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The Lead

LLNL, UC Davis partner to personalize cancer medications

October 17, 2014 8:27 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Buoyed by several dramatic advances, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists think they can tackle biological science in a way that couldn't be done before. Over the past two years, LLNL researchers have expedited accelerator mass spectrometer sample preparation and analysis time from days to minutes and moved a complex scientific process requiring accelerator physicists into routine laboratory usage.

Serendipitous holography reveals hidden cracks in shocked targets

October 15, 2014 8:35 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

In a recent article published in the Review of Scientific Instruments, a research...

Molecular structure of Hep C envelope protein unveiled

October 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), affects...

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“Bellhops” in cell walls can double as hormones

October 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | Videos | Comments

Researchers have discovered that some common messenger molecules in human cells double as hormones when bound to a protein that interacts with DNA. The finding could bring to light a class of previously unknown hormones and lead to new ways to target diseases—including cancers and a host of hormone-related disorders.

A closer look at the perfect fluid

October 3, 2014 9:30 am | by Kate Greene, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

By combining data from two high-energy accelerators, nuclear scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and colleagues have refined the measurement of a remarkable property of exotic matter known as quark-gluon plasma. The findings reveal new aspects of the ultra-hot, “perfect fluid” that give clues to the state of the young universe just microseconds after the big bang.

Fat molecules influence form, function of key photosynthesis protein

September 30, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A mysterious space within a protein critical to photosynthesis is filled with fat molecules that influence both the protein’s architecture and electrical properties, according to two recent studies. Researchers studied the atomic structure of, and electrical interactions within, the cytochrome bf complex, a protein complex central to the transport of electrons within membranes of a plant cell, a critical step in photosynthesis.

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New imaging capability reveals possible key to extending battery lifetime, capacity

September 29, 2014 8:37 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A novel x-ray technique used at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source has revealed surprising dynamics in the nanomechanics of operating batteries and suggests a way to mitigate battery failures by minimizing the generation of elastic energy. The method could open a path to wider use of these batteries in conjunction with renewable energy sources.

Multi-spectra “glasses” aid studies of light elements with SEMs

September 26, 2014 11:16 am | News | Comments

Scanning electron microscopes can determine chemical compositions with the help of energy dispersive spectrometers. However, lighter elements like carbon emit secondary fluorescence in an energy range insufficiently resolved by these instruments. Physicists have developed a potential solution to this problem by adding reflection zone plate optics to a specialized spectrometer that delivers high resolution from 50 to 1,120 eV.

Neutron vision: Going beyond x-rays for advanced imaging in the field

September 26, 2014 9:32 am | News | Comments

Seeking to expand the United States' capability to detect and identify materials that are not easily visualized, DARPA this week released an announcement inviting proposals to develop portable, next-generation imaging tools that combine the complementary benefits of x-rays, which efficiently detect heavier elements, and neutron radiography, which is not as portable as x-ray detectors but can identify liquids and lighter elements.

Research pinpoints role of “helper” atoms in oxygen release

September 25, 2014 8:59 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory solve a long-standing mystery in the role calcium atoms serve in a chemical reaction that releases oxygen into the air we breathe. The results offer new clues about atomic-scale processes that drive the life-sustaining cycle of photosynthesis and could help forge a foundation for producing cleaner energy sources by synthesizing nature's handiwork.

Researchers uncover structure of enzyme that makes plant cellulose

September 25, 2014 8:06 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have discovered the structure of the enzyme that makes cellulose, a finding that could lead to easier ways of breaking down plant materials to make biofuels and other products and materials. The research also provides the most detailed glimpse to date of the complicated process by which cellulose is produced.

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Tonsil stem cells could someday help repair liver damage without surgery

September 24, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

The liver provides critical functions, such as ridding the body of toxins, but its failure can be deadly, and there are few options for fixing it. A promising alternative in development is transplanting liver cells made using adult stem cells, but the only source identified until now has been bone marrow. Recently, scientists identified another, more convenient, source of adult stem cells that could be used for this purpose:tonsils.

Novel capability enables first test of real turbine engine conditions

September 17, 2014 7:46 am | by Tona Kunz, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Manufactures of turbine engines for airplanes, automobiles and electric generation plants could expedite the development of more durable, energy-efficient turbine blades thanks to a partnership between Argonne National Laboratory, the German Aerospace Center and the universities of Central Florida and Cleveland State. The ability to operate turbine blades at higher temperatures improves efficiency and reduces energy costs.

X-rays unlock a protein’s SWEET side

September 15, 2014 8:41 am | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Sugar is a vital source of energy. Understanding just how sugar makes its way into the cell could lead to the design of better drugs for diabetes patients and an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables farmers are able to grow. Stanford Univ. researchers have recently uncovered one of these "pathways” into the cell by piecing together proteins slightly wider than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.

Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

Excitonic dark states shed light on TMDC atomic layers

September 11, 2014 9:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers believes it has uncovered the secret behind the unusual optoelectronic properties of single atomic layers of transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) materials, the 2-D semiconductors that hold great promise for nanoelectronic and photonic applications.

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Plastics in motion: Exploring the world of polymers

September 11, 2014 8:21 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Plastics are made of polymers, which are a challenge for scientists to study. Their chain-like strands of thousands of atoms are tangled up in a spaghetti-like jumble, their motion can be measured at many time scales and they are essentially invisible to some common x-ray study techniques. A better understanding of polymers at the molecular scale could lead to improved manufacturing techniques and the creation of new materials.

Advanced Light Source sets microscopy record

September 11, 2014 8:11 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A record-setting x-ray microscopy experiment may have ushered in a new era for nanoscale imaging. Working at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), a collaboration of researchers used low energy or “soft” x-rays to image structures only 5 nm in size. This resolution, obtained at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, is the highest ever achieved with x-ray microscopy.

Parting water: “Electric prism” separates water’s nuclear spin states

September 8, 2014 1:43 pm | News | Comments

Using an "electric prism", or deflector, scientists have found a new way of separating water molecules that differ only in their nuclear spin states and, under normal conditions, do not part ways. Since water is such a fundamental molecule in the universe, the recent study may impact a multitude of research areas ranging from biology to astrophysics.

Seeing clearly through a liquid

September 8, 2014 8:33 am | News | Comments

Accurately examining materials in liquids using electron microscopy is a difficult task for scientists, as electron beams perturb the sample and induce artifacts. Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Davis have demonstrated that in in situ liquid experiments, the choice of electron beam energy has a strong effect that goes far beyond merely increasing the concentration of reducing radicals.

Scientists map protein in living bacterial cells

September 4, 2014 8:29 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have for the first time mapped the atomic structure of a protein within a living cell. The technique, which peered into cells with an x-ray laser, could allow scientists to explore some components of living cells as never before.

Electron microscopes take first measurements of nanoscale chemistry in action

September 4, 2014 8:15 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists’ underwater cameras got a boost this summer from the Electron Microscopy Center at Argonne National Laboratory. Along with colleagues at the Univ. of Manchester, researchers captured the world’s first real-time images and simultaneous chemical analysis of nanostructures while “underwater,” or in solution.

Experiments explain why some liquids are fragile and others are strong

August 27, 2014 4:37 pm | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Only recently has it become possible to accurately “see” the structure of a liquid. Using x-rays and a high-tech apparatus that holds liquids without a container, a professor at Washington Univ. in St. Louis was able to compare the behavior of glass-forming liquids as they approach the glass transition.

Measurement at Big Bang conditions confirms lithium problem

August 27, 2014 11:21 am | News | Comments

The field of astrophysics has a stubborn problem and it’s called lithium. The quantities of lithium predicted to have resulted from the Big Bang are not actually present in stars. But the calculations are correct, a fact which has now been confirmed for the first time in experiments conducted at the underground laboratory in the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy.

Researchers film protein quake for the first time

August 27, 2014 9:53 am | by Anne Hansen, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

One of nature’s mysteries is how plants survive impact by the huge amounts of energy contained in the sun’s rays, while using this energy for photosynthesis. The hypothesis is that the light-absorbing proteins in the plant’s blades quickly dissipate the energy throughout the entire protein molecule through so-called protein “quakes”. Researchers have now managed to successfully “film” this process.

Composition of Earth’s mantle revisited

August 27, 2014 8:31 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Research published last week in Science suggested that the makeup of the Earth's lower mantle, which makes up the largest part of the Earth by volume, is significantly different than previously thought. According to scientists, the work performed at Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source will have a significant impact on our understanding of the lower mantle.

New technique for measuring nanostructures

August 25, 2014 1:17 pm | by Robert Emmerich, Julius-Maximilians-Universität | News | Comments

A team of scientists from Germany, Canada, and the United States has now developed a promising new measurement method that works without destroying anything yet offers nanoscale resolution. The method, an enhancement of resonant x-ray reflectometry identifies the chemical elements involved and is able to determine both the magnetic order and the electron distribution.

Researchers map quantum vortices inside superfluid helium nanodroplets

August 22, 2014 7:41 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have, for the first time, characterized so-called quantum vortices that swirl within tiny droplets of liquid helium. The research, led by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Univ. of Southern California and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, confirms that helium nanodroplets are in fact the smallest possible superfluidic objects and opens new avenues for studying quantum rotation.

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