VULCAN forges new science for the future of 3D-printed metal

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a novel experimental platform called OpeN-AM to study additively manufactured metal in real time using beams of neutrons. The experimental system features a robotic arm that 3D-prints metal welds to create complex shapes and objects.

Scientists Measure Calcium Nuclei’s Thin Skin

Scientists measuring the nucleus of calcium-48 to determine how its 20 protons and 28 neutrons are distributed inside its nucleus found that the protons and neutrons aren’t simply sprinkled throughout the nucleus. Instead, they form a neutron-rich “thin skin” around a core of evenly distributed protons and neutrons. This skin is thinner than many theoretical models predicted and not consistent with expectations based on recent observations of lead’s thick skin.

For Protons and Neutrons, Things Aren’t the Same Inside Nuclei

Quarks are distributed differently in free protons and neutrons versus those inside nuclei, something called “the EMC effect.” Scientists previously thought that the EMC effect treated the up and down quarks in protons and neutrons equally. New high-precision data from the MARATHON experiment indicates that the EMC effect may exert more influence on the distribution of down quarks compared to up quarks inside nuclei.

How Do Neutrons Interact with Reactor Materials?

Nuclear fission and fusion reactors use carbon and silicon in shielding, structural materials, fuel, and neutron moderators. Neutrons are the drivers of the nuclear energy production processes. This makes understanding how neutrons scatter from all reactor materials critical for nuclear plant design and other applications. In this research, scientists investigated the interaction of neutrons with silicon and carbon.

Spilling the Secrets of Quantum Entanglement

Scientists recently tested the ability of three techniques called entanglement witnesses to accurately identify pairs of entangled magnetic particles. Of the three, quantum Fisher information (QFI) performed best, routinely locating entanglement in complex materials. This work is the most thorough examination of QFI’s capabilities to date and is the first to apply QFI to massive solid materials.

Unveiling the Existence of the Elusive Tetraneutron

Nuclear physicists have experimentally confirmed the existence of the tetraneutron, a meta-stable nuclear system that can decay into four free neutrons. Researchers have predicted the tetraneutron’s existence since 2016. The new results, which agree with predictions from supercomputer simulations, will help scientists understand atomic nuclei, neutron stars, and other neutron-rich systems.

Uncovering the Atomic Mechanism Underpinning Heat Transport in Thermoelectric Materials

To better understand how thermoelectric devices convert thermal energy into electricity at the atomic scale, researchers used neutrons to study single crystals of tin sulfide and tin selenide. The results revealed a strong correlation between changes in the structure at certain temperatures and the frequency of atomic vibrations (phonons). This allowed the researchers to identify temperatures ideal for energy conversion and provided basic scientific knowledge for designing new thermoelectric materials.

The Strength of the Strong Force

Researchers have experimentally extracted the strength of the strong force, a quantity that firmly supports theories explaining how most of the mass or ordinary matter in the universe is generated. This quantity, known as the coupling of the strong force, describes how strongly two bodies interact or “couple” under this force. With Jefferson Lab data, the physicists were able to determine the strong force coupling at the largest distances yet.

Theoretical calculations predicted now-confirmed tetraneutron, an exotic state of matter

Iowa State University’s James Vary and an international team of nuclear physicists used supercomputers to theorize and predict that a four-neutron structure, a tetraneutron, could form for just billions of billionths of a second. Experiments in Japan have now confirmed the reality of a tetraneutron.

Mystery mechanism in small peptide shows big promise for fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Using neutrons, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory pieced together the molecular mechanics behind a peptide’s ability to deal significant damage to bacterial cells. Their findings could inform new therapeutic strategies for treating bacterial infections where antibiotics have fallen short.

Scientists build microporous MOF traps for mitigating toxic gases

Researchers from Sandia, ORNL, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville used neutron scattering and additional experimental techniques to study a series of materials called metal organic frameworks (MOFs) made from the entire list of rare earth elements. The researchers established a comprehensive approach to evaluating large numbers of MOFs and also made an important discovery about a defect that can be useful in building technologies to mitigate toxic gases such as nitrogen and sulfur dioxides.

How to catch a perfect wave: Scientists take a closer look inside the perfect fluid

Scientists have reported new clues to solving a cosmic conundrum: How the quark-gluon plasma – nature’s perfect fluid – evolved into the building blocks of matter during the birth of the early universe.

Buzz about thermoelectrics heats up with promising new magnesium-based materials

Researchers at Duke University and Michigan State University used neutrons at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to gain new fundamental insights into two magnesium-based materials. Investigations at the atomic scale revealed the origin and mechanism behind the materials’ ability to convert thermal energy at room temperature into electricity and provides possible new pathways for improving thermoelectric applications such as those in the Perseverance rover and myriad other devices and energy-generation technologies.

DOE scientists deploy creativity, speed to disrupt COVID-19

An ORNL-led team comprising researchers from multiple DOE national laboratories is using artificial intelligence and computational screening techniques – in combination with experimental validation – to identify and design five promising drug therapy approaches to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Neutrons piece together 40-year puzzle behind iron-iodide’s mysterious magnetism

Researchers from Georgia Tech and the University of Tennessee–Knoxville uncovered hidden and unexpected quantum behavior in a simple iron-iodide material (FeI2) discovered almost a century ago. The new insights were enabled using neutron scattering experiments and theoretical physics calculations at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The team’s findings solves a 40-year-old puzzle about the material’s mysterious behavior and could be used as a map to unlock a treasure trove of quantum phenomena in other materials.

