NSRC Events

NSRC Workshops

The NSRCs hold joint workshops to share research and user projects that are ongoing at the five centers. These exchanges of information have provided the staff at the NSRCs with the opportunity to learn about topics/thrusts in nanoscience at the other nanocenters and to develop an understanding of the different areas of expertise among the staff members. They have also facilitated discussions towards possible future areas of collaboration between the centers and provided basic information so that potential NSRC users can be directed toward the optimal center and staff to meet their research needs.

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User Meeting

Annual User Meeting Dates

CFN - 2018 NSLS-II & CFN Joint User's Meeting

 Upton, NY  21-May-2018 – 23-May-2018

CINT - 2018 CINT Annual Meeting

 Santa Fe, NM  24-Sep-2018 – 25-Sep-2018

CNMS - 2018 User Meeting

 Oak Ridge, TN  13-Aug-2018 – 15-Aug-2018

CNM - 2019 User Meeting

 Argonne, IL  6-May-2019 – 9-May-2019

The Foundry - 2018 User Meeting

 Berkeley, CA  15-Aug-2018 – 16-Aug-2018

Carbon Nanotube Quantum Interference

News and Highlights

Current Highlights

‘Hot’ electrons heat up solar energy research

High concentrations of energetic “hot” electrons are shown to form in the high electric fields produced in plasmonic nanopatch metasurfaces. Ultrafast spectroscopy was used to monitor the generation and femtosecond decay dynamics of the hot electrons. The metasurfaces are comprised of a gold substrate coupled to silver nanocubes that produce large concentrations of hot electrons. Transient absorption spectroscopy and fabrication efforts were performed at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM). The creation of energetic electrons through plasmon excitation of nanostructures before thermalization has been proposed for a wide number of applications in optical energy conversion and ultrafast nanophotonics. However, the use of "nonthermal" electrons is primarily limited by both a low generation efficiency and their ultrafast decay. Our calculations show that the choice of geometry and materials is crucial for producing strong ultrafast nonthermal electron components. The short-lived hot electrons potentially enable low-power optical switching well into THz frequencies and also provide opportunities for improved optical energy conversion and photocatalysis. 

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Deactivation Mechanism in NOx Reduction Zeolite Catalysts Revealed by Atom Probe Tomography

Atom-level deactivation processes in industrial zeolite catalysts are revealed in atom probe tomography (APT), which yields the first direct observations of chemical distributions. J. E. Schmidt, R. Oord, W. Guo, J. D. Poplawsky, B. M. Weckhuysen.

Nature Communications 8, 1666 (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01765-0

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Buried but not forgotten: Tuning in to interfacial magnetism

In a recent study published by Applied Physics Letters, researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) developed a method to directly investigate regions of interfacial magnetism and to detect and measure the local magnetism and chemistry. A scanning tunneling microscope (STM) was used for the first time to detect x-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) and near edge x-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) signals of buried magnetic interfaces, and shows the order of superlattice layers is critical for interfacial magnetism. The feasibility of these nascent characterization techniques to detect buried magnetic interfaces, potentially to the atomic scale, is demonstrated. La0.67Sr0.33MnO3 (LSMO) and LaNiO3 (LNO) samples were grown using ozone assisted molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) at the CNM. Characterization was performed using synchrotron x-ray scanning tunneling microscopy (SX-STM), at 110 K substrate temperature without an applied magnetic field, at Sector 4-ID-C of the Advanced Photon Source.

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Self-assembly of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) and Nanocrystals into Open Network 2D Structures

An international team of Foundry staff and users have created a method to direct the self-assembly of MOFs and nanocrystals into new types of 2D structures.  This is the first time that researchers have been able to guide the self-assembly of organized 2D structures using MOFs and nanocrystals. This development will enable the design of new functional materials for catalysts, energy storage, and more. 

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Archived News

Nanometer-scale mapping of irreversible electrochemical nucleation processes on solid Li-ion electrolytes.

Nanoparticles of lithium metal formed on the surface of a solid state lithium ion electrolyte by an atomic force microscope. The particle size and height can be controlled by using carefully chosen voltage amplitude and sweep rates. The particles can be as small as 50 nanometers in diameter and a few nanometers high, and can potentially be used in lithium nanobatteries. A. Kumar, T.M. Arruda, A. Tselev, I.N. Ivanov, J.S. Lawton, T.A. Zawodzinski, O. Butyaev, X. Zayats, S. Jesse, and S.V. Kalinin, “Nanometer-scale mapping of irreversible electrochemical nucleation processes on solid Li-ion electrolytes.” Scientific Reports 3, 1621 (2013)

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Platinum-Lead Core/Shell Nanoplates are High-Performance, Highly-Stable Fuel Cell Catalysts

A team of scientists from CFN, Peking University, and Soochow University designed and characterized a new fuel cell catalyst — a platinum-lead core/shell structure, shaped as a nanoplate. The catalyst shape and chemical composition dramatically enhances the oxygen evolution reaction — important for fuel cell performance — while providing stability during operation.


