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Ames Lab Scientists' Surprising Discovery: Making Ferromagnets Stronger by Adding Non-Magnetic Element

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory discovered that they could functionalize magnetic materials through a thoroughly unlikely method, by adding amounts of the virtually non-magnetic element scandium to a gadolinium-germanium alloy. It was so unlikely they called it a "counterintuitive experimental finding" in their published work on the research.

Cut U.S. Commercial Building Energy Use 29% with Widespread Controls

The U.S. could slash its energy use by the equivalent of what is currently used by 12 to 15 million Americans if commercial buildings fully used energy-efficiency controls nationwide.

How a Single Chemical Bond Balances Cells Between Life and Death

With SLAC's X-ray laser and synchrotron, scientists measured exactly how much energy goes into keeping a crucial chemical bond from triggering a cell's death spiral.

New Efficient, Low-Temperature Catalyst for Converting Water and CO to Hydrogen Gas and CO2

Scientists have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

Study Sheds Light on How Bacterial Organelles Assemble

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Michigan State University are providing the clearest view yet of an intact bacterial microcompartment, revealing at atomic-level resolution the structure and assembly of the organelle's protein shell. This work can help provide important information for research in bioenergy, pathogenesis, and biotechnology.

A Single Electron's Tiny Leap Sets Off 'Molecular Sunscreen' Response

In experiments at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists were able to see the first step of a process that protects a DNA building block called thymine from sun damage: When it's hit with ultraviolet light, a single electron jumps into a slightly higher orbit around the nucleus of a single oxygen atom.

Researchers Find New Mechanism for Genome Regulation

The same mechanisms that separate mixtures of oil and water may also help the organization of an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study by Berkeley Lab researchers. They found that liquid-liquid phase separation helps heterochromatin organize large parts of the genome into specific regions of the nucleus. The work addresses a long-standing question about how DNA functions are organized in space and time, including how genes are silenced or expressed.

The Rise of Giant Viruses

Research reveals that giant viruses acquire genes piecemeal from others, with implications for bioenergy production and environmental cleanup.

Grasses: The Secrets Behind Their Success

Researchers find a grass gene affecting how plants manage water and carbon dioxide that could be useful to growing biofuel crops on marginal land.

SLAC Experiment is First to Decipher Atomic Structure of an Intact Virus with an X-ray Laser

An international team of scientists has for the first time used an X-ray free-electron laser to unravel the structure of an intact virus particle on the atomic level. The method dramatically reduces the amount of virus material required, while also allowing the investigations to be carried out several times faster than before. This opens up entirely new research opportunities.


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Chicago Quantum Exchange to Create Technologically Transformative Ecosystem

The University of Chicago is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory to launch an intellectual hub for advancing academic, industrial and governmental efforts in the science and engineering of quantum information.

Department of Energy Awards Six Research Contracts Totaling $258 Million to Accelerate U.S. Supercomputing Technology

Today U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that six leading U.S. technology companies will receive funding from the Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project (ECP) as part of its new PathForward program, accelerating the research necessary to deploy the nation's first exascale supercomputers.

Cynthia Jenks Named Director of Argonne's Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division

Argonne has named Cynthia Jenks the next director of the laboratory's Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division. Jenks currently serves as the assistant director for scientific planning and the director of the Chemical and Biological Sciences Division at Ames Laboratory.

Argonne-Developed Technology for Producing Graphene Wins TechConnect National Innovation Award

A method that significantly cuts the time and cost needed to grow graphene has won a 2017 TechConnect National Innovation Award. This is the second year in a row that a team at Argonne's Center for Nanoscale Materials has received this award.

Honeywell UOP and Argonne Seek Research Collaborations in Catalysis Under Technologist in Residence Program

Researchers at Argonne are collaborating with Honeywell UOP scientists to explore innovative energy and chemicals production.

