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Fungal Enzymes Team Up to More Efficiently Break Down Cellulose

Cost-effectively breaking down bioenergy crops into sugars that can then be converted into fuel is a barrier to commercially producing sustainable biofuels. Enabled by DOE User Facilities, a team reports that early lineages of fungi can form enzyme complexes capable of degrading plant biomass.

Argonne Scientists Make Vanadium Into a Useful Catalyst for Hydrogenation

In a new study, Argonne chemist Max Delferro boosted and analyzed the unprecedented catalytic activity of an element called vanadium for hydrogenation - a reaction that is used for making everything from vegetable oils to petrochemical products to vitamins.

Printed, Flexible and Rechargeable Battery Can Power Wearable Sensors

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed the first printed battery that is flexible, stretchable and rechargeable. The zinc batteries could be used to power everything from wearable sensors to solar cells and other kinds of electronics. The work appears in the April 19, 2017 issue of Advanced Energy Materials.

Neutrons Provide the First Nanoscale Look at a Living Cell Membrane

A research team from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has performed the first-ever direct nanoscale examination of a living cell membrane. In doing so, it also resolved a long-standing debate by identifying tiny groupings of lipid molecules that are likely key to the cell's functioning.

How X-Rays Helped to Solve Mystery of Floating Rocks

Experiments at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source have helped scientists to solve a mystery of why some rocks can float for years in the ocean, traveling thousands of miles before sinking.

Special X-Ray Technique Allows Scientists to See 3-D Deformations

In a new study published last Friday in Science, researchers at Argonne used an X-ray scattering technique called Bragg coherent diffraction imaging to reconstruct in 3-D the size and shape of grain defects. These defects create imperfections in the lattice of atoms inside a grain that can give rise to interesting material properties and effects.

Neptune: Neutralizer-Free Plasma Propulsion

The most established plasma propulsion concepts are gridded-ion thrusters that accelerate and emit a larger number of positively charged particles than those that are negatively charged. To enable the spacecraft to remain charge-neutral, a "neutralizer" is used to inject electrons to exactly balance the positive ion charge in the exhaust beam. However, the neutralizer requires additional power from the spacecraft and increases the size and weight of the propulsion system. Researchers are investigating how the radio-frequency self-bias effect can be used to remove the neutralizer altogether, and they report their work in this week's Physics of Plasmas.

Report Sheds New Insights on the Spin Dynamics of a Material Candidate for Low-Power Devices

In a report published in Nano LettersArgonne researchers reveal new insights into the properties of a magnetic insulator that is a candidate for low-power device applications; their insights form early stepping-stones towards developing high-speed, low-power electronics that use electron spin rather than charge to carry information.

Researchers Find Computer Code That Volkswagen Used to Cheat Emissions Tests

An international team of researchers has uncovered the mechanism that allowed Volkswagen to circumvent U.S. and European emission tests over at least six years before the Environmental Protection Agency put the company on notice in 2015 for violating the Clean Air Act. During a year-long investigation, researchers found code that allowed a car's onboard computer to determine that the vehicle was undergoing an emissions test.

Physicists Discover That Lithium Oxide on Tokamak Walls Can Improve Plasma Performance

A team of physicists has found that a coating of lithium oxide on the inside of fusion machines known as tokamaks can absorb as much deuterium as pure lithium can.


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University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Joins Energy-Focused National Science Foundation Research Center

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is joining a National Science Foundation-backed research center that will develop new technologies for storing, controlling and distributing energy that could ward off cybersecurity threats and lower energy bills.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Graduates Urged to Embrace Change at 211th Commencement

Describing the dizzying pace of technological innovation, former United States Secretary of Energy Ernest J. Moniz urged graduates to "anticipate career change, welcome it, and manage it to your and your society's benefit" at the 211th Commencement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Saturday.

ORNL Welcomes Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurial Research Fellows

Oak Ridge National Laboratory today welcomed the first cohort of innovators to join Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast region's first entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

Department of Energy Secretary Recognizes Argonne Scientists' Work to Fight Ebola, Cancer

Two groups of researchers at Argonne earned special awards from the office of the U.S. Secretary of Energy for addressing the global health challenges of Ebola and cancer.

