Topics of Inquiry

Although LDRD projects frequently invoke more than one scientific discipline, each project is assigned to one of sixteen general categories identified in the Laboratory's science and technology investment strategy.

These categories consist of nine mission-driven research and development challenges and seven core competencies (the scientific and technical skills, abilities, and knowledge the Laboratory must command to address the research challenges).

The nine research and development challenges are as follows:

  1. Chemical and biological countermeasures. Provide innovative systems and capabilities to rapidly detect and effectively respond to intentional use of pathogens and chemical agents, as well as natural outbreaks of pandemic diseases.
  2. Cybersecurity and cyberphysical resistance. Advance cyber and network science to support U.S. cyber superiority and ensure the resilience of the complex cyberphysical systems throughout the nation's critical infrastructure.
  3. Directed energy. Develop compact, robust, efficient high-average-power lasers with high optical quality for a broad range of national security applications.
  4. Energy and climate security. Apply innovative science and cross-cutting energy and climate-change-adaptation technologies to assure national energy and resource security.
  5. Forensic science. Advance the state of the art in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive sciences to support a broad set of national security needs.
  6. High-explosive physics, chemistry, and material science. Improve our understanding and prediction of high-explosive behavior to cost-effectively refurbish and enhance the safety of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and counter emerging high-explosive and nuclear threats.
  7. Nuclear threat reduction. Develop innovative technologies and systems to prevent, detect, counter, and respond to the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons or weapons-scale usable materials.
  8. Nuclear weapons science. Provide scientific and technological innovation to ensure the safety, security, reliability, and effectiveness of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.
  9. Space security. Develop new capabilities to meet national challenges in space situational awareness, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The seven core competencies are in the following areas:

  1. Advanced materials and manufacturing. LLNL strives to meet NNSA and broader national needs for the rapid, cost-effective development of advanced materials and manufacturing processes and systems.
  2. Bioscience and bioengineering. Researchers work at the interface of biology, engineering, and the physical sciences to address national challenges in biosecurity, chemical security, bioenergy, and human health.
  3. Earth and atmospheric science. Scientists and engineers provide expertise in earth and atmospheric science with high-performance computing to meet national security, energy security, and environmental security needs.
  4. High-energy-density science. LLNL provides international leadership in studying and controlling matter under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure.
  5. High-performance computing, simulation, and data science. Scientists and engineers support mission needs by advancing high-performance computing to understand and predict the behavior of complex systems, which includes providing leadership in the technically challenging drive toward exascale-class computing; developing and applying higher fidelity and increasingly realistic and reliable science and engineering simulations; and creating scalable capabilities to manage and recognize patterns in big data.
  6. Lasers and optical science and technology. This competency entails designing, building, and reliably operating complex laser systems that dramatically advance the state of the art to meet important national needs.
  7. Nuclear, chemical, and isotopic science and technology. To support stockpile stewardship and nuclear threat reduction, researchers develop innovative capabilities for nuclear measurements and rare-event detection, and they provide unique resources for chemical and isotopic analysis of samples for wide-ranging research activities.