Follow the Fantastic Voyage of the ICARUS Neutrino Detector

The ICARUS neutrino detector, born at Gran Sasso National Lab in Italy and refurbished at CERN, will make its way across the sea to Fermilab this summer. Follow along using an interactive map online.

JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

Jefferson Sciences Associates announced today the award of eight JSA/Jefferson Lab graduate fellowships. The doctoral students will use the fellowships to support their advanced studies at their universities and conduct research at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) - a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear physics laboratory managed and operated by JSA, a joint venture between SURA and PAE Applied Technologies.

Muon Magnet's Moment Has Arrived

On May 31, the 50-foot-wide superconducting electromagnet at the center of the Muon g-2 experiment saw its first beam of muon particles from Fermilab's accelerators, kicking off a three-year effort to measure just what happens to those particles when placed in a stunningly precise magnetic field. The answer could rewrite scientists' picture of the universe and how it works.

Seven Small Businesses to Collaborate with Argonne to Solve Technical Challenges

Seven small businesses have been selected to collaborate with researchers at Argonne to address technical challenges as part of DOE's Small Business Vouchers Program.

JSA Names Charles Perdrisat and Charles Sinclair as Co-Recipients of its 2017 Outstanding Nuclear Physicist Prize

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC, announced today that Charles Perdrisat and Charles Sinclair are the recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Nuclear Physicist Prize. The 2017 JSA Outstanding Nuclear Physicist Award is jointly awarded to Charles Perdrisat for his pioneering implementation of the polarization transfer technique to determine proton elastic form factors, and to Charles Sinclair for his crucial development of polarized electron beam technology, which made such measurements, and many others, possible.


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Oxygen: The Jekyll and Hyde of Biofuels

Scientists are devising ways to protect plants, biofuels and, ultimately, the atmosphere itself from damage caused by an element that sustains life on earth.

The Rise of Giant Viruses

Research reveals that giant viruses acquire genes piecemeal from others, with implications for bioenergy production and environmental cleanup.

Grasses: The Secrets Behind Their Success

Researchers find a grass gene affecting how plants manage water and carbon dioxide that could be useful to growing biofuel crops on marginal land.

New Perspectives Into Arctic Cloud Phases

Teamwork provides insight into complicated cloud processes that are important to potential environmental changes in the Arctic.

Mountaintop Plants and Soils to Become Out of Sync

Plants and soil microbes may be altered by climate warming at different rates and in different ways, meaning vital nutrient patterns could be misaligned.

If a Tree Falls in the Amazon

For the first time, scientists pinpointed how often storms topple trees, helping to predict how changes in Amazonia affect the world.

Turning Waste into Fuels, Microbial Style

A newly discovered metabolic process linking different bacteria in a community could enhance bioenergy production.

Department of Energy Awards Six Research Contracts Totaling $258 Million to Accelerate U.S. Supercomputing Technology

Today U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced that six leading U.S. technology companies will receive funding from the Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project (ECP) as part of its new PathForward program, accelerating the research necessary to deploy the nation's first exascale supercomputers.

Electrifying Magnetism

Researchers create materials with controllable electrical and magnetic properties, even at room temperature.

One Step Closer to Practical Fast Charging Batteries

Novel electrode materials have designed pathways for electrons and ions during the charge/discharge cycle.


Tracking Antarctic Adaptations in Diatoms

Article ID: 667657

Released: 2017-01-12 17:00:18

Source Newsroom: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • Credit: Image by Gerhard S. Dieckmann

    Scanning electron micrograph of two cells of Fragilariopsis cylindrus. Shown are two silica shells (Frustules) in valve view. Magnification: 15,000X; scale bar: 5 μm

Diatoms are a common type of photosynthetic microorganism, found in many environments from marine to soil; in the oceans, they are responsible for more than a third of the global ocean carbon captured during photosynthesis. This leads to a significant amount of sequestered carbon ending up in the sediments at the bottom of the ocean. In both freshwater and marine ecosystems, the base of the food web is comprised of a diverse community of phytoplankton that includes diatoms who can thrive in a wide range of temperatures. In the Southern or Antarctic Ocean, large populations of a particular diatom, Fragilariopsis cylindrus, dominate the phytoplankton communities.

