LLNL Flow Charts

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)

OUR MISSION

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has a mission of strengthening the United States’ security through development and application of world-class science and technology to:

  • Enhance the nation’s defense;
  • Reduce the global threat from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction;
  • And respond with vision, quality, integrity and technical excellence to scientific issues of national importance.

Flow Charts

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) produced the first diagrams illustrating U.S. national commodity use in the mid-1970s.
The most widely recognized of these charts is the U.S. energy flow chart, however, LLNL has also published charts depicting carbon (or carbon dioxide potential) flow and water flow at the national level as well as energy, carbon and water flows at the international, state, municipal and organizational
(eg. Air Force) level.
Flow charts, also referred to as Sankey Diagrams, are valuable as single‐page references that contain quantitative data about resource, commodity and byproduct flows in a graphical form that also conveys structural information about the system that manages those flows.
These flow charts help scientists, analysts, and other decision makers to visualize the complex interrelationships involved in managing our nation’s resources.

Decision makers have long recognized the importance of visualizing energy and material flows in a way that distinguishes between resources, transformations and services. Research priorities can be defined in terms of changes to the flows, and the consequences of policy or technology shifts can be traced both upstream and downstream.

The usefulness of this top-down view is limited by the level of detail that can be conveyed in a single image. We use two techniques to balance information content with readability. First we employe visualization techniques, such as those embodied in the energy Sankey diagram below, to display both qualitative (relative line weight) and quantitative (listed values) information in a reader-friendly package. The second method is to augment static images with dynamic, scalable digital content containing multiple layers (e.g. energy, carbon and economic data). This transitions the audience from that of a passive reader to an active user of the information. When used in conjunction these approaches enable relatively large, interconnected processes to be described and analyzed efficiently.

Consequently, reliable data is essential for these tools to produce meaningful insight. Moreover, as system complexity grows, so does the difficulty in execution and explanation of such balances. Our technical team has worked at a variety of scales ranging from the municipal to the national and others (region, state/province, agency, corporation, etc.) in between. Ultimately, these tools provide the best results when the client works closely with LLNL developers to describe the critical issues, appropriate granularity, and intended use. Our staff use these requirements to identify existing data, whenever possible, accelerating the analysis process. Where data is nonexistent or insufficient, LLNL staff can specify information that needs to be collected.

Developed by: LLNL Flow Charts
LLNL flow charts

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