Today at Berkeley Lab

Shedding New Light on Luminous Blue Variable Stars

Three-dimensional simulations run at two DOE national lab supercomputing facilities (including NERSC) and NASA have provided new insights into the behavior of a unique class of celestial bodies known as luminous blue variables — rare, massive stars that can shine up to a million times brighter than the Sun. More>

ALS Helps Reveal the Smoking Gun of Soot Formation

Soot in the atmosphere is responsible for millions of deaths annually and contributes substantially to air pollution and climate change. Scientists used the Advanced Light Source to identify a mechanism for the formation of soot that involves a series rapid chemical reactions. Understanding the fundamental chemistry behind soot formation is the first step in being able to reduce soot emissions to the atmosphere. More>

Researchers Use Jiggly Jell-O to Make Powerful New Hydrogen Fuel Catalyst

A cheap and effective new catalyst can generate hydrogen fuel from water just as efficiently as platinum, currently the best — but also most expensive — water-splitting catalyst out there. The catalyst is manufactured using a self-assembly process that relies on a surprising ingredient: gelatin, the material that gives Jell-O its jiggle. This research study was co-authored by Lab researchers Nathan Hohman and Chenhui Zhu. More>

Sierra Snowpack Could Drop Significantly by End of Century

A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study by Berkeley Lab that analyzed the headwater regions of California’s 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state’s surface storage, found on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100. More>

Topological Matters: Toward a New Kind of Transistor

An experiment conducted at Berkeley Lab has demonstrated, for the first time, electronic switching in an exotic, ultrathin material that can carry a charge with nearly zero loss at room temperature. Researchers demonstrated this switching when subjecting the material to a low-current electric field. More>

Topping Off a Telescope with New Tools to Explore Dark Energy

Key components for the sky-mapping Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, weighing about 12 tons, were hoisted atop the Mayall Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, and bolted into place last week, marking a major project milestone. More>

Imaging Technique Provides Nanoscale Insights Into Biological Molecules Behavior

Lab researchers, in collaboration with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Max Planck Institute, have demonstrated that fluctuation X-ray scattering is capable of capturing the behavior of biological systems in unprecedented detail. The team developed a novel mathematical and data analyses framework that was applied to data obtained from DOE’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at SLAC. More>

Freeze-Frame Microscopy Captures Molecule’s ‘Lock-and-Load’ on DNA

Eva Nogales, faculty scientist in the Biosciences Area, led a team that captured freeze-frames of the changing shape of the huge macromolecular complex, transcription factor IID, as it locks onto DNA and loads the machinery for reading the genetic code. Scientists used cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to obtain snapshots of this structure as it engages with DNA, scans the sequence, and recruits and rearranges the appropriate proteins. More>

EESA Researchers Examine Greenhouse Gas Flux In Arctic Tundra

As part of the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment – Arctic (NGEE-Arctic) project, Earth and Environmental Sciences Area scientists are studying the effects of climate change on ecosystem processes. A team led by research scientist Bhavna Arora recently looked at how environmental factors such as soil temperature or snowmelt influence carbon dioxide and methane flux at a research site near Barrow, Alaska. More>

Potential New Way to Boost Biofuels and Bioproducts Production

JBEI researchers have gained insight into the primary process by which all cells harness energy of E. coli bacteria and a species of yeast, each of which are common hosts for biofuels and bioproducts. Their findings suggest new ways by which the pathways to produce biofuels and bioproducts could be optimized to maintain proper respiratory function, thereby increasing production. More>