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Femtosecond Laser Etches Fine Detail

Femtosecond laser etching is fast enough that the material vaporizes material rather than melting or burning it. Consequently, cuts made with this laser are cleaner than other nanosecond lasers that may leave ragged edges or cause material scarring. The image demonstrates this capability by etching the CINT logo onto a human hair. This etching enables highly accurate study of microfluidic processes in a variety of materials. At Los Alamos National Lab, rock samples are etched with the femtosecond laser to create a microfluidic device specific to the rock of interest and liquids within these devices are tested under conditions of extreme heat and pressure. Accordingly, earth scientists are able to study the movement of fluids through rock similar to deep earth conditions. It would be very difficult to study these exact conditions in the natural system.

 

 

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Screening for Disease or Toxins in a Drop of Blood

Foundry industry users developed a multinozzle emitter array (MEA), a silicon chip that can dramatically shorten the time it takes to identify proteins, peptides, and other molecular components within small volumes of biological samples. This patented technology is now being commercialized by Newomics Inc.,  to further develop the product and build a platform for personalized health care. Some of the early work on multinozzle emitters was done at the Molecular Foundry.

Newomics’ product, which is based on the core technology developed at Berkeley Lab, is designed to work with mass spectrometers, a machine commonly used by research scientists, the pharmaceutical industry, and increasingly in clinical labs, to measure the structure and concentration of molecules. Once molecular parts are isolated, scientists can begin to understand how they work together as a system, a field known as systems biology, which holds great promise for better medicines and diagnostics as well as a host of other applications.

The dominant method for analyzing biological molecules such as peptides and proteins in a complex mixture is electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS), a technique in which molecular samples are delivered to the machine as an ionized mist, propelled by an electric current. But there is a bottleneck at the front end of ESI-MS, making it slow and expensive. Each sample has to be loaded, lined up, and sprayed one at a time.

Instead of a single capillary, Newomics’ M3 emitter has eight or more nozzles working together to split a single large flow into smaller flows. For the MEA, up to 96 M3 emitters are packaged on a single chip. The development of these technologies involved a blend of microfluidic, microelectronic, and electrochemical innovations.

By clearing up the bottleneck and increasing throughput, Newomics’ emitter could dramatically reduce the cost of testing each sample. And by improving the sensitivity, it will also be possible to detect very low concentrations of molecules. For example, they showed they could analyze many different modified forms of proteins such as glycated albumin and apolipoproteins, in addition to the conventional glucose and HbA1c in diabetes monitoring, using a single drop of blood. Such tests have the potential to enable better long-term monitoring and disease management of diabetes.

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Data Science Heals Imperfect X-ray Scattering Datasets

The team of scientists developed and implemented a ‘physics-aware’ algorithm to correct for missing information in experimental X-ray scattering datasets. Because the algorithm relies on well-understood physics of X-ray scattering, the ‘healing’ operation provides robust and physically-rigorous results and outperforms all other conventional image interpolation methods.


Experimental X-ray scattering images always contain missing data and artifacts, which complicate further analysis, especially rapid, automated analysis.  This healing operation is an essential pre-processing step for machine-learning interpretation of scientific data.


X-ray scattering is a powerful way to measure the structure of materials at the molecular- and nano-scale. Scattering images contain features, such as peaks and rings, which encode structural information.  As with most scientific data, collected X-ray scattering images are inevitably ‘incomplete,’ with missing data being due to limits of the measurement, or experimental considerations. These missing data render automated data analysis of the datasets much more difficult. In this work, the team developed an image healing algorithm designed for X-ray scattering/diffraction datasets. Because the algorithm is ‘physics-aware’ (incorporating known properties of an X-ray scattering measurement), it outperforms all other image healing methods when applied to X-ray scattering data. The healed images can then be easily fed into existing data analysis pipelines. Importantly, the image healing is also a crucial pre-processing step for input to machine-learning methods — which would otherwise tend to focus on the high-intensity — but ultimately irrelevant — image defects.

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Efficient composite synthesis boosts battery energy delivery

A team of users from the Stony Brook University m2M EFRC developed an efficient, ‘one-pot’ synthesis strategy for composite silver-iron battery materials, capable of delivering 2.4 times the energy density of the same composite formed by conventional mixing.   Intimate contact between the two material components is the reason for the boost in energy density. 


