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The Lead

Better memory with faster lasers

July 6, 2015 8:37 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

DVDs and Blu-ray disks contain phase-change materials that morph from one atomic state to another after being struck with pulses of laser light, with data "recorded" in those two atomic states. Using ultrafast laser pulses that speed up the data recording process, Caltech researchers adopted a novel technique to visualize directly in four dimensions the changing atomic configurations of the materials undergoing the phase changes.

Sandia's Z machine receives funding aimed at fusion energy

June 30, 2015 8:35 am | by DOE, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

A two-year, $3.8 million award has been received by Sandia National Laboratories and the...

Nanowires could be the LEDs of the future

June 24, 2015 1:30 pm | by Univ. of Copenhagen | News | Comments

The latest research from the Niels Bohr Institute shows that LEDs made from nanowires will use...

New lenses grown layer-by-layer increase x-ray power

June 24, 2015 12:00 pm | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

When you're working with the brightest x-ray light source in the world, it's crucial that you...

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Sweeping lasers snap together nanoscale geometric grids

June 23, 2015 7:39 am | by Justin Eure, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Down at the nanoscale, where objects span just billionths of a meter, the size and shape of a material can often have surprising and powerful electronic and optical effects. Building larger materials that retain subtle nanoscale features is an ongoing challenge that shapes countless emerging technologies. Now, scientists have developed a new technique to create nanostructured grids for functional materials with unprecedented versatility.

New “molecular movie” reveals ultrafast chemistry in motion

June 22, 2015 11:15 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists, for the first time, tracked ultrafast structural changes, captured in quadrillionths-of-a-second steps, as ring-shaped gas molecules burst open and unraveled. Ring-shaped molecules are abundant in biochemistry and also form the basis for many drug compounds. The study points the way to a wide range of real-time x-ray studies of gas-based chemical reactions that are vital to biological processes.

Seeing more deeply with laser light

June 22, 2015 8:47 am | by Susan Reiss, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

A human skull, on average, is about 0.3 in thick, or roughly the depth of the latest smartphone. Human skin, on the other hand, is about 0.1 in, or about three grains of salt, deep. While these dimensions are extremely thin, they still present major hurdles for any kind of imaging with laser light.

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Could we one day control the path of lightning?

June 22, 2015 8:14 am | by Stéphanie Thibault, INRS | News | Comments

Lightning darts across the sky in a flash. And even though we can use lightning rods to increase the probability of it striking at a specific location, its exact path remains unpredictable. At a smaller scale, discharges between two electrodes behave in the same manner, streaking through space to create electric arcs where only the start and end points are fixed. How then can we control the current so that it follows a predetermined path?

A new look at surface chemistry

June 18, 2015 8:24 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time in the long and vaunted history of scanning electron microscopy, the unique atomic structure at the surface of a material has been resolved. This landmark in scientific imaging was made possible by a new analytic technique developed by a multi-institutional team of researchers.

Scientists film shock waves in diamond

June 18, 2015 7:50 am | by Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY | News | Comments

Researchers have used ultra-short pulses of x-rays to film shock waves in diamonds. The study headed by DESY scientists opens up new possibilities for studying the properties of materials. Thanks to the extremely bright and short x-ray flashes, the researchers were able to follow the rapid, dynamic changes taking place in the shock wave with a high spatial, as well as a high temporal, resolution.

Unravelling the mysteries of carbonic acid

June 17, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Blink your eyes and it’s long gone. Carbonic acid exists for a tiny fraction of a second when carbon dioxide gas dissolves in water before changing into a mix of protons and bicarbonate anions. Despite its short life, carbonic acid imparts a lasting impact on Earth’s atmosphere and geology, as well as on the human body. However, because of its short lifespan, the detailed chemistry of carbonic acid has long been veiled in mystery.

New commercial method for producing medical isotope

June 16, 2015 8:05 am | by Greg Cunningham, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

The effort to secure a stable, domestic source of a critical medical isotope reached an important milestone this month as the U.S. Dept. of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory demonstrated the production, separation and purification of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) using a process developed in cooperation with SHINE Medical Technologies.

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A bright light for ultrafast snapshots of materials

June 11, 2015 4:46 pm | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If you want to understand how novel phases emerge in correlated materials you can obtain complete viewpoints by taking “snapshots” of underlying rapid electronic interactions. One way to do this is by delivering pulses of extremely short-wavelength UV light to a material and deriving information based on the energy and direction of travel of the emitted electrons.

Research reveals how computer chips could beat the heat

June 11, 2015 8:07 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

The heat that builds up in the shuttling of current in electronics is an important obstacle to packing more computing power into ever-smaller devices: Excess heat can cause them to fail or sap their efficiency. Now, x-ray studies have, for the first time, observed an exotic property that could warp the electronic structure of a material in a way that reduces heat buildup and improves performance in ever-smaller computer components.

Investigating buried interfaces in ferroelectric materials

June 11, 2015 7:54 am | by Rachel Berkowitz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The nanoscale device community has shown great interest in exploiting the unique properties of ferroelectric materials for encoding information. But the circuitry for reading information stored in the polarization of these materials has prohibited its adaptation to extremely small scales. Now, researchers have developed a new technique that provides key information for an alternative decoding method.

