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Rare Supernova Discovery Ushers in New Era for Cosmology

With help from a supernova-hunting pipeline based at NERSC, astronomers captured multiple images of a gravitationally lensed Type 1a supernova. This is currently the only one, but if astronomers can find more they may be able to measure Universal expansion within four percent accuracy. Luckily, Berkeley Lab researchers do have a method for finding more.

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have used waste glass bottles and a low-cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. The batteries will extend the range of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and provide more power with fewer charges to personal electronics like cell phones and laptops.

Changing the Game

High performance computing researcher Shuaiwen Leon Song asked if hardware called 3D stacked memory could do something it was never designed to do--help render 3D graphics.

A Scientific Advance for Cool Clothing: Temperature-Wise, That Is

Stanford University researchers, with the aid of the Comet supercomputer at the San Diego Supercomputer at UC San Diego, have engineered a low-cost plastic material that could become the basis for clothing that cools the wearer, reducing the need for energy-consuming air conditioning.

Adjusting Solar Panel Angles a Few Times a Year Makes Them More Efficient

With Earth Day approaching, new research from Binghamton University-State of New York could help U.S. residents save more energy, regardless of location, if they adjust the angles of solar panels four to five times a year.

A Real CAM-Do Attitude

A multi-institutional team used resources at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility to catalog how desert plants photosynthetic processes vary. The study could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops for food and fuel.

Predictive Power

The Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors carried out the largest time-dependent simulation of a nuclear reactor ever to support Tennessee Valley Authority and Westinghouse Electric Company during the startup of Watts Bar Unit 2, the first new US nuclear reactor in 20 years. The simulation was carried out primarily on OLCF resources.

Advantage: Water

When water comes in for a landing on the common catalyst titanium oxide, it splits into hydroxyls just under half the time. Water's oxygen and hydrogen atoms shift back and forth between existing as water or hydroxyls, and water has the slightest advantage, like the score in a highly competitive tennis game.

Self-Assembling Polymers Provide Thin Nanowire Template

In a recent study, a team of researchers from Argonne, the University of Chicago and MIT has developed a new way to create some of the world's thinnest wires, using a process that could enable mass manufacturing with standard types of equipment.

Did You Catch That? Robot's Speed of Light Communication Could Protect You From Danger

If you were monitoring a security camera and saw someone set down a backpack and walk away, you might pay special attention - especially if you had been alerted to watch that particular person. According to Cornell University researchers, this might be a job robots could do better than humans, by communicating at the speed of light and sharing images.


ORNL to Collaborate with Five Small Businesses to Advance Energy Tech

Five small companies have been selected to partner with the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to move technologies in commercial refrigeration systems, water power generation, bioenergy and battery manufacturing closer to the marketplace.

U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE Program Seeks Advanced Computational Research Proposals for 2018

The Department of Energy's INCITE program will be accepting proposals for high-impact, computationally intensive research campaigns in a broad array of science, engineering, and computer science domains.

New Berkeley Lab Project Turns Waste Heat to Electricity

A new Berkeley Lab project seeks to efficiently capture waste heat and convert it to electricity, potentially saving California up to $385 million per year. With a $2-million grant from the California Energy Commission, Berkeley Lab scientists will work with Alphabet Energy to create a cost-effective thermoelectric waste heat recovery system.

New SLAC Theory Institute Aims to Speed Research on Exotic Materials at Light Sources

A new institute at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is using the power of theory to search for new types of materials that could revolutionize society - by making it possible, for instance, to transmit electricity over power lines with no loss.

Lenvio Inc. Exclusively Licenses ORNL Malware Behavior Detection Technology

Virginia-based Lenvio Inc. has exclusively licensed a cyber security technology from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory that can quickly detect malicious behavior in software not previously identified as a threat.

Argonne Scientist and Nobel Laureate Alexei Abrikosov Dies at 88

Alexei Abrikosov, an acclaimed physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory who received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on superconducting materials, died Wednesday, March 29. He was 88.

Jefferson Lab Accomplishes Critical Milestones Toward Completion of 12 GeV Upgrade

The Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has achieved two major commissioning milestones and is now entering the final stretch of work to conclude its first major upgrade. Recently, the CEBAF accelerator delivered electron beams into two of its experimental halls, Halls B and C, at energies not possible before the upgrade for commissioning of the experimental equipment currently in each hall. Data were recorded in each hall, which were then confirmed to be of sufficient quality to allow for particle identification, a primary indicator of good detector operation.

Valerie Taylor Named Argonne National Laboratory's Mathematics and Computer Science Division Director

Computer scientist Valerie Taylor has been appointed as the next director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division at Argonne, effective July 3, 2017.

Three SLAC Employees Awarded Lab's Highest Honor

At a March 7 ceremony, three employees of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory were awarded the lab's highest honor ­- the SLAC Director's Award.

Dan Sinars Represents Sandia in First Energy Leadership Class

Dan Sinars, a senior manager in Sandia National Laboratories' pulsed power center, which built and operates the Z facility, is the sole representative from a nuclear weapons lab in a new Department of Energy leadership program that recently visited Sandia.


Ultrafast Imaging Reveals the Electron's New Clothes

Scientists use high-speed electrons to visualize "dress-like" distortions in the atomic lattice. This work reveals the vital role of electron-lattice interactions in manganites. This material could be used in data-storage devices with increased data density and reduced power requirements.