University of Nebraska Medical Center researchers reveal elusive inner workings of antioxidant enzyme with therapeutic potential

The enzyme manganese superoxide dismutase helps maintain human health by keeping the amount of reactive oxygen molecules in cells under control. Using neutron scattering at ORNL, researchers obtained a complete atomic portrait of the enzyme, revealing key information about its catalytic mechanism.

After 20 years, physicists find a way to keep track of lost accelerator particles

Physicists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a measurement technique to better understand beam loss—stray particles that travel outside the confinement fields of a particle accelerator. Mitigating beam loss is paramount to realizing more powerful accelerators at smaller scales and lower costs.

St. Jude Research uses neutrons to shine light on shutting down cancer cells

To investigate what happens inside cells when they are at risk of becoming cancerous, scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have been using neutron scattering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The team is searching to better understand the altered state of the nucleolus—a membrane-less organelle inside the cell—when the cell is compromised. Novel insights into cell behavior at the atomic and molecular scales will enable better detection and treatment of cancer in its many forms.

Scientists investigate solutions for building cell membrane defense against COVID-19

Researchers from Virginia Tech and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are using neutron scattering at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source to investigate how cell membranes and the COVID-19 virus impact each other and what therapeutic candidates could make cell membranes more resistant to viral entry.

Scientists achieve higher precision weak force measurement between protons, neutrons

Through a one-of-a-kind experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nuclear physicists have precisely measured the weak interaction between protons and neutrons. The result quantifies the weak force theory as predicted by the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

Novel cell membrane model could be key to uncovering new protein properties

Researchers have recently shed light on how cell membrane proteins could be influenced by the lipids around them. By developing a novel type of membrane model, they were able to show that the shape and behavior of a protein can be altered by exposure to different lipid compositions. The research team confirmed the artificial membrane’s structure using x-ray and neutron scattering at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Brookhaven (BNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL).

West Virginia researchers use neutrons to study materials for power plant improvements

Researchers from West Virginia University are using neutron scattering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to study novel materials called high entropy oxides, or HEOs. Their goal is to collect insights into how the atoms in the HEOs bind together and whether the materials can be used to develop useful applications to improve power plant operations.

Analyzing Matter’s Building Blocks

Nobuo Sato is working to put the know in femto. He’s just been awarded a five-year, multimillion dollar research grant by the Department of Energy to develop a “FemtoAnalyzer” that will help nuclear physicists image the three-dimensional internal structure of protons and neutrons. Now, Sato is among 76 scientists nationwide who have been awarded a grant through the DOE Office of Science’s Early Career Research Program to pursue their research.

X-rays size up protein structure at the ‘heart’ of COVID-19 virus

Researchers have performed the first room temperature X-ray measurements on the SARS-CoV-2 main protease—the enzyme that enables the virus to reproduce. It marks an important first step in the ultimate goal of building a comprehensive 3D model of the enzymatic protein that will be used to advance supercomputing simulations aimed at finding drug inhibitors to block the virus’s replication mechanism and help end the COVID-19 pandemic.

History of insightful HIV research inspires neutron scattering approach to studying COVID-19

What began as novel investigations into HIV, abruptly pivoted to the novel coronavirus as it began to spread across the globe. Now, ORNL researchers are using neutrons to learn more about the SARS-CoV-2 protease—a protein enzyme that enables the virus to replicate within the human body. Insights on the protein structure and its behaviors will be used to create more accurate models for simulations in aims of finding drug inhibitors to block the virus’s ability to reproduce.

ORNL neutrons add advanced polarization capability for measuring magnetic materials

Neutron scattering instruments at ORNL’s HFIR and SNS are undergoing upgrades which will enable them to study magnetic phenomena previously not possible in the US. Incorporating a device for spherical neutron polarimetry enables the ability to characterize complex magnetic systems in new dimensions for materials that could be developed for enhanced data storage and quantum computing technologies.

Scientists use neutrons to try to develop better, less costly dental restorations

Teeth damaged by trauma or disease require treatment to look and feel as good as new, but the restorative materials available to dentists don’t always last and can be costly for patients. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s College of Dentistry are using neutrons at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor to change that.

New ORNL software improves neutron spectroscopy data resolution

Neutron spectroscopy is an important tool for studying magnetic and thermoelectric properties in materials. But often the resolution, or the ability of the instrument to see fine details, is too coarse to clearly observe features identifying novel phenomena in new advanced materials. To solve this problem, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed a new super-resolution software, called SRINS, that makes it easier for scientists to better understand materials’ dynamical properties using neutron spectroscopy.

Neutrons “break the ice” for exploring fundamental physics in frozen water

Scientists from Xavier University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutrons to explore the atomic structure of ice, which sometimes features mysterious molecular anomalies in its otherwise crystalline structure. Learning more about these ionic defects could help researchers learn more about similar inconsistencies found in other materials.

Neutrons optimize high efficiency catalyst for greener approach to biofuel synthesis

Researchers led by the University of Manchester used neutron scattering at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the development of a catalyst that converts biomass into liquid fuel with remarkably high efficiency and provides new possibilities for manufacturing renewable energy-related materials.