DOE News
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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2019-05-23 08:00:35
    • Article ID: 713372

    Science Snapshots: Lithium Under Pressure, A 'Silver Bullet' for the Conversion of Carbon Dioxide, Understanding Microbiomes for Wastewater Treatment

    • Credit: iStock/ekakoskinen

      Lepidolite, a mineral that is key source of lithium.

    • Credit: Berkeley Lab

      Scientists discover a surprising first step in the chemical transformation of carbon dioxide using a silver catalyst.

    • Credit: Courtesy University of Oklahoma

      The Norman Wastewater Reclamation Facility

    Lithium Doesn’t Crack Under Pressure, It Transforms 

    ALIYAH KOVNER 

    Using cutting-edge theoretical calculations performed at NERSC, researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry have predicted fascinating new properties of lithium – a light alkali metal that has intrigued scientists for two decades with its remarkable diversity of physical states at high pressures.

    “Under standard conditions, lithium is a simple metal that forms a textbook crystalline solid. However, scientists have shown that when you put a lithium crystal under pressure, the atomic structure changes and, somewhat counterintuitively, its conductivity drops, becoming less metallic,” said Stephanie Mack, a graduate student research assistant at Berkeley Lab and first author of the study. “We’ve discovered it also becomes topological, with electronic properties similar to graphene.” 

    Topological materials are a recently discovered class of solids that display exotic properties, such as having insulating interiors yet highly conductive surfaces, even when deformed. They are exciting for potential applications in next-generation electronics and quantum information science. According to co-authors Sinéad Griffin and Jeff Neaton, lithium becomes topological at high but experimentally achievable pressures, comparable to one-quarter of the pressure at the Earth’s center.

    Thus far, most experimentally verified topological materials contain heavy, potentially toxic, elements. “But we’ve predicted that lithium, ostensibly a simple metal, can also have these unique properties,” said Mack.

    A ‘Silver Bullet’ for the Chemical Conversion of Carbon Dioxide

    By Lori Tamura

    Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of modern societies, but their increased use releases carbon dioxide, a climate-warming greenhouse gas, faster than plants can recycle it via photosynthesis.

    Now, a powerful combination of experiment and theory has revealed atomic-level details about how silver helps transform carbon dioxide gas into a reusable form. The results, reported in the journal Nature Communications, will help in the design of more efficient metal catalysts.

    “Before, people always thought that the process was the same on all metals,” said Berkeley Lab researcher Yifan Ye, one of the study’s authors. “But now, we have discovered that there are other options for reactions. This is new chemistry, and it's a new reaction pathway.”

    Metals such as silver facilitate the transformation (or “reduction”) of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide (CO), which is used to synthesize other useful chemicals. The work revealed a surprising first step in this process that hadn’t been seen nor suggested before. Ultimately, the researchers hope to optimize carbon dioxide catalysis by using additives or metal alloys.

    The work involved a close collaboration between theorists from Caltech and experimentalists from Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, working together under the umbrella of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub.

    Read the full story here.

    Understanding Microbiomes for Advanced Wastewater Treatment and Reuse Systems 

    JULIE CHAO 

    Wastewater is treated by an activated sludge process in municipal wastewater treatment plants and returned to the environment for use. This treatment process has been used for over a century, and today represents the largest application of biotechnology in the world, yet there has been no effort to map the global activated sludge microbiome. 

    A study recently published in Nature Microbiology reports the first comprehensive, highly coordinated effort to examine the global diversity and biogeography of this microbiome. “The campaign involved 111 investigators who sampled 269 wastewater treatment plants in 86 cities in 23 countries on six continents,” said Jizhong Zhou, a professor of microbiology at the University of Oklahoma and Berkeley Lab adjunct senior scientist. 

    The researchers found a highly diverse activated microbiome, containing up to one billion microbial phylotypes comprised of novel species. “This expansive study is the first time that a systematic study of the hugely beneficial microbial communities involved in the biological treatment of daily wastewaters from communities around the world have been studied to understand their fundamental structure and function has been undertaken. It represents an important development in understanding and maintaining these crucial microbial communities,” said Lisa Alvarez-Cohen, a co-author and adjunct senior scientist at Berkeley Lab. 

