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Better Lithium-Ion Batteries Are On The Way From Berkeley Lab

Transmission electron microscopy reveals the new conducting polymer’s improved binding properties. At left, silicon particles embedded in the binder are shown before cycling through charges and discharges (closer view at bottom). At right, after 32 charge-discharge cycles, the polymer is still tightly bound to the silicon particles, showing why the energy capacity of the new anodes remains much higher than graphite anodes after more than 650 charge-discharge cycles during testing.

Lithium-ion batteries power everything from smart phones to electric cars, but especially when it comes to lowering the cost and extending the range of all-electric vehicles, they need to store a lot more energy. The critical component for energy storage is the anode, and Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a new anode material that can absorb eight times the lithium and has far greater energy capacity than today’s designs.

Anti-Helium Discovered in the Heart of STAR

Roughly equal amounts of matter and antimatter are created in the collision of energetic gold nuclei, but because the fireball expands and cools quickly, antimatter can survive longer than that created in the big bang. In this collision an ordinary helium-4 nucleus (background) is matched by a nucleus of antihelium-4 (foreground).

Antimatter nuclei of helium-4, the heaviest antiparticles ever found, have been created by the STAR experiment at Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. Eighteen examples of the antihelium particles were detected by STAR’s Time Projection Chamber, designed and built at Berkeley Lab, in debris from a billion high-energy collisions of gold nuclei.

Invisible Milky Way Satellite Uncovered With Help from NERSC

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Astronomers predict that large spiral galaxies like our Milky Way have hundreds of satellite galaxies orbiting around them. Using supercomputers at NERSC, scientists developed a mathematical method to uncover these “dark” galaxies. When she applied it to our own Milky Way, she discovered a faint satellite might be lurking on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth.

A Superbright Supernova That’s the First of Its Kind

In this schematic illustration of the material ejected from supernova 2009bi, the radioactive nickel core (white) decays to cobalt, emitting gamma rays and positrons that excite the surrounding material (textured yellow), which is rich in heavy elemements such as iron, causing it to glow. The outer layers (dark shadow) consist of light elements that remain unilluminated.

A superbright supernova found in a dwarf galaxy by the Nearby Supernova Factory based at Berkeley Lab is the first confirmed example of a pair-instability supernova, the result of the partial core collapse and thermonuclear detonation of an enormously massive star, like the earliest stars in the Universe.

NERSC Helps Expose Cosmic Transients

This false-color image of our glowing galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, was created by layering 400 individual images captured by the PTF camera in February 2009. In one pointing, the PTF camera has a seven-square-degree field of view, equivalent to approximately 25 full moons. (Palomar Transient Factory/Peter Nugent, Berkeley Lab)

Finding rare and fleeting cosmic events not only requires the right kind of telescope and camera, it depends on high-performance computing that can pinpoint objects of interest among thousands of sky images while there’s still time for follow-up observations. Caltech and DOE’s NERSC join forces in just such a search, the Palomar Transient Factory.

Planck Mission Has Roots and Branches in Berkeley

Planck and Herschel were launched together from the Arianespace facility in French Guiana.

Berkeley Lab’s interest in the Planck mission to map the cosmic microwave background goes back to a proposal that evolved into the present design – and extends into the future as NERSC’s powerful computers stand by to analyze the coming flood of data.

A Research Center for Understanding How to Store CO2 Underground

cover of EFRC nanoscale control of CO2 proposal

The Department of Energy will invest $777 million in 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers over the next five years as part of President Barack Obama’s plans to reinvigorate American science. Berkeley Lab will be home to the Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2, led by Don DePaolo, director of the Earth Sciences Division, to study carbon dioxide storage deep underground.

A Rising Tide of Cosmic Data

Julian Borrill, Radek Stompor, and Christopher Cantalupo in front of the high-resolution map of the CMB they produced using  tens of billions of samples of simulated Planck satellite data (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

From COBE to Planck and beyond, the volume of data from measurements of the cosmic microwave background continues to grow by orders of magnitude. The Computational Cosmology Center, a collaboration between Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division and Computational Research Division, has algorithms and implementations in the works so NERSC’s supercomputers can handle the rising tide.

IMPACTS: On the Threshold of Abrupt Climate Changes

If an abrupt climate change caused the rapid breakup of the West Antarctic ice sheet, sea levels could rise by several meters within a century.

Abrupt climate change is the focus of IMPACTS, a major new program bringing together six DOE national laboratories to investigate the instability of marine ice sheets, warming of the boreal forests and Arctic, megadroughts in the Southwest, and catastrophic release of methane from hydrates.

Multicore: Fallout From a Computing Evolution

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It’s not just for big science anymore. NERSC Director Kathy Yelick discusses the future of parallel computing.