Jefferson Science Associates, LLC Recognized for Leadership in Small Business Utilization

Jefferson Lab/Jefferson Science Associates has a long-standing commitment to doing business with and mentoring small businesses. That commitment and support received national recognition at the 16th Annual Dept. of Energy Small Business Forum and Expo held May 16-18, 2017 in Kansas City, Mo.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute President's Commencement Colloquy to Address "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity"

To kick off the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Commencement weekend, the annual President's Commencement Colloquy will take place on Friday, May 19, beginning at 3:30 p.m. The discussion, titled "Criticality, Incisiveness, Creativity," will include the Honorable Ernest J. Moniz, former Secretary of Energy, and the Honorable Roger W. Ferguson Jr., President and CEO of TIAA, and will be moderated by Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson.

ORNL, University of Tennessee Launch New Doctoral Program in Data Science

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has approved a new doctoral program in data science and engineering as part of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education.

SurfTec Receives $1.2 Million Energy Award to Develop Novel Coating

The Department of Energy has awarded $1.2 million to SurfTec LLC, a company affiliated with the U of A Technology Development Foundation, to continue developing a nanoparticle-based coating to replace lead-based journal bearings in the next generation of electric machines.

Ames Laboratory Scientist Inducted Into National Inventors Hall of Fame

Iver Anderson, senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

DOE HPC4Mfg Program Funds 13 New Projects to Improve U.S. Energy Technologies Through High Performance Computing

A U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance U.S. manufacturing is funding 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.9 million.


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Casting a Wide Net

Designed molecules will provide positive impacts in energy production by selectively removing unwanted ions from complex solutions.

New Software Tools Streamline DNA Sequence Design-and-Build Process

Enhanced software tools will accelerate gene discovery and characterization, vital for new forms of fuel production.

The Ultrafast Interplay Between Molecules and Materials

Computer calculations by the Center for Solar Fuels, an Energy Frontier Research Center, shed light on nebulous interactions in semiconductors relevant to dye-sensitized solar cells.

Supercapacitors: WOODn't That Be Nice

Researchers at Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage, an Energy Frontier Research Center, take advantage of nature-made materials and structure for energy storage research.

Groundwater Flow Is Key for Modeling the Global Water Cycle

Water table depth and groundwater flow are vital to understanding the amount of water that plants transmit to the atmosphere.

Finding the Correct Path

A new computational technique greatly simplifies the complex reaction networks common to catalysis and combustion fields.

Opening Efficient Routes to Everyday Plastics

A new material from the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center, facilitates the production of key industrial supplies.

Fight to the Top: Silver and Gold Compete for the Surface of a Bimetallic Solid

It's the classic plot of a buddy movie. Two struggling bodies team up to drive the plot and do good together. That same idea, when it comes to metals, could help scientists solve a big problem: the amount of energy consumed by making chemicals.

Saving Energy Through Light Control

New materials, designed by researchers at the Center for Excitonics, an Energy Frontier Research Center, can reduce energy consumption with the flip of a switch.

Teaching Perovskites to Swim

Scientists at the ANSER Energy Frontier Research Center designed a two-component layer protects a sunlight-harvesting device from water and heat.


Saturday May 20, 2017, 12:05 PM

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Internship Program Helps Foster Development of Future Nuclear Scientists

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Texas Tech Energy Commerce Students, Community Light up Tent City

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FIONA to Take on the Periodic Table's Heavyweights

Article ID: 674066

Released: 2017-05-03 12:05:07

Source Newsroom: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    Berkeley Lab Scientists Jackie Gates, left, and Kenneth Gregorich work on FIONA, a new device at the Lab’s 88-Inch Cyclotron. FIONA is designed to precisely measure the mass number of the periodic table’s superheavy elements, and could also be useful for other types of explorations of superheavy elements.

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    Jackie Gates, a Berkeley Lab staff scientist, points to a branching region of the periodic table that is populated by isotopes of superheavy elements.

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    A view of FIONA in Cave 2 at Berkeley Lab’s 88-Inch Cyclotron.

  • Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

    Jeffrey Kwarsick, a graduate student, works on the installation of FIONA at Berkeley Lab’s 88-Inch Cyclotron.

A new tool at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will be taking on some of the periodic table’s latest heavyweight champions to see how their masses measure up to predictions.

Dubbed FIONA, the device is designed to measure the mass numbers of individual atoms of superheavy elements, which have higher masses than uranium.

“Once we have determined those mass numbers, we will use FIONA to learn about the shape and structure of heavy nuclei, guide the search for new elements, and to give us better measurements for nuclear fission and related processes in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry research,” said Kenneth Gregorich, a senior scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Nuclear Science Division who has been involved in building and testing FIONA.

