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  • richardmitnick 10:24 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Bragg Projection Ptychography, Crystal lattice of nanoscale materials, Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at NSLS-II, , Stephan Hruszkewycz,   

    From BNL- “National Synchrotron Light Source II User Profile: Stephan Hruszkewycz” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    June 19, 2017
    Laura Mgrdichian

    Stephan Hruszkewycz. No image credit.

    Stephan Hruskewycz is an assistant physicist in the Materials Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

    While he regularly conducts research at Argonne’s own synchrotron user facility, the Advanced Photon Source (APS), his work on the nanoscale structure and behavior of materials has led him to book beamtime at the DOE’s newest synchrotron, the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). Both NSLS-II and APS are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.





    What are you studying at NSLS-II?

    The focus of our NSLS-II experiments has been to image defects and imperfections in the crystal lattice of nanoscale materials using a new imaging technique known as Bragg Projection Ptychography. Specifically, we have been studying stacking faults in nanowires made of III-V semiconductors, a class of semiconductor that results from the combination of elements from column III on the periodic table (mainly aluminum, gallium, and indium) and column V (nitrogen, phosphorous, arsenic, and antimony). These materials have properties that make them excellent for certain applications; for example, solar cells made of III-V cells are very efficient.

    During our next run, we will be imaging strain fields in complex oxide thin-film nanostructures. These classes of materials have potential uses for energy conversion in solar and fuel cell applications, and their nanoscale structure plays a large role in performance. By studying these structures in detail, we may be able to figure out how to make these materials perform better.

    Why is NSLS-II is particularly suited to your work?

    The Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at NSLS-II delivers a coherent hard x-ray beam focused to a few tens of nanometers and the ability to rotate the sample and detector to enable Bragg diffraction with a nanofocused beam. We are capitalizing on the coherence and stability of the focused beam to convert a series of Bragg diffraction patterns measured from different overlapping positions of the sample into an image of the lattice structure inside a specific region of the crystal. The result provides an image with a resolution down to just a few nanometers, as well as picometer-level sensitivity to lattice distortions.

    Tell us about your background and how you arrived at this field of research.

    I have been interested for some time in developing new methods to exploit coherent hard x-rays to reveal of the structure and dynamics of materials. Recently, I have focused on applying these methods to materials with inhomogeneous internal lattice structures that dictate their overall properties, such as nanostructured oxide thin films and semiconductors. To me, this is an exciting area of research, one where cutting-edge materials science questions can be answered with new x-ray imaging methods at state-of-the-art synchrotron sources that deliver highly coherent beams.

    Who else is involved in this work?

    So far, I have been joined at NSLS-II by Megan Hill, a graduate student in Northwestern University’s Materials Science and Engineering Department; Martin Holt, a staff scientist in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials; and Brian Stephenson, a senior physicist in Argonne’s Materials Science Division.

    See the full article here .

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    BNL Campus

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO, , Peking University, Taiyuan University of Technology China   

    From BNL: “New Efficient, Low-Temperature Catalyst for Converting Water and CO to Hydrogen Gas and CO2” 

    Brookhaven Lab

    June 22, 2017
    Karen McNulty Walsh
    (631) 344-8350

    Peter Genzer
    (631) 344-3174

    Low-temperature “water gas shift” reaction produces high levels of pure hydrogen for potential applications, including fuel cells.

    Brookhaven Lab chemists Ping Liu and José Rodriguez helped to characterize structural and mechanistic details of a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas from water and carbon monoxide. No image credit.

    Scientists have developed a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas while simultaneously using up carbon monoxide (CO). The discovery—described in a paper set to publish online in the journal Science on Thursday, June 22, 2017—could improve the performance of fuel cells that run on hydrogen fuel but can be poisoned by CO.

    “This catalyst produces a purer form of hydrogen to feed into the fuel cell,” said José Rodriguez, a chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. Rodriguez and colleagues in Brookhaven’s Chemistry Division—Ping Liu and Wenqian Xu—were among the team of scientists who helped to characterize the structural and mechanistic details of the catalyst, which was synthesized and tested by collaborators at Peking University in an effort led by Chemistry Professor Ding Ma.

    Because the catalyst operates at low temperature and low pressure to convert water (H2O) and carbon monoxide (CO) to hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), it could also lower the cost of running this so-called “water gas shift” reaction.

    “With low temperature and pressure, the energy consumption will be lower and the experimental setup will be less expensive and easier to use in small settings, like fuel cells for cars,” Rodriguez said.

    The gold-carbide connection

    The catalyst consists of clusters of gold nanoparticles layered on a molybdenum-carbide substrate. This chemical combination is quite different from the oxide-based catalysts used to power the water gas shift reaction in large-scale industrial hydrogen production facilities.

    “Carbides are more chemically reactive than oxides,” said Rodriguez, “and the gold-carbide interface has good properties for the water gas shift reaction; it interacts better with water than pure metals.”

    Wenqian Xu and José Rodriguez of Brookhaven Lab and Siyu Yao, then a student at Peking University but now a postdoctoral research fellow at Brookhaven, conducted operando x-ray diffraction studies of the gold-molybdenum-carbide catalyst over a range of temperatures (423 Kelvin to 623K) at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven Lab. The study revealed that at temperatures above 500K, molybdenum-carbide transforms to molybdenum oxide, with a reduction in catalytic activity. No image credit

    “The group at Peking University discovered a new synthetic method, and that was a real breakthrough,” Rodriguez said. “They found a way to get a specific phase—or configuration of the atoms—that is highly active for this reaction.”

    Brookhaven scientists played a key role in deciphering the reasons for the high catalytic activity of this configuration. Rodriguez, Wenqian Xu, and Siyu Yao (then a student at Peking University but now a postdoctoral research fellow at Brookhaven) conducted structural studies using x-ray diffraction at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) while the catalyst was operating under industrial or technical conditions.


    These operando experiments revealed crucial details about how the structure changed under different operating conditions, including at different temperatures.

