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The Lead

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.

Preventing fires in next-generation lithium batteries

June 17, 2015 1:00 pm | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

In a study that could improve the safety of next-generation batteries, researchers discovered...

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...

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...

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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.

How metal contamination makes gasoline production inefficient

May 1, 2015 8:45 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists have identified key mechanisms of the aging process of catalyst particles that are used to refine crude oil into gasoline. This advance could lead to more efficient gasoline production. Their recent experiments studied so-called fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) particles that are used to break long-chain hydrocarbons in crude oil into smaller, more valuable hydrocarbons like gasoline.

Tracking ultra-fast creation of a catalyst

April 1, 2015 2:26 pm | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

An international team has, for the first time, precisely tracked the surprisingly rapid process by which light rearranges the outermost electrons of a metal compound and turns it into an active catalyst, a substance that promotes chemical reactions. The results could help in the effort to develop novel catalysts to efficiently produce fuel using sunlight.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

X-ray study reveals division of labor in cell health protein

January 29, 2015 11:24 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Researchers working in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered that a key protein for cell health, which has recently been linked to diabetes, cancer and other diseases, can multitask by having two identical protein parts divide labor. The TH enzyme, short for transhydrogenase, is a crucial protein for most forms of life. In humans and other higher organisms, it works within mitochondria.

Is the Higgs boson a piece of the matter-antimatter puzzle?

December 16, 2014 8:28 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Several experiments, including the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, have helped explain some, but not all, of the imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe. Now a SLAC theorist and his colleagues have laid out a possible method for determining if the Higgs boson is involved.

Rattled atoms mimic high-temperature superconductivity

December 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

An experiment at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provided the first fleeting glimpse of the atomic structure of a material as it entered a state resembling room-temperature superconductivity—a long-sought phenomenon in which materials might conduct electricity with 100% efficiency under everyday conditions.

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New tool tweaks rainbows of x-ray laser light

December 4, 2014 9:30 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

The SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has teamed up with Santa Monica-based RadiaBeam Systems to develop a device known as a dechirper, which will provide a new way of adjusting the range of energies within single pulses from SLAC’s x-ray laser. The dechirper will enable scientists to narrow or broaden the spectrum of each x-ray pulse—similar to the spectrum of colors in visible light—up to four-fold.

Robotics meet x-ray laser in cutting-edge biology studies

November 24, 2014 8:31 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are combining the speed and precision of robots with one of the brightest x-ray lasers on the planet for pioneering studies of proteins important to biology and drug discovery. The new system uses robotics and other automated components to precisely maneuver delicate samples for study with the x-ray laser pulses at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source.

X-ray laser brings key cell structures into focus

November 19, 2014 9:07 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Scientists have made high-resolution x-ray laser images of an intact cellular structure much faster and more efficiently than ever possible before. The results are an important step toward atomic-scale imaging of intact biological particles, including viruses and bacteria. The technique was demonstrated at the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Study explains atomic action in high-temperature superconductors

November 13, 2014 7:43 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A study at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests for the first time how scientists might deliberately engineer superconductors that work at higher temperatures. In their report, a team of researchers explains why a thin layer of iron selenide superconducts at much higher temperatures when placed atop another material, which is called STO for its main ingredients strontium, titanium and oxygen. 

Researchers take snapshots of potential “kill switch” for cancer

November 11, 2014 8:35 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

Milestone hit in accelerating particles with plasma

November 10, 2014 9:09 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Scientists from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Los Angeles have shown that a promising technique for accelerating electrons on waves of plasma is efficient enough to power a new generation of shorter, more economical accelerators. This could greatly expand their use in areas such as medicine, national security, industry and high-energy physics research.

Researchers hit milestone in accelerating plasma particles

November 6, 2014 3:04 pm | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Univ. of California, Los Angeles have shown that a promising technique for accelerating electrons on waves of plasma is efficient enough to power a new generation of shorter, more economical accelerators.

Puzzling new behavior found in high-temperature superconductors

October 21, 2014 9:11 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Research by an international team of scientists has uncovered a new, unpredicted behavior in a copper oxide material that becomes superconducting at relatively high temperatures. This new phenomenon presents a challenge to scientists seeking to understand its origin and connection with high-temperature superconductivity. Their ultimate goal is to design a superconducting material that works at room temperature.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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