Science and Research Highlights

The Molecular Mechanism of Stretch Activation in Insect Muscle

The Molecular Mechanism of Stretch Activation in Insect Muscle

December 21, 2010

Insect flight is very metabolically demanding and many insects have found a way to reduce energy costs in their flight muscles by employing a process called “stretch activation,” for which a mechanistic explanation has been elusive. Research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne provides another important step toward a full explanation of stretch activation, which also plays an important role in mammalian cardiac muscle contraction.
Assessing the Risk of Arsenic Ingestion

Assessing the Risk of Arsenic Ingestion

December 17, 2010

Is the presence of arsenic in the environment, whether naturally occurring or as a result of human activity, a cause for concern? Detailed studies of the various forms of arsenic present in mine-impacted soils, examined using two U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science synchrotron facilities, including the Argonne Advanced Photon Source, point to new ways of assessing the risk factor associated with arsenic in the environment.
A Newly Discovered DNA Repair Mechanism

A Newly Discovered DNA Repair Mechanism

December 17, 2010

Tucked within its double-helix structure, DNA contains the chemical blueprint that guides all the processes that take place within the cell and are essential for life. Researchers utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne have discovered a new way that DNA-repair enzymes detect and fix damage to the chemical bases that form the letters in the genetic code.
An Electronic Dance of Spins and Orbits

An Electronic Dance of Spins and Orbits

December 9, 2010

Because of their potential application in spintronic devices such as next-generation spin-based transistors, the quest for new materials with significant spin-orbit interactions in the electronic ground state is an area of intense research. A novel oxide material containing heavy Iridium atoms displays remarkable properties according to research carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne.
How a Virus Prepares to Infect Cells

How a Virus Prepares to Infect Cells

December 8, 2010

The atomic-scale arrangement of proteins in a structure that enables a virus to invade and fuse with host cells, showing precisely how the structure morphs with changing acidity to initiate infection, has been determined by investigators using the U.S. Department Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne.
Magnetic Switching under Pressure

Magnetic Switching under Pressure

December 2, 2010

A material’s properties, such as magnetism, are a critical factor in the way that material can be used for practical applications. These properties are normally adjusted (or “tuned”) by changing the “recipe” during preparation. Now scientists utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne have harnessed the power of extreme high pressure and discovered a novel approach to predictably tune the switching of a promising new family of next-generation magnetic materials.
Revealing the Secrets of Chemical Bath Deposition

Revealing the Secrets of Chemical Bath Deposition

November 24, 2010

Experimenters utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne recently opened a window on a poorly-understood technique for deposition of materials, insights that will encourage the development of better-controlled and more precise chemical synthesis techniques for semiconductor and other nanomaterial applications.
Velcro for Nanoparticles

Velcro for Nanoparticles

November 17, 2010

DNA can do more than direct how bodies are made. It can also direct the composition of many kinds of materials, according to a new study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne.
DNA Repair Protein Caught in the Act of Molecular Theft

DNA Repair Protein Caught in the Act of Molecular Theft

November 17, 2010

With a major assist from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne, scientists have observed, for the first time, an intermediate stage in the chemical process that repairs DNA methylation damage and regulates many important biological functions that impact health conditions such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
A Molecular Fossil

A Molecular Fossil

November 16, 2010

In today's world of sophisticated organisms, proteins are the stars. But long ago, ribonucleic acid reigned supreme. Now researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne have produced an atomic picture that shows how two of these very old molecules interact with each other. It is a rare glimpse of the transition from an ancient, RNA-based world to our present, protein-catalyst dominated world.
Ultrafast Imaging of Electron Waves in Graphene

Ultrafast Imaging of Electron Waves in Graphene

November 9, 2010

The fastest “movies” ever made of electron motion have been captured by researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne and the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The movies, which were created by scattering x-rays off of graphene, show that the interaction among graphene’s electrons is surprisingly weak.
When Size Matters: Yttrium Oxide Breaking Down Under Pressure

When Size Matters: Yttrium Oxide Breaking Down Under Pressure

November 2, 2010

An experimental team working at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory has discovered that Y2O3 in nanometer-sized particles undergoes a definite phase transition under pressure that results in characteristics quite different from bulk Y2O3, a finding with important implications for the use of yttrium oxide as a nanomaterial.
Breakthrough in Nanocrystals’ Growth