    With those structural details in hand, Zhijun Zuo, a visiting professor at Brookhaven from Taiyuan University of Technology, China, and Brookhaven chemist Ping Liu helped to develop models and a theoretical framework to explain why the catalyst works the way it does, using computational resources at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

    “We modeled different interfaces of gold and molybdenum carbide and studied the reaction mechanism to identify exactly where the reactions take place—the active sites where atoms are binding, and how bonds are breaking and reforming,” she said.

    Additional studies at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS), the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and two synchrotron research facilities in China added to the scientists’ understanding.

    “This is a multipart complex reaction,” said Liu, but she noted one essential factor: “The interaction between the gold and the carbide substrate is very important. Gold usually bonds things very weakly. With this synthesis method we get stronger adherence of gold to molybdenum carbide in a controlled way.”

    That configuration stabilizes the key intermediate that forms as the reaction proceeds, and the stability of that intermediate determines the rate of hydrogen production, she said.

    The Brookhaven team will continue to study this and other carbide catalysts with new capabilities at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a new facility that opened at Brookhaven Lab in 2014, replacing NSLS and producing x-rays that are 10,000 times brighter.


    With these brighter x-rays, the scientists hope to capture more details of the chemistry in action, including details of the intermediates that form throughout the reaction process to validate the theoretical predictions made in this study.

    The work at Brookhaven Lab was funded by the U.S. DOE Office of Science.

    Additional funders for the overall research project include: the National Basic Research Program of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China, and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    NSLS, NSLS-II, CFN, CNMS, and ALS are all DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

    See the full article here .

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    BNL Campus

    One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

  • richardmitnick 9:39 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adegoke Olubusi, , , Johns Hopkins grad from Nigeria wants to help hospitals in West Africa go digital, , OneMedical   

    From Hopkins: “Johns Hopkins grad from Nigeria wants to help hospitals in West Africa go digital” 

    Johns Hopkins
    Johns Hopkins University

    Katie Pearce

    Adegoke Olubusi. No image credit.

    OneMedical, founded by WSE alum Adegoke Olubusi, among 15 finalists in Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge

    Though paper-based health care is a thing of the past for many hospitals and clinics around the world, in West Africa it’s still the dominant standard.
    Adegoke Olubusi wants to change that.

    The tech entrepreneur, a recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, started OneMedical to help hospitals in West Africa go digital. His team has already begun that process in Nigeria, partnering with more than a dozen hospitals.

    Now OneMedical is looking at big opportunity for new funding: the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge. The team is one of 15 finalists in the digital innovation challenge, which includes a $10,000 People’s Choice Award open for votes through June 28.

    Olubusi, who was born and raised in Nigeria before moving to Maryland for school about a decade ago, has visited his home country often in recent years to work on tech projects like KingsChat, a leading social media platform in Africa.

    When his work brought him to hospitals, Olubusi says he found “chaos” in their record-keeping, complicating everything from patient data and billing to inventory. “It’s all on paper—it’s messy, inefficient, and there’s no way to analyze the data,” he says.

    But in launching a startup to address these problems, he and his team knew they couldn’t simply transplant U.S. standards into hospitals that had never used electronic records before.

    The training interface of OneMedical. No image credit.

    “We thought, ‘How can we make something simple and easy to adopt for hospitals to operate more efficiently?'” says Olubusi, who has also previously worked as an analyst for eBay, PayPal, and Goldman Sachs.

    So he and his team—including rising Johns Hopkins junior Sami Ayele—sat down with health care workers in Nigeria to develop prototypes.

    “Eventually that turned into an actual idea for a business, and a concept that a lot of people loved,” Olubusi says.

    OneMedical offers a user-friendly platform to help hospitals simplify records and streamline processes, with the goal of improving both quality of care and profit margins. It includes a searchable database of patient records, along with features for tracking finances, staff, and medical supplies. The system runs offline at hospitals and syncs to the cloud when there’s an Internet connection available, and it’s accessible through any smart device or operating system.

    Hospitals partnering with OneMedical in this early stage are seeing results such as shorter patient wait times and decreased workload for medical staff, the team says. Meanwhile, a waitlist is growing, with more than 25 facilities in Nigeria hoping to get on board.

    OneMedical aspires to reach 125 facilities within the next year, ultimately fanning out to other parts of West Africa. The startup is currently part of the Y Combinator accelerator program and last year won Etisalat’s Innovation Award.

    Now, with the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, the team is vying for a shot at a $100,000 grand prize, among other possibilities. OneMedical stood out from the more than 1,000 startups applying to land in the finals of the global competition, which seeks digital solutions to tackle economic, social, and environmental challenges.

    OneMedical’s entry for Cisco’s $10,000 People’s Choice award includes a video pitch from Olubusi and partner Nick Moore. Votes from the public can be cast online through June 28, and Cisco will announce the winners from all categories on June 29.

    OneMedical can be reached at

    See the full article here .

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    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

  • richardmitnick 9:23 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Calm the sepsis 'storm', Genomic storm, , , VU- Vanderbilt University   

    From VU: “VU scientists report a way to calm the sepsis ‘storm’ ” 

    Vanderbilt U Bloc

    Vanderbilt University

    Jun. 22, 2017
    Bill Snyder
    (615) 322-4747

    From left, Ruth Ann Veach, Pierre Antony, Ph.D., a visiting scientist from France, Jozef Zienkiewicz, Ph.D., Jacek Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D., Yan Liu, M.D., and Lukasz Wylezinski, Ph.D., contributed to the sepsis study.

    Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have found a way to calm the “genomic storm” that triggers the often-lethal consequences of sepsis.

    Sepsis, an exaggerated and overwhelming inflammatory response to various infections, is a leading cause of death in the United States and around the world.

    Using a cell-penetrating peptide they developed, the researchers suppressed in an animal model of polymicrobial sepsis the transport of pro-inflammatory transcription factors into the cell’s nucleus. That, in turn, prevented activation of inflammatory pathways and reduced resulting blood vessel damage, respiratory distress, multiple organ failure and death.

