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.

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.
December 17, 2019
Researchers used the new model to accurately identify clusters of gene mutations (spheres), which helped them study the emergence of various genetic diseases.
Summit Charts a Course to Uncover the Origins of Genetic Diseases
Researchers create the most complete model yet of complex protein machinery.
December 17, 2019
The interactions between electron spin and an external magnetic field allowed control how the material can dissipate energy – like controlling the drag on a car as it drives into head versus side winds.
A New Twist on Controlling Magnetic Properties
By rotating materials commonly used in computer storage devices, scientists found a new way to change their intrinsic properties.
December 17, 2019
Representative mass maps are shown both before (top) and after (bottom) cellular paroxysm for cytoskeletal (left) and membrane (right) disruption.
New Algorithms Shed Light on Molecules’ Structure and Motion in Cells
Algorithms supporting a “microscope in a computer” tool enable early screening of several major cancers.
December 6, 2019
Researchers discovered that iron-oxide nanocrystals (red) and metal-organic frameworks (green) self-assemble into an unusual configuration that resembles a Chinese pastry. The inset (upper right) mimics the transmission electron microscopy image.
Tiny Crystals Work Better When They Double Up With Designer Frameworks
Researchers develop design rules that guide the self-assembly of crystals and frameworks into thin sheets for energy storage and other uses.
December 6, 2019
Researchers demonstrated the first use of electron microscopy for non-destructive isotope tracking in an amino acid.
Getting a Closer Look Inside Biomolecules
Novel isotope tracking brings nanoscale chemistry into view.
December 6, 2019
A breakthrough technique for overcoming instrument-based crosstalk in nanoscale measurements eliminates artifacts that lead to errors in biomaterials.
Pushing the Precision of Nanoscale Mapping
Novel microscopy method cuts instrument crosstalk, boosts accuracy.
December 4, 2019
The axis of a toy top deviates in a circular path from its straight up and down alignment as the top spins around that axis. Knowing the rate of this deviation for spinning protons helps physicists keep the particles aligned in experiments.
Scientists ‘Tune In’ to Proton Spin
Diagnostic test will improve performance of collider as physicists explore sources of proton spin.
December 4, 2019
Fig. 1: Photograph of the upgraded Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO ) Detector taken from inside the cavern.
Probes of New Physics from Deep Underground
The SNO+ Experiment, over a mile underground, places new limits on grand unified theories and studies neutrinos from the Sun.
December 3, 2019
Forward image created by coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulation. It depicts a superlattice of nanoparticles (yellow) stabilized by ligands (blue). Background image of the superlattice taken by optical microscopy.
Super Nanoparticle Superlattices
Ligands allow fine tuning of nanoparticle superstructure properties.
December 3, 2019
Scanning electron microscopy image of a micro-mechanical X-ray mirror after removing mass on either side by focused ion beam (FIB) milling. Removing mass reduces its moment of inertia and increases its resonant frequency.
Ultrafast X-ray Optics
New optics technology can bring hard X-ray pulses down to a mere 300 picoseconds each.
December 3, 2019
Unassembled peptoids (artificial versions of small proteins) are generally found in the trans configuration, but after self-assembly into nanosheets, they switch to the cis configuration.
Shape-Shifters: Small Proteins Unexpectedly Shift Their Shape When Coming Together
Team of researchers discovered that peptoids can change shape when they form a nanosheet, which has potential to improve chemical sensors & much more.
November 25, 2019
The atomic structure of magnesium chloride changes shape after exposure to an electron beam. Using pulsed electron beams, researchers were able to image its structure at atomic scale resolution and picosecond time resolution without alteration.
Pulsed Electron Beams Provide a Softer Touch for Atomic-Scale Imaging
A new electron microscopy technique brings to light a plastic material’s atomic structure and has implications for renewable plastic.
November 25, 2019
3D-printed cone and sphere microstructures showcase customizable options for implantable electrodes used in neurotransmitter detection applications.
