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.

May 7, 2020
The circles represent different groups of RNA viruses. The analysis is based on the sequence of RNA-dependent RNA polymerase transcripts found in California annual grassland soil. Known viruses are in pink and newly discovered viruses are in purple.
Soil Viruses: A Rich Reservoir of Diversity
Soils contain a large diversity of unknown RNA viruses that infect fungi and possibly plants and animals.
April 22, 2020
The known analogues of biphenylene are associated with carbon-rich compounds. The new metallabiphenylenes are based on uranium and thorium and appear to be the first of their kind.
Uranium, Thorium Debut in Dual Aromatic-Antiaromatic Molecule
Researchers create novel metallabiphenylene analogues, advancing a key concept in organic chemistry.
April 14, 2020
Researchers developed and tested a new top-launch configuration for injecting microwaves into the plasma in the DIII-D tokamak.
Moving on Up, to the Top for Fusion Power
New approach doubles the current driven by microwave heating at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility.
March 27, 2020
Depiction of a 2D-array of hexagonal prism silicate nanocages trapping individual atoms of argon, krypton, and xenon.
Nanocages Trap and Separate Elusive Noble Gases
Material traps noble gases at above-freezing temperatures, a difficult and important industrial challenge.
March 27, 2020
The radial wind created in the plasma stretches the magnet field out radially forming a current sheet and spiraling magnetic field. 3-axis Hall probe measurements are shown as an axisymmetric 3D field-line rendering.
Parker Spiral Created in the Laboratory for the First Time Ever
Scientists created the Parker spiral – the spiral magnetic field structure of the Sun due to its rotation – in the lab.
March 26, 2020
The actinide elements protactinium (Pa) through einsteinium (Es) were studied (actinides are the bottom row below the main body of the periodic table).Bottom figure shows the computed bond distance between the actinide element (An) & bishydroxide oxygen
A Chemical Extreme in the Periodic Table is Revealed
Collaboration between experiment and theory expands fundamental understanding of the chemistry of exotic radioactive heavy elements.
March 24, 2020
The process of recovering PDK monomers from mixed-color polymers. A mixture of red, blue, yellow, and black PDK plastic was depolymerized (left) and then separated to yield a solid mixture of PDK monomers and pigments/additives (right).
New Polymers that Close the Loop in Plastics Recycling
A next-generation plastic can be recycled again and again into new materials of any color, shape, or form.
March 24, 2020
A schematic of the upconverting nanoparticle (UCNP) coating on top of Ag nanopillar arrays.
Upconverting Nanolasers from Subwavelength Plasmons: Stability and Ultralow Powers
Researchers have engineered an all-solid state nanolaser system that can operate continuously at room temperature.
March 23, 2020
Graphic depicting a photoconductive metasurface. Each unit cell supports resonance of light on two axes of symmetry (labeled Hx and Hz) to enable perfect light absorption. The inset image shows a scanning electron micrograph of a terahertz detector.
New Metasurface Helps Make the Switch to Terahertz Frequencies
A new photoconductive metasurface paves the way for smaller, more efficient terahertz detectors.
March 23, 2020
Compared to conventional manual grid measurement (left), the autonomous measurement method (right) produces a more accurate reconstruction of the sample’s shape (top row) by intelligently positioning measurements near features of interest (bottom row).
Artificial Intelligence Joins the Team for Smarter & Faster Experiments
Researchers have developed new artificial intelligence methods to enable “autonomous experimentation.”
March 20, 2020
At center, a 3D electron tomogram image of a hollow gold-silver alloy nanowrapper showing the pores at each corner. The background is a scanning electron microscope image of a large number of nanowrappers assembled into a superlattice.
Engineered Nanowrappers Carry and Release Tiny Cargo
New one-step method creates hollow nanostructures that can carry and deliver nanoscale cargos for medicine and other applications.
March 20, 2020
Density functional theory (DFT) creates models of stable molecules (left, right). It needs self-interaction correction (SIC) for stretching and breaking chemical bonds (center), but SIC reduces accuracy on stable molecules. LSIC works for all situations.
Resolving the Self-Interaction Correction Paradox in Molecular Modeling
Local scaling self-interaction correction (LSIC) overcomes long-standing problems for accurate simulation of chemical reactions from start to finish.