    Their findings, reported this week in the online journal PLOS ONE, highlight the potential benefit of targeting nuclear transport as an adjunctive therapy in the management of sepsis.

    “Sepsis is fast and furious, especially among the youngest and oldest patients,” said senior author Jacek Hawiger, M.D., Ph.D., the Louise B. McGavock Professor, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt.

    “We hope that this new treatment will prove safe and effective not only in increasing survival but also reducing serious complications in survivors of sepsis,” said Hawiger, who also is a research health scientist at the Nashville Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

    After his mother succumbed to sepsis, Hawiger was determined to find better ways to control and prevent it.

    One way to restore physiologic barriers to sepsis and other inflammatory diseases is to deliver anti-inflammatory peptides and proteins across the cell membrane. During the past 20 years, Hawiger and his colleagues have pioneered platforms for doing so.

    In the current study, they tested a peptide called a Nuclear Transport Modifier or NTM in an animal model of sepsis caused by spillage of the gut’s microbes into the bloodstream.

    NTM not only suppressed production of pro-inflammatory factors but markedly reduced the amount of bacteria in the lungs and bloodstream even before antibiotic therapy was started. Signs of microvascular injury to the lining of tiny blood vessels were attenuated. And when NTM was combined with antibiotic therapy, survival nearly doubled.

    “The study of nuclear transport signaling … opens up a new avenue for exploring innovative approaches to restore the complex balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory mechanisms in blood and vascular systems that would allow for successful recovery from sepsis,” the researchers concluded.

    Ruth Ann Veach, research instructor in the Division of Nephrology, is first author. Co-authors include Yan Liu, M.D., Jozef Zienkiewicz, Ph.D., Lukasz Wylezinski, Ph.D., Kelli Boyd, Ph.D., DVM, and James Wynn, M.D.

    The study was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants DK058404, CA068485 and TR002243 and by a Veterans Affairs Merit Review Award.

    See the full article here .

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    Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt was in his 79th year when he decided to make the gift that founded Vanderbilt University in the spring of 1873.

    The $1 million that he gave to endow and build the university was the commodore’s only major philanthropy. Methodist Bishop Holland N. McTyeire of Nashville, husband of Amelia Townsend who was a cousin of the commodore’s young second wife Frank Crawford, went to New York for medical treatment early in 1873 and spent time recovering in the Vanderbilt mansion. He won the commodore’s admiration and support for the project of building a university in the South that would “contribute to strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country.”

    McTyeire chose the site for the campus, supervised the construction of buildings and personally planted many of the trees that today make Vanderbilt a national arboretum. At the outset, the university consisted of one Main Building (now Kirkland Hall), an astronomical observatory and houses for professors. Landon C. Garland was Vanderbilt’s first chancellor, serving from 1875 to 1893. He advised McTyeire in selecting the faculty, arranged the curriculum and set the policies of the university.

    For the first 40 years of its existence, Vanderbilt was under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The Vanderbilt Board of Trust severed its ties with the church in June 1914 as a result of a dispute with the bishops over who would appoint university trustees.

    kirkland hallFrom the outset, Vanderbilt met two definitions of a university: It offered work in the liberal arts and sciences beyond the baccalaureate degree and it embraced several professional schools in addition to its college. James H. Kirkland, the longest serving chancellor in university history (1893-1937), followed Chancellor Garland. He guided Vanderbilt to rebuild after a fire in 1905 that consumed the main building, which was renamed in Kirkland’s honor, and all its contents. He also navigated the university through the separation from the Methodist Church. Notable advances in graduate studies were made under the third chancellor, Oliver Cromwell Carmichael (1937-46). He also created the Joint University Library, brought about by a coalition of Vanderbilt, Peabody College and Scarritt College.

    Remarkable continuity has characterized the government of Vanderbilt. The original charter, issued in 1872, was amended in 1873 to make the legal name of the corporation “The Vanderbilt University.” The charter has not been altered since.

    The university is self-governing under a Board of Trust that, since the beginning, has elected its own members and officers. The university’s general government is vested in the Board of Trust. The immediate government of the university is committed to the chancellor, who is elected by the Board of Trust.

    The original Vanderbilt campus consisted of 75 acres. By 1960, the campus had spread to about 260 acres of land. When George Peabody College for Teachers merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, about 53 acres were added.

    wyatt centerVanderbilt’s student enrollment tended to double itself each 25 years during the first century of the university’s history: 307 in the fall of 1875; 754 in 1900; 1,377 in 1925; 3,529 in 1950; 7,034 in 1975. In the fall of 1999 the enrollment was 10,127.

    In the planning of Vanderbilt, the assumption seemed to be that it would be an all-male institution. Yet the board never enacted rules prohibiting women. At least one woman attended Vanderbilt classes every year from 1875 on. Most came to classes by courtesy of professors or as special or irregular (non-degree) students. From 1892 to 1901 women at Vanderbilt gained full legal equality except in one respect — access to dorms. In 1894 the faculty and board allowed women to compete for academic prizes. By 1897, four or five women entered with each freshman class. By 1913 the student body contained 78 women, or just more than 20 percent of the academic enrollment.

    National recognition of the university’s status came in 1949 with election of Vanderbilt to membership in the select Association of American Universities. In the 1950s Vanderbilt began to outgrow its provincial roots and to measure its achievements by national standards under the leadership of Chancellor Harvie Branscomb. By its 90th anniversary in 1963, Vanderbilt for the first time ranked in the top 20 private universities in the United States.

    Vanderbilt continued to excel in research, and the number of university buildings more than doubled under the leadership of Chancellors Alexander Heard (1963-1982) and Joe B. Wyatt (1982-2000), only the fifth and sixth chancellors in Vanderbilt’s long and distinguished history. Heard added three schools (Blair, the Owen Graduate School of Management and Peabody College) to the seven already existing and constructed three dozen buildings. During Wyatt’s tenure, Vanderbilt acquired or built one-third of the campus buildings and made great strides in diversity, volunteerism and technology.

