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Nature’s Own Biorefinery

New research from Berkeley Lab shows how an insect common to the Eastern U.S., the long-horned passalid beetle, has a hardy digestive tract with microbes to thank for turning its woody diet into energy, food for its young, and nutrients for forest growth. These insights into how the beetle and its distinct microbiome have co-evolved provide a roadmap for the production of affordable, nature-derived fuels and bioproducts.

Scientists Take a Deep Dive Into the Imperfect World of 2D Materials

A team led by scientists at Berkeley Lab has learned how natural nanoscale defects can enhance the properties of tungsten disulfide, a 2D material.

Using Tiny Organisms to Unlock Big Environmental Mysteries

When you hear about the biological processes that influence climate and the environment, such as carbon fixation or nitrogen recycling, it’s easy to think of them as abstract and incomprehensibly large-scale phenomena. Yet parts of these planet-wide processes are actually driven by the tangible actions of organisms at every scale of life, beginning at the smallest: the microorganisms living in the air, soil, and water. And now Berkeley Lab researchers have made it easier than ever to study these microbial communities by creating an optimized DNA analysis technique.

When Semiconductors Stick Together, Materials Go Quantum

A simple method developed by a Berkeley Lab-led team could turn ordinary semiconducting materials into quantum machines – superthin devices with extraordinary electronic behavior. Such an advancement could help to revolutionize a number of industries aiming for energy-efficient electronic systems – and provide a platform for exotic new physics.

How to Catch a Magnetic Monopole in the Act

A research team led by Berkeley Lab has created a nanoscale “playground” on a chip that simulates the formation of exotic magnetic particles called “monopoles.” The study could unlock the secrets to ever-smaller, more powerful memory devices, microelectronics, and next-generation hard drives that employ the power of magnetic spin to store data.

Laser ‘Drill’ Sets a New World Record in Laser-Driven Electron Acceleration

Combining a first laser pulse to heat up and “drill” through a plasma, and another to accelerate electrons to incredibly high energies in just tens of centimeters, scientists have nearly doubled the previous record for laser-driven particle acceleration at Berkeley Lab’s BELLA Center.

Big Data at the Atomic Scale: New Detector Reaches New Frontier in Speed

A superfast detector installed on an electron microscope at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry will reveal atomic-scale details across a larger sample area than could be seen before, and produce movies showing chemistry in action and changes in materials.

New Molecular Blueprint Advances Our Understanding of Photosynthesis

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have used one of the most advanced microscopes in the world to reveal the structure of a large protein complex crucial to photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into cellular energy. The finding, published in the journal Nature, will allow scientists to explore, for the first time, how the complex functions and could have implications for the production of a variety of bioproducts, including plastic alternatives and biofuels.

Preparing for a New Tool to Study the ‘Glue That Binds Us All’

For several decades, the nuclear science community has been calling for a new type of particle collider to pursue – in the words of one report – “a new experimental quest to study the glue that binds us all.” This glue is responsible for most of the visible universe’s matter and mass. To learn about this glue, scientists are proposing a unique, high-energy collider that smashes accelerated electrons, which carry a negative charge, into charged atomic nuclei or protons, which carry a positive charge.

New Measurements of Exotic Form of Magnesium Suggest a Surprising Shape-Shift

A team led by Berkeley Lab scientists has gleaned new and surprising clues about the nuclear structure of an exotic form of magnesium – Mg-40.