March 20, 2020
Exposure of tin to sulfur produces a layered, fast-growing tin sulfide core (brown) surrounded by a thin tin disulfide shell (green). An electron microscope that can detect light transmitting particles (photons) revealed intense light from the edges.
Wrapped, Layered Semiconductors Catch the Light
A novel single-step process spontaneously organizes layered light-harvesting structures.
March 19, 2020
Shining different kinds of light on silica micro particles in a liquid crystal causes molecules around the particles to bend in different ways, providing a new way to assemble and manipulate atom-like systems called ‘big atoms.’
Lighting the Way from Repulsion to Attraction
Optical control allows physicists to simulate and understand interactions between atoms.
March 19, 2020
When electricity in a light emitting diode (LED) flows in a direction opposite to normal, it cools nearby materials. For this nanoscale approach to work, the material has to be extremely close to the LED—less than a single wavelength of infrared light.
Cooling Electronics of the Future
Research demonstrates a new approach to refrigeration using light transport at the nanoscale.
March 19, 2020
The top side of this thermoelectric generator radiates heat toward the night sky, creating a difference in temperature with the rest of the device that can be used to generate enough power for small lights or other applications.
Generating Light from Darkness
New device promises power generation in total darkness.
March 18, 2020
Simulations predict that when magnetic bubbles form at the edge of the plasma and allow some of the hot plasma to escape, they suppress intense bursts of heat and particles. The image shows the magnetic field structure near the plasma surface.
Magnetic Ripples Calm the Surface of Fusion Plasmas
3D magnetic fields can help control the plasma edge to prevent damaging bursts of heat and particles from fusion plasma.
March 18, 2020
By shooting pellets of frozen hydrogen into fusion plasma in a tokamak, scientists at the DIII-D National Fusion Facility have been able to control instabilities in the magnetic field that holds plasma together.
Island Retreat: Pellets Help Remove Magnetic Island Instabilities
Injecting pellets into fusion plasma helps repair tears in fusion reactors’ magnetic fields, improving prospects for fusion energy.
March 18, 2020
The MAGIC approach synthesizes DNA sequences for CRISPR-based gene activation (in orange), silencing (in blue), and elimination (in pink), then uses those sequences on yeasts to identify the genes required in different growth conditions.
A MAGIC Approach to Understanding the Genetic Basis of Complex Biological Functions
Comprehensive genome-wide search enables discovery of multi-gene determinants of traits in yeast.
February 5, 2020
Plasma edge temperature profile showing staircase formation and higher core temperature during bursting mode activity (blue) compared to the quiescent case where the staircase does not form (red).
Climbing the Staircase to Fusion
Forming a staircase in the edge of the plasmas can boost the performance of a fusion reactor.
February 5, 2020
UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab researchers created a new crystal built of a spiraling stack of atomically thin germanium sulfide sheets.
Crystal with a Twist: Researchers Grow Spiraling New Material
Researchers create spiraling inorganic crystals that could hold unique properties.
February 5, 2020
Researchers demonstrate novel multiprobe microscopy techniques to measure electron spin transport and evaluate the conductive potential of quantum materials.
Channeling Electrons for Ultrafast Spin Conductivity
Assessing the spin properties of electrons in advanced materials.
February 4, 2020
A false-color scanning electron micrograph of the array used to create deterministic single photon sources in epitaxial tungsten diselenide. The inset shows the Hanbury-Brown Twiss interferometry measurement proving quantum emission.
No Strain, No Gain! Breakthrough in 2D Material that Produces Single Photons
Single-photon emission breakthrough opens a new path toward all-optical quantum computers and other quantum technologies.
February 4, 2020
Twisting two graphene sheets at a magic angle forms a moiré pattern (similar to overlapping chicken wire). Superconductivity, the flow of electricity with no loss of energy as heat, emerges in this lattice for a range of electron concentrations.
When Electrons Follow New Interaction Rules, Superconductivity Ensues
Experiments reveal how electron interactions play a role in a new type of superconductor made up of just two sheets of twisted graphene.
February 4, 2020
Controlling magnetic moments of electrons is critical for many commercial applications. The orange points represent magnetic ions in a “quantum spin liquid.” The ions’ magnetic orientations (arrows) compete with each other instead of aligning as expected.
Discovering the Elusive Quantum Spin Liquid State
Scientists discovered evidence of a long-sought quantum spin liquid state that can be controlled with magnetic fields