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 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.
April 15, 2019
The team’s data came from Jefferson Lab's Experimental Hall B, featuring the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility Large Acceptance Spectrometer.
Fast-Moving Pairs May Solve 35-Year-Old Mystery
A re-analysis of data suggests that proton-neutron pairs in a nucleus may explain why their quarks have lower average momenta than predicted.
April 15, 2019
For batteries to generate electricity, charged atoms, called ions (pink and green), travel between a negative node (anode) and a positive node (cathode) with the help of a liquid electrolyte solution.
Team Takes Fluoride from Taps and Toothpaste to Batteries
With user facilities, researchers devise novel battery chemistries to help make fluoride batteries a reality.
April 12, 2019
Quarks Under Pressure in the Proton
Quarks Under Pressure in the Proton
Inside every proton in every atom in the universe is a pressure cooker environment that surpasses the atom-crushing heart of a neutron star. That
April 12, 2019
View of the ultracold neutron trap, comprising 5,139 permanent magnets arranged in an asymmetric bowl-shaped array, during magnetic field mapping with a robotic arm.
Magnetic Levitation of Ultracold Neutrons Yields New Measurement of the Neutron Lifetime
Storing extremely slow neutrons in a novel trap enables precise measurement of a basic property of particle physics.
April 9, 2019
Researchers created a precise model of the atoms (shown as spheres) and the proteins (colored areas) in a protein complex that’s key to using sunlight and carbon dioxide efficiently to make sugar, starches, and oil in blue-green algae.
New Molecular Blueprint Aids Study of Photosynthesis
Insights into how nature converts carbon dioxide into sugar could help scientists develop crops that produce fuels and other products.
April 9, 2019
Scientists use three ultrafast pulses of extreme ultraviolet light and near infrared light to control the evolution of excited nitrogen molecules (blue) to reveal information about normally inaccessible states.
Catching Fast Changes in Excited Molecules
Scientists observe and control molecular and atomic dynamics at the fastest timescales to date.
April 8, 2019
Researchers created a 3D atomic map that offers a highly detailed view of how rust (shown here) forms.
Atomic Maps Reveal How Iron Rusts
Scientists discovered how iron atoms continually re-arrange on surfaces, offering insights into metal corrosion and soil remediation.
April 8, 2019
Three-dimensional maps of a single magnetite crystal show morphology (top) and cross-sectional views (bottom) of the internal strain fields, both before (left) and after (right) oxidative dissolution of the crystal in an acidic aqueous solution.
Strain and Defects Grow in Tiny Magnetite Crystals When Oxidized
Detailed 3D images show how nanoparticles change in reactions that purify contaminated water or power recyclable geochemical batteries.
April 8, 2019
Researchers compared the structures of four centers in photosynthesis electron transfer: the Heliobacterial reaction center (HbRC; green), the purple bacterial reaction center (PbRC, red), and Photosystem I (PSI, blue) and Photosystem II (PSII, yellow).
A New View on a Very Old Problem: Evolution of the Photochemical Reaction Centers
Researchers offer insights into how a key piece of photosynthetic machinery changed over 3 billion years.
March 21, 2019
The nitrogenase enzyme couples the energy-releasing formation of hydrogen (H2) (reductive elimination) to the energy-requiring cleavage of the triple bond in nitrogen (N2) (oxidative addition) (bottom, center).
How Does Mother Nature Tackle the Tough Triple Bond Found in Nitrogen?
Researchers demystify how the nitrogenase enzyme breaks bonds to learn a better way to make ammonia.
March 21, 2019
Scientists determined that the structure of the Heliobacterium photosystem is more symmetrical than more recently evolved photosystems. They used advanced X-ray crystallography to determine fine details of the proteins in the photosystem.
A Detailed View of the Ancestor of Photosynthesis
The symmetrical light-gathering, energy-producing complex offers insights into how modern photosystems evolved.