Breakthrough in Nanocrystals’ Growth

October 22, 2010

Research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source, Center for Nanoscale Materials, and Electron Microscopy Center at Argonne National Laboratory has provided an unprecedented view of nanoparticles growing from the earliest stages of their formation. Nanoparticles are the foundation of nanotechnology and their performance depends on their structure, composition, and size. Researchers will now be able to develop ways to control conditions under which they are grown, affecting a wide range of applications including solar-cell technology and chemical and biological sensors.
A Boring Material “Stretched” Could Lead to an Electronics Revolution

A Boring Material “Stretched” Could Lead to an Electronics Revolution

September 30, 2010

The oxide compound europium titanate is pretty boring on its own. But sliced nanometers thin and chemically stretched on a specially designed template, it takes on properties that could revolutionize the electronics industry, according to research carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
Next Step to Drought-Resistant Plants?

Next Step to Drought-Resistant Plants?

September 30, 2010

Environmentally-friendly sprays that help plants survive drought and other stresses in harsh environments could result from findings based on research carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
At the Crossroads of Chromosomes

At the Crossroads of Chromosomes

September 21, 2010

On average, one hundred billion cells in the human body divide over the course of a day. Most of the time the body gets it right but sometimes, problems in cell replication can lead to abnormalities in chromosomes resulting in many types of disorders, from cancer to Down Syndrome. Researchers utilizing two U.S. Department of Energy x-ray light sources have defined the structure of a key molecule that plays a central role in how DNA is duplicated and then used to produce two exact copies of the mother cell. Without this molecule, entire chromosomes could be lost during cell division, so this work is a major advance in understanding the molecules driving human genetic inheritance.
Unveiling the Structure of Adenovirus

Unveiling the Structure of Adenovirus

September 14, 2010

After more than a decade of research, scientists using the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory have pieced together the structure of a human adenovirus—the largest complex ever determined at atomic resolution. These new findings may lead to more effective gene therapy and to new anti-viral drugs.
Probing Spin Liquids with a New Pulsed-Magnet System

Probing Spin Liquids with a New Pulsed-Magnet System

August 26, 2010

Entirely new experimental vistas could be opened by a device called a precursor pulsed-magnet system developed by an international team of scientists. The researchers recently completed the first practical work using the system at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, where they studied magnetoelastic effects in the rare-earth pyrochlore terbium titanate.
In or Out: Setting a Trap for Radioactive Iodine

In or Out: Setting a Trap for Radioactive Iodine

August 26, 2010

With a half-life of nearly 16 million years, the radioisotope Iodine-129 produced by nuclear power plants will be sticking around for a long time. Because iodine plays a role in human metabolism, radioactive 129I is especially dangerous if it escapes into the environment. Researchers utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory have uncovered new information that might lead to improved long-term storage of Iodine-I29.
Making Silicon Melt in Reverse

Making Silicon Melt in Reverse

August 26, 2010

Most materials melt as they get warmer, but some melt as they cool. Researchers utilizing two U.S. Department of Energy x-ray light sources, including the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, have found that silicon (the most widely used material for computer chips and solar cells) can exhibit “retrograde melting” when it contains high concentrations of certain metals. Their findings could be useful in lowering the manufacturing cost of some silicon-based devices.
Making a Magnetic Moment in a Split Picosecond

Making a Magnetic Moment in a Split Picosecond

July 1, 2010

Understanding the changes in materials as they transition from one state to another (for instance, from unstable to stable) is of great interest to both basic and applied science. The Theory and Software Group at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne and the Department of Physics at Northern Illinois University have developed a theoretical model describing ultrafast transitions between two states of a particular iron-molecular compound. Their work could lead to a greater theoretical understanding of transitions in a broad range of materials.
Unpeeling Atoms and Molecules from the Inside Out

Unpeeling Atoms and Molecules from the Inside Out

June 30, 2010

The first published scientific results from the world's most powerful hard x-ray laser, located at the U.S. Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, show its unique ability to control the behaviors of individual electrons within simple atoms and molecules by stripping them away, one by one—in some cases creating hollow atoms.
Butterfly Wing Yields Clues to Light-Altering Structures

Butterfly Wing Yields Clues to Light-Altering Structures

June 30, 2010

At the very heart of some of the most brilliant colors on the wings of butterflies lie bizarre and intriguing structures, according to studies carried out by researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. These structures could possibly be a design source for biomimetic photonic devices.
Quick-Change Molecules Caught in the Act

