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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.



Peptoid Nanosheets Offer a Diversity of Functionalities Print
Wednesday, 29 April 2015 00:00

Researchers at the ALS have recently observed peptoid nanosheets—two-dimensional biomimetic materials with customizable properties—as they self-assemble at an oil–water interface. This new development opens the door to designing peptoid nanosheets of increasing structural complexity and chemical functionality for a broad range of applications, including improved chemical sensors and separators, and safer, more effective drug delivery vehicles.

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A Fullerene that Breaks the Rules Print
Tuesday, 28 April 2015 00:00

Scientists used small-molecule x-ray crystallography to verify and characterize the first non-functionalized fullerene with a heptagonal ring in the cage. This new molecule changes the definition of a classical fullerene and expands the range of structural possibilities for endohedral fullerenes.

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Molecular Structure of Water at Gold Electrodes Revealed Print
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00

ALS researchers have now made a first-ever observation of the molecular structure of liquid water at a gold surface under different charging conditions. This marks the first time that the scientific community has been able to achieve such high sensitivity in an in situ environment under working electrode conditions.

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Protein Instability and Lou Gehrig's Disease Print
Wednesday, 25 March 2015 00:00

A new study uses small-angle x-ray scattering as well as several advanced biophysical techniques to link protein instability to the progression of a lethal degenerative disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

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In Situ X-Ray Scattering Helps Optimize Printed Solar Cells Print
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 00:00

Printable plastic solar cells are a potential source of inexpensive renewable energy, but the transition from lab to factory results in decreased efficiency. Now, for the first time, a miniature solar-cell printer installed in a beamline allows researchers to use x-ray diffraction and scattering to figure out why.

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New Technique Gives a Deeper Look into the Chemistry of Interfaces Print
Monday, 23 February 2015 10:48

A new technique developed at the ALS offers sub-nanometer depth resolution of every chemical element to be found at heterogeneous interfaces, such as those in batteries and fuel cells. The technique is very promising for measuring such important interfaces, with relevance to energy research, heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemistry, and atmospheric and environmental science.

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Brain Receptor Structures Key to Future Therapeutics Print
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 00:00

Neurotransmitter receptor proteins are critical to learning and memory. Mutations are associated with many neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions including Alzheimer's, epilepsy, and autism. Multiple structures of two such receptors, solved by x-ray crystallography at the ALS, provide a blueprint for the development of potential therapeutics.

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Record-Setting Microscopy Illuminates Energy Storage Materials Print
Thursday, 22 January 2015 12:10

Using soft x-ray ptychography, researchers at the ALS have demonstrated the highest-resolution x-ray microscopy ever achieved by imaging five-nanometer structures. The researchers used ptychographic imaging to map the chemical composition of lithium iron phosphate nanocrystals, yielding important new insights into a material of high interest for electrochemical energy storage.

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From CO2 to Methanol via Novel Nanocatalysts Print
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 00:00

Researchers have found novel nanocatalysts that lower the barrier to converting carbon dioxide—an abundant greenhouse gas—into methanol—a key commodity used to produce numerous industrial chemicals and fuels. In one case, it worked almost 90 times faster than catalysts commonly used for this reaction today.

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Designer Proteins Target Epstein-Barr-Virus-Associated Cancer Print
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 00:00

Researchers used new protein design approaches to develop a potential inhibitor of Epstein-Barr-Virus-associated cancer. The study shows not just how to help defeat the virus, but also opens up a whole new way to design proteins against viruses and ultimately, cancer.

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An Iridate with Fermi Arcs Print
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 00:00

Researchers have discovered that "Fermi arcs," much-debated features found in the electronic structure of high-temperature superconducting (HTSC) cuprates, can also be found in an iridate (iridium oxide) compound—strontium iridate.

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ALS Evidence Confirms Combustion Theory Print
Wednesday, 22 October 2014 11:43

Researchers recently uncovered the first step in the process that transforms gas-phase molecules into solid particles like soot and other carbon-based compounds. It’s a discovery that could help combustion chemists make more efficient, less polluting fuels and help materials scientists fine-tune their carbon nanotubes and graphene sheets for faster, smaller electronics.

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Space Dust Analysis Could Provide Clues to Solar System Origins Print
Thursday, 18 September 2014 12:34

New studies of space dust captured by NASA’s Stardust Interstellar Dust Collector have shown that interstellar particles may be much more complex in structure and composition than previously thought. ­The tiny particles could give scientists chemical clues about the origins of our solar system.

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Skyrmion Behavior Revealed by Two X-Ray Studies Print
Thursday, 11 September 2014 15:18

Two research groups have recently published separate studies in which soft x-rays reveal how skyrmions—quasiparticles made up of spin vortices—react to external fields. Their work lays the foundation for understanding these fascinating constructs and eventually utilizing them in spintronic applications.

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Validating Computer-Designed Proteins for Vaccines Print
Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:05

Computationally designed proteins that accurately mimic key viral structures can help produce better vaccines. The resulting protein structures, validated at the ALS, encourage the further development of this strategy for a variety of vaccine targets, including HIV and influenza.

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