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The Lead

Physicists solve low-temperature magnetic mystery

March 27, 2015 8:19 am | by Chelsea Whyte, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have made an experimental breakthrough in explaining a rare property of an exotic magnetic material, potentially opening a path to a host of new technologies. From information storage to magnetic refrigeration, many of tomorrow's most promising innovations rely on sophisticated magnetic materials, and this discovery opens the door to harnessing the physics that governs those materials. 

Using magnetic fields to understand high-temperature superconductivity

March 27, 2015 7:44 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Taking our understanding of quantum matter to new levels, scientists at Los Alamos National...

Protein shake-up

March 26, 2015 10:47 am | by Chris Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For living organisms proteins are an essential part of their body system and are needed to...

Copper atoms bring a potential new battery material to life

March 26, 2015 8:03 am | by Laura Mgrdichian, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lithium-ion batteries are an important component of modern technology, powering phones, laptops...

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Best look yet at “warm dense matter” at cores of giant planets

March 25, 2015 8:30 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In an experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists precisely measured the temperature and structure of aluminum as it transitions into a superhot, highly compressed concoction known as “warm dense matter.” Warm dense matter is the stuff believed to be at the cores of giant gas planets in our solar system and some of the newly observed “exoplanets” that orbit distant suns.

New transitory form of silica observed

March 20, 2015 7:28 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

A Carnegie Institute-led team was able to discover five new forms of silica under extreme pressures at room temperature. Silica is one of the most-abundant natural compounds and a major component of the Earth's crust and mantle. It is well-known even to non-scientists in its quartz crystalline form, which is a major component of sand in many places. It is used in the manufacture of microchips, cement, glass and even some toothpaste.

Watching quantum dots “breathe” in response to stress

March 19, 2015 8:44 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory watched nanoscale semiconductor crystals expand and shrink in response to powerful pulses of laser light. This ultrafast “breathing” provides new insight about how such tiny structures change shape as they start to melt: information that can help guide researchers in tailoring their use for a range of applications.

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Improved understanding of protein complex offers insight into DNA replication

March 18, 2015 4:07 pm | by Angela Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A clearer understanding of the origin recognition complex (ORC), a protein complex that directs DNA replication, through its crystal structure offers new insight into fundamental mechanisms of DNA replication initiation. This will also provide insight into how ORC may be compromised in a subset of patients with Meier-Gorlin syndrome, a form of dwarfism in humans.

LLNL deploys world’s highest peak-power laser diode arrays

March 13, 2015 8:17 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has installed and commissioned the highest peak power laser diode arrays in the world, representing total peak power of 3.2 MW. The diode arrays are a key component of the High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS), which is currently under construction at LLNL.

Researchers manipulate gold-coated nanoparticles with lasers

March 12, 2015 11:56 am | by Ludwig Maximillian Univ. of Munich | News | Comments

Tiny glass nanospheres coated on one side with a very fine gold film: Ludwig Maximillian Univ. of Munich scientists have shown that particles modified in this way can be moved about with high precision using laser beams, creating an optically controlled micro-elevator.

New angle on x-ray measurements

March 12, 2015 11:08 am | by NIST | News | Comments

Criminal justice, cosmology and computer manufacturing may not look to have much in common, but these and many other disparate fields all depend on sensitive measurements of x-rays. Scientists at NIST have developed a new method to reduce uncertainty in x-ray wavelength measurement that could provide improvements awaited for decades.

Using x-ray vision to probe early stages of DNA “photocopying”

March 12, 2015 8:25 am | by Catherine Kolf, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Univ. have created a 3-D model of a complex protein machine, ORC, which helps prepare DNA to be duplicated. Like an image of a criminal suspect, the intricate model of ORC has helped build a "profile" of the activities of this crucial "protein of interest." But the new information has uncovered another mystery.

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Mid-IR frequency combs enable high-resolution spectroscopy for sensitive gas sensing

March 11, 2015 8:15 am | by Ghent Univ. | News | Comments

A frequency comb source is a light source with a spectrum containing thousands of laser lines. The development of these sources has been revolutionary for fundamental science. It has allowed the construction of a link between the optical part of the electromagnetic spectrum and the radio frequency part. As such, it has allowed researchers to determine optical frequencies with an unprecedented precision.

