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 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.
June 1, 2019
This side view of the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) shows the endcap electromagnetic calorimeter.
STAR Gains Access to “Wimpy” Quarks and Gluons
Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons’ behavior in all visible matter.
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
Neutron diffuse scattering of relaxor ferroelectrics helped scientists see that the well-known “butterfly” diffuse scattering isn’t symmetrical; the scattering intensity doesn’t correlate with the material’s ability to return to its equilibrium state.
New Insights into a Long-Standing Debate About Materials that Turn Motion into Electricity
Detailed view of atoms opens doors for new designs to convert atomic displacements to electrical energy.
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
Scientists discovered supersonic phasons that could remove harmful heat in electronics and send signals faster. Phasons were observed in a mineral containing titanium (gray) and silicate (orange) polyhedrons. (Oxygen is red, barium is blue.)
Beyond the “Sound Barrier” to Get the Heat Out
Neutron scattering reveals supersonic particles that carry heat and may improve electronics and sensors.
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 30, 2019
An artistic rendition of the synergistic catalyst showing core-shell active sites (blue) in platinum-cobalt nanoparticles (spheres) on a platinum group metal-free catalytic support.
Improved Fuel Cell Catalysts with Less Platinum
A new catalyst design meets cost, activity, and durability goals by leveraging ultralow loadings of platinum with platinum-free supports.
May 30, 2019
Single pulses of laser light can switch tantalum disulfide from one state to another and back again. This image illustrates how the material switches between its alpha and beta states. Switches like this could lead to new forms of data storage.
Bursts of Light Shape Walls Between Waves of Charge
New method provides ultrafast switching of electronic structure and illuminates fundamentals of charge ordering.
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
Princeton’s Fusion Recurrent Neural Network code uses convolutional & recurrent neural network components to integrate spatial & temporal information for predicting disruptions in tokamak (central structure) plasmas with unprecedented accuracy and speed.
Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning Accelerate Efforts to Develop Clean, Virtually Limitless Fusion Energy
The Fusion Recurrent Neural Network reliably forecasts disruptive and destructive events in tokamaks.
April 19, 2019
Visible-pump / X-ray probe photoelectron spectroscopy monitors exciton migration and charge generation in a molecular heterojunction between a copper-phthalocyanine (CuPc) donor and a fullerene-based (C60) acceptor.
Slow Charge Generation Plays Big Role in Model Material for Solar Cells
Insight about energy flow in copper-based material could aid in creating efficient molecular electronics.
April 19, 2019
The cartoon represents the functions of the catalyst components and chemical drawings of the key reaction steps in oxidizing water (H2O) into oxygen (O2), electrons (e-), and protons (H ).
Splitting Water Fast! Catalyst Works Faster than Mother Nature
Design principles lead to a catalyst that splits water in a low pH environment, vital for generating solar fuels.
April 18, 2019
Top: A short burst of light interacts w/ a compartment containing a catalyst (blue). Bottom: A short time later, a similar bust of light interacts w/ a second container containing the reactant (red), remotely catalyzing product molecules to form (yellow).
Driving Chemical Reactions by Remote Control
Theorists show how a new quantum device could control a chemical reaction remotely, changing our understanding of how reactions can work.
April 18, 2019
In the regimes where classical theory breaks down for measuring heat flux in plasma, a team determined electron distribution functions — consistent with nonlocal thermal transport — use the measured collective Thomson-scattering spectrum.
Capturing Energy Flow in a Plasma by Measuring Scattered Light
First measurements of heat flux in plasmas experientially sheds light on models relying on classical thermal transport.
April 18, 2019
The spin flipper magnet assembly resides inside a tunnel that houses the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Spin Flipper Upends Protons
The spin direction of protons was reversed, for the first time, using a nine-magnet device, potentially helping tease out details about protons.
April 18, 2019
The latest data from the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider reveal that the quark spin contribution (green puzzle piece)—specifically the contribution from a “sea” of antiquarks—is more complex than previously thought.
Sea Quark Spin Surprise!
Since the 1980s, scientists have known that quark and antiquark spins within a proton account for, at best, a quarter of the overall proton spin.
April 17, 2019
The Weak Side of the Proton
The Weak Side of the Proton
A precision measurement of the proton’s weak charge narrows the search for new physics.