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.

January 19, 2021
X-ray pulses focused on a liquid jet excite electrons. When the electrons lose energy, a flux of X-rays is released. The original pulse plus the new flux of photons then recirculate, further amplifying the X-rays that can be directed to experiments.
A Sharp New Eye to View Atoms and Molecules
A newly designed X-ray oscillator may enable atomic level precision with intense X-ray pulses.
January 19, 2021
The completed Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE) detector. Researchers assembled the detector in a clean room with low-radioactivity air, then installed the detector in a refrigerator that cooled it to almost absolute zero.
CUORE Experiment Advances Search for a Rare Nuclear Decay
Nuclear physicists narrow the search for a rare nuclear decay that can explain the origin of matter in the universe.
January 15, 2021
At left, microscopy image of a sediment sample containing methanotrophic archaea (pink) and sulfate-reducing bacteria (green). At right, mass spectrometry image showing levels of nitrogen incorporation by the different types of microorganism.
Symbionts of Methane Eating Microbes Fix Nitrogen
Microbial populations trade places to satisfy their nitrogen nutritional needs.
January 15, 2021
Background: microscopy image of a zinc oxide nanoparticle. Foreground: time-lapsed images as particles merge while moving through a liquid. The lines represent electric fields. Bottom: image of the path particles take before merging.
Dynamic Duos: How Particles Attach
A new quantitative understanding of how, at what distance, and in what shape zinc oxide nanoparticles come together while separated by liquid.
December 23, 2020
A machine learning model incorporates information from a physics simulation to better model and optimize the X-ray pulse energy from a free-electron laser. The model better captures the system response than previous models.
Machine Learning Trims Tuning Time for Electron Beam by 65 Percent
Scientists use a machine learning algorithm to reduce tuning time of a dozen instruments at once.
December 23, 2020
A tiny terahertz laser is the first to reach three key performance goals at once: high power, tight beam, and broad frequency tuning.
Tiny Tunable Terahertz Lasers Ready to Fly in Space
A novel terahertz laser achieves the performance goals critical for new applications in sensing and imaging.
December 23, 2020
An X-ray image taken with a novel X-ray wavefront imager results in high precision measurements of intensity and direction of the X-ray beam.
New X-Ray Camera Achieves New Heights of Precision and Accuracy for Better Experiments
An X-ray image taken with a novel X-ray wavefront imager results in high precision measurements of intensity and direction of the X-ray beam.
December 23, 2020
A collision recorded by the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. The white points show “hits” from particles emerging from the collision. Scientists use the hits to reconstruct charged particle tracks (red and green lines) and measure particles’ abundance.
Charm Quarks Offer Clues to Confinement
Tracking particles containing charm quarks offers insight into how quarks combine.
December 23, 2020
Isotopes of mendelevium took unique two-looped paths that were dependent on their mass through a device called For the Identification of Nuclide A (FIONA). Scientists measure the mass of the new isotope by seeing where the isotope landed on a detector.
Isotope Discovery Continues: Mass Identification Confirms Production of a New Isotope of Mendelevium
Scientists discovered the lightest isotope of mendelevium thanks to the direct measurement of its mass number.
December 23, 2020
An artist’s impression of the collision of two neutron stars. This collision causes gravitational waves, a gamma-ray burst, and a massive explosion. Scientists believe the explosions are the universe’s main source of heavier elements such as gold.
How Large Are Neutron Stars?
Data from the first observation of a neutron-star collision combined with input from modern nuclear theory narrow the range of neutron star radii.
December 15, 2020
Center-of-mass velocity flux contour map for the reaction of molecular beans to prepare two types of carbene.
New Study Evaluates Role of Carbenes on the Formation of Soot
Research uses directed gas phase preparation of two carbenes, triplet pentadiynylidene and singlet ethynylcyclopropenylidene.
December 10, 2020
A conceptual drawing of ARM instruments and high-resolution model simulations at the Southern Great Plains Site.
Bridging the Model-Data Divide for Elusive Clouds
To help researchers examine important cloud processes, a DOE user facility activity combines high-resolution simulations with real-world observations.
December 4, 2020
An ultrafast X-ray pulse (magenta) excites a burst of activity (green) at the oxygen site (red) of a nitric oxide molecule. The green arrows represent the excitation and motion of electrons within the molecule.
