Science Highlights

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Each year, scientists with the Office of Science, at our national laboratories, and supported by the Office of Science at the nation’s colleges and universities, publish thousands of research findings in the scientific literature. About 200 of these are selected annually by their respective program areas in the Office of Science as publication highlights of special note.

For the archive of past publication highlights, click here.

June 14, 2019
An event display shows particle tracks from a lead-on-lead collision in the ALICE detector
Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions
Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.
June 14, 2019
Visualization shows circular plasmids (mobile genetic elements) from two ground water samples taken in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (sample F, blue; sample G; green). Using a newly devised method, researchers discovered more than 600 plasmids.
Microbes Retain Toxicity Tolerance After They Escape Toxic Elements
Ground water microbes living outside a contaminated area contain mobile genetic elements that provide them resistance to heavy metals.
June 14, 2019
Simulations of different geometric states of fluid (red) in rock (tan). Using the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researchers validated a geometric model for characterizing fluid flow in porous rock and geologic material from theory.
New Geometric Model Improves Predictions of Fluid Flow in Rock
Supercomputer validates mathematical approach for describing geological features.
June 14, 2019
Cross sections of pressure profiles in two different tokamak plasma configurations (the center of the tokamak doughnut is to the left of these). The discharges have high pressure in the core (yellow) that decreases to low pressure (blue) at the edge.
Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas
Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.
June 14, 2019
A boron-filled diamond shell (left). The process (right, a): (1) shell pellet hitting the boundary of the plasma, (2) continuing through the surface, and (3) ablating and releasing boron dust. (b) Expanded view, highlighting shell and dust.
A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions
Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.
June 13, 2019
Topologically directed design of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for separating mixtures. By using linker molecules with different aspect ratios (thanks to structures bptc and abtc), scientists obtained two robust MOFs with different structures.
Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels
Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.
June 13, 2019
Applying a film of superconducting niobium-tin to the inside of an accelerating cavity increases its quality factor—a measure of its efficiency—at a temperature of about -452F (4 Kelvin) by a factor of 10 compared to prior performance.
Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration
Researchers demonstrated record accelerating cavity performance using a technique that could lead to significant cost savings.
June 12, 2019
Temperature distribution in wire-wrapped pin bundle shows hot spots near the wire-wrap contact with the solid pin.
High-Fidelity Multiphysics Simulations to Improve Nuclear Reactor Safety and Economics
Engineers can model heat distribution in reactor designs with fewer or no approximations.
June 11, 2019
The image illustrates this process and shows how two neutrons (shown as blue spheres in the background) beta decay into a neutron and a proton (shown as a red sphere) under the emission of an electron and a neutrino (small green and blue sphere).
Solving a Beta Decay Puzzle
Researchers use advanced nuclear models to explain 50-year mystery surrounding the process stars use to transform elements.
June 7, 2019
Fermilab scientists and engineers have developed a successful prototype particle beam chopper, a critical part of a lab project, PIP-II, to upgrade the injector chain. Engineers will eventually install the device in the front end of the PIP-II accelerator
Parceling Particle Beams
Beam chopper cuts accelerator-generated ion beams under highly demanding conditions.
June 7, 2019
A new method improves the circulating beams in the Recycler Ring (which is located underground, beneath the long, skinny ponds shown here). The ring is a major component of Fermilab’s accelerator chain.
An Interaction of Slipping Beams
Successful models of the fraught dynamics of two particle beams in close contact lead to smoother sailing in an area of particle acceleration.
June 6, 2019
In the North-Central Atlantic Ocean near the center of the simulation snapshot, a hurricane is visible as a dot of gray and from the cold water (green) it stirred up in the otherwise warm (red) Central Atlantic Ocean.
