanostructured and nanoporous solids of oxides, polymers, organometallics, metals and metal alloys. Much of those efforts are to create porous materials with controlled architectures from atomic to macro-scale to create unique reaction environments. We also have unique resources for the controlled synthesis of catalytic nanomaterials for applications from hydrogen processing and production to fuel cells and batteries.

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Aerogels: "Advanced Carbon Aerogels for Energy Applications


CSD staff include international experts in the synthesis and characterization of new energetic materials, including for example insensitive high explosives and tailored thermites.

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HEAF/Xchem: "A Home for Energetic Materials and Their Experts


Polymers and multifunctional composites.
Livermore houses state of the art facilities for synthesizing, characterizing and modeling polymeric materials and composites. Efforts include studying the degradation of polymeric materials to deploying novel polymer formulations for detectors, energy harvesting and storage, and biocompatible, functional materials.


Crystal Growth and Engineering.


Fundamental principles of crystallization is at the core of materials science at the Laboratory. As experts in crystallization theory, modeling, and experiments, CSD scientists work in diverse areas of crystallization research relevant to the missions of the Laboratory. Our staff are applying our capabilities to develop novel energetic materials, optical and target materials for NIF and radiation detector materials for National Security programs – including high performance plastic scintillators for both neutron and gamma detection; SrI2 detectors, now commercialized and engineered into a working handheld devices; and state-of-the-art Ceramic scintillators, created in our unique ceramics processing facilities. Beyond programmatic needs, CSD scientists also work with nano- and meso-crystals, biominerals, colloidal assembly, thin films and many more to discover new materials and to broaden our understanding of crystallization process.

Molecular modeling reveals the structural relationships between biomolecule and the atomic steps at inorganic crystal surface that are responsible for the enantiomer-specific interactions leading to chiral modification of crystals in biological settings. The figure exemplifies the stereochemical recognition between the L-Asp6 and the [-1-20] step on the (-101) face of calcium oxalate monohydrate crystal, a common mineral found in nature and human kidney stones. Stereoselective modification of the steps arises from the compatible approach of the indicated carboxylates (gold ovals and arrows) along the planes of upright oxalates of the lattice with the alpha-hydrogens pointed up (circled). Detailed explanations can be found in Qiu et al. Cryst. Growth Des. 2012, 12, 5939-5947.
Experimental validation of the Geometrical Selection model, demonstrated by a hydrothermal synthesis of ZnO nanowire arrays.

Functional Material Synthesis & Integration Group

Environmental radiochemistry.
Field, experimental and modeling efforts to understand the fate and transport of actinides in the environment. Current research is focused on determining the dominant biogeochemical processes that control plutonium (Pu) transport in the soil and groundwater. We are investigating the biogeochemical processes controlling actinide migration in the environment. Recent work examines Np and Pu sorption to mineral colloids over environmental concentrations that span >10 orders of magnitude (10-6~10-16 mol/L). The research is funded as a DOE/OBER as a Science Focus Area.

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Actinide transport: "Plutonium Hitches a Ride on Subsurface Particles


Environmental biogeochemistry.
CSD researchers work at the intersection of microbiology, geology and chemistry on microbial biofuels development, mechanisms of soil carbon stabilization and new methods that link microbial phylogeny to function. One of the world's leading labs in applications of NanoSIMS isotopic imaging, we use stable isotope tracing, molecular genomics and chemical imaging to understand biogeochemistry and ecological relationships at the single cell scale in systems ranging from seawater to soil, plants and insects.

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Cosmochemical Research.
Cosmochemical research in CSD spans a wide range of topics and uses a variety of state-of the-art instruments. Part of this effort is focused on understanding stellar nucleosynthetic processes, the initial isotopic composition of the Solar System, and the conditions in the early solar nebula by examining the oldest Solar System solids. In addition, the chronological and geochemical evolution of the Moon and Mars are examined through analysis of lunar samples returned from the Apollo missions and Martian meteorites. One recent study suggests the Moon may be much younger than commonly believed.

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Cosmochemical research: "Moon and Earth May Be Younger Than Thought


New Heavy Elements.
CSD staff have been pioneers in extending the periodic table with the discoveries of 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, and 118 and investigations into the nuclear and chemical properties of the actinides and transactinides. The most recent discovery was in 2010, with collaborators from Dubna, Russia, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Nevada Las Vegas and Vanderbilt University, CSD scientists reported the discovery of element 117. In 2012, element 116 was officially named Livermorium to honor the scientists of LLNL and their contributions to nuclear and chemical sciences.

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"Heavy Element Group News and Publications"


Computational Chemistry.
CSD researchers exploit the world-class computational resources of LLNL to solve numerous programmatic and scientific questions. Current areas of research in computational chemistry include electronic structure modeling of high explosives, chemical kinetics of the fate and transport of chemical warfare agents, modeling of aerosol chemistry, chemical reactions in biological environments, and cosmochemistry biofuel oxidation. CSD has extensive efforts in understanding chemical reactions at extreme pressures and temperatures. Recent work has delivered new insights into the role of comets in bringing about the origin of life.

Computer simulations show (left) the molecular makeup of a comet before it strikes Earth, (middle) the long chains of carbon–nitrogen bonds created by the heating and compression that occur on impact, and (right) a long chain breaking apart to form complexes that contain glycine, a protein-building amino acid.

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Astrophysics: "Life from Outer Space"


Development of Portable WMD Signature Detection.
We continue to develop portable instruments for detecting signatures of chemical agents, explosives, and nuclear materials. In 2006, a team of scientists from CSD was awarded an R&D 100 award for the E.L.I.T.E.™ (Easy Livermore Inspection Test for Explosives) kit—a simple, robust and portable colorimetric test for explosives.