FIONA’s full name is “For the Identification Of Nuclide A.” The “A” is a scientific symbol representing the mass number -- the sum of protons, which are positively charged, and neutrons, which do not have an electric charge -- in the nucleus of an atom. The proton count, also known as the atomic number, is unique for each element and is the basis for the arrangement of elements in the periodic table. 

FIONA builds on a long history of expertise in heavy element discoveries and nuclear physics research at Berkeley Lab. The Lab’s scientists have been involved in the discovery of 16 elements and also various forms of elements, known as isotopes, which have different numbers of neutrons.

Nuclear physicists have used the known masses of radioactive decay “daughter atoms” as a framework for determining the masses for these heavier “parent” elements.

Previous experiments have also helped to home in on the masses of some of the superheavy elements. But determining the mass number of some of the heaviest elements has remained out of reach because it is challenging to produce isolated atoms and to measure them before they rapidly decay.

FIONA’s measurements are expected to provide a better fundamental understanding of the makeup of these manufactured superheavy atomic nuclei. 

“We will be exploring the limits of nuclear stability, answering basic questions such as how many protons you can put in a nucleus,” Gregorich said.

A holy grail in this field is to reach the so-called “island of stability,” an as-yet unexplored realm in the chart of nuclei where human-made isotopes are theorized to be long-lived. 

“We will perhaps be probing the edge of this ‘island’ -- informing theories that predict such things so they can be refined,” Gregorich said.

FIONA was installed in November 2016 at Berkeley Lab’s 88-Inch Cyclotron, which produces intense particle beams for nuclear physics experiments and to test the radiation-hardness of computer chips for use in satellites, and has since undergone a range of tests to prepare it for a first round of experiments this summer. FIONA is an enhancement to a long-running machine called the Berkeley Gas-filled Separator (BGS) that separates atoms of superheavy elements from other types of charged particles.

“The separator’s job is to separate the heavy elements of interest from the beam and other unwanted reaction products,” Gregorich said, and FIONA is designed to move the desired atoms away from this “noisy” environment and to quickly measure them within about 10 thousandths of a second.

This is important because the human-made superheavy elements discovered so far have very short half-lives, in some cases decaying down to lighter elements on scales measured in thousandths of a second.

FIONA components include a new shielding wall that is designed to reduce background noise from other charged particles, a specialized trapping mechanism for atoms, and a sensitive silicon-based detector array that can measure the energy, position, and timing of the decay of radioactive atoms.

Several components of FIONA were constructed under contract with Argonne National Laboratory, and the mass analyzer was designed and built at Berkeley Lab.

“The design for FIONA is practical, flexible, and unique,” Gregorich said. “We were looking at different ways to perform mass separation, and everything else was either more expensive or more difficult.”

The initial beams that will be produced at the 88-Inch Cyclotron for the early FIONA experiments will use an isotope of calcium that is accelerated to strike a target containing a heavy element -- typically human-made americium, which is heavier than plutonium. This bombardment fuses some of the atomic nuclei to produce even heavier atoms. 

Jackie Gates, a staff scientist in the Nuclear Science Division and a leader of the FIONA team, said, “Some other devices have a much higher mass resolution but a lower efficiency -- FIONA will have the highest efficiency.” This higher efficiency means that FIONA can isolate and measure more atoms of a specific superheavy element in a given time than comparable devices.

Even so, the creation of the heaviest atoms yet discovered is challenging: Of all the particles pouring through the separator, perhaps one in a quintillion (one followed by 18 zeros) reaching the experiment will form a superheavy element of interest.

That translates into the production of possibly one atom of interest per day, and several detections will be needed to determine the mass number, Gates said.

After separation in the Berkeley Gas-filled Separator, atoms of interest are trapped, bunched, and cooled in a device known as a radiofrequency quadrupole trap.

They are then sent through the FIONA mass separator, which contains crossed electric and magnetic fields. In the separator, the ions take on a looping trajectory, sending them to the detector with positions determined by their mass-to-charge ratio. The position in the detector at which the superheavy element radioactive decay is detected gives the mass number.

FIONA’s commissioning should wrap up this spring, Gates said, and one of the headline experiments for the new device will be to study decay processes associated with element 115, recently named moscovium (its periodic table symbol is “Mc”).

“The Berkeley Gas-filled Separator gave us 20 years of science,” Gates said, “and now we are looking at extending this another 10 to 20 years with FIONA.”

This work is supported by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.