One Small Change Makes Solar Cells More Efficient

For years, scientists have explored using tiny drops of designer materials, called quantum dots, to make better solar cells. Adding small amounts of manganese decreases the ability of quantum dots to absorb light but increases the current produced by an average of 300%.

Electronic "Cyclones" at the Nanoscale

Through highly controlled synthesis, scientists controlled competing atomic forces to let spiral electronic structures form. These polar vortices can serve as a precursor to new phenomena in materials. The materials could be vital for ultra-low energy electronic devices.

In a Flash! A New Way for Making Ceramics

A new process controllably but instantly consolidates ceramic parts, potentially important for manufacturing.

Deciphering Material Properties at the Single-Atom Level

Scientists determine the precise location and identity of all 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle.

Smallest Transistor Ever

It has long been thought that building nanometer-sized transistors was impossible. Simply put, the physics and atomic structural imperfections couldn't be overcome. However, scientists built fully functional, nanometer-sized transistors.

Creation of Artificial Atoms

For the first time, scientists created a tunable artificial atom in graphene. The results from this research demonstrate a viable, controllable, and reversible technique to confine electrons in graphene.

Developing Tools to Understand Lithium-Ion Battery Instabilities

Scientists develop tools to understand Li-ion battery instabilities, enabling the study of electrodes and solid-electrolyte interphase formation.

Skyrmions Created with a Special Spiral

Researchers at Argonne have found a way to control the creation of special textured surfaces, called skyrmions, in magnetically ordered materials.

Coming Together, Falling Apart, and Starting Over, Battery Style

Scientists built a new device that shows what happens when electrode, electrolyte, and active materials meet in energy storage technologies.


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Great Neck South High School Wins Regional Science Bowl at Brookhaven Lab

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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Magnetic Reconnection Research Sheds Light on Explosive Phenomena in Astrophysics and Fusion Experiments

Article ID: 666133

Released: 2016-12-08 10:05:57

Source Newsroom: Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

  • Credit: Yamada photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications. Zweibel photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Physicists Masaaki Yamada and Ellen Zweibel.

Scientists are closer than ever to unraveling a process called magnetic reconnection that triggers explosive phenomena throughout the universe. Solar flares, northern lights and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service and black out power grids are all set off by magnetic field lines that converge, break apart and violently reconnect in ways that are not fully understood.

Now physicists Masaaki Yamada of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Ellen Zweibel of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have provided a major perspective on four key problems in magnetic reconnection in a paper published December 7 in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Their research focuses on how the field lines embedded in plasma, the hot, charged gas composed of electrons and atomic nuclei — or ions — that makes up 99 percent of the visible universe, behave as they do. The findings are relevant to both astrophysics and magnetically controlled fusion experiments, which reconnection can shut down.

The extensive, 30-page paper, which the journal invited, advances understanding of four deep and long-standing puzzles:

• The rate problem. Why does reconnection take place much faster than theory indicates?

• The trigger problem. What determines the amount of energy that can be stored in a magnetic field and triggers its release?

• The energetics problem. How does reconnection convert magnetic energy into explosive kinetic energy?

• The interplay of scales problem. How does reconnection that occurs on a microscale trigger blasts that occur on a global scale?

Yamada and Zweibel, winners of the James Clerk Maxwell Prize in Plasma Physics in 2015 and 2016, respectively, take a comprehensive approach to these issues. The prize, awarded by the American Physical Society Division of Plasma Physics, honors their contributions to the dynamics of reconnection and to plasma astrophysics. Their paper combines data gleaned from satellite sightings and the Magnetic Reconnection Experiment (MRX) at PPPL, together with theory and computer simulation, to provide a detailed view of these puzzling processes.

On the rate problem, the authors note that two paths to fast reconnection have been identified. In the first, fast reconnection takes place when magnetized electrons and demagnetized ions behave differently, causing a phenomenon called a Hall effect in the reconnection layer. In the second, a process called plasmoid instability breaks up thin current layers into magnetic islands that produce rapid reconnection (see related article here). “Characterizing the plasmoid instability in a large laboratory plasma is a goal for future research,” the authors write.

There is also much work to do on the trigger problem, Zweibel and Yamada noted. Formation of a thin current sheet has long been held to be a prerequisite for fast reconnection, they write. However, distribution of the energy that erupts in solar flares “is a key observation which trigger theories must explain,” they state, and identifying the power law behind the distribution “remains a distant but important goal.” In power laws, one form of energy varies as a power of another.

With regard to the energetics problem, important progress has been made recently, the authors say. Experiments conducted on the MRX at PPPL show that reconnection converts about 50 percent of the magnetic energy, with one-third of the conversion accelerating the electrons and two-thirds accelerating the ions in the plasma. “These results raise the question of whether there is a universal principle for partitioning of converted energy, an important problem for future research,” they write.

An explanation of the scale problem, in which tiny microprocesses produce large global effects, “remains extremely challenging,” the authors state. Nonetheless, much “important progress” has been made. While the triggers for reconnection are mostly global, the sources of energy conversion can be either global or small in scale. Therefore, “the presence of a continuum of scales coupled from microscopic to macroscopic may be the most likely path to fast reconnection.”

Going forward, the authors write that, “prospects for future progress depend on continued successful innovations in methodology. The combination of laboratory experiments, space plasma measurements and numerical simulations is proving to be especially successful.” Such developments will lead future research to focus “on the specialized features of natural plasmas throughout the universe.”

The research was supported by the Vilas Trust and the University of Wisconsin-Madison for Zweibel’s work and the DOE Office of Science for Yamada’s.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the largest single supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.