3D Printing Improves Tiny Electrodes for Medical Sensors
3D printing enables new shapes and sizes for biomedical devices.
November 25, 2019
(Top) Non-contact atomic force microscopy images can identify pollutant-causing atoms in aromatic hydrocarbon compounds found in crude oil. (Bottom) nc-AFM images of dibenzothiophene, carbazole, and acridine, with corresponding chemical structure.
Looking at Atoms in Molecules to Make Cleaner Fuels from Petroleum
New method quickly identifies atoms that are neither carbon nor hydrogen in small molecules and resolves their chemical structures in complex mixtures
November 18, 2019
The Tkachenko-Maslov model shows monomers cycling between “day” and “night” (top). Ultimately, the cycling process results in a complex system made from a small number of polymer fragments, with decreased information entropy (bottom).
Polymer Model Helps Explain the Origins of Life
The way the model reduces information in an increasingly complex system can be applied to make biopolymers and nanostructures.
November 18, 2019
The salt-extraction molecule is composed of six triazole “motifs” (computer-generated image). The motifs are five-membered rings composed of nitrogen, carbon and hydrogen. Together, these rings form a 3-D “cage” perfectly shaped to trap chloride.
How to Build a Better Salt Trap for Fresh Water
Molecular cage to trap chloride could help reduce rising level of salt contaminants flowing into freshwater streams & lakes across the United States.
November 18, 2019
This composite image shows an illustration of a carbon-rich red giant star (middle) warming an exoplanet (bottom left) and an overlay of a newly found chemical pathway that could enable complex carbons to form near these stars.
Revealing the Reactions Behind How Complex Carbon Molecules Form in Space
Understanding how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons form can help scientists better understand the origin and evolution of carbon in our galaxy.
November 5, 2019
Plasmonic artificial cells are formed by self-assembly of Au–Ag nanorods into hollow compartments.
Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells
By mimicking biological machinery with non-biological parts, artificial cells work to convert light into chemical energy.
October 29, 2019
This simulation shows two dense neutron stars colliding. They have formed a black hole and a whirlpool of magnetized gas is orbiting around it. Some matter emerges in energetic jets and winds that will make heavy elements and flashes of detectible light.
The Aftermath of Neutron Star Collisions
New computer simulations reveal the explosive scene after ultra-dense stars collide, as well as where heavy elements may have originally formed.
October 29, 2019
(Top) Schematic of a rechargeable battery with magnesium (Mg) anode. (Bottom) Close-up of the Mg anode/electrolyte interface, showing the solid electrolyte interphase and formation of Mg nanocrystals during battery operation.
Nanocrystals Help Magnesium Batteries Go On-the-Move
Magnesium metal anodes display improved cycling and temperature performance capabilities for rechargeable magnesium batteries.
October 29, 2019
Dataflow in the design-to-device study for a panchromatic photovoltaic cell.
Investigating Dyes for Solar Cells from Start to Finish
Finding the right dyes for a new type of solar cell can be challenging, but this study used supercomputers to speed up the process.
October 22, 2019
When nanomaterials are attached to the surface-layer proteins of Caulobacter crescentus, the bacterium is transformed into a platform for creating self-assembling biomaterials.
Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials
Researchers take cues from nature to form living materials with unprecedented control and versatility.
October 22, 2019
Artist's interpretation of “hypersurfaces” embedded in “noise space.” By combining experiments at different noise rates (spheres) and fitting hypersurfaces to the data (surfaces), Argonne scientists are able to recover “noise-free” quantum information.
Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise
New methods quiet noise and reduce error in measurements of elusive quantum properties.
October 22, 2019
A high-resolution microscopy image shows the atomic structure of a layered electronic material. The schematic shows electrons moving from the surface of the upper layer (lanthanum strontium manganese (Mn) oxide) to the interface with the substrate.
How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe
Layer-by-layer analysis uncovers microscopic mechanisms that affect thin film magnetism important to electronics.