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Science Highlights


Science highlights feature research conducted by staff and users at the ALS.

If a Power Point summary slide or a PDF handout of the highlight is available, you will find it linked beneath the highlight listing and on the highlight's page. You may also print a version of a highlight by clicking the print icon associated with each highlight.



Molecular Switch Triggers Bacterial Pathogenicity Print
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 00:00

Using an array of high-powered x-ray imaging techniques at the ALS, scientists have revealed for the first time the molecular steps that turn on bacteria's pathogenic genes. The study could open up new avenues in the development of drugs to prevent or treat bacterial infection.

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A Surface Treatment for Improving Fuel-Cell Cathodes Print
Tuesday, 06 September 2016 00:00

Solid-oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are a promising path toward the "clean" conversion of chemical energy to electrical energy with little or no carbon dioxide emission. With the help of the ALS, researchers from MIT recently found a way to treat SOFC cathode surfaces so that they perform better and last longer.

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New Catalyst Boosts Selective Formation of Olefins from Syngas Print
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 00:00

Experiments at the ALS have helped to explain how a new catalyst significantly boosts the selective formation of light olefin molecules—important building blocks in the petrochemical industry—from syngas. The new process could allow for the use of alternative syngas feedstocks that save water and energy.

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SINS Reveals Dopant Effects in Plasmonic Materials Print
Wednesday, 10 August 2016 00:00

Using synchrotron infrared nanospectroscopy (SINS) at the ALS, researchers have for the first time probed infrared plasmonic excitations in single nanocrystals. This allowed the pinpointing of dopant effects on an emerging class of materials with potential for molecular-sensing and energy-harvesting applications.

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How Antidepressants Block Serotonin Transport Print
Tuesday, 12 July 2016 00:00

Malfunctions in the complex protein "machinery" of serotonin transport can result in depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression, anxiety, and Parkinson's disease. Now, researchers have obtained x-ray crystallographic structures of the difficult-to-crystallize human serotonin transporter bound to two commonly prescribed antidepressant drug molecules.

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New Insights into Oxygen’s Role in Lithium Battery Capacity Print
Monday, 11 July 2016 00:00

Researchers working at the ALS have recently made new discoveries in understanding the nature of charge storage in lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, opening up possibilities for new battery designs with significantly improved capacity. Looking at a popular Li-rich cathode material, the researchers used soft x-ray techniques to quantifiably explain oxygen’s role in Li-ion charge capacity.

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New Fuel Cell Design Powered by Graphene-Wrapped Nanoparticles Print
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 00:00

Interest in hydrogen fuel for automotive applications has been growing steadily in the scientific and automotive community over the last decade. Hydrogen is the lightest and most plentiful element on Earth and could serve as a clean, carbon-free, virtually limitless energy source. However, safe hydrogen storage remains a formidable scientific challenge. Recently, researchers working at the ALS and the Molecular Foundry developed a promising new materials recipe based on magnesium nanocrystals and graphene for a battery-like hydrogen fuel cell with improved performance in key areas.

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3D Charge Order Found in Superconductor Print
Wednesday, 08 June 2016 00:00

Resonant soft x-ray diffraction studies of a cuprate high-temperature superconductor revealed a 3D, long-range charge order—the first of its kind ever reported in a cuprate—that competes with superconductivity. A better understanding of such phenomena could help in the design of more robust superconductors with higher transition temperatures.

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An Atomic-Level Understanding of Copper-Based Catalysts Print
Thursday, 05 May 2016 12:20

Copper-based catalysts are widely used in chemical industries to convert water and carbon monoxide to hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methanol. There are theoretical models used to explain this reaction, but a complete understanding of the process has been lacking. However, recent research at the ALS has shed light on the process, giving scientists key data about how copper-based catalysts function at the atomic level.

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Shutting Out Ebola and Other Viruses Print
Thursday, 28 April 2016 00:00

Researchers have used protein crystallography at the ALS to understand how a drug molecule that has shown some efficacy against Ebola in mice inactivates a membrane protein, called TPC1, used by viruses to infect host cells.

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A New Universal Parameter for Superconductivity Print
Thursday, 14 April 2016 00:00

Scientists have been researching high-temperature (high-Tc) superconductors for decades with the goal of finding materials that express superconducting capabilities at room temperature, which would be a requirement for practical and cost-effective applications. The newest materials to gain scientific interest are iron-based superconductors, and the latest research from the ALS on these materials indicates a new factor that determines their superconductivity.

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Exploring the Repeat-Protein Universe Print
Wednesday, 13 April 2016 00:00

Researchers have published a landmark study that used both crystallography and SAXS to validate computationally designed structures of novel proteins with repeated motifs. The results show that the protein-folding universe is far larger than realized, opening up a wide array of new possibilities for biomolecular engineering.

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Manganese Reduction-Oxidation Drives Plant Debris Decomposition Print
Monday, 22 February 2016 00:00

ALS research has shown that manganese reduction-oxidation (redox) reactions are an important factor in controlling the rate of plant debris decomposition. Understanding the role of manganese will help build better models to predict how litter decomposition rates—and thus nutrient cycling and the ecosystem carbon balance—may behave in future climate scenarios.

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Porous Framework Electrocatalysts Are Key to Carbon Dioxide Conversion Print
Friday, 19 February 2016 13:11

Researchers have made significant headway in the quest to convert CO2 into valuable chemical products such as fuels, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. Recent work at the ALS has shown MOFs and COFs as a valuable new class of CO2 reduction catalysts.

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Aerosol Oxidation Speeds Up in Smoggy Air Print
Wednesday, 17 February 2016 11:37

To better understand the effects of organic aerosols on climate, pollution, and health, researchers measured aerosol reaction rates at ALS Beamline 9.0.2. They discovered an unexpectedly large acceleration in aerosol oxidation in the presence of anthropogenic pollutants commonly found in smoggy air, a result that could help bring models closer in line with observations.

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