News Center

7 Imaging Tools Pushing Science Forward


Berkeley Lab scientists are developing new ways to see the unseen. Here are seven imaging advances (recently reported in our News Center) that are helping to push science forward, from developing better batteries to peering inside cells to exploring the nature of the universe.   1. Seeing DNA nanostructures in 3-D DNA segments can serve as a

Glowing Crystals Can Detect, Cleanse Contaminated Drinking Water

Researchers have developed a specialized type of glowing metal organic framework, or LMOF (molecular structure at center), that is designed to detect and remove heavy-metal toxins from water. At upper left, mercury (HG2+) is trapped by the LMOF. The graph at lower left shows how the glowing property, known as fluorescence, is turned off as the LMOF binds up the mercury. Its properties make this LMOF useful for both detecting and trapping heavy-metal toxins. (Credit: Rutgers University)

Motivated by public hazards associated with contaminated sources of drinking water, a team of scientists has successfully developed and tested tiny, glowing crystals that can detect and trap heavy-metal toxins like mercury and lead.

X-Rays Capture Unprecedented Images of Photosynthesis in Action

Structure of the oxygen evolving complex in photosystem II in a light-activated state. Water molecules are shown as blue spheres, the four manganese atoms in purple, the calcium in green and the bridging oxygens in red. The blue mesh is the experimental electron density, and the blue solid lines are the protein side chains that provide a scaffold for the catalytic complex.

An international team of scientists is providing new insight into the process by which plants use light to split water and create oxygen. In experiments led by Berkeley Lab scientists, ultrafast X-ray lasers were able to capture atomic-scale images of a protein complex found in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria at room temperature.

3-D Imaging Technique Maps Migration of DNA-carrying Material at the Center of Cells

Image - This image shows the skeletonized structure of heterochromatin (red represents a thin region while white represents a thick region), a tightly packed form of DNA, surrounding another form of DNA-carrying material known as euchromatin (dark blue represents a thin region and yellow represent the thickest) in a mouse’s mature nerve cell. (Credit: Berkeley Lab, UCSF)

Scientists have produced detailed 3-D visualizations that show an unexpected connectivity in the genetic material at the center of cells, providing a new understanding of a cell’s evolving architecture.

Solar Cells Get Boost with Integration of Water-Splitting Catalyst onto Semiconductor

Schematic of the multi-functional water splitting catalyst layer engineered using atomic layer deposition for integration with a high-efficiency silicon cell. (Credit: Ian Sharp/Berkeley Lab)

Berkeley Lab scientists have found a way to engineer the atomic-scale chemical properties of a water-splitting catalyst for integration with a solar cell, and the result is a big boost to the stability and efficiency of artificial photosynthesis. The research comes out of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), established to develop a cost-effective method of turning sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel.

Berkeley Lab Takes Home Five R&D 100 Awards for Environmental, Battery, and X-ray Technologies

Photo - The Compact Dynamic Beamstop (CDBS) device, at left, designed to provide real time information to improve X-ray crystallography experiments, with a size comparison to a ballpoint pen tip. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Berkeley Lab-developed tech enabling energy-saving roofs, long-lived batteries, better data from X-ray experiments, safer drinking water, and reduced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have received 2016 R&D 100 awards.

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.