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 12, 2018
How to Best Predict Chemical Reactions of Contaminants in Water
The availability of fresh water is a global issue that’s driving interest in ways to turn wastewater into clean water. Purifying wastewater
December 12, 2018
How to Get Nuanced Details at the Top of the World
Researchers designed a novel strategy that exploits measurements obtained four ways: 1) electrical resistivity tomography to monitor soil
December 12, 2018
Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature
In the atmosphere, droplets of liquid water are frequently found at temperatures below the freezing point of water (0 degrees Celsius) down to
December 12, 2018
Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California’s Rainfall
The dramatic Arctic sea-ice loss observed over the satellite era has intensified debate into whether these high-latitude changes are affecting
December 11, 2018
During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing
Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Davis, Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department
December 6, 2018
The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing
Magnetic reconnection occurs when oppositely directed magnetic fields are forced together in plasmas, which are excellent electrical conductors. A
December 6, 2018
Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device
Just like when pushing a playground swing, energy is only transferred from the electron beam to the whistler wave when the “pushing”
December 6, 2018
Subtlety and the Selective Art of Separating Lanthanides
Fundamental understanding of selective recognition and separation of lanthanide ions by chelating agents is of crucial importance for advancing
November 28, 2018
Quickly Capture Tiny Particles Reacting
Easily tuned nanometer-sized crystals that absorb and react with light with extreme sensitivity would aid both petrochemical and solar energy
November 28, 2018
Newly Discovered Bacteria Breaks Down Biomass
Using detailed information about the molecular biology of switchgrass and corn stover—both widely used to create biofuels—scientists
November 26, 2018
Review Examines the Science and Needs of Nitrogen-Based Transformations
Since 1913, ammonia has been produced via the Haber-Bosch process. The process transforms nitrogen gas into ammonia, which is packed into
November 26, 2018
New Technology Consistently Identifies Proteins from a Dozen Cells
Scientists at EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, developed the nanoPOTS platform to minimize sample losses and expand the
November 26, 2018
Optimal Foraging: How Soil Microbes Adapt to Nutrient Constraints
A team of scientists set out to determine whether the theory of optimal foraging, which suggests any ecological community will adjust its
November 21, 2018
How a Bacterium Uses Multiple Enzymes to Degrade Plant Biomass
Lignocellulosic biomass represents nearly 90 percent of the dry weight of total plant biomass material and is composed of cellulose and lignin.
November 21, 2018
More Designer Peptides, More Possibilities
Scientists from the University of Washington, Stanford University, and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) created a computational
November 9, 2018
Microbes Eat the Same in Labs and the Desert
Scientists can determine the structure and metabolic potential of microbial communities by established metagenomic approaches. However, linking
November 9, 2018
Diverse Biofeedstocks Have High Ethanol Yields and Offer Biorefineries Flexibility
Refineries to convert biomass into fuels often rely on just one feedstock. If the refineries could accept more than one feedstock, it would greatly
November 7, 2018
Opening Access to Explore the Synthetic Chemistry of Neptunium
Neptunium metal is extremely scarce, limiting its use as an entry route into molecular chemical studies. In contrast, aqueous acidic stock
November 7, 2018
Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells
Green leafy plants readily convert sunlight into energy-dense fuels. Conventional solar cells don’t. Why not? A key reaction, splitting water
November 7, 2018
Turning Wood Scraps into Tape
Scientists developed a new and robust process that converts components of lignocellulosic biomass into high-performance high-value PSAs that have
November 7, 2018
Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons
When forming bonds with oxygen or participating in reactions involving oxygen atom transfer, the early actinide elements, protactinium through
November 7, 2018
Probing Water’s “No-Man’s Land” Temperature Region
While scientists have studied water for a long time, there’s still much that they don’t know. A particularly interesting aspect is
November 6, 2018
Novel Soil Bacteria with Unusual Genes Synthesize Unique Antibiotic Precursors
As part of a study on carbon cycling in soils, researchers deeply sequenced 60 soil metagenomes across a single grassland meadow at the Angelo
October 31, 2018
Warmer Temperatures Lengthen Growing Season, Increase Plants’ Vulnerability to Frost
The SPRUCE experiment is applying warming (0 to +9 degrees Celsius above ambient) and carbon dioxide (ambient and elevated) treatments to
October 29, 2018
How Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil
This study builds on the team’s previous research, which established clear links between a protein complex that senses sugar levels in plant