Watching the Rain in Climate Models
Scientists use supercomputers to determine how reliably a popular Earth system model represents precipitation regionally and globally.
June 6, 2019
To determine key behaviors in a self-healing material—a composite of cement and a polymer—for underground wells, researchers built a simulation that explained molecular-level interactions.
Simulations Shed Light on Self-Healing Cement
A first-of-its-kind computer simulation reveals self-healing cement for geothermal and oil and gas wells performs better than originally thought.
June 5, 2019
The number density of electrons and positrons in a 3D relativistic plasma turbulence simulation. The energy cascade causes structures to form over a broad range of scales, spanning from microphysical scales (on the particle gyration scale) to the box size
Computer Simulation Shows Astrophysical Particle Acceleration
Particles act in a way that justifies extrapolating simulation results to astrophysical scales.
May 30, 2019
A boron-containing phase (borophene) (dark blue) is shown on a copper substrate. The inset (top right) illustrates a diffraction pattern (of the area marked by the white square inside the borophene domain) that confirms it’s a new phase.
Raised on Copper: A New Material for Tougher Devices
Discovery of new boron-containing phase opens the door for resilient flexible electronics.
May 30, 2019
This image shows a rendering (gray and pink) of the molecular structure of a peptoid polymer that was studied by a team led by Berkeley Lab and University of California, Berkeley.
Bringing Plastic’s Building Blocks into Atomic-Scale Focus
Researchers capture detailed images of polymers, using electron-based imaging and computer simulations.
May 30, 2019
Optical images of sodium deposited from an electrolyte as electrical current of 1 mA/cm2 (seeded with blue particles for visualizing the associated flow of electrolyte).
Weighty Polymers Impact Battery Stability and Safety
Materials prevent battery failure by inhibiting tree-like growths.
May 30, 2019
Radiochemical technicians David Denton and Karen Murphy use hot cell manipulators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the production of actinium-227.
Improving Isotope Supply for a Cancer-Fighting Drug
Production of actinium-227 ramps up for use in a drug to fight prostate cancer that has spread to bone.
May 30, 2019
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory researchers suggest taking advantage of the random spikes inherent in X-ray free electron laser pulses to study the pulses’ interactions with matter. The method is called pump-probe ghost imaging.
Ghostly Images Could Ease Tracking of Fleeting Reactions
New method could enable studying the fastest interactions of ultrabright X-rays with matter, a vital way of learning about chemical reactions.
May 30, 2019
Titan supercomputer tells origin story of nanoparticle size distributions with large-scale simulations.
Laser Focus Shines Light on How Nanoparticles Form
Titan supercomputer tells origin story of nanoparticle size distributions with large-scale simulations.
May 30, 2019
Color changes in this experimental snapshot track velocities of magnetic rollers comprising an emergent vortex. The fastest particles are located toward the center. Velocity scale is in centimeter/second. Scale bar is 2 μm.
Tiny Vortices Could One Day Haul Microscopic Cargo
The behavior of active magnetic liquids suggests new pathways to transport particles across surfaces and build materials that self-heal.
May 30, 2019
Charge radii of calcium isotopes. Scientists obtained new data from a laser spectroscopy technique. The graphs shows the data (red squares) compared with theoretical values. As shown, calcium-39 is consistent with previous measurements.
Why Are These Extremely Light Calcium Isotopes So Small?
The radii of three proton-rich calcium isotopes are smaller than previously predicted because models didn’t account for two nuclear interactions.
May 22, 2019
Two-dimensional images of a neutrino interaction in MicroBooNE shown at different stages of signal processing reveal cleaner and cleaner signals.
Extracting Signs of the Elusive Neutrino
Scientists use software to "develop" images that trace neutrinos' interactions in a bath of cold liquid argon.
April 22, 2019
Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Accelerate Efforts to Develop Clean, Virtually Limitless Fusion Energy
Nuclear fusion power delivered by magnetic confinement tokamak reactors carries the promise of sustainable and clean energy for the future.
April 19, 2019
Slow Charge Generation Plays Big Role in Model Material for Solar Cells
To design molecular solar cells, sensors, etc., researchers need to know how light creates electricity on an atomic scale. This isn’t easy