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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 .

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.

Space-Age Ceramics Get Their Toughest Test Print
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 14:52

Advanced ceramic composites can withstand the ultrahigh operational temperatures projected for hypersonic jet and next generation gas turbine engines, but real-time analysis of the mechanical properties of these space-age materials at ultrahigh temperatures has been a challenge – until now. Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers have developed the first testing facility at ALS Beamline 8.3.2 that enables CT-scanning of ceramic composites under controlled loads at ultrahigh temperatures and in real-time.

Diamondoids Improve Electron Emitters Print
Monday, 17 September 2012 12:02

Diamondoids are nanoparticles made of only a handful of carbon atoms, arranged in the same way as in diamond, forming nanometer sized diamond crystals. A new study shows how they could enable the development of a new generation of electron emitters.

An Atomic Look at a Toxic Amyloid Small Oligomer Print
Thursday, 06 September 2012 09:30

Amyloids are insoluble fibrous protein aggregates sharing specific structural traits. Amyloid diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and the prion conditions, are each associated with a particular protein in fibrillar form. These amyloid fibrils were long suspected to be the disease agents, but evidence now suggests that small, transient, polymorphic oligomers are the toxic entities.

Imaging the Formation of Sea Urchin Spicules Print
Thursday, 16 August 2012 15:39

Sea urchin spicules are an ideal system for studying biomineral formation mechanisms because they contain 99.9% calcite. For the first time, researchers have directly observed spicules caught in the act of crystalizing, gaining a tremendous amount of information about the process and even some unexpected results.

IAP Antagonists Promote Cell Death Print
Thursday, 02 August 2012 11:19

Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a normal process for most cells in multicellular organisms. Inhibitor of apoptosis (IAP) proteins suppress apoptosis and are over-expressed in human cancer cells, causing resistance to cytotoxic therapies.

Crystallographic Boundary in a Magnetic Shape Memory Material Print
Wednesday, 18 April 2012 11:37

A research team has acquired nanoscale, element-specific images of a crystallographic boundary in an a new magnetic shape memory compound. Knowledge about these magnetostructural domain boundaries will be useful in adapting these compounds for robotic and medical applications.

Micro- and Nano-Crystal Orientations in Shells Print
Thursday, 12 April 2012 11:11

crystalline thumbResearchers from the University of Wisconsin and the ALS conducted the first demonstration of quantitative Polarization-dependent Imaging Contrast (PIC) mapping on the prismatic layer of a mollusk shell, revealing multiply-oriented nanocrystals.

First Look at Gradient Crystals Print
Friday, 16 March 2012 15:14


Professor Nitash Balsara and his team at the University of California, Berkeley have developed nanostructured electrolytes for use in lithium batteries that have the potential to increase the energy density of the batteries and make them safer.

How Spineless Prickly Pear Cactus Utilize Selenium Print
Monday, 12 March 2012 13:50

Due to drought and limited freshwater supplies, the increased accumulation of naturally occurring salts, boron (B), and selenium (Se) has worsened in some agricultural areas. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture used ALS Beamline 10.3.2 to study the utilization of Se-biofortified crops in these “semiretired lands."

Structure of a Voltage-Gated Ion Channel Print
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 16:37

Working through the Collaborative Crystallography program at the Berkeley Center for Structural Biology, University of Washington researchers recently published a structural analysis of a voltage-gated ion channel, a type of protein that controls the flow of ions across a cell membrane in response to electrical potential.

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