Quick-Change Molecules Caught in the Act

May 28, 2010

The chemistry of life happens so fast that molecules change in ways we cannot see. But researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory have found a way to reveal both the big-picture shape and smaller-scale details of a molecule in one glance, opening a window on new chemical landscapes.
Squeezing Information from Materials under Extreme Pressure

Squeezing Information from Materials under Extreme Pressure

May 28, 2010

By compressing tiny amounts of material between two diamond anvils, scientists have for more than three decades been able to test theories of solid-state physics and shed light on conditions in planetary interiors. But gaining useful information from highly compressed samples requires probes that resolve fine details of the materials' structure. Researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory have resolved on the nanoscale different elements in a mixture of metals and obtained diffraction patterns of similarly-sized single crystals in a powder, making it feasible to perform measurements at even higher pressures.
The Molecular Mechanics of Hearing and Deafness

The Molecular Mechanics of Hearing and Deafness

April 23, 2010

With the help of x-ray light sources at two U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories, including the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne, researchers from Harvard University and the Harvard Medical School have resolved the molecular structure of one key protein important for sound perception. They have used this structure, together with molecular dynamics simulations to understand the protein’s mechanics and function in hearing and deafness.
Cementing the Structure of CSHs

Cementing the Structure of CSHs

May 12, 2010

Portland cement concrete is all around us. This everyday building material is also a hidden and largely ignored global warming culprit. New insights into the nanostructure of concrete are coming to light thanks to studies carried out at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory. The work is an important milestone in the push for stronger, more environmentally friendly concrete.
Self– and X-ray–Induced Crystallization of Supramolecular Filaments

Self– and X-ray–Induced Crystallization of Supramolecular Filaments

April 7, 2010

Experiments can sometimes lead to the discovery of completely unanticipated phenomena. Such is the case with the remarkable behavior exhibited by peptide nanostructures (in the form of supramolecular filaments) observed during experiments carried out by researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
An Anti-Cancer Drug that Stunts Tumor Growth

An Anti-Cancer Drug that Stunts Tumor Growth

March 31, 2010

An anti-cancer drug, pazopanib, which is marketed as Votrient™ in the U.S. and Europe by its developer, GlaxoSmithKline, was developed in part by research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.
Metallic Glass Yields Secrets under Pressure

Metallic Glass Yields Secrets under Pressure

March 29, 2010

By probing the connection between the density and electronic structure of a cerium-aluminum metallic glass, researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne hope to open new possibilities for developing metallic glasses for specific purposes.
The Structure of the "Swine Flu" Virus

The Structure of the "Swine Flu" Virus

March 17, 2010

The structure of a key protein from the virus that caused last year's "swine flu" influenza epidemic has been solved by researchers using two U.S. Department of Energy synchrotron light sources, including the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne. The information should be useful for scientists and public health officials as they respond to current and future pandemics.
The Package Matters

The Package Matters

March 23, 2010

When it comes to squeezing hydrogen out of ammonia borane, the packaging matters, according to scientists from three U.S. Department of Energy national labs including Argonne. The researchers demonstrated the power of a relatively new method called "atomic pair distribution function" to study how mesoporous materials influence the molecules they confine, providing far more insight into the nature of nanophase materials than conventional techniques.
Disarming Deadly South American Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses

Disarming Deadly South American Hemorrhagic Fever Viruses

March 15, 2010

New World hemorrhagic fevers are emerging infectious diseases found in South America that can cause terrible, Ebola-like symptoms. Current treatments are expensive and only partially effective. Researchers using the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered exactly how one type of New World hemorrhagic fever virus latches onto and infects human cells, offering a much-needed lead toward new treatments.
Pull-Chain “Polymer” Solves Puzzle of Complex Molecular Packing

Pull-Chain “Polymer” Solves Puzzle of Complex Molecular Packing

March 4, 2010

Researchers used the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source at Argonne to study what happens when beaded metal chains are packed more and more tightly into a container. With this pull-chain model, the behavior of individual “molecules” can be studied in a way that is impossible with real polymers.
Discovering New Talents for Diamond

Discovering New Talents for Diamond

February 25, 2010

Researchers using an x-ray beamline at the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Photon Source at Argonne have discovered that synthetic diamond crystals exhibit a very high degree of perfection. This makes them indispensable for the realization of next-generation, fully coherent hard x-ray sources such as x-ray free-electron laser oscillators that have the potential for unprecedented average brightness along with record narrow spectral bandwidths.