Beyond research in areas of public safety, human health, natural resources, climate change, and renewable energy, federal labs perform “basic science” research that allows us to understand fundamentals of subatomic particles, matter, life, and the universe.
Basic science research may have no apparent application at first. However, many modern-day conveniences — televisions, computers, and mobile phones — all owe their existence to earlier victories in our understanding of physics and mathematics. The basic science research of today advances the technologies of tomorrow.
The World’s Highest Energy Laser
Operated by LLNL in Livermore, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) is larger than three football fields and focuses the power of 192 laser beams to achieve temperatures of 180 million degrees Fahrenheit. Experiments at the NIF examine questions spanning nuclear fusion to clean energy. Bridging science fact with fiction, the NIF even once served as a set for the film Star Trek Into Darkness.
Matter and the Universe
SLAC and the Berkeley Lab build and operate components for ATLAS, one of two detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). ATLAS investigations include the Higgs boson, extra dimensions, and evidence of dark matter.
Solar System Exploration
NASA JPL’s Cassini Spacecraft captivated the public from its launch in 1997 to its destruction in 2017, collecting new data and sending back astounding photos of Saturn and its moons. Cassini traveled more than 2 billion miles to reach Saturn, and its data gives humanity a new understanding of where water — and possibly life — might be found elsewhere in our own Solar System.
SLAC is a leader in studies of how matter behaves in extreme conditions, such as in planet cores or exploding stars — where matter can enter into exotic phases beyond the solid, liquid, gas, and plasma phases familiar to us on Earth. SLAC facilities allow scientists to study these phases and qualities under conditions never previously achieved.
NASA Ames is the lead facility for the Kepler space telescope. Kepler’s mission is to look for signs of Earth-sized planets associated with stars similar to our Sun. More than 1,200 planets are now known, thanks to Kepler.
Life Beyond Earth
NASA Ames hosts the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which explores the myriad possibilities for lifeforms in extreme environments on Earth and on other worlds. It builds on decades of NASA research on the origin, evolution, and possible distribution of life in the universe — informing future missions in the search for life on other planets.
Research Benefits by Topic Area:
Public Safety | Human Health | Agriculture, Water, and Natural Resources | Climate Change | Energy Efficiency and Renewables | Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship | Cybersecurity | STEM Education | Inspiration for All
Alongside academic powerhouses such as the University of California campuses, Stanford, and Caltech, Californians can take pride in our unrivaled collection of federal laboratories and research centers. CCST helps facilitate links across the capabilities and talents of these labs and centers through its Federal Laboratory Affiliates program — convening their expertise to deliver impartial science advice in response to the Governor, the Legislature, and other state entities. Learn more about the federal labs and science centers benefiting California at www.ccst.us/federal.