A Swift Kick to Initiate Electronic Motion in Molecules
Observation of impulsive stimulated X-ray Raman scattering with attosecond soft X-ray pulses.
December 4, 2020
Two techniques—co-localized electron back scattered diffraction imaging (left) and ultrafast optical microscopy (center and right)—help determine how local structural defects affect fast electron movement within a single microscopic crystal.
Defects Slow the Electron’s Dance
Advanced techniques reveal how defects in nanoscale crystals affect how solar photovoltaics perform.
December 4, 2020
The advance by the Dias research group at the University of Rochester (right) was featured on the cover of Nature (left).
The Room-Temperature Superconductor Arrives at Last
A new room-temperature superconductor could spark a revolution.
November 30, 2020
A terahertz laser pulse (purple) interacts with an electron beam (red) inside a special copper structure to “chirp” the electrons’ energies, causing the tail of the beam to catch up with the head as it drifts toward the target material (blue dots).
Laser-Driven “Chirp” Powers High-Resolution Materials Imaging
Harnessing the intensity of a terahertz laser pulse brings the resolution of electron scattering closer to the scale of electron and proton motion.
November 30, 2020
A new particle accelerator component demonstrates the feasibility of building and operating powerful particle accelerators for industry and medicine at a fraction of the cost of research accelerators.
New Prototype Advances Particle Accelerators for Industry and Medicine
Development of new particle accelerator components can make this niche research technology practical for industrial and medical applications.
November 30, 2020
Layers of zinc and oxygen atoms (in yellow and blue) are deposited onto the surfaces of nanowires of molybdenum disulfide (in purple). These atoms grow into arrays of semiconductor crystals at sites of defects on the surfaces.
Decorating Semiconductors at the Atomic Scale
Crystals grown from layers of atoms arrange themselves on semiconductor surfaces to add new capabilities.
November 30, 2020
Substituting heavier deuterium (red) for hydrogen in methylammonium (blue-orange-red) slows its swaying so it can interact with vibrations that remove heat, keeping charge carriers hot longer.
Some Like It Hot: Boosting Efficiency in Solar Cells
Neutron scattering and isotopic substitution techniques reveal how to block vibrations that could leak heat from a photovoltaic cell.
November 19, 2020
The cell-free prototyping framework can down-select enzymatic pathway candidates to accelerate synthetic biological design in cells.
Cell-Free Technology Accelerates Industrial Biotechnology
New in vitro platform prototypes and rapidly optimizes synthetic enzymes for cellular design.
November 5, 2020
When two nuclei of lead collide, the number of fast particles the collision produces depends on whether the nuclei graze each other, so-called peripheral collisions (colored data points), or have more head-on or central collisions (faint grey lines).
When Tiny, Energetic Worlds Collide
A new analysis provides a clearer picture of the universe by considering the yield of fast particles in grazing versus head-on nuclear collisions.
November 5, 2020
Density peaking increases with decreasing collisionality (blue squares), with the largest increases linked to changes in electron transport (yellow triangles), not in core fueling (red circles).
DIII-D Scientists Identify New Peaks in Fusion Power
Transport effects raise the density in the plasma core.
November 3, 2020
Top: oscillating moments in a spin chain, forming a magnon. Bottom: neutron scattering data (left) and corresponding theoretical models (right) in sodium manganese oxide corresponding to one-, two-, and three-magnon bound states.
Scientists Discover a New Magnetic Quasiparticle
Neutron scattering reveals a new way for magnetic oscillations to stick together.
November 3, 2020
(a,b) Illustrations of two types of atomic vibration patterns termed H1 and K5 modes in hexagonal iron sulfide (h-FeS). Iron (Fe) and sulfur (S) atoms are depicted as brown and yellow, respectively. Red arrows denote the destabilized atomic displacements.
Material Found in Meteorites Portends New Possibilities for Spintronic Computing
Neutron and X-ray experiments illuminate the magnetic transitions in hexagonal iron sulfide that transform it from a conductor to an insulator.
October 23, 2020
Using the first new method in half a century for measuring the size of the proton via electron scattering, nuclear physicists have produced a new value for the proton’s radius.
New Measurement Fits Another Piece in the Proton Radius Puzzle
Physicists get closer to solving the proton radius puzzle with unique new measurement of the charge radius of the proton.