Plant roots police toxic pollutants

X-ray studies reveal details of how P. juliflora shrub roots scavenge and immobilize arsenic from toxic mine tailings.

Working in collaboration with scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, researchers at the University of Arizona have identified details of how certain plants scavenge and accumulate pollutants in contaminated soil. Their work revealed that plant roots effectively “lock up” toxic arsenic found loose in mine tailings—piles of crushed rock, fluid, and soil left behind after the extraction of minerals and metals. The research shows that this strategy of using plants to stabilize pollutants, called phytostabilization, could even be used in arid areas where plants require more watering, because the plant root activity alters the pollutants to forms that are unlikely to leach into groundwater.

The Arizona based researchers were particularly concerned with exploring phytostabilization strategies for mining regions in the southwestern U.S., where tailings can contain high levels of arsenic, a contaminant that has toxic effects on humans and animals. In the arid environment with low levels of vegetation, wind and water erosion can carry arsenic and other metal pollutants to neighboring communities.

>Read more on the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) website

Image: Scientists from the University of Arizona collect plant samples from the mine tailings at the Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site in central Arizona. X-ray studies at Brookhaven Lab helped reveal how these plants’ roots lock up toxic forms of arsenic in the soil.
Credit: Jon Chorover

High-caliber research launches NSLS-II beamline into operations

Pratt & Whitney conduct the first experiments at a new National Synchrotron Light Source II beamline.

A new experimental station (beamline) has begun operations at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. Called the Beamline for Materials Measurement (BMM), it offers scientists state-of-the-art technology for using a classic synchrotron technique: x-ray absorption spectroscopy.

“There are critical questions in all areas of science that can be solved using x-ray absorption spectroscopy, from energy sciences and catalysis to geochemistry and materials science,” said Bruce Ravel, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which constructed and operates BMM through a partnership with NSLS-II.

X-ray absorption spectroscopy is a research technique that was developed in the 1980s and, since then, has been at the forefront of scientific discovery.

“The reason we’ve used this technique for 40 years and the reason why NIST built the BMM beamline is because it adds a great value to the scientific community,” Ravel explained.

The first group of researchers to conduct experiments at BMM came from jet engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. Senior Engineer Chris Pelliccione and colleagues used BMM to study the chemistry of jet engines.

>Read more on the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) website

Image: Pratt & Whitney Senior Engineer Chris Pelliccione (left) with NIST’s Bruce Ravel (right) at BMM’s workstation.

Talented photographers capture the art of science

See the winning photos from Brookhaven Lab’s Photowalk

On Wednesday, May 16, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory hosted 30 amateur and professional photographers for a behind-the-scenes “Photowalk” of the Lab. The photographers were able to explore and photograph major experimental facilities that are not usually accessible to the public, including the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC)—the only operating particle collider in the U.S.—and the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—one of the world’s most advanced synchrotron light sources. Both are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

Experiments at RHIC and NSLS-II explore the leading edge of fundamental and applied science. At RHIC, physicists collide gold ions, at nearly the speed of light, to recreate the same matter that filled the universe a millionth of a second after the Big Bang. At NSLS-II, scientists use ultra-bright x-ray light to reveal the chemical makeup of proteins, batteries, superconducting materials, and everything in between. The “Photowalkers” lent their talents to capturing the remarkable design of these experiments, showcasing the facilities in all their scientific glory.

>Read more on the National Synchrotron Light Source-II website

Picture: (extract) Finalist picture”X-Ray Eye”. Captured at NSLS-II’s Soft Inelastic Scattering (SIX) beamline.
Credit: Steve Lacker

 

Brookhaven Lab scientist receives Early Career Research Program Funding

Valentina Bisogni, an associate physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been selected by DOE’s Office of Science to receive significant research funding as part of DOE’s Early Career Research Program.

The effort, now in its ninth year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. Bisogni is among a total of 84 recipients selected this year after a competitive review of proposals. Thirty winners come from DOE national laboratories and 54 from U.S. universities.

“Supporting talented researchers early in their career is key to building and maintaining a skilled and effective scientific workforce for the nation. By investing in the next generation of scientific researchers, we are supporting lifelong discovery science to fuel the nation’s innovation system,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “We are proud of the accomplishments these young scientists have already made, and look forward to following their achievements in years to come.”

Each researcher will receive a grant of up to $2.5 million over five years to cover their salary and research expenses. A list of the 84 awardees, their institutions, and titles of their research projects is available on DOE’s Early Career Research Program webpage.