    The university grew and changed significantly under its seventh chancellor, Gordon Gee, who served from 2000 to 2007. Vanderbilt led the country in the rate of growth for academic research funding, which increased to more than $450 million and became one of the most selective undergraduate institutions in the country.

    On March 1, 2008, Nicholas S. Zeppos was named Vanderbilt’s eighth chancellor after serving as interim chancellor beginning Aug. 1, 2007. Prior to that, he spent 2002-2008 as Vanderbilt’s provost, overseeing undergraduate, graduate and professional education programs as well as development, alumni relations and research efforts in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, business, law and divinity. He first came to Vanderbilt in 1987 as an assistant professor in the law school. In his first five years, Zeppos led the university through the most challenging economic times since the Great Depression, while continuing to attract the best students and faculty from across the country and around the world. Vanderbilt got through the economic crisis notably less scathed than many of its peers and began and remained committed to its much-praised enhanced financial aid policy for all undergraduates during the same timespan. The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons for first-year students opened in 2008 and College Halls, the next phase in the residential education system at Vanderbilt, is on track to open in the fall of 2014. During Zeppos’ first five years, Vanderbilt has drawn robust support from federal funding agencies, and the Medical Center entered into agreements with regional hospitals and health care systems in middle and east Tennessee that will bring Vanderbilt care to patients across the state.

    studentsToday, Vanderbilt University is a private research university of about 6,500 undergraduates and 5,300 graduate and professional students. The university comprises 10 schools, a public policy center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education and human development as well as a full range of graduate and professional degrees. The university is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top 20 universities by publications such as U.S. News & World Report, with several programs and disciplines ranking in the top 10.

    Cutting-edge research and liberal arts, combined with strong ties to a distinguished medical center, creates an invigorating atmosphere where students tailor their education to meet their goals and researchers collaborate to solve complex questions affecting our health, culture and society.

    Vanderbilt, an independent, privately supported university, and the separate, non-profit Vanderbilt University Medical Center share a respected name and enjoy close collaboration through education and research. Together, the number of people employed by these two organizations exceeds that of the largest private employer in the Middle Tennessee region.
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  • richardmitnick 9:06 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Scientists Uncover Origins of the Sun’s Swirling Spicules, , Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma Spain   

    From Goddard: “Scientists Uncover Origins of the Sun’s Swirling Spicules” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    June 22, 2017
    Lina Tran
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    No image caption or credit.

    At any given moment, as many as 10 million wild jets of solar material burst from the sun’s surface. They erupt as fast as 60 miles per second, and can reach lengths of 6,000 miles before collapsing. These are spicules, and despite their grass-like abundance, scientists didn’t understand how they form. Now, for the first time, a computer simulation — so detailed it took a full year to run — shows how spicules form, helping scientists understand how spicules can break free of the sun’s surface and surge upward so quickly.

    This work relied upon high-cadence observations from NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, and the Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. Together, the spacecraft and telescope peer into the lower layers of the sun’s atmosphere, known as the interface region, where spicules form. The results of this NASA-funded study were published in Science on June 22, 2017 — a special time of the year for the IRIS mission, which celebrates its fourth anniversary in space on June 26.

    NASA IRIS spacecraft

    Swedish 1-meter Solar Telescope in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, Spain

    Watch the video to learn how scientists used a combination of computer simulations and observations to determine how spicules form.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng, producer

    “Numerical models and observations go hand in hand in our research,” said Bart De Pontieu, an author of the study and IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, in Palo Alto, California. “We compare observations and models to figure out how well our models are performing, and to improve the models when we see major discrepancies.”

    Observing spicules has been a thorny problem for scientists who want to understand how solar material and energy move through and away from the sun. Spicules are transient, forming and collapsing over the course of just five to 10 minutes. These tenuous structures are also difficult to study from Earth, where the atmosphere often blurs our telescopes’ vision.

    A team of scientists has been working on this particular model for nearly a decade, trying again and again to create a version that would create spicules. Earlier versions of the model treated the interface region, the lower solar atmosphere, as a hot gas of electrically charged particles — or more technically, a fully ionized plasma. But the scientists knew something was missing because they never saw spicules in the simulations.

    The key, the scientists realized, was neutral particles. They were inspired by Earth’s own ionosphere, a region of the upper atmosphere where interactions between neutral and charged particles are responsible for many dynamic processes.

    The research team knew that in cooler regions of the sun, such as the interface region, not all gas particles are electrically charged. Some particles are neutral, and neutral particles aren’t subject to magnetic fields like charged particles are. Scientists had based previous models on a fully ionized plasma in order to simplify the problem. Indeed, including the necessary neutral particles was very computationally expensive, and the final model took roughly a year to run on the Pleiades supercomputer located at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and which supports hundreds of science and engineering projects for NASA missions.

    The model began with a basic understanding of how plasma moves in the sun’s atmosphere. Constant convection, or boiling, of material throughout the sun generates islands of tangled magnetic fields. When boiling carries them up to the surface and farther into the sun’s lower atmosphere, magnetic field lines rapidly snap back into place to resolve the tension, expelling plasma and energy. Out of this violence, a spicule is born. But explaining how these complex magnetic knots rise and snap was the tricky part.

    “Usually magnetic fields are tightly coupled to charged particles,” said Juan Martínez-Sykora, lead author of the study and a solar physicist at Lockheed Martin and the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute in Sonoma, California. “With only charged particles in the model, the magnetic fields were stuck, and couldn’t rise beyond the sun’s surface. When we added neutrals, the magnetic fields could move more freely.”

    Neutral particles provide the buoyancy the gnarled knots of magnetic energy need to rise through the sun’s boiling plasma and reach the chromosphere. There, they snap into spicules, releasing both plasma and energy. Friction between ions and neutral particles heats the plasma even more, both in and around the spicules.