    Read the full release from the University of Oklahoma here

    To learn more about Berkeley Lab’s water-energy research, visit the site of our Water-Energy Resilience Research Institute.

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    ORNL scientists make fundamental discovery to creating better crops

    ORNL scientists make fundamental discovery to creating better crops

    A team of scientists led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered the specific gene that controls an important symbiotic relationship between plants and soil fungi, and successfully facilitated the symbiosis in a plant that typically resists it.

    New Laws of Attraction: Scientists Print Magnetic Liquid Droplets

    New Laws of Attraction: Scientists Print Magnetic Liquid Droplets

    Scientists at Berkeley Lab have 3D-printed a magnetic device out of liquids. Their findings could lead to printable liquid magnetic devices for a variety of applications such as artificial cells that deliver targeted cancer therapies to flexible liquid robots.

    A sharper focus: New computational technique resolves compressed X-ray data

    A sharper focus: New computational technique resolves compressed X-ray data

    With high-energy X-rays, such as those that will be produced by the upgrade to Argonne's Advanced Photon Source comes a potential hitch -- the more penetrating the X-rays are, the higher a likelihood that researchers could run into problems with the image data. In a new study, researchers at Argonne have found a novel way to combat this image degradation.

    A Graphene Superconductor That Plays More Than One Tune

    A Graphene Superconductor That Plays More Than One Tune

    Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed a graphene device that switches from a superconducting material that conducts electricity without losing any energy, to an insulator that resists the flow of electric current - all with a simple flip of a switch.

    After blasting a molecule with light, researchers watch its structure vibrate and change in real time

    After blasting a molecule with light, researchers watch its structure vibrate and change in real time

    A new study describes how a team of researchers watched a molecule vibrate after they excited it with ultraviolet light.

    Scientists deepen understanding of the magnetic fields that surround the Earth and other planets

    Scientists deepen understanding of the magnetic fields that surround the Earth and other planets

    Now, a team of scientists has completed research into waves that travel through the magnetosphere, deepening understanding of the region and its interaction with our own planet, and opening up new ways to study other planets across the galaxy.

    Light dark matter is a thousand times less likely to bump into regular matter than previous astrophysical analyses allowed

    Light dark matter is a thousand times less likely to bump into regular matter than previous astrophysical analyses allowed

    A team led by scientists from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University has narrowed down how strongly dark matter particles might interact with normal matter. Based on the number and distribution of small satellite galaxies seen orbiting our Milky Way, the team found this interaction to be at least a thousand times weaker than the strongest interaction allowed by previous astrophysical analyses.

    New Sensor Could Shake Up Earthquake Response Efforts

    New Sensor Could Shake Up Earthquake Response Efforts

    An optical sensor developed at Berkeley Lab could speed up the time it takes to evaluate whether buildings are safe to occupy after a major earthquake. After four years of extensive peer-reviewed research and simulative testing at the University of Nevada's Earthquake Engineering Laboratory, the Discrete Diode Position Sensor (DDPS) will be deployed for the first time this summer in a multi-story building at Berkeley Lab - which sits adjacent to the Hayward Fault, considered one of the most dangerous faults in the United States.

    The best of both worlds: how to solve real problems on modern quantum computers

    The best of both worlds: how to solve real problems on modern quantum computers

    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, along with researchers at Clemson University and Fujitsu Laboratories of America, have developed hybrid algorithms to run on size-limited quantum machines and have demonstrated them for practical applications.

    Designer proteins form wires and lattices on mineral surface

    Designer proteins form wires and lattices on mineral surface

    This research is a fundamental discovery of how to engineer proteins onto non-biological surfaces. Artificial proteins engineered from scratch have been assembled into nanorod arrays, designer filaments and honeycomb lattices on the surface of mica, demonstrating control over the way proteins interact with surfaces to form complex structures previously seen only in natural protein systems. The study provides a foundation for understanding how protein-crystal interactions can be systematically programmed and sets the stage for designing novel protein-inorganic hybrid materials.