>Read more on the NSLS-II at Brookhaven Lab website

Image: Valentina Bisogni is shown preparing samples at NSLS-II’s Soft Inelastic X-ray Scattering beamline, where she will conduct her research funded through DOE’s Early Career Research Program.

The 2018 Julian David Baumert Ph.D. Thesis Award

Maxwell Terban received the 2018 Julian Baumert Ph.D. Thesis Award at this year’s Joint CFN and NSLS-II Users’ Meeting.

Maxwell Terban, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Plank Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, is this year’s recipient of the Julian Baumert Ph.D. Thesis Award. Terban was selected for developing new research methods, based around a technique called pair distribution function (PDF), for extracting and analyzing structural signatures from materials. His research incorporated measurements from the now-closed National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and the recently opened National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Each year, the Baumert Award is given to a researcher who has recently conducted a thesis project that included measurements at NSLS or NSLS-II. The award was established in memory of Julian David Baumert, a young Brookhaven physicist who worked on x-ray studies of soft-matter interfaces at NSLS.

Terban holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a master’s degree in materials science and engineering from Columbia University. He graduated with a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Columbia University in 2018, and completed his doctoral dissertation under the guidance of Simon Billinge, a professor of materials science and engineering and applied physics and mathematics at Columbia.

>Read more on the NSLSI-II at Brookhaven National Laboratory website

Image: Maxwell Terban, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max-Plank Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, is this year’s recipient of the Julian Baumert Ph.D. Thesis Award.

Tripling the energy storage of lithium-ion batteries

Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries.

As the demand for smartphones, electric vehicles, and renewable energy continues to rise, scientists are searching for ways to improve lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery found in home electronics and a promising solution for grid-scale energy storage. Increasing the energy density of lithium-ion batteries could facilitate the development of advanced technologies with long-lasting batteries, as well as the widespread use of wind and solar energy. Now, researchers have made significant progress toward achieving that goal.

A collaboration led by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD), the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the U.S. Army Research Lab have developed and studied a new cathode material that could triple the energy density of lithium-ion battery electrodes. Their research was published on June 13 in Nature Communications.

>Read more on the NSLS-II at Brookhaven National Lab website

Image: Brookhaven scientists are shown at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. Pictured from left to right are: (top row) Jianming Bai, Seongmin Bak, and Sooyeon Hwang; (bottom row) Dong Su and Enyuan Hu.

Takeuchi Receives European Inventor Award 2018

Prolific patent-holder won for inventing battery that increases the lifespan of implantable defibrillators fivefold, greatly reducing need for reoccurring surgery.

Esther Sans Takeuchi, PhD, has won the 2018 European Inventor Award in the “Non-EPO countries”, the European Patent Office (EPO) announced today. The award was given to her by the EPO at a ceremony held today in Paris, Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Of the four U.S. scientists nominated for the award, Takeuchi is the only American to bring home Europe’s most prestigious prize of innovation.

Takeuchi is the Chief Scientist of the Energy Sciences Directorate at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook University’s (SBU) William and Jane Knapp Endowed Chair in Energy and the Environment, and a Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts & Sciences and in Materials Science and Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SBU. She was honored for developing the compact batteries that power tiny, implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICDs)—devices that detect and correct irregular, potentially fatal, heart rhythms. Her lithium silver vanadium oxide (“Li/SVO”) battery extended the power-source lifetime for ICDs to around five years, considerably longer than its predecessors, thus reducing the number of surgeries patients needed to undergo to replace them. Her invention led not only to an advance in battery chemistry, but also enabled the production and widespread adoption of ICDs and significantly improved patient well-being.

>Read more on the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) website

Image: Esther Sans Takeuchi, a joint appointee of Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University, has won the 2018 European Inventor Award in the category “Non-EPO countries.”

 

 

New high-precision instrument enables rapid measurements of protein crystals

A team of scientists and engineers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new scientific instrument that enables ultra-precise and high-speed characterization of protein crystals at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—a DOE Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven, which generates high energy x-rays that can be harnessed to probe the protein crystals. Called the FastForward MX goniometer, this advanced instrument will significantly increase the efficiency of protein crystallography by reducing the run time of experiments from hours to minutes.

Protein crystallography is an essential research technique that uses x-ray diffraction for uncovering the 3D structures of proteins and other complex biological molecules, and understanding their function within our cells. Using this knowledge about the basic structure of life, scientists can advance drug design, improve medical treatments, and unravel other environmental and biochemical processes governing our everyday lives.

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: Yuan Gao, Wuxian Shi, Evgeny Nazaretski, Stuart Myers, Weihe Xu and, Martin Fuchs designed and implemented the new goniometer scanner system for ultra-fast and efficient serial protein crystallography at the Frontier Microfocusing Macromolecular Crystallography (FMX) beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source II.