    With the new model, the simulations at last matched observations from IRIS and the Swedish Solar Telescope; spicules occurred naturally and frequently. The 10 years of work that went into developing this numerical model earned scientists Mats Carlsson and Viggo H. Hansteen, both authors of the study from the University of Oslo in Norway, the 2017 Arctowski Medal from the National Academy of Sciences. Martínez-Sykora led the expansion of the model to include the effects of neutral particles.

    The scientists’ updated model revealed something else about how energy moves in the solar atmosphere. It turns out this whip-like process also naturally generates Alfvén waves, a strong kind of magnetic wave scientists suspect is key to heating the sun’s atmosphere and propelling the solar wind, which constantly bathes our solar system and planet with charged particles from the sun.

    “This model answers a lot of questions we’ve had for so many years,” De Pontieu said. “We gradually increased the physical complexity of numerical models based on high-resolution observations, and it is really a success story for the approach we’ve taken with IRIS.”

    The simulations indicate spicules could play a big role in energizing the sun’s atmosphere, by constantly forcing plasma out and generating so many Alfvén waves across the sun’s entire surface.

    “This is a major advance in our understanding of what processes can energize the solar atmosphere, and lays the foundation for investigations with even more detail to determine how big of a role spicules play,” said Adrian Daw, IRIS mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “A very nice result on the eve of our launch anniversary.”


    IRIS Mission Overview
    New Space Weather Model Helps Simulate Magnetic Structure of Solar Storms

    See the full article here.

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    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 8:41 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Building blocks of bacteria, , , Organelle’s protein shell, ,   

    From LBNL: “Study Sheds Light on How Bacterial Organelles Assemble” 

    Berkeley Logo

    Berkeley Lab

    June 22, 2017
    Sarah Yang
    (510) 486-4575

    Cheryl Kerfeld and Markus Sutter handle crystallized proteins at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

    Researchers at Berkeley Lab and MSU have obtained the first atomic-level view of an intact bacterial microcompartment, shown here. Credit: Markus Sutter/Berkeley Lab and MSU

    Scientists with joint appointments at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Michigan State University reveal the building blocks of bacteria. (Video Credit: Michigan State University)

    Scientists are providing the clearest view yet of an intact bacterial microcompartment, revealing at atomic-level resolution the structure and assembly of the organelle’s protein shell.

    The work, led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Michigan State University (MSU), will appear in the June 23 issue of the journal Science. They studied the organelle shell of an ocean-dwelling slime bacteria called Haliangium ochraceum.

    “It’s pretty photogenic,” said corresponding author Cheryl Kerfeld, a Berkeley Lab structural biologist with a joint appointment as a professor at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory. “But more importantly, it provides the very first picture of the shell of an intact bacterial organelle membrane. Having the full structural view of the bacterial organelle membrane can help provide important information in fighting pathogens or bioengineering bacterial organelles for beneficial purposes.”

    These organelles, or bacterial microcompartments (BMCs), are used by some bacteria to fix carbon dioxide, Kerfeld noted. Understanding how the microcompartment membrane is assembled, as well as how it lets some compounds pass through while impeding others, could contribute to research in enhancing carbon fixation and, more broadly, bioenergy. This class of organelles also helps many types of pathogenic bacteria metabolize compounds that are not available to normal, non-pathogenic microbes, giving the pathogens a competitive advantage.

    The contents within these organelles determine their specific function, but the overall architecture of the protein membranes of BMCs are fundamentally the same, the authors noted. The microcompartment shell provides a selectively permeable barrier which separates the reactions in its interior from the rest of the cell. This enables higher efficiency of multi-step reactions, prevents undesired interference, and confines toxic compounds that may be generated by the encapsulated reactions.

    Unlike the lipid-based membranes of eukaryotic cells, bacterial microcompartments (BMCs) have polyhedral shells made of proteins.

    “What allows things through a membrane is pores,” said study lead author Markus Sutter, MSU senior research associate and affiliate scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Biophysics and Integrated Bioimaging (MBIB) division. “For lipid-based membranes, there are membrane proteins that get molecules across. For BMCs, the shell is already made of proteins, so the shell proteins of BMCs not only have a structural role, they are also responsible for selective substrate transfer across the protein membrane.”

    Earlier studies revealed the individual components that make up the BMC shell, but imaging the entire organelle was challenging because of its large mass of about 6.5 megadaltons, roughly equivalent to the mass of 6.5 million hydrogen atoms. This size of protein compartment can contain up to 300 average-sized proteins.

    The researchers were able to show how five different kinds of proteins formed three different kinds of shapes: hexagons, pentagons and a stacked pair of hexagons, which assembled together into a 20-sided icosahedral shell.

    The intact shell and component proteins were crystallized at Berkeley Lab, and X-ray diffraction data were collected at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, both DOE Office of Science User Facilities.



    The study authors said that by using the structural data from this paper, researchers can design experiments to study the mechanisms for how the molecules get across this protein membrane, and to build custom organelles for carbon capture or to produce valuable compounds.

    Other co-authors of the study are Basil Greber, an affiliate of Berkeley Lab’s MBIB division and a UC Berkeley postdoctoral fellow in the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, and Clement Aussignargues, a postdoctoral fellow at the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:22 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , How a Single Chemical Bond Balances Cells Between Life and Death, Protein cytochrome c, , , ,   

    From SLAC: “How a Single Chemical Bond Balances Cells Between Life and Death” 

    SLAC Lab

    June 22, 2017
    Amanda Solliday

    An optical laser (green) excites the iron-containing active site of the protein cytochrome c, and then an X-ray laser (white) probes the iron a few femtoseconds to picoseconds later. The critical iron-sulfur bond is broken as the optical laser heats the protein, and rebinds as the system cools. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    Slight changes in the machinery of a cell determine whether it lives or begins a natural process known as programmed cell death. In many forms of life—from bacteria to humans—a single chemical bond in a protein called cytochrome c can make this call. As long as the bond is intact, the protein transfers electrons needed to produce energy through respiration. When the bond breaks, the protein switches gear and triggers the breakdown of mitochondria, the structures that power the cell’s activities.

