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.

February 19, 2021
A new artificial membrane helps researchers understand proteins in human cell membranes. The membrane rim is made of a detergent (purple), with a center made of lipid molecules found in biological membranes (green and blue), including cholesterol (gold).
New Artificial Membranes Enable Better Understanding of Membrane Proteins
Researchers have created a novel membrane platform for studying the structure and function of membrane proteins in their realistic environment.
February 19, 2021
Simulation of a fluorinated salt demonstrating cation alignment. Addition of electronegative fluorine atoms (green) leads to alignment with electropositive phosphorous centers (orange) in the solid phase causing interactions that lower the melting point.
Adjusting the Dance Tunes the Melt
Understanding Ions’ Subtle Molecular-Level Interactions Allows Scientists to Tune the Melting Point
February 19, 2021
Energy versus momentum depiction of different conditions that give rise to a Kohn anomaly in ordinary metals (at left), versus a topological material called a Weyl semimetal (at right).
New Phenomena for the Design of Future Quantum Devices
Neutron and X-ray scattering shed light on exotic states that determine the electronic properties of materials.
February 3, 2021
Novel research combines linear and radial molecules to create polymers with novel electronic states. The arrows indicate how electron migration flows.
Molecules Bend for Organic Electronics
New electronic ring-containing polymers enable unexpected movement of energy along the backbone connecting the polymer and within each ring.
February 3, 2021
The light from a fluorescent metal organic framework (top) is quenched when the porous material captures explosive molecules (bottom).
Fluorescent Metal Organic Frameworks Go Dark to Detect Explosives
Metal organic framework materials turn fluorescent light signals on or off in the presence of guest molecules.
February 3, 2021
Scientists designed peptide bundles that can be precisely linked to form extremely rigid polymer chains. These chains are much stiffer than other known polymers.
Designer Polymers Created from Peptide Bundles Promise Super-Strong Future Materials
Computational design of bundled peptide building blocks that can be precisely linked provides new ways to create customized polymers.
January 26, 2021
The evolution of the nuclear shape in stable Nickel-64 as predicted by large-scale nuclear model calculations. Now, new research has confirmed these three nuclear shapes.
Stable Nickel-64 Nuclei Take Three Distinct Shapes
Scientists track down coexistence of multiple shapes in the Nickel-64 nucleus: a spherical ground state and elongated and flattened shapes.
January 26, 2021
Schematic view of the interior of the High Flux Neutron Generator HFNG.
Nuclear Physics from Rocks to Reactors
New measurements provide insights for geochronology and reactor design.
January 26, 2021
Livia Casali of General Atomics stands with the Small Angle Slot (SAS) divertor model. Casali and her team combined the SAS configuration with impurity injection to improve integration between the hot core of a plasma and the cooler edge.
Keeping it Cool while Maintaining Core Performance
Researchers address the challenge of integrating the hot core and the cooler edge of a fusion plasma.
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.