NEXT project receives secretary’s achievement award

On Wednesday, Mar. 14, Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes presented the Secretary’s Achievement Award—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Project Management (PM) Award—to the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) Experimental Tools (NEXT) project management team for completing the project on schedule and under budget, and for delivering scientific instruments to NSLS-II that will benefit research for years to come.

The NEXT project team coordinated the development and construction of five new beamlines (experimental stations) at NSLS-II, a highly advanced synchrotron light source and a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. Scientists use NSLS-II’s ultra-bright light to study materials with nanoscale resolution and exquisite sensitivity. The five new beamlines developed through NEXT complement the existing beamline portfolio at NSLS-II, and offer new, unique, and cutting-edge scientific capabilities.

“These state-of-the-art beamlines support the DOE Office of Science mission to deliver scientific discoveries and major scientific tools to transform our understanding of nature and to advance the energy, economic, and national security of the United States,” said Robert Caradonna, DOE Brookhaven Site Office Federal Project Director. “This award reflects the drive and dedication of the NEXT project team that made this endeavor a huge success. It was an honor to work with such talented people on such an important a project.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The NEXT team celebrates the completion of the project in NSLS-II’s lobby.
Credit: NSLS II

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

In a new study, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories observed the formation of two kinds of defects in individual nanowires, which are smaller in diameter than a human hair.

These nanowires, made of indium gallium arsenide, could be useful for a wide range of applications in a field scientists have termed optoelectronics, which encompasses devices that work by converting light energy into electrical impulses. Fiber optic relays are a good example.

The effectiveness of these devices, however, can be affected by tiny defects in their components. These defects, which can change both the optical and electronic properties of these materials, interest scientists who seek to tailor them to boost the functionality of future optoelectronics, including materials that will be able to manipulate quantum information.

>Read more on the NSLS-II website and the Advanced Photon Source website

Image: Argonne and Brookhaven researchers observed two kinds of defects forming in individual nanowires, depicted here. These nanowires are smaller in diameter than a human hair.
Credit: Megan Hill/Northwestern University

Converting CO2 into usable energy

Scientists show that single nickel atoms are an efficient, cost-effective catalyst for converting carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.

Imagine if carbon dioxide (CO2) could easily be converted into usable energy. Every time you breathe or drive a motor vehicle, you would produce a key ingredient for generating fuels. Like photosynthesis in plants, we could turn CO2 into molecules that are essential for day-to-day life. Now, scientists are one step closer.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory are part of a scientific collaboration that has identified a new electrocatalyst that efficiently converts CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO), a highly energetic molecule. Their findings were published on Feb. 1 in Energy & Environmental Science.

“There are many ways to use CO,” said Eli Stavitski, a scientist at Brookhaven and an author on the paper. “You can react it with water to produce energy-rich hydrogen gas, or with hydrogen to produce useful chemicals, such as hydrocarbons or alcohols. If there were a sustainable, cost-efficient route to transform CO2 to CO, it would benefit society greatly.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: Brookhaven scientists are pictured at NSLS-II beamline 8-ID, where they used ultra-bright x-ray light to “see” the chemical complexity of a new catalytic material. Pictured from left to right are Klaus Attenkofer, Dong Su, Sooyeon Hwang, and Eli Stavitski.

 

Atomic Flaws Create Surprising, High-Efficiency UV LED Materials

Subtle surface defects increase UV light emission in greener, more cost-effective LED and catalyst materials

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) traditionally demand atomic perfection to optimize efficiency. On the nanoscale, where structures span just billionths of a meter, defects should be avoided at all costs—until now.

A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University has discovered that subtle imperfections can dramatically increase the efficiency and ultraviolet (UV) light output of certain LED materials.

“The results are surprising and completely counterintuitive,” said Brookhaven Lab scientist Mingzhao Liu, the senior author on the study. “These almost imperceptible flaws, which turned out to be missing oxygen in the surface of zinc oxide nanowires, actually enhance performance. This revelation may inspire new nanomaterial designs far beyond LEDs that would otherwise have been reflexively dismissed.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The research team, front to back and left to right: Danhua Yan, Mingzhao Liu, Klaus Attenkoffer, Jiajie Cen, Dario Stacciola, Wenrui Zhang, Jerzy Sadowski, Eli Stavitski.

 

Pigments in Oil Paintings Linked to Artwork Degradation

Scientists have observed how lithium moves inside individual nanoparticles that make up batteries.

