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Transformational X-ray Project Takes a Step Forward

Photo - A time-lapse view of the Advanced Light Source building at night. (Credit: Haris Mahic/Berkeley Lab)

A proposed upgrade to the Advanced Light Source—which would provide new views of materials and chemistry at the nanoscale with X-ray beams up to 1,000 times brighter than possible now—has cleared the first step in a Department of Energy approval process. The upgrade would enable new explorations of chemical reactions, battery performance, and biological processes.

Scientists Find Twisting 3-D Raceway for Electrons in Nanoscale Crystal Slices

Photo - A scanning electron microscope image shows triangular (red) and rectangular samples of a semimetal crystal known as cadmium arsenide. The rectangular sample is about 0.8 microns (thousandths of a millimeter) thick, 3.2 microns tall and 5 microns long. The triangular sample has a base measuring about 2.7 microns. The design of the triangular samples, fabricated at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, proved useful in mapping out the strange electron orbits exhibited by this material when exposed to a magnetic field. (Credit: Nature, 10.1038/nature18276)

Researchers have observed, for the first time, an exotic 3-D racetrack for electrons in ultrathin slices of a tiny crystal they made at Berkeley Lab.

Berkeley Lab Scientists Discover Surprising New Properties in a 2-D Semiconductor


Researchers found how substantial linear defects in a new semiconductor create entirely new properties. Some of these properties indicate the defects might even mediate superconducting states.

What Screens are Made of: New Twists (and Bends) in LCD Research

Graphic - Researchers examined the spiral “twist-bend” structure (right) formed by boomerang-shaped liquid crystal molecules (left and center) measuring 3 nanometers in length, using a pioneering X-ray technique at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source. A better understanding of this spiral form, discovered in 2013, could lead to new applications for liquid crystals and improved liquid-crystal display screens. (Credit: Zosia Rostomian/Berkeley Lab; Physical Review Letters, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.147803; Journal of Materials Chemistry C, DOI: 10.1039/C4TC01927J)

A research team has directly measured a spiral molecular arrangement formed by liquid crystals that could help unravel its mysteries and possibly improve the performance of electronic displays.

New Fuel Cell Design Powered by Graphene-wrapped Nanocrystals

Photo - A powdery mixture of graphene-wrapped magnesium nanocrystals, produced at Berkeley Lab, is stable in air. The mixture's energy properties show promise for use in hydrogen fuel cells. (Eun Seon Cho/Berkeley Lab)

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a new materials recipe for a battery-like hydrogen fuel cell that shields the nanocrystals from oxygen, moisture, and contaminants while pushing its performance forward in key areas.

New Way to Reduce Plant Lignin Could Lead to Cheaper Biofuels

This illustration shows the molecular structure of HCT that was derived at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source. The purple and green areas are two domains of the enzyme, and the multi-colored structures between the two domains are two molecules (p-coumaryl-shikimate and HS-CoA) in the binding site. New research shows this binding site is indiscriminate with the acceptor molecules it recruits, including molecules that inhibit lignin production. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Scientists have shown that an enzyme can be tweaked to reduce lignin in plants. Their technique could help lower the cost of converting biomass into carbon-neutral fuels to power your car and other sustainably developed bio-products.

Scientists Take Key Step Toward Custom-made Nanoscale Chemical Factories

The shell of a bacterial microcompartment (or BMC) is mainly composed of hexagonal proteins, with pentagonal proteins capping the vertices, similar to a soccer ball (left). Scientists have engineered one of these hexagonal proteins, normally devoid of any metal center, to bind an iron-sulfur cluster (orange and yellow sticks, upper right). This cluster can serve as an electron relay to transfer electrons across the shell. Introducing this new functionality in the shell of a BMC greatly expands their possibilities as custom-made bio-nanoreactors. (Credit: Clément Aussignargues/MSU, Cheryl Kerfeld and Markus Sutter/Berkeley Lab)

Scientists have for the first time reengineered a building block of a geometric nanocompartment that occurs naturally in bacteria. The new design provides an entirely new functionality that greatly expands the potential for these compartments to serve as custom-made chemical factories.

Nature’s Microscopic Masonry: The First Steps in How Thin Protein Sheets Form Polyhedral Shells

This illustration shows how hexagonal bacterial proteins (shown as ribbon-like structures at right and upper right) self-assemble into a honeycomb-like tiled pattern (center and background). This tiling activity, seen with an atomic-resolution microscope (upper left), represents the early formation of polyhedral, soccer-ball-like structures known as bacterial microcompartments or BCMs that serve as tiny factories for a range of specialized activities.

Scientists have for the first time viewed how bacterial proteins self-assemble into thin sheets and begin to form the walls of the outer shell for nano-sized polyhedral compartments that function as specialized factories. The research provides new clues for scientists seeking to use these 3-D structures as “nanoreactors” to selectively suck in toxins or churn out desired products.

Newly Discovered ‘Design Rule’ Brings Nature-Inspired Nanostructures One Step Closer

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Scientists aspire to build nanostructures that mimic the complexity and function of nature’s proteins, but are made of durable and synthetic materials. These microscopic widgets could be customized into incredibly sensitive chemical detectors or long-lasting catalysts, to name a few possible applications. A discovery by Berkeley Lab scientists is a step in that direction.

A Different Type of 2D Semiconductor

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Berkeley Lab researchers have produced the first atomically thin 2D sheets of organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites. These ionic materials exhibit optical properties not found in 2D covalent semiconductors such as graphene, making them promising alternatives to silicon for future electronic devices.