Scientists see ripples of particle-separating wave in primordial plasma

June 8, 2015 7:40 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists in the STAR collaboration at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a particle accelerator exploring nuclear physics and the building blocks of matter at Brookhaven National Laboratory, have new evidence for what’s called a “chiral magnetic wave” rippling through the soup of quark-gluon plasma created in RHIC’s energetic particle smashups.

Plasmoids could simplify the design of future tokamaks

June 2, 2015 8:31 am | by Raphael Rosen, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory have, for the first time, simulated the formation of structures called "plasmoids" during Coaxial Helicity Injection (CHI), a process that could simplify the design of fusion facilities known as tokamaks. The findings involve the formation of plasmoids in the hot, charged plasma gas that fuels fusion reactions.

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X-ray lens sharpens view into the nano world

June 1, 2015 8:04 am | by Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY | News | Comments

A team led by DESY scientists has designed, fabricated and successfully tested a novel x-ray lens that produces sharper and brighter images of the nano world. The lens employs an innovative concept to redirect x-rays over a wide range of angles, making a high convergence power. The larger the convergence the smaller the details a microscope can resolve, but as is well known it is difficult to bend x-rays by large enough angles.

Spiraling laser pulses could change graphene

May 28, 2015 11:46 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new study predicts that researchers could use spiraling pulses of laser light to change the nature of graphene, turning it from a metal into an insulator and giving it other peculiar properties that might be used to encode information. The results pave the way for experiments that create and control new states of matter with this specialized form of light, with potential applications in computing and other areas.

One step closer to mimicking gamma-ray bursts

May 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using ever-more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

Squeezed quantum cats

May 27, 2015 8:15 am | by Oliver Morsch, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Quantum physics is full of fascinating phenomena. For example, the cat from the famous thought experiment by the physicist Erwin Schrodinger. The cat can be dead and alive at once, since its life depends on the quantum mechanically determined state of a radioactively decaying atom which, in turn, releases toxic gas into the cat's cage. As long as one hasn't measured the state of the atom, one knows nothing about the cat's health either.

New technique speeds nanoMRI imaging

May 26, 2015 11:11 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

NanoMRI is a scanning technique that produces nondestructive, high-resolution 3-D images of nanoscale objects, and it promises to become a powerful tool for researchers and companies exploring the shape and function of biological materials such as viruses and cells in much the same way as clinical MRI today enables investigation of whole tissues in the human body.

Engineering phase changes in nanoparticle arrays

May 26, 2015 7:56 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have just taken a big step toward the goal of engineering dynamic nanomaterials whose structure and associated properties can be switched on demand. In a paper appearing in Nature Materials, they describe a way to selectively rearrange the nanoparticles in 3-D arrays to produce different configurations, or phases, from the same nanocomponents.

Watching a protein “quake”

May 22, 2015 8:06 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists, for the first time, have precisely measured a protein’s natural “knee-jerk” reaction to the breaking of a chemical bond—a quaking motion that propagated through the protein at the speed of sound. The result, from an x-ray laser experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, could provide clues to how more complex processes unfold as chemical bonds form and break.

Researchers build new fermion microscope

May 14, 2015 7:50 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Fermions are the building blocks of matter, interacting in a multitude of permutations to give rise to the elements of the periodic table. Without fermions, the physical world would not exist. Examples of fermions are electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks and atoms consisting of an odd number of these elementary particles. Because of their fermionic nature, electrons and nuclear matter are difficult to understand theoretically. 

Tuning x-rays with tiny mirrors

May 6, 2015 8:13 am | by Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

The secret of x-ray science, like so much else, is in the timing. Scientists at Argonne National Laboratory have created a new way of manipulating high-intensity x-rays, which will allow researchers to select extremely brief but precise x-ray bursts for their experiments.

The random Raman laser: A new light source for microcosmos

May 4, 2015 10:42 am | by The Optical Society | News | Comments

In modern microscope imaging techniques, lasers are used as light sources because they can deliver fast pulsed and extremely high-intensity radiation to a target, allowing for rapid image acquisition. However, traditional lasers come with a significant disadvantage in that they produce images with blurred speckle patterns: a visual artifact that arises because of a property of traditional lasers called "high spatial coherence."

Researchers toss around rugby-shaped hohlraums for ignition experiments

May 4, 2015 8:09 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

For several years, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has pursued an indirect drive approach to ignition, using cylindrically shaped gold cans known as hohlraums. In this configuration, all of NIF’s 192 laser beams enter the hohlraum through a pair of laser entrance holes and deposit their energy on the gold (or depleted uranium) interior surface.

“Freezing a bullet” to find clues to ribosome assembly process

May 4, 2015 8:00 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Ribosomes are vital to the function of all living cells. Using the genetic information from RNA, these ribosomes build proteins by linking amino acids together in a specific order. Scientists have known that these cellular machines are themselves made up of about 80 different proteins, called ribosomal proteins, along with several RNA molecules and that these components are added in a particular sequence to construct new ribosomes.

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