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    Physicist Rajesh Maingi heads nationwide liquid metal strategy program for fusion devices

    Physicist Rajesh Maingi heads nationwide liquid metal strategy program for fusion devices

    PPPL physicist Rajesh Maingi co-leads national program to develop strategy for use of flowing liquid lithium in fusion devices.

    Department of Energy awards $4.6 million to Argonne to support collaborations with industry

    Department of Energy awards $4.6 million to Argonne to support collaborations with industry

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced more than $24 million in funding for 77 projects aimed at advancing commercialization of promising energy technologies and strengthening partnerships between DOE's National Laboratories and private-sector companies to deploy important technologies to the marketplace. DOE's Argonne National Laboratory received $4.6 million to fund 12 projects across four research divisions.

    SLAC makes 'electron camera,' a world-class tool for ultrafast science, available to scientists worldwide

    SLAC makes 'electron camera,' a world-class tool for ultrafast science, available to scientists worldwide

    Over the past few years, the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has developed a new tool to visualize physical and chemical processes with outstanding clarity: an ultra-high-speed "electron camera" capable of tracking atomic motions in a broad range of materials in real time. Starting this week, the lab has made this tool available to researchers worldwide.

    Berkeley Lab Scientists Earn Prestigious White House Early Career Award

    Berkeley Lab Scientists Earn Prestigious White House Early Career Award

    Two scientists with Berkeley Lab - and two faculty scientists jointly affiliated with Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley - are among 315 researchers named on July 2 by President Trump to receive the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

    Caltech's Castaneda Named Director of Human Resources at PNNL

    Caltech's Castaneda Named Director of Human Resources at PNNL

    April Castaneda, a senior executive with 20 years of experience leading human resources programs at Caltech and NASA's Jet propulsion Laboratory, has been named director of Human Resources at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab

    Jefferson Sciences Associates has announced the award of nine graduate fellowships to doctoral students for the 2019-2020 academic year.

    Argonne's Jim Morman Elected Fellow of American Nuclear Society

    Argonne's Jim Morman Elected Fellow of American Nuclear Society

    Jim Morman from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been elected a fellow of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), the highest grade of membership that the society offers.

    Will Fox wins 2019 Thomas H. Stix Award for early career contributions to plasma physics

    Will Fox wins 2019 Thomas H. Stix Award for early career contributions to plasma physics

    PPPL physicist brings astrophysical processes down to Earth

    U.S. Department of Energy Renews Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials

    U.S. Department of Energy Renews Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials

    The Department of Energy has announced that, over the next four years, it will invest $32 million to accelerate the design of new materials through use of high-performance computing. One of the seven funded projects is the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials (MICCoM), founded in 2015 and led by the Materials Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. This center draws co-investigators from the University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame, and University of California, Davis.


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    Bursts of Light Shape Walls Between Waves of Charge

    Bursts of Light Shape Walls Between Waves of Charge

    To better store data, scientists need ways to change a material's properties suddenly. For example, they want a material that can go from insulator to conductor and back again. Now, they devised a surprisingly simple way of flipping a material from one state into another, and back again, with flashes of light. A single light pulse turns thin sheets of tantalum disulfide from its original (alpha) state into a mixture of alpha and beta states. Domain walls separate the two states. A second pulse of light dissolves the walls, and the material returns to its original state.

    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    Deep Learning Reveals Mysteries of Deep Space

    How do you determine the measurable "things" that describe the nature of our universe? To answer that question, researchers used CosmoFlow, a deep learning technique, running on a National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center supercomputer. They analyzed large, complex data sets from 3-D simulations of the distribution of matter to answer that question. The team showed that CosmoFlow offers a new platform to gain a deeper understanding of the universe.

