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The Lead

Opening a new route to photonics

June 29, 2015 8:35 am | News | Comments

A new route to ultrahigh density, ultracompact integrated photonic circuitry has been discovered by researchers. The Berkeley Lab team has developed a technique for effectively controlling pulses of light in closely packed nanoscale waveguides, an essential requirement for high-performance optical communications and chip-scale quantum computing.

Developing a better way to screen chemicals for cancer-causing effects

June 26, 2015 7:29 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The vast majority of the thousands of chemicals in our homes and workplaces have not been tested...

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...

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...

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Leaving on a biofueled jet plane

June 16, 2015 7:55 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The problem is simple to understand. Molecules of carbon and other greenhouse gases absorb heat. The more greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, the warmer the atmosphere becomes, exacerbating global climate change. Solving the problem is not so simple, especially with regards to aviation.

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.

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.

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Using robots to assemble promising antimicrobial compounds

June 2, 2015 8:14 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s an urgent demand for new antimicrobial compounds that are effective against constantly emerging drug-resistant bacteria. Two robotic chemical-synthesizing machines, named Symphony X and Overture, have joined the search. Their specialty is creating custom nanoscale structures that mimic nature’s proven designs. They’re also fast, able to assemble dozens of compounds at a time.

New technique to understand cloud behavior

May 28, 2015 7:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

With two off-the-shelf digital cameras situated about 1 km apart facing Miami’s Biscayne Bay, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists are collecting 3-D data on cloud behavior that have never been possible to collect before. The photos allow the team to measure how fast the clouds rise, which in turn can shed light on a wide range of areas, ranging from lightning rates to extreme precipitation to the ozone hole.

Defects can “Hulk-up” materials

May 21, 2015 8:09 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the story of the Marvel Universe superhero known as the Hulk, exposure to gamma radiation transforms scientist Bruce Banner into a far more powerful version of himself. In a study at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, exposure to alpha-particle radiation has been shown to transform certain thermoelectric materials into far more powerful versions of themselves.

CLAIRE brings electron microscopy to soft materials

May 14, 2015 12:37 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Soft matter encompasses a broad swath of materials, including liquids, polymers, gels, foam and biomolecules. At the heart of soft materials, governing their overall properties and capabilities, are the interactions of nano-sized components. Observing the dynamics behind these interactions is critical to understanding key biological processes.

Using microbial communities to assess environmental contamination

May 13, 2015 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

First there were canaries in coal mines, now there are microbes at nuclear waste sites, oil spills and other contaminated environments. A multi-institutional team of more than 30 scientists has found that statistical analysis of DNA from natural microbial communities can be used to accurately identify environmental contaminants and serve as quantitative geochemical biosensors.

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A hot start to the origin of life?

May 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA’s molecular precursors. These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix.

Channeling valleytronics in graphene

May 5, 2015 8:05 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

To the list of potential applications of graphene we can now add valleytronics, the coding of data in the wave-like motion of electrons as they speed through a conductor. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers have discovered topologically protected 1-D electron conducting channels at the domain walls of bilayer graphene. These conducting channels are “valley polarized".

Artificial photosynthesis could help make fuels, plastics and medicine

April 29, 2015 11:13 am | by ACS | News | Comments

The global industrial sector accounts for more than half of the total energy used every year. Now scientists are inventing a new artificial photosynthetic system that could one day reduce industry’s dependence on fossil fuel-derived energy by powering part of the sector with solar energy and bacteria.

The compact photon source, which is being developed by Berkeley Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Idaho National Laboratory, is tunable, allowing users to produce MeV photons within very specific narrow ranges of energy, an improvement that

National security on the move with high energy physics

April 23, 2015 11:43 am | by Theresa Duque, Berkley Lab | News | Comments

Scientists are developing a portable technology that will safely and quickly detect nuclear material hidden within large objects such as shipping cargo containers or sealed waste drums. The researchers have been awarded over $10 million from the NNSA to combine the capabilities of conventional building-size research instruments with the transportable size of a truck for security applications on the go.

Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win-win for the environment

April 16, 2015 12:43 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even liquid fuels.

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Electrolyte genome could be battery game-changer

April 16, 2015 8:27 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new breakthrough battery, one that has significantly higher energy, lasts longer and is cheaper and safer, will likely be impossible without a new material discovery. And a new material discovery could take years, if not decades, since trial and error has been the best available approach.

New “cool roof time machine” will accelerate cool roof deployment

April 15, 2015 8:36 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Cool roofs can help keep buildings cool, thus lowering the building’s energy use, while also mitigating the urban heat island effect by reflecting sunlight away from buildings and cities. But as cool roofs age and get soiled, how much of their reflectance do they lose?

Why skin is resistant to tearing

April 14, 2015 8:21 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Skin is remarkably resistant to tearing and a team of researchers from the Univ. of California, San Diego and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory now have shown why. Using powerful x-ray beams and electron microscopy, researchers made the first direct observations of the micro-scale mechanisms that allow skin to resist tearing.

On the road to spin-orbitronics

April 14, 2015 7:55 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Few among us may know what magnetic domains are, but we make use of them daily when we email files, post images or download music or video to our personal devices. Now a team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found a new way of manipulating the walls that define these magnetic domains and the results could one day revolutionize the electronics industry.

For ultra-cold neutrino experiment, a successful demonstration

April 9, 2015 8:01 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

An international team of nuclear physicists announced the first scientific results from the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE) experiment. CUORE is designed to confirm the existence of the Majorana neutrino, which scientists believe could hold the key to why there is an abundance of matter over antimatter. Or put another way: why we exist in this universe.

Possible new RNA engineering tool

April 8, 2015 7:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A great deal of public attention in the past couple of years has been showered on complexes of bacterial proteins known as “CRISPR-Cas” for their potential use as a tool for editing DNA. Now, researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are reporting that CRISPR-Cas complexes could also serve as an engineering tool for RNA, the molecule that translates DNA’s genetic instructions into the production of proteins.

Accelerating materials discovery with world’s largest database of elastic properties

April 7, 2015 7:53 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published the world’s largest set of data on the complete elastic properties of inorganic compounds, increasing by an order of magnitude the number of compounds for which such data exists.

How tropical forests respond to climate change

April 1, 2015 2:17 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Tropical forests play major roles in regulating Earth’s climate, but there are large uncertainties over how they’ll respond over the next 100 years as the planet’s climate warms. An expansive new project led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aims to bring the future of tropical forests and the climate system into much clearer focus.

Skin tough

April 1, 2015 7:31 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When weighing the pluses and minuses of your skin add this to the plus column: Your skin, like that of all vertebrates, is remarkably resistant to tearing. Now, a collaboration of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, San Diego, has shown why.

Electric vehicles may be more useful than previously thought

March 31, 2015 7:54 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

In the first study of its kind, scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory quantitatively show that electric vehicles (EVs) will meet the daily travel needs of drivers longer than commonly assumed. Many drivers and much prior literature on the retirement of EV batteries have assumed that EV batteries will be retired after the battery has lost 20% of its energy storage or power delivery capability.

Turn the light on

March 25, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In the on-going search for a better understanding of how the brain and central nervous system develop, a potentially powerful new tool could soon be available. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered a light-sensitive opsin protein that plays a surprising and possibly critical role in neuron maturation and circuit formation.

In climatic tug of war, carbon released from thawing permafrost wins handily

March 18, 2015 3:55 pm | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

There’s a carbon showdown brewing in the Arctic as Earth’s climate changes. On one side, thawing permafrost could release enormous amounts of long-frozen carbon into the atmosphere. On the opposing side, as high-latitude regions warm, plants will grow more quickly, which means they’ll take in more carbon from the atmosphere. Whichever side wins will have a big impact on the carbon cycle and the planet’s climate.

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