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Site-Directed Research and Development (SDRD)

Electron back scatter microscopy images
Electron back scatter microscopy images of damage in copper explosive experiment

Started in 2002 by Congressional authorization, the Site-Directed Research and Development (SDRD) Program is an essential element of the NNSS technical enterprise. The SDRD program is our premier science and technology venue and primary source for discovery and innovation for NNSS national security missions. Similar to the laboratory-directed research and development (LDRD) programs at the NNSA National Laboratories and production plants, SDRD enhances the technical vitality of the NNSS by addressing the following core areas:

  • developing and demonstrating innovative ideas and technologies to advance new solutions to national and global security needs;
  • enhancing core competencies required for current and emerging technical missions; and
  • retaining and recruiting individuals with critical skills.

Proposals are solicited every year and about two dozen projects are funded annually and are tied to principal thrust areas described below. An annual report is released every April for the previous year’s projects.

Materials Studies and Techniques
Dynamic material studies include understanding the nature of materials in extreme, transient conditions. This includes the physics of shocked metals, generating new ideas for diagnosing phase, understanding dynamic temperature, and the physics associated with high stress and strain rates, to name a few. Areas of research include developing new diagnostics for equation-of-state measurements, meeting the diagnostic needs of gun facilities, and expanding the use and/or knowledge of pyrometry, X-ray diffraction, and other techniques. ​​

Instruments, Detectors, and Sensors
The development of instruments, detectors, and sensors has always been a prominent part of SDRD. This topic area explores a wide range of applications, including, but not limited to, advanced radiation sensors, dual neutron-gamma detectors, handheld detectors, and investigation of unique materials, such as uranium oxides, for solid-state neutron detectors. Another major area of exploration is designing electronic components and instruments for improved collection of velocimetry and other data. The multiplexed photonic Doppler velocimetry (MPDV) system, which received a 2012 R&D 100 Award, began as an SDRD project in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.

Electron back scatter microscopy images
A covariance map of an energy spectrum. The direction to a radiation source can be derived from the information contained in the crosstalk bands

Computational and Information Sciences
The vast amount of data now available in X-ray and radiographic imaging applications and in velocimetry measurements is driving a new effort to facilitate quantitative analysis of these data sets. Researchers in this area have focused on developing more credible methods to determine uncertainties in deconvolution, Abel inversion and X-ray spot reconstruction of radiographic image data, as one example. New methods are being developed to analyze and interpret large data sets generated by PDV and MPDV. Two other important areas under this R&D topic are development of Supervisory Control and Data Aquisition (SCADA) security devices and secure communications. 

The NNSS perpetuates a legacy of deep experience and technical excellence at the cutting edge of high-speed optical diagnostics, stretching from Harold “Doc” Edgerton’s earliest photography through contemporary high-bandwidth velocimetry techniques. Photonics projects focus on topics ranging from leveraging more developed methodologies into novel diagnostic technologies to expanding applications of ultrafast detection.

For example, one FY 2013 project combined ultrafast laser physics, state-of-the-art 3-D cameras, and an innovative hyperspectral lens to attempt high-frame number imaging with variable recording times pushing into the terahertz (THz) regime

For more information please contact: 
Public Affairs at (702) 295-3521 or email

Electron back scatter microscopy images
Alcove for a Single-Stage Gun