    For the first time, scientists have measured exactly how much energy cytochrome c puts into maintaining that bond in a state where it’s strong enough to endure, but easy enough to break when the cell’s life span is ending.

    They used intense X-rays from two facilities, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser and the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.



    The collaboration, led by Edward Solomon, professor of chemistry at Stanford University and of photon science at SLAC, published their results today in Science.

    “This is a very general yet extremely important process in biochemistry, and with an X-ray laser we now have insight into how this regulation works,” says Roberto Alonso-Mori, LCLS staff scientist and a co-author of the study. “These are processes that are going on a million-fold in our bodies and everywhere there is life.”

    The study marks the first time that anyone has been able to experimentally quantify how the rigid structure of the cytochrome c molecule supports this crucial bond between iron and sulfur atoms in what’s known as an entatic state, where the protein maintains a bond that is just strong enough to perform both of its jobs, says Michael Mara, lead author of the study and a former postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, now at University of California, Berkeley.

    “This was important because we had shown the bond is weak and shouldn’t be present at room temperature in the absence of the protein constraints,” says Solomon. “But the protein is able to contribute energy to keep this bond intact for electron transfer. In this LCLS experiment, we determined exactly how much energy the rest of the protein contributes to maintaining the bond: about 4 kcal/mol that is derived from an adjacent hydrogen bond network.”

    “We were able to show how nature tunes this system to change the properties on a fundamental level and perform two very different functions,” Mara says. “The energy contribution by cytochrome c is really at a sweet spot. It makes me wonder what sort of similar effects you might see in other protein systems, and it makes us realize that there is exciting new science on the horizon.”

    Ultrafast Changes

    Cytochrome c is present in a wide range of life forms and contributes to both cellular respiration and programmed cell death, the pathway to the natural end of a cell’s life cycle. How exactly the state of the bond relates to these two functions had not yet been demonstrated or quantified.

    Scientists knew from earlier studies that a particular iron-sulfur bond is key. When iron in the protein binds to sulfur contained in one of the protein’s amino-acid building blocks, cytochrome c participates in electron transfer. By transferring electrons, the protein helps generate energy needed for biological processes that maintain life.

    But when cytochrome c encounters cardiolipin, a lipid present in the membrane of the cell’s mitochondria, the iron-sulfur bond breaks, and the protein becomes an enzyme that creates holes in the mitochondria’s outer membrane – the first step in programmed cell death.

    These changes occur incredibly fast, in less than 20 picoseconds, so the experiment required ultrafast pulses of X-rays generated by LCLS to take snapshots of the process.

    “We photoexcited the iron atoms in the protein’s active site—which contains an iron-rich compound known as heme—with an ultrafast laser before probing it with the LCLS X-ray pulses at different time delays,” says Alonso-Mori.

    Each 50-femtosecond laser pulse heated the heme by a couple of hundred degrees. X-ray pulses from LCLS took images of what happened as the heat traveled from the iron to other parts of the protein. After 100 femtoseconds, the iron-sulfur bond would break, only to form again once the sample cooled. Watching this process allowed the scientists to measure energy fluctuations in real time and better understand how this critical bond forms and breaks.

    “The entatic state concept is really interesting, but you have to come up with creative ways to demonstrate and quantify it,” says Ryan Hadt, a former Stanford University doctoral student on an Enrico Fermi Fellowship at Argonne National Laboratory who together with his advisor, Professor Solomon, came up with the idea for the experiment and co-wrote the initial proposal around the time LCLS first came online in 2009.

    “Our research group was excited about this new instrument and wanted to use it to do a definitive experiment,” Hadt adds.

    A Question Raised by Earlier Work

    This experiment builds on an earlier study [JACS] conducted at SSRL that found that the iron-sulfur bond was quite weak, says Thomas Kroll, staff scientist at SSRL and lead author of this prior study.

    In the latest study, spectroscopy at SSRL also built the framework for the LCLS pump-probe experiment. It allowed the scientists to compare what the molecule originally looked like to how it changed when the temperature rose.

    “It’s important to understand how these proteins actually work,” Kroll says. “Because if you don’t understand how they work, how can we create better medicines in an informed and controlled way?”

    Knowledge of cytochrome c’s function is also valuable to the fields of bioenergy and environmental science, since it is a critically important protein in bacteria and plants.

    The DOE Office of Science and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health supported this research. The Structural Molecular Biology program at SSRL is funded by DOE Office of Science and the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences. LCLS and SSRL are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 8:06 am on June 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Single Electron’s Tiny Leap Sets Off ‘Molecular Sunscreen’ Response, , , , , , ,   

    From SLAC: “A Single Electron’s Tiny Leap Sets Off ‘Molecular Sunscreen’ Response” 

    SLAC Lab

    June 22, 2017
    Glennda Chui

    Thymine – the molecule illustrated in the foreground – is one of the four basic building blocks that make up the double helix of DNA. It’s such a strong absorber of ultraviolet light that the UV in sunlight should deactivate it, yet this does not happen. Researchers used an X-ray laser at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to observe the infinitesimal leap of a single electron that sets off a protective response in thymine molecules, allowing them to shake off UV damage. (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

    In experiments at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, scientists were able to see the first step of a process that protects a DNA building block called thymine from sun damage: When it’s hit with ultraviolet light, a single electron jumps into a slightly higher orbit around the nucleus of a single oxygen atom.

    This infinitesimal leap sets off a response that stretches one of thymine’s chemical bonds and snaps it back into place, creating vibrations that harmlessly dissipate the energy of incoming ultraviolet light so it doesn’t cause mutations.

    The technique used to observe this tiny switch-flip at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray free-electron laser can be applied to almost any organic molecule that responds to light – whether that light is a good thing, as in photosynthesis or human vision, or a bad thing, as in skin cancer, the scientists said. They described the study in Nature Communications today.