Determining structural evolution under pressure

March 6, 2015 10:46 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

The study of material properties under the conditions of extreme high pressures and strain rates is very important for understanding meteor, asteroid or comet impacts, as well as in hyper velocity impact engineering and inertial confinement fusion capsules. In a recent study, a team scientists report an important finding that can be used to determine the evolution of structures under high pressure and strain rates.

New research could lead to more efficient electrical energy storage

March 4, 2015 11:52 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have identified electrical charge-induced changes in the structure and bonding of graphitic carbon electrodes that may one day affect the way energy is stored. The research could lead to an improvement in the capacity and efficiency of electrical energy storage systems needed to meet the burgeoning demands of consumer, industrial and green technologies.

Experiment and theory unite in debate over microbial nanowires

March 4, 2015 11:12 am | by Janet Lathrop, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

Scientific debate has been hot lately about whether microbial nanowires, the specialized electrical pili of the mud-dwelling anaerobic bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens, truly possess metallic-like conductivity as its discoverers claim. But now a Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst team says they settled the dispute between theoretical and experimental scientists by devising a combination of new experiments and better theoretical modeling.

A new level of earthquake understanding

March 3, 2015 3:07 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

As everyone who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area knows, the Earth moves under our feet. But what about the stresses that cause earthquakes? How much is known about them? Until now, our understanding of these stresses has been based on macroscopic approximations.

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Giant virus revealed in 3-D using x-ray laser

March 3, 2015 8:31 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers have produced a 3-D image revealing part of the inner structure of an intact, infectious virus, using a unique x-ray laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The virus, called Mimivirus, is in a curious class of “giant viruses” discovered just over a decade ago.

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Researchers bend highly energetic electron beam with crystal

February 26, 2015 8:39 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

An international team of researchers working at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has demonstrated that a bent silicon crystal can bend the paths of focused, very energetic electron beams much more than magnets used today. The method could be of interest for particle accelerator applications such as next-generation x-ray lasers that will help scientists unravel atomic structures and motions in unprecedented detail.

X-ray microscope for nanoscale imaging

February 26, 2015 8:29 am | by Chelsea Whyte, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Delivering the capability to image nanostructures and chemical reactions down to nanometer resolution requires a new class of x-ray microscope that can perform precision microscopy experiments using ultra-bright x-rays from the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Semiconductor works better when hitched to graphene

February 20, 2015 8:41 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Graphene shows great promise for future electronics, advanced solar cells, protective coatings and other uses, and combining it with other materials could extend its range even further. Experiments at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory looked at the properties of materials that combine graphene with a common type of semiconducting polymer.

Paving the way for painkillers with fewer side effects

February 18, 2015 8:40 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought alternatives to morphine that curb its side effects, including dependency, nausea and dizziness. Now, an experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has supplied the most complete atomic-scale map of such a compound docked with a cellular receptor that regulates the body’s pain response and tolerance.

First glimpse of a chemical bond being born

February 13, 2015 1:49 pm | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have used an x-ray laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to get the first glimpse of the transition state where two atoms begin to form a weak bond on the way to becoming a molecule. This fundamental advance, long thought impossible, will have a profound impact on the understanding of how chemical reactions take place.

Bacterial armor holds clues for self-assembling nanostructures

February 13, 2015 8:35 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex 2- and 3-D structures.

Shedding light on structure of key cellular “gatekeeper”

February 13, 2015 8:22 am | by Jon Nalick, Caltech | News | Comments

Facing a challenge akin to solving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while blindfolded, and without touching the pieces, many structural biochemists thought it would be impossible to determine the atomic structure of a massive cellular machine called the nuclear pore complex, which is vital for cell survival. But after 10 years of attacking the problem, a team recently solved almost a third of the puzzle.

Non-damaging x-ray technique unveils protein complex that uses sunlight to split water

February 6, 2015 10:32 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

A more accurate view of the structure of the oxygen-evolving complex that splits water during photosynthesis is now in hand thanks to a study involving researchers from the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, Okayama Univ. and the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The new model of natural photosynthesis provides a blueprint for synthesizing water-splitting catalysts that mimic this natural process.

Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

February 6, 2015 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes. But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail.

Record keeping helps bacteria’s immune system fight invaders

February 4, 2015 10:01 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments undertaken at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

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