    At DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, science drives next-gen creations

    At DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, science drives next-gen creations

    American ingenuity is providing radical productivity improvements from advanced materials and robotic systems developed at the Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

    High-Fidelity Multiphysics Simulations to Improve Nuclear Reactor Safety and Economics

    High-Fidelity Multiphysics Simulations to Improve Nuclear Reactor Safety and Economics

    Engineers can model heat distribution in reactor designs with fewer or no approximations.

    Tiny Vortices Could One Day Haul Microscopic Cargo

    Tiny Vortices Could One Day Haul Microscopic Cargo

    The behavior of active magnetic liquids suggests new pathways to transport particles across surfaces and build materials that self-heal.

    How Does Mother Nature Tackle the Tough Triple Bond Found in Nitrogen?

    How Does Mother Nature Tackle the Tough Triple Bond Found in Nitrogen?

    Researchers demystify how the nitrogenase enzyme breaks bonds to learn a better way to make ammonia.

    A Detailed View of the Ancestor of Photosynthesis

    A Detailed View of the Ancestor of Photosynthesis

    The symmetrical light-gathering, energy-producing complex offers insights into how modern photosystems evolved.

    Unique Interface and Unexpected Behavior Help Explain How Heavy Metals Act

    Unique Interface and Unexpected Behavior Help Explain How Heavy Metals Act

    Three types of water molecules form around a platinum-based ion, offering insights for waste processing and metal refining.

    Maximizing Ozone Signals

    Maximizing Ozone Signals

    New technique enables more efficient and precise estimates of trends in ozone and other atmospheric constituents within selected geographical regions and timeframes.

    How Much Water Does the World Use?

    How Much Water Does the World Use?

    Global data set shows monthly water use by irrigation, manufacturing, and other uses, helping researchers to analyze water use by region and season.


    Spotlight

    Creating a diverse pipeline
    Friday July 19, 2019, 01:05 PM

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    JSA Awards Graduate Fellowships for Research at Jefferson Lab
    Monday July 08, 2019, 03:00 PM

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    ILSAMP Symposium showcases benefits for diverse students, STEM pipeline
    Monday May 20, 2019, 12:05 PM

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    Integrating Scientific Computing into Science Curricula
    Monday May 13, 2019, 11:05 AM

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    Students from Minnesota and Massachusetts Win DOE's 29th National Science Bowl(r)

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    Friday April 12, 2019, 03:05 PM

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    Thursday March 28, 2019, 03:05 PM

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    Thursday January 24, 2019, 01:05 PM

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    Writing Code for a More Skilled and Diverse STEM Workforce
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    New graduate student summer school launches at Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
    Tuesday September 04, 2018, 11:30 AM

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    The Gridlock State
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    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson
    Friday August 31, 2018, 02:05 PM

    Meet Jasmine Hatcher and Trishelle Copeland-Johnson

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School
    Friday August 24, 2018, 11:05 AM

    Argonne hosts Modeling, Experimentation and Validation Summer School

    Argonne National Laboratory

    Students affected by Hurricane Maria bring their research to SLAC
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 01:05 PM

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    Brookhaven Lab Pays Tribute to 2018 Summer Interns
    Wednesday August 22, 2018, 10:05 AM

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    Monday August 20, 2018, 12:05 PM

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    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019
    Thursday August 16, 2018, 12:05 PM

    CSUMB Selected to Host Architecture at Zero Competition in 2019

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    Department of Energy Invests $64 Million in Advanced Nuclear Technology
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    Professor Miao Yu Named the Priti and Mukesh Chatter '82 Career Development Professor
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    2018 RHIC & AGS Annual Users' Meeting: 'Illuminating the QCD Landscape'
    Tuesday July 03, 2018, 11:05 AM

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    Argonne welcomes <em>The Martian</em> author Andy Weir
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    Monday June 18, 2018, 09:55 AM

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    Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research
    Friday June 15, 2018, 10:00 AM

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    Students from Massachusetts and Washington Win DOE's 28th National Science Bowl(r)
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