    “All of these light-sensitive organic molecules tend to absorb light in the ultraviolet. That’s not only why you get sunburn, but it’s also why your plastic eyeglass lenses offer some UV protection,” said Phil Bucksbaum, a professor at SLAC and Stanford University and director of the Stanford PULSE Institute at SLAC. “You can even see these effects in plastic lawn furniture – after a couple of seasons it can become brittle and discolored simply due to the fact that the plastic was absorbing ultraviolet light all the time, and the way it absorbs sun results in damage to its chemical bonds.”

    Catching Electrons in Action

    Thymine and the other three DNA building blocks also strongly absorb ultraviolet light, which can trigger mutations and skin cancer, yet these molecules seem to get by with minimal damage. In 2014, a team led by Markus Guehr ­– then a SLAC senior staff scientist and now on the faculty of the University of Potsdam in Germany – reported that they had found the answer: The stretch-snap of a single bond and resulting energy-dissipating vibrations, which took place within 200 femtoseconds, or millionths of a billionth of a second after UV light exposure.

    But what made the bond stretch? The team knew the answer had to involve electrons, which are responsible for forming, changing and breaking bonds between atoms. So they devised an ingenious way to catch the specific electron movements that trigger the protective response.

    It relied on the fact that electrons don’t orbit an atom’s nucleus in neat concentric circles, like planets orbiting a sun, but rather in fuzzy clouds that take a different shape depending on how far they are from the nucleus. Some of these orbitals are in fact like a fuzzy sphere; others look a little like barbells or the start of a balloon animal. You can see examples here.

    No image caption or credit, but there is a comment,
    “I see the distribution in different orbitals. So if for example I take the S orbitals, they are all just a sphere. So wont the 2S orbital overlap with the 1S overlap, making the electrons in each orbital “meet” at some point? Or have I misunderstood something?”

    Strong Signal Could Solve Long-Standing Debate

    For this new experiment, the scientists hit thymine molecules with a pulse of UV laser light and tuned the energy of the LCLS X-ray laser pulses so they would home in on the response of the oxygen atom that’s at one end of the stretching, snapping bond.

    The energy from the UV light excited one of the atom’s electrons to jump into a higher orbital. This left the atom in a sort of tippy state where just a little more energy would boost a second electron into a higher orbital; and that second jump is what sets off the protective response, changing the shape of the molecule just enough to stretch the bond.

    The first jump, which was previously known to happen, is difficult to detect because the electron winds up in a rather diffuse orbital cloud, Guehr said. But the second, which had never been observed before, was much easier to spot because that electron ended up in an orbital with a distinctive shape that gave off a big signal.

    “Although this was a very tiny electron movement, the signal kind of jumped out at us in the experiment,” Guehr said. “I always had a feeling this would be a strong transition, just intuitively, but when we saw this come in it was a special moment, one of the best moments an experimentalist can have.”

    Settling a Longstanding Debate

    Study lead author Thomas Wolf, an associate staff scientist at SLAC, said the results should settle a longstanding debate about how long after UV exposure the protective response kicks in: It happens 60 femtoseconds after UV light hits. This time span is important, he said, because the longer the atom spends in the tippy state between the first jump and the second, the more likely it is to undergo some sort of reaction that could damage the molecule.

    Henrik Koch, a theorist at NTNU in Norway who was a guest professor at Stanford at the time, led the study with Guehr. He led the effort to model, understand and interpret what happened in the experiment, and he participated in it to an unusual extent, Guehr said.

    “He is extremely experienced in applying theory to methodology development, and he had this curiosity to bring this to our experiment,” Guehr said. “He was so fascinated by this research that he did something completely untypical of a theorist – he came to LCLS, into the control room, and he wanted to see the data coming in. I found that completely amazing and very motivating. It turned out that some of my previous thinking was completely right but other aspects were completely wrong, and Henrik did the right theory at the right level so we could learn from it.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    SLAC Campus
    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the DOE’s Office of Science.

  • richardmitnick 9:14 pm on June 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An indictment of Politics, and Science - Like Oil, , Water and Sulfuric Acid   

    Walter Heisenberg, The Jews, and the Nazis -An indictment of Politics, Religion, and Science – Like Oil, Water and Sulfuric Acid

    Read it if you can stomach it.

  • richardmitnick 4:24 pm on June 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Chicago Quantum Exchange to create technologically transformative ecosystem, Combining strengths in quantum information, ,   

    From U Chicago: “Chicago Quantum Exchange to create technologically transformative ecosystem” 

    U Chicago bloc

    University of Chicago

    June 20, 2017
    Steve Koppes

    UChicago and affiliated laboratories to collaborate on advancing the science and engineering of quantum information. Courtesy of Nicholas Brawand

    The University of Chicago is collaborating with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory to launch an intellectual hub for advancing academic, industrial and governmental efforts in the science and engineering of quantum information.

    This hub within the Institute for Molecular Engineering, called the Chicago Quantum Exchange, will facilitate the exploration of quantum information and the development of new applications with the potential to dramatically improve technology for communication, computing and sensing. The collaboration will include scientists and engineers from the two national labs and IME, as well as scholars from UChicago’s departments of physics, chemistry, computer science, and astronomy and astrophysics.

    Quantum mechanics governs the behavior of matter at the atomic and subatomic levels in exotic and unfamiliar ways compared to the classical physics used to understand the movements of everyday objects. The engineering of quantum phenomena could lead to new classes of devices and computing capabilities, permitting novel approaches to solving problems that cannot be addressed using existing technology.

    “The combination of the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, working together as the Chicago Quantum Exchange, is unique in the domain of quantum information science,” said Matthew Tirrell, dean and founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering and Argonne’s deputy laboratory director for science. “The CQE’s capabilities will span the range of quantum information—from basic solid-state experimental and theoretical physics, to device design and fabrication, to algorithm and software development. CQE aims to integrate and exploit these capabilities to create a quantum information technology ecosystem.”

