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Science Briefs

ALS Science Briefs are short (200 words maximum) descriptions of recently published ALS-related work. These “brief” highlights also include one image, a caption (50 words), and the publication citation. All ALS users and beamline scientists are invited to fill out the short submission form here and send a hi-res image to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

A Milky Mystery: The Case of the Casein Micelles Print
Monday, 30 March 2015 00:00

We all know that milk contains important nutrients such as calcium and protein that help build bones and muscle. But how much do we really know about these ingredients at the molecular level? To learn more, scientists from New Zealand and Australia came to the ALS to x-ray some milk.

Terra Sigillata: Evolution of Roman Ceramics Reflect Changes in Technology, Life Print
Wednesday, 18 March 2015 15:38

terra Ancient terra sigillata ceramics were the most famous and ubiquitous Roman tableware, yet when their manufacturing spread to other locations, some of the ceramics' characteristics changed. Researchers from France and the ALS trace the changes.

Decoding Ancient Ocean Acidification Signals from Plankton Shells Print
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:42

Ancient plankton shells can record the physical and chemical state of the ocean in which they grew. Decoding these signals can reveal changes in global climate, atmospheric CO2, and the acidity of the oceans in deep geologic time.

Antiferromagnetic Spins Do The Twist Print
Tuesday, 10 February 2015 11:36

At ALS Beamline 4.0.2, researchers have found that the spins in an antiferromagnetic nanolayer perform a version of "The Twist," turning one way and then the other, challenging a model that has been a cornerstone of exchange-bias theory for 27 years.

The Butterfly Effect on Magnetic Vortices Print
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 12:12

A recent x-ray microscopy study at ALS Beamline 6.1.2 provided evidence that the ultrafast dynamics preceding magnetic vortex formation exhibits the characteristic chaotic behavior known as the butterfly effect, where minute changes can significantly determine the final outcome of a process.

An Evolutionary Arms Race for Sulfur Print
Friday, 07 November 2014 10:49

Recent work at the ALS shows that the viruses infecting sulfur-oxidizing bacteria in the deep sea carry bacterial genes for the oxidation of elemental sulfur. Although the viruses themselves cannot use the sulfur, they likely supplement bacterial sulfur oxidation and then exploit the generated energy for viral replication.

The Electronic Structure of a Two-Dimensional Pure Copper Oxide Lattice Print
Monday, 27 October 2014 09:44

All superconducting cuprates share a common crystal structure, consisting of charge reservoirs stacked between layers of CuO2. An undoped version of these materials, including only copper and oxygen, is not available in nature. By growing epitaxial films with a pulsed-laser deposition facility, researchers stabilized a 2D version of CuO, which can be thought as composed by two CuO2 planes staggered and superposed.

Rare Iron Oxide in Ancient Chinese Pottery Print
Friday, 26 September 2014 14:37

New analysis of ancient Jian ware reveals that the distinctive pottery contains an unexpected and highly unusual form of iron oxide. This rare compound was only recently discovered and characterized by scientists and so far has been extremely difficult to create with modern techniques.

For the Birds: The Magic of Color in Feathers Print
Friday, 29 August 2014 11:38

The beauty and wild colors of bird feathers are derived from the combinations of relatively few molecules. Research at the ALS shows that the expression of colors (or melanin), depends on the proportion of the molecules.

A New Link Between Human and Bacterial Signaling Machinery Print
Tuesday, 19 August 2014 10:34

thumbWork reveals surprising evolutionary connection between bacterial signaling and human immunity.


Minding the Gap Makes for More Efficient Solar Cells Print
Thursday, 19 December 2013 11:01

Using novel materials to develop thin, flexible, and more efficient photovoltaic cells is one of the hottest topics in current materials research. A class of transition metals undergo a dramatic change that makes them ideal for solar energy applications.

Breaking a Pocket of Resistance in the Fight Against Cancer Print
Thursday, 12 December 2013 11:55

Mutations in the protein K-RAS are a very common cause for certain types of human cancers, but have up until now been considered "undruggable." In a recent paper in Nature, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco describe a new class of inhibitors that specifically bind to a RAS mutant associated with lung cancer.

Dynamic Switching of the Spin Circulation in Tapered Magnetic Nanodisks Print
Monday, 22 April 2013 12:09

A recent study  utilized the capability of Beamline 6.1.2 to study nanoscale magnetization dynamics for understanding how one can control the spin circulation separately. It was found that the dynamic reversal process is controlled by far-from equilibrium gyrotropic precession of the vortex core and a reversal can be achieved at significantly reduced field amplitudes compared to static switching. This study sets an important milestone towards the realization of magnetic vortex structures in novel magnetic devices.

3D Visualization of Water Transport in Ferns Print
Monday, 08 April 2013 00:00

Plants transport water through elongated cells called xylem. Data generated using x-ray microtomography reveals the 3D spatial organization of fern xylem networks, revealing that that xylem organization in ferns is finely tuned to the environment and other physiological traits that allow each species to successfully compete for light, water, and nutrients.

Chloride Depletion in Aged Sea Salt Particles Print
Wednesday, 06 February 2013 00:00

Elemental and chemical imaging analyses showed that sea salt particles react with water-soluble organic acids in the atmosphere through a unique mechanism which had been overlooked in atmospheric chemistry. The reactions release volatile hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere and leave behind sea salt particles drained of chloride.

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