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Archives for January 2011

A Dash of Disorder Yields a Very Efficient Photocatalyst

A little disorder goes a long way, especially when it comes to harnessing the sun’s energy. Berkeley Lab scientists jumbled the atomic structure of the surface layer of titanium dioxide nanocrystals, creating a catalyst that is both long lasting and effective in collecting solar energy to help extract hydrogen from water.

Somorjai Wins Frontiers of Knowledge Award

Berkeley Lab’s Gabor Somorjai, widely considered the “father of modern surface chemistry,” has won a Frontiers of Knowledge Award from Spain’s BBVA Foundation. He was recognized for “his pioneering contributions to the understanding of surface chemistry and catalysis at a microscopic and molecular level.”

The Practical Full-Spectrum Solar Cell Comes Closer

Berkeley Lab has long pioneered new materials and new methods for making solar cells that can convert the full spectrum of sunlight to electrical energy. Now Berkeley Lab researchers and their colleagues have demonstrated a new solar cell design that not only captures the sun’s full spectrum, it is also practical to make using common manufacturing techniques in the semiconductor industry.

GRIN Plasmonics: A Practical Path to Superfast Computing, Ultrapowerful Optical Microscopy and Invisibility Carpet-Cloaking Devices

Berkeley Lab researchers have carried out the first experimental demonstration of GRIN plasmonics, a hybrid technology that opens the door to a wide range of exotic optics, including superfast photonic computers, ultra-powerful optical microscopes, and “invisibility” carpet-cloaking devices.

The Saga of the Dark Universe Finds a Spell-binding Bard

Excerpts from a review of Richard Panek’s “The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality,” published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 10: in relating the discovery of dark matter and dark energy, the author shows how physicists and astronomers at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley not only contributed to the study of dark matter but pioneered the techniques that revealed the existence of dark energy. Berkeley Lab scientists remain at the forefront of research into the nature of the dark universe.

Hotspots Tamed by BEAST – Secrets of Mysterious Metal Hotspots Uncovered by New Single Molecule Imaging Technique

The secrets behind the mysterious nano-sized electromagnetic “hotspots” that appear on metal surfaces under a light are being revealed with the help of a BEAST. The results hold promise for solar energy and chemical sensing among other technologies.

A Nanoscale Rope, and Another Step Toward Complex Nanomaterials That Assemble Themselves

Berkeley Lab scientists have coaxed polymers to braid themselves into wispy nanoscale ropes that approach the structural complexity of biological materials. Their work is the latest development in the push to develop self-assembling nanoscale materials that mimic the intricacy and functionality of nature’s handiwork, but which are rugged enough to withstand harsh conditions such as heat and dryness.

Tributes to Albert Ghiorso

Albert Ghiorso, who died December 26, 2010, at the age of 95, was not only one of the world’s most extraordinary nuclear scientists, his career helped shaped Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory during the middle decades of the 20th century. Many of those who knew him best describe his unique character and recall some of the high points and setbacks of his life and work.

Astronomers Release the Largest Color Image of the Sky Ever Made

The largest image of the sky yet made – more than a trillion pixels – has been released by the multi-institutional third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) at a press conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. The largest component of SDSS-III is the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey, BOSS, led by Berkeley Lab scientists, now engaged in producing an even larger map of the sky.

Polymer Membranes with Molecular-sized Channels That Assemble Themselves

Berkeley researchers have developed a solution-based method for inducing polymer membranes with molecular-sized channels to assemble themselves. Fully compatible with commercial membrane-fabrication, this new technique is believed to be the first example of organic nanotubes fabricated into a functional membrane over macroscopic distances.