    Serving as director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange will be David Awschalom, UChicago’s Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and an Argonne senior scientist. Discussions about establishing a trailblazing quantum engineering initiative began soon after Awschalom joined the UChicago faculty in 2013 when he proposed this concept, and were subsequently developed through the recruitment of faculty and the creation of state-of-the-art measurement laboratories.

    “We are at a remarkable moment in science and engineering, where a stream of scientific discoveries are yielding new ways to create, control and communicate between quantum states of matter,” Awschalom said. “Efforts in Chicago and around the world are leading to the development of fundamentally new technologies, where information is manipulated at the atomic scale and governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. Transformative technologies are likely to emerge with far-reaching applications—ranging from ultra-sensitive sensors for biomedical imaging to secure communication networks to new paradigms for computation. In addition, they are making us re-think the meaning of information itself.”

    The collaboration will benefit from UChicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which supports the creation of innovative businesses connected to UChicago and Chicago’s South Side. The CQE will have a strong connection with a major Hyde Park innovation project that was announced recently as the second phase of the Harper Court development on the north side of 53rd Street, and will include an expansion of Polsky Center activities. This project will enable the transition from laboratory discoveries to societal applications through industrial collaborations and startup initiatives.

    Companies large and small are positioning themselves to make a far-reaching impact with this new quantum technology. Alumni of IME’s quantum engineering PhD program have been recruited to work for many of these companies. The creation of CQE will allow for new linkages and collaborations with industry, governmental agencies and other academic institutions, as well as support from the Polsky Center for new startup ventures.

    This new quantum ecosystem will provide a collaborative environment for researchers to invent technologies in which all the components of information processing—sensing, computation, storage and communication—are kept in the quantum world, Awschalom said. This contrasts with today’s mainstream computer systems, which frequently transform electronic signals from laptop computers into light for internet transmission via fiber optics, transforming them back into electronic signals when they arrive at their target computers, finally to become stored as magnetic data on hard drives.

    IME’s quantum engineering program is already training a new workforce of “quantum engineers” to meet the need of industry, government laboratories and universities. The program now consists of eight faculty members and more than 100 postdoctoral scientists and doctoral students. Approximately 20 faculty members from UChicago’s Physical Sciences Division also pursue quantum research. These include David Schuster, assistant professor in physics, who collaborates with Argonne and Fermilab researchers.

    Combining strengths in quantum information

    The collaboration will rely on the distinctive strengths of the University and the two national laboratories, both of which are located in the Chicago suburbs and have longstanding affiliations with the University of Chicago.

    At Argonne, approximately 20 researchers conduct quantum-related research through joint appointments at the laboratory and UChicago. Fermilab has about 25 scientists and technicians working on quantum research initiatives related to the development of particle sensors, quantum computing and quantum algorithms.

    “This is a great time to invest in quantum materials and quantum information systems,” said Supratik Guha, director of Argonne’s Nanoscience and Technology Division and a professor of molecular engineering at UChicago. “We have extensive state-of-the-art capabilities in this area.”

    Argonne proposed the first recognizable theoretical framework for a quantum computer, work conducted in the early 1980s by Paul Benioff. Today, including joint appointees, Argonne’s expertise spans the spectrum of quantum sensing, quantum computing, classical computing and materials science.

    Argonne and UChicago already have invested approximately $6 million to build comprehensive materials synthesis facilities—called “The Quantum Factory”—at both locations. Guha, for example, has installed state-of-the-art deposition systems that he uses to layer atoms of materials needed for building quantum structures.

    “Together we will have comprehensive capabilities to be able to grow and synthesize one-, two- and three-dimensional quantum structures for the future,” Guha said. These structures, called quantum bits—qubits—serve as the building blocks for quantum computing and quantum sensing.

    Illustration of near-infrared light polarizing nuclear spins in a silicon carbide chip. Courtesy of Peter Allen

    Argonne also has theorists who can help identify problems in physics and chemistry that could be solved via quantum computing. Argonne’s experts in algorithms, operating systems and systems software, led by Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director and UChicago professor in computer science, will play a critical role as well, because no quantum computer will be able to operate without connecting to a classical computer.

    Fermilab’s interest in quantum computing stems from the enhanced capabilities that the technology could offer within 15 years, said Joseph Lykken, Fermilab deputy director and senior scientist.

    “The Large Hadron Collider experiments, ATLAS and CMS, will still be running 15 years from now,” Lykken said. “Our neutrino experiment, DUNE, will still be running 15 years from now. Computing is integral to particle physics discoveries, so advances that are 15 years away in high-energy physics are developments that we have to start thinking about right now.”

    Lykken noted that almost any quantum computing technology is, by definition, a device with atomic-level sensitivity that potentially could be applied to sensitive particle physics experiments. An ongoing Fermilab-UChicago collaboration is exploring the use of quantum computing for axion detection. Axions are candidate particles for dark matter, an invisible mass of unknown composition that accounts for 85 percent of the mass of the universe.

    Another collaboration with UChicago involves developing quantum computer technology that uses photons in superconducting radio frequency cavities for data storage and error correction. These photons are light particles emitted as microwaves. Scientists expect the control and measurement of microwave photons to become important components of quantum computers.

    “We build the best superconducting microwave cavities in the world, but we build them for accelerators,” Lykken said. Fermilab is collaborating with UChicago to adapt the technology for quantum applications.

    Fermilab also has partnered with the California Institute of Technology and AT&T to develop a prototype quantum information network at the lab. Fermilab, Caltech and AT&T have long collaborated to efficiently transmit the Large Hadron Collider’s massive data sets. The project, a quantum internet demonstration of sorts, is called INQNET (INtelligent Quantum NEtworks and Technologies).

    Fermilab also is working to increase the scale of today’s quantum computers. Fermilab can contribute to this effort because quantum computers are complicated, sensitive, cryogenic devices. The laboratory has decades of experience in scaling up such devices for high-energy physics applications.

    “It’s one of the main things that we do,” Lykken said.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    An intellectual destination

    One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

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