To learn more about how F. cylindrus adapted to its extremely cold environment, a team led by University of East Anglia (UEA) scientists in Norwich, England conducted a comparative genomic analysis involving three diatoms by tapping expertise from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), who conducted all sequencing and annotation. The results, reported online January 16, 2017 in the journal Nature, provided insights into the genome structure and evolution of F. cylindrus, as well as this diatom’s role in the Southern Ocean. Of particular interest was that F. cylindrus, which is diploid (it has two copies of each chromosome, thus two versions of each gene) can selectively express the variant best suited to helping it deal with its environment. This provides additional genome-rooted resilience to the organism as its environment changes.

“Many species including phytoplankton are endemic to the Southern Ocean,” said Thomas Mock of UEA, who led the study. “They have evolved over millions of years to be able to cope with this extreme and very variable environment. How they did that is largely unknown. Thus our data provide first insights into how these key organisms underpinning one of the largest and unique marine ecosystems on Earth have evolved.”

To thrive in the Southern Ocean, F. cylindrus has to be responsive to a wide variety of conditions including darkness, freezing and thawing temperatures, and varying levels of carbon dioxide and iron. For example, like many phytoplankton, F. cylindrus gets trapped with the sea ice in the winter and is released in the summer when most of the sea ice melts.

The 60-million basepair (Megabase or Mb) genome of F. cylindrus was sequenced as part of the DOE JGI’s 2007 Community Science Program portfolio. The initial version of genome assembly was available by 2010, analyzing the genome required six more years and multiple groups, including genomicists and population geneticists. For the comparative analysis, its genome was compared against those of the diatoms, Thalassiosira pseudonana and Phaeodactylum tricornutum, both found in temperate oceans with higher concentrations of dissolved iron. These diatom genomes were previously reported by the DOE JGI.

The analysis revealed nearly a quarter of the F. cylindrus genome contained highly diverged alleles, copies of the same genes found in the other diatoms, but which had diverged by accumulating mutations. The team found that this allelic divergence seems to coincide with the last glacial period, which started some 110,000 years ago. “It was remarkable to find that different alleles of the same genes diverge and evolve to respond to various environmental factors,” said Igor Grigoriev, DOE JGI Fungal Genomics head and senior study author.

Mock noted the team also found many genes “unique” to F. cylindrus, such as ice-binding proteins and rhodopsin. He added they observed many proteins with zinc domains, due to the high concentration of zinc in the Southern Ocean, which had not been found in any other phytoplankton genome. The zinc binding protein family appears to have expanded within the last 30 million years.

“Finding that the F. cylindrus population maintains and supports extensive variation in order to provide the adaptive ability of the population under harsh environmental conditions has broad implications for our understanding of natural populations to changing environmental conditions,” said Jeremy Schmutz, head of the DOE JGI’s Plant Program and a study co-author. “On an individual genotype level, the observed switching of expression from one haplotype copy of the gene to the other haplotype copy under changing conditions demonstrates the complexity of survival mechanisms present in nature for translating available genomic variation and content to environmental response. For most diploid eukaryotic organisms, we have considered the separate haplotypes as largely redundant, and generated a single haplotype reference, but it appears in the case of F. cylindrus the major variation in the two haplotypes is vital to the survival and adaptation of the species and may contain variations in regulatory content. This will likely change the way the genomic techniques and assays are applied by the community to ocean dwelling eukaryotic species.”

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The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is committed to advancing genomics in support of DOE missions related to clean energy generation and environmental characterization and cleanup. DOE JGI, headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif., provides integrated high-throughput sequencing and computational analysis that enable systems-based scientific approaches to these challenges. Follow @doe_jgi on Twitter.

DOE’s Office of Science is the largest 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.