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.

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
February 4, 2020
Infrared light shining on a metamaterial whose geometric parameters were selected with machine learning. The designed metamaterials effectively absorb low energy light, providing a route to new devices that turn heat into electricity.
Machine Learning Accelerates Metamaterial Design
Modeling technique calculates material design in 23 hours instead of 2000 years
February 4, 2020
Atomic resolution image of a highly branched ruthenium nanoparticle, taken using an aberration-corrected transmission electron microscope (AC-TEM) at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT).
Improved Catalyst Branches Out and Out-Performs
Improved nanocatalyst used for hydrogen fuel production has record-high stability and activity.
January 30, 2020
Localizing the strain in an atomically-thin crystalline film regulated light emission. This approach patterned donut shapes in an array on a silicon dioxide support. A triangular crystal of tungsten disulfide grew over the donut shaped obstacles.
Stretched to the Limit and Sparkling on Curved Surfaces
Growing two-dimensional crystals on curved surfaces introduces strain to control the crystal’s light emission.
January 30, 2020
A famous metaphor for a qubit is Schrodinger’s hypothetical cat that can be both dead and alive. A flux qubit, a ring made of superconducting material, can have electric current flowing clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously with an external field.
Half-Quantum Step Toward Quantum Advantage
Physicists show unconventional pairing in a new type of superconductor that could be useful for quantum computing.
January 30, 2020
When tantalum arsenide (a new material developed by scientists) absorbs light, it generates electricity, similar to a solar cell. When researchers varied the polarization of infrared light, they discovered it created unusual effects in this material.
If You Want to Catch More Light, Twist It
New material is 10 times more efficient at converting light to electricity than other materials.
January 30, 2020
This research used the presence / absence of particular proteins in each viral genome as input for a gene sharing network analysis. This approach helps classify the vast unknown majority of viruses discovered in each new study of nature.
A Viral Gold Rush
Scientists develop a new tool to find viruses in complex genomic data sets.
January 30, 2020
A designed coiled-coil heterodimer, with halves colored green and purple. A DNA double-helix (gold), for which particular sequences have the same property of forming specific pairs, is superimposed to show scale.
Breaking Through Computational Barriers to Create Designer Proteins
Using advanced computing, scientists designed protein pairs that perfectly complement each other.
January 30, 2020
The illustrations show how the correlation between lattice distortion and proton binding energy in a material affects proton conduction in different environments.
Simulations Identify Importance of Atomic-Level Distortions in Certain Fuel Cell Materials
Researchers determine how to design better materials for energy storage.
December 20, 2019
At left, a tiny bead struck by a laser produces optical modes that circulate around the interior of the bead. At right, a simulation of how the optical field inside a 5-micron (5 millionths of a meter) bead is distributed.
Scientists Create Tiny Lasers from Nanoparticles and Plastic Beads
The right mix of crystals and light activate unique laser properties in 5-micron spheres of interest to computing and medical experts.
December 20, 2019
An x-ray image of sound waves.
Sound Waves Carry Information Between Quantum Systems
Towards connecting and manipulating quantum states of matter with sound waves.
December 20, 2019
Listeria bacteria transport electrons through their cell wall into the environment as tiny currents, assisted by ubiquitous flavin molecules (yellow dots).
Gut Bacteria Found to Have a Shocking Secret
Scientists discovered that a common diarrhea-causing bacterium produces electricity & that hundreds of other bacterial species use this same process.
December 20, 2019
Learning from plant biology, hydrogel materials containing chloroplasts extracted from spinach demonstrate a self-healing mechanism controlled by carbon dioxide fixing.
Growth and Repair from Carbon Dioxide in Air
A new class of material absorbs and fixes atmospheric carbon dioxide to help it grow, get denser, and repair itself using sunlight.
December 20, 2019
Soil samples were taken at this field site in Prosser, WA. All soil samples were collected in three field replicates within a 0-to 20-cm depth from the ground. For each of the three field blocks, researchers collected three homogeneous replicates.
Simplifying Microbial Consortia Opens a Path to Understanding Soil Community Ecology
Representative communities of reduced complexity provide new experimental context for investigating how soil microbial communities function.
December 20, 2019
A new microbial network inference method reliably predicts interactions that depend on neighboring organisms.
Predicting How Microbial Neighbors Influence Each Other
A new computational method reliably predicts interactions that depend on neighboring organisms in an environment.
December 20, 2019
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Kansas State University found that soil drying significantly affected the structure and function of soil microbial communities.
Droughts Spell Changes for Soil Microbes
Researchers found that soil drying altered metabolic pathways within soil microbial communities.
December 17, 2019
Snapshots in time of the simulation of turbulence in fusion plasma confined in an advanced field-reversed configuration (FRC).
Accelerating the Development of Nuclear Fusion
Developing computer models of the plasma in a unique device is helping a company take the next steps towards producing power.
December 17, 2019
Image of measurements of the intensity of the line radiation emitted by tungsten atoms eroding from the region of highest heat and plasma flux on the tokamak wall, known as the divertor.
Unraveling how Tungsten Armor Erodes in Tokamak Walls
New high-resolution measurements of tokamaks’ tungsten walls may provide insight into how to better protect the armor material.