News Center

Chemistry on the Edge: Study Pinpoints Most Active Areas of Reactions on Nanoscale Particles

Illustration - This illustration shows the setup for an experiment at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source that used infrared light (shown in red) and an atomic force microscope (middle and top) to study the local surface chemistry on coated platinum particles (yellow) measuring about 100 nanometers in length. (Credit: Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Defects and jagged surfaces at the edges of nanosized platinum and gold particles are key hot spots for chemical reactivity, researchers confirmed using a unique infrared probe.

New Leaf Study Sheds Light on ‘Shady’ Past

Photo - A rainforest canopy in the area of Kuranda in Queensland, Australia. (Credit: certified_su/Flickr)

A new study led by a Berkeley Lab research scientist highlights a literally shady practice in plant science that has in some cases underestimated plants’ rate of growth and photosynthesis, among other traits.

New Graphene-Based System Could Help Us ‘See’ Electrical Signaling in Heart and Nerve Cells

Image - This diagram shows the setup for an imaging method that mapped electrical signals using a sheet of graphene and an infrared laser. The laser was fired through a prism (lower left) onto a sheet of graphene. An electrode was used to send tiny electrical signals into a liquid solution (in cylinder atop the graphene), and a camera (lower right) was used to capture images mapping out these electrical signals. (Credit: Halleh Balch and Jason Horng/Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley)

Scientists have enlisted the exotic properties of graphene to function like the film of an incredibly sensitive camera system in visually mapping tiny electric fields. They hope to enlist the new method to image electrical signaling networks in our hearts and brains.

Finding Diamonds in the Rough

The crystal structure of NOV1, a stilbene cleaving oxygenase, shows the features of this enzyme at atomic resolution. (A) This protein fold view highlights the placement of an iron (orange), dioxygen (red), and resveratrol, a representative substrate (blue) in the active site of the enzyme. (B) This surface slice representation shows the shape of the active site cavity and the arrangement of iron, dioxygen, and resveratrol. (Credit: Ryan McAndrew/JBEI and Berkeley Lab)

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center used crystallography and biophysical methods to better understand how the NOV1 enzyme breaks down a a stilbene substrate into two smaller compounds. Understanding this unusual chemical reaction brings insight on how to generate desirable biofuels and bioproducts from biomass deconstruction.

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.

Scientists Trace ‘Poisoning’ in Chemical Reactions to the Atomic Scale

Image - A scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image showing a type of catalyst called a zeolite that is used to convert ethanol to high-value fuels. The particles measure about 15 microns in length. (Credit: PNNL)

A combination of experiments, including X-ray studies at Berkeley Lab, revealed new details about pesky deposits that can stop chemical reactions vital to fuel production and other processes.

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.

A New Understanding of Metastability Clears Path for Next-Generation Materials

Kristin Persson, Gerbrand Ceder and Wenhao Sun at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Thursday, November 17, 2016 in Berkeley, Calif. 11/17/16

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have published a new study that, for the first time, explicitly quantifies the thermodynamic scale of metastability for almost 30,000 known materials. This paves the way for designing and making promising next-generation materials for use in everything from semiconductors to pharmaceuticals to steels.

Crop Yield Gets Boost with Modified Genes in Photosynthesis

Tobacco leaves showing transient overexpression of genes involved in nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ), a system that protects plants from light damage. Red and yellow regions represent low NPQ activity, while blue and purple areas show high levels induced by exposure to light. (Credit: Lauriebeth Leonelli and Matthew Brooks/UC Berkeley)

Berkeley and Illinois researchers have bumped up crop productivity by as much as 20 percent by increasing the expression of genes that result in more efficient use of light in photosynthesis. Their work could potentially be used to help address the world’s future food needs.