Science snapshots from Berkeley Lab

New Berkeley Lab breakthroughs: engineering chemical-producing microbes; watching enzyme reactions in real time; capturing the first image of ‘electron ice’; revealing how skyrmions really move

AI learns physics to optimize particle accelerator performance

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have demonstrated that they can use machine learning to optimize the performance of particle accelerators by teaching the algorithms the basic physics principles behind accelerator operations – no prior data needed.

SLAC partners with national labs and scientific publishing organizations on transgender-inclusive name-change process for published papers

The agreement, announced today, will make it easier for researchers to change their names and claim work from all stages of their careers. It specifically addresses the administrative and emotional difficulties some transgender researchers have experienced when requesting such name changes.

Main Attraction: Scientists Create World’s Thinnest Magnet

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley have created an ultrathin magnet that operates at room temperature. The ultrathin magnet could lead to new applications in computing and electronics – such as spintronic memory devices – and new tools for the study of quantum physics.

SLAC hosts Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm for a virtual visit

Highlights of the two-hour visit included behind-the-scenes looks at one of the most powerful X-ray sources on the planet and at the construction of the world’s largest digital camera for astronomy. She also joined presentations of the lab’s research in machine learning, quantum technology and climate science and engaged in discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion at SLAC.

A detailed study of nickelate’s magnetism finds a strong kinship with cuprate superconductors

Are new nickelate superconductors close kin to the original high-temperature superconductors, the cuprates? The first study of their magnetic properties says the answer is yes. Scientists from SLAC, Stanford and Diamond Light Source found important similarities but also subtle differences between the two.

First nanoscale look at a reaction that limits the efficiency of generating clean hydrogen fuel

Transitioning to a hydrogen economy will require massive production of cheap, clean hydrogen gas for fuel and chemical feedstocks. New tools allow scientists to zoom in on a catalytic reaction that’s been a bottleneck in efforts to generate hydrogen from water more efficiently.

New machine learning tool diagnoses electron beams in an efficient, non-invasive way

For the past few years, researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have been developing “virtual diagnostics” that use machine learning to obtain crucial information about electron beam quality in an efficient, non-invasive way. Now, a new virtual diagnostic approach incorporates additional information about the beam that allows the method to work in situations where conventional diagnostics have failed.

A Sharp New Eye to View Atoms and Molecules

Physicists long dreamed of producing X-ray laser pulses that probe matter at the level of atoms and molecules. Scientists realized this dream in 2009 with the hard X-ray free-electron laser at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS). But each LCLS X-ray pulse has a slightly different intensity and wavelength distribution. A new oscillator design overcomes these problems with an approach inspired by optical lasers.

Squeezing a rock-star material could make it stable enough for solar cells

A promising lead halide perovskite is great at converting sunlight to electricity, but it breaks down at room temperature. Now scientists have discovered how to stabilize it with pressure from a diamond anvil cell. The required pressure is well within the reach of today’s manufacturing processes.

First glimpse of polarons forming in a promising next-gen energy material

Polarons affect a material’s behavior, and may even be the reason that solar cells made with lead hybrid perovskites achieve extraordinarily high efficiencies in the lab. Now scientists have directly seen and measured their formation for the first time.

Scientists Recruit New Atomic Heavyweights in Targeted Fight Against Cancer

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed new methods for the large-scale production, purification, and use of the radioisotope cerium-134, which could serve as a PET imaging radiotracer for a highly targeted cancer treatment known as alpha-particle therapy.

Laser-Driven “Chirp” Powers High-Resolution Materials Imaging

Scientists use beams of electrons to study materials’ properties. Shorter beams produce higher-resolution views. To make shorter beams, the electrons at the tail of the beam need to catch up to the head of the beam. This is accomplished by giving the electrons at the tail extra energy, a so-called “energy chirp.” Scientists have now used a terahertz laser pulse to create this energy chirp.

SLAC, Stanford to host national service center for cryo-ET sample preparation

The NIH is establishing a national service center at the SLAC and Stanford where biomedical researchers can learn how to prepare extremely thin specimens that are frozen into a glassy state for cryogenic electron tomography (cryo-ET), a powerful tool for directly visualizing cellular components in 3D.

Q&A: How machine learning helps scientists hunt for particles, wrangle floppy proteins and speed discovery

At the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, machine learning is opening new avenues to advance the lab’s unique scientific facilities and research.

SLAC’s Xijie Wang wins prestigious accelerator science award

Xijie Wang, an accelerator physicist at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will receive the 2021 Nuclear and Plasma Science Society’s Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award. Bestowed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the prestigious award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the development of particle accelerator science and technology.

Lead Lab Selected for Next-Generation Cosmic Microwave Background Experiment

The largest collaborative undertaking yet to explore the relic light emitted by the infant universe has taken a step forward with the U.S. DOE’s selection of Berkeley Lab to lead the partnership of national labs, universities, and other institutions that are joined in the effort to carry out the DOE roles and responsibilities.

Sensors of world’s largest digital camera snap first 3,200-megapixel images at SLAC

Crews at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have taken the first 3,200-megapixel digital photos – the largest ever taken in a single shot – with an extraordinary array of imaging sensors that will become the heart and soul of the future camera of Vera C. Rubin Observatory.

SLAC researchers find evidence for quantum fluctuations near a quantum critical point in a superconductor

Theory suggests that quantum critical points may be analogous to black holes as places where all sorts of strange phenomena can exist in a quantum material. Now scientists say that they have found strong evidence that QCPs and their associated fluctuations exist in a cuprate superconductor.

SLAC and Stanford join Q-NEXT national quantum center

Q-NEXT will bring together nearly 100 world-class researchers from three national laboratories, 10 universities and 10 leading U.S. technology companies with the single goal of developing the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information. These activities, along with a focus on rapid commercialization of new technologies, will support the emerging “quantum economy” and ensure that the U.S. remains at the forefront in this rapidly advancing field.

SLAC scientists invent low-cost emergency ventilator and share the design for free

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented an emergency ventilator that could help save the lives of patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Dark Energy Survey census of the smallest galaxies hones the search for dark matter

Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey have used observations of the smallest known galaxies to better understand dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up 85% of the matter in the universe. The smallest galaxies can contain hundreds to thousands of times more dark matter than normal visible matter, making them ideal laboratories for studying this mysterious substance. By performing a rigorous census of small galaxies surrounding our Milky Way, scientists on the Dark Energy Survey have been able to constrain the fundamental particle physics that governs dark matter.

Scientists marry two powerful techniques to pinpoint locations of individual molecules in their cellular neighborhoods

Developed in the lab of Stanford University Nobelist W.E. Moerner, the technique combines cryoelectron tomography and low temperature single-molecule microscopy. It has potential to answer fundamental questions about the molecular machinery of viruses, parasites, and processes like photosynthesis.

In a step forward for orbitronics, scientists break the link between a quantum material’s spin and orbital states

Until now, electron spins and orbitals were thought to go hand in hand in a class of materials that’s the cornerstone of modern information technology; you couldn’t quickly change one without changing the other. This study raises the possibility of controlling them separately.

First direct look at how light excites electrons to kick off a chemical reaction

The first step in many light-driven chemical reactions, like the ones that power photosynthesis and human vision, is a shift in the arrangement of a molecule’s electrons as they absorb the light’s energy. Now scientists have directly observed this first step.

Could the next generation of particle accelerators come out of the 3D printer?

Imagine being able to manufacture complex devices whenever you want and wherever you are. It would create unforeseen possibilities even in the most remote locations, such as building spare parts or new components on board a spacecraft. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, could be a way of doing just that.