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.

June 24, 2019
The mechanism of multinucleon transfer using theoretical calculations. Scientists created heavy nuclei by allowing nature to select the neutron richness of the heavy nucleus. The picture shows uranium and thorium nuclei in contact with each other.
A Search for New Superheavy Isotopes
Following in the footsteps of supernovas, a new approach offers a more natural way to make new extremely heavy elements.
June 24, 2019
Forests and microbes are symbiotically connected globally.
Trees Consider the Climate When Choosing Their Partners
Forest trees establish symbiotic relationships with microbes depending on how the climate determines the rate of soil organic matter decomposition.
June 24, 2019
Example simulation of dark matter in the universe used as input to the CosmoFlow network.
Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space
Supercomputer use offers insights into how to best describe the nature of our universe.
June 19, 2019
Hybrids expand and contract. Light micrographs (top) show the expansion and contraction of a crystal-gel hybrid. In the top, i-vi correspond to the red circles (time points) in the bottom. The separation between the ruler’s major ticks is 100 micrometers.
Highly Elastic and Self-Healing Protein Crystals
Infusion of a specialized gel throughout a protein structure produces highly expandable crystals that could find use in energy conversion & filtration
June 19, 2019
Scientists demonstrate the polymer healing process and recovery of extreme stretchability.
Super-stretchy, Self-healing, Tunable Polymers
Discovery of novel polymers with extreme stretching, vibration suppression, and self-healing.
June 19, 2019
Schematic illustration of the selenium (Se) impregnation process (top images), photograph of the resulting Se-impregnated carbon cathode material (bottom left), and scanning electron microscope analysis cross-section showing uniform distribution of Se.
Novel Electrodes Enhance Battery Capacity
New self-supporting composite metal material doubles the volumetric energy and achieves fast charging rates in batteries.
June 14, 2019
An event display shows particle tracks from a lead-on-lead collision in the ALICE detector
Explaining Light-Nuclei Production in Heavy-Ion Nuclear Collisions
Pairs of sub-atomic particles may catalyze reactions that happened moments after the Big Bang.
June 14, 2019
Visualization shows circular plasmids (mobile genetic elements) from two ground water samples taken in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (sample F, blue; sample G; green). Using a newly devised method, researchers discovered more than 600 plasmids.
Microbes Retain Toxicity Tolerance After They Escape Toxic Elements
Ground water microbes living outside a contaminated area contain mobile genetic elements that provide them resistance to heavy metals.
June 14, 2019
Simulations of different geometric states of fluid (red) in rock (tan). Using the Titan supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, researchers validated a geometric model for characterizing fluid flow in porous rock and geologic material from theory.
New Geometric Model Improves Predictions of Fluid Flow in Rock
Supercomputer validates mathematical approach for describing geological features.
June 14, 2019
Cross sections of pressure profiles in two different tokamak plasma configurations (the center of the tokamak doughnut is to the left of these). The discharges have high pressure in the core (yellow) that decreases to low pressure (blue) at the edge.
Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas
Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.
June 14, 2019
A boron-filled diamond shell (left). The process (right, a): (1) shell pellet hitting the boundary of the plasma, (2) continuing through the surface, and (3) ablating and releasing boron dust. (b) Expanded view, highlighting shell and dust.
A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions
Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.
June 13, 2019
Topologically directed design of metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for separating mixtures. By using linker molecules with different aspect ratios (thanks to structures bptc and abtc), scientists obtained two robust MOFs with different structures.
Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels
Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.
June 13, 2019
Applying a film of superconducting niobium-tin to the inside of an accelerating cavity increases its quality factor—a measure of its efficiency—at a temperature of about -452F (4 Kelvin) by a factor of 10 compared to prior performance.
Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration
Researchers demonstrated record accelerating cavity performance using a technique that could lead to significant cost savings.
June 12, 2019
Temperature distribution in wire-wrapped pin bundle shows hot spots near the wire-wrap contact with the solid pin.
High-Fidelity Multiphysics Simulations to Improve Nuclear Reactor Safety and Economics
Engineers can model heat distribution in reactor designs with fewer or no approximations.
June 11, 2019
A team identified RE3Bi7 (RE = neodymium or samarium), which has a framework of bismuth–bismuth bonds (purple). The fragment of the differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) heating curve (red) shows an anomaly that may have inhibited discovery.
Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements
Scientists discover an unexpected source of new materials, with potential for energy applications.
June 11, 2019
Shifting the magnetic field relative to the textured surface (left) reconfigures the fluid surface (graded orange indicates relative height; darkest areas are macroscale features).
Flowing for Function
A flowing magnetically responsive liquid seamlessly regulates the shape and properties of solids, letting them perform an array of jobs.
June 11, 2019
The image illustrates this process and shows how two neutrons (shown as blue spheres in the background) beta decay into a neutron and a proton (shown as a red sphere) under the emission of an electron and a neutrino (small green and blue sphere).
Solving a Beta Decay Puzzle
Researchers use advanced nuclear models to explain 50-year mystery surrounding the process stars use to transform elements.
June 7, 2019
Fermilab scientists and engineers have developed a successful prototype particle beam chopper, a critical part of a lab project, PIP-II, to upgrade the injector chain. Engineers will eventually install the device in the front end of the PIP-II accelerator
Parceling Particle Beams
Beam chopper cuts accelerator-generated ion beams under highly demanding conditions.
June 7, 2019
A new method improves the circulating beams in the Recycler Ring (which is located underground, beneath the long, skinny ponds shown here). The ring is a major component of Fermilab’s accelerator chain.
An Interaction of Slipping Beams
Successful models of the fraught dynamics of two particle beams in close contact lead to smoother sailing in an area of particle acceleration.
June 6, 2019
In the North-Central Atlantic Ocean near the center of the simulation snapshot, a hurricane is visible as a dot of gray and from the cold water (green) it stirred up in the otherwise warm (red) Central Atlantic Ocean.
Watching the Rain in Climate Models
Scientists use supercomputers to determine how reliably a popular Earth system model represents precipitation regionally and globally.
June 6, 2019
To determine key behaviors in a self-healing material—a composite of cement and a polymer—for underground wells, researchers built a simulation that explained molecular-level interactions.
Simulations Shed Light on Self-Healing Cement
A first-of-its-kind computer simulation reveals self-healing cement for geothermal and oil and gas wells performs better than originally thought.
June 5, 2019
The number density of electrons and positrons in a 3D relativistic plasma turbulence simulation. The energy cascade causes structures to form over a broad range of scales, spanning from microphysical scales (on the particle gyration scale) to the box size
Computer Simulation Shows Astrophysical Particle Acceleration
Particles act in a way that justifies extrapolating simulation results to astrophysical scales.
June 1, 2019
This side view of the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) shows the endcap electromagnetic calorimeter.
STAR Gains Access to “Wimpy” Quarks and Gluons
Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons’ behavior in all visible matter.
May 30, 2019
A boron-containing phase (borophene) (dark blue) is shown on a copper substrate. The inset (top right) illustrates a diffraction pattern (of the area marked by the white square inside the borophene domain) that confirms it’s a new phase.
Raised on Copper: A New Material for Tougher Devices
Discovery of new boron-containing phase opens the door for resilient flexible electronics.
May 30, 2019
This image shows a rendering (gray and pink) of the molecular structure of a peptoid polymer that was studied by a team led by Berkeley Lab and University of California, Berkeley.
Bringing Plastic’s Building Blocks into Atomic-Scale Focus
Researchers capture detailed images of polymers, using electron-based imaging and computer simulations.