The finding could help companies develop batteries that charge faster and last longer. Experts have long known that as oil paintings age, soaps can form within the paint, degrading the appearance of the artworks. The process significantly complicates the preservation of oil paintings—and cultural manifestations, which the paintings themselves help to preserve.

“These soaps may form protrusions that grow within the paint and break up through the surface, creating a bumpy texture,” said Silvia Centeno, a member of the Department of Scientific Research at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). “In other cases, the soaps can increase the transparency of the paint, or form a disfiguring, white crust on the painting.”

Scientists do not understand why the soaps take on different manifestations, and for many years, the underlying mechanisms of how the soaps form remained a mystery.

“The Met, alongside our colleagues from other institutions, is trying to figure out why the process takes place, what triggers it, and if there’s a way we can prevent it,” Centeno said.

 

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Picture: Scientists from Brookhaven Lab and The Met used beamline 5-ID at NSLS-II to analyze a microscopic sample of a 15th century oil painting. Pictured from left to right are Karen Chen-Wiegart (Stony Brook University/BNL), Silvia Centeno (The Met), Juergen Thieme (BNL), and Garth Williams (BNL).

 

 

 

Surprising Discovery Could Lead to Better Batteries

Scientists have observed how lithium moves inside individual nanoparticles that make up batteries. The finding could help companies develop batteries that charge faster and last longer

UPTON, NY – A collaboration led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has observed an unexpected phenomenon in lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery used to power cell phones and electric cars. As a model battery generated electric current, the scientists witnessed the concentration of lithium inside individual nanoparticles reverse at a certain point, instead of constantly increasing. This discovery, which was published on January 12 in the journal Science Advances, is a major step toward improving the battery life of consumer electronics.

“If you have a cell phone, you likely need to charge its battery every day, due to the limited capacity of the battery’s electrodes,” said Esther Takeuchi, a SUNY distinguished professor at Stony Brook University and a chief scientist in the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven Lab. “The findings in this study could help develop batteries that charge faster and last longer.”

 

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Picture: Brookhaven scientists are shown at the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department’s TEM facility, where part of the study was conducted. Pictured from left to right are Jianming Bai, Feng Wang, Wei Zhang, Yimei Zhu, and Lijun Wu.

 

 

2017’s Top-10 Discoveries and Scientific Achievements

Each year we compile a list of the biggest advances made by scientists, engineers, and those who support their work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. From unraveling new details of the particle soup that filled the early universe to designing improvements for batteries, x-ray imaging, and even glass, this year’s selections span a spectrum of size scales and fields of science. Read on for a recap of what our passion for discovery has uncovered this year.  (…)

4. Low-Temperature Hydrogen Catalyst

Brookhaven chemists conducted essential studies to decipher the details of a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas. Developed by collaborators at Peking University, the catalyst operates at low temperature and pressure, and could be particularly useful in fuel-cell-powered cars. The Brookhaven team analyzed the catalyst as it was operating under industrial conditions using x-ray diffraction at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). These operando experiments revealed how the configuration of atoms changed under different operating conditions, including at different temperatures. The team then used those structural details to develop models and a theoretical framework to explain why the catalyst works so well, using computational resources at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

 >Read more on the NSLS-II website

 

Scientists Named 2017 American Physical Society Fellows

Five Brookhaven Lab Scientists recognized for their outstanding contributions

The American Physical Society (APS), the world’s largest physics organization, has elected five scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2017 APS fellows. With more than 53,000 members from academia, government, and industry, APS seeks to advance and share physics knowledge through research journals, scientific meetings, and activities in education, outreach, and advocacy. Each year, a very small percentage of APS members are elevated to the status of fellow through a peer nomination process. Fellows are recognized for their exceptional contributions to physics, including in research, applications, leadership and service, and education.

The 2017 APS fellows representing Brookhaven Lab are Anatoly Frenkel, Morgan May, Rachid Nouicer, Eric Stach, and Peter Steinberg.

Anatoly Frenkel, APS Division of Materials Physics

“For seminal contributions to in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy, transformative development of structural characterization methods for nanoparticles, and their pioneering applications to a broad range of functional nanomaterials in materials physics and catalysis science.”

Anatoly Frenkel holds a joint appointment as a senior chemist in Brookhaven Lab’s Chemistry Division—where he serves as principal investigator of the Structure and Dynamics of Applied Nanomaterials Group—and tenured professor in Stony Brook University’s Materials Science and Chemical Engineering Department. Frenkel’s research focuses on the application of synchrotron-based x-ray methods to characterize materials and study how their structures and properties relate.

 

>Read more on the NSLS II website

Image: Anatoly Frenkel