New material solutions are required to meet the growing demand for energy storage. Composites can have desirable properties, but often lack efficient preparation methods.  This scalable approach provides a potential solution using an environmentally abundant  material (iron).



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Telecom Quantum Emitters: Carbon Nanotubes as Tunable Room-Temperature Single Photon Sources

Highly stable single photon emission (SPE) from sp3 defect sites introduced to carbon nanotubes (CNT) via chemical functionalization. Wavelength tunable quantum light emission is enabled by varying CNT diameters. Room-temperature SPE achieved for first time at 1550 nm telecom band at the largest diameters. First known material to act as a single photon emitter at telecom wavelengths and at room temperature. Critical advance for quantum light source applications in quantum information processing and metrology.

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New Catalyst Gives Artificial Photosynthesis a Big Boost

Researchers have created a new catalyst that brings them one step closer to artificial photosynthesis — a system that would use renewable energy to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into stored chemical energy.

As in plants, their system consists of two linked chemical reactions: one that splits water (H2O) into protons and oxygen gas, and another that converts CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO). The CO can then be converted into hydrocarbon fuels through an established industrial process. The system would allow both the capture of carbon emissions and the storage of energy from solar or wind power.

Foundry scientists Yufeng Liang and David Prendergast performed theoretical modeling work used to interpret X-ray spectroscopy measurements made in the study, published Nov. 20 in Nature Chemistry. This work was done in support of a project originally proposed by a team from the University of Toronto.

Last year, the team developed catalysts for such reactions. But while one of their catalysts worked under neutral conditions, the other required high pH levels in order to be most active. That meant that when the two were combined, the overall process was not as efficient as it could be: energy was lost when moving charged particles between the two parts of the system.

The team has now overcome this problem by developing a new catalyst for the first reaction – the one that splits water into protons and oxygen gas. Unlike the previous catalyst, this one works at neutral pH, and under those conditions it performs better than any other catalyst previously reported.

The new catalyst is made of nickel, iron, cobalt and phosphorus, all elements that are low-cost and pose few safety hazards. It can be synthesized at room temperature using relatively inexpensive equipment, and the team showed that it remained stable as long as they tested it, a total of 100 hours.

The team employed X-ray experiments at the Canadian Light Source and Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS) to reveal the working principle behind this new catalyst, mainly focusing on the nickel chemistry during the reaction itself. The Theory Facility at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry specializes in the interpretation of such X-ray results, connecting chemical intuition to the atomic and electronic structure models of working materials.

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Sorting molecules with self-assembled nanoscale membranes

What is the scientific achievement?

We have fabricated highly-porous, highly-uniform silicon nitride membranes by replicating features from self-assembled block copolymer films. With porosities over 30% and thickness <100 nm, the membranes are designed for high throughput. Pore sizes are controllably tuned to molecular scales, for selective gas permeation. Capillary condensation within nanoscale pores enhances selectivity beyond that expected from molecule size differences.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

Membranes underlie integral separation processes in energy production, water purification, medicine, environmental cleanup, and chemical processing. These highly-uniform, highly-porous inorganic membranes may provide durability for high temperature operation in extreme environments.

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Getting an Up-Close, 3D View of Optical Nanomaterials

What is the scientific achievement?

CFN users from Rutgers University worked with CFN staff to perform high-resolution, 3D imaging of metallic nanostructures by scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM).  The measured 3D structure of these ‘nanostars’ was used as input for finite element simulations of the material physical and optical properties, in remarkable agreement with experimental measurements.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

Nanomaterials can have enhanced optical properties stemming from plasmonic effects — giving them promise for advanced sensors and diagnostic applications.  This study represents the first time that information from STEM tomography has been used to predict nanomaterial physical and optical properties.

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Taking Solar Energy to the Edge

At the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology (CINT), researchers discovered an efficient way to make combined solar panels and light-emitting devices. Rather than using blocks of hybrid perovskite materials, they layered several thin sheets on top of each other. In this new layered pattern, they discovered important “layer-edge states.” In these states, energy is highly conserved. When excited by light or other sources, the material produces energy that doesn’t instantly dissipate and can be used to charge batteries or do other work. That is, it creates long-lived, free charge carriers that can be harvested and manipulated.

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Magnetic Quasicrystals are Both Ordered and Disordered Nanomaterials

What is the scientific achievement?

Quasicrystals made of Penrose tilings are fascinating structural arrangements with small repeating units but without any overall pattern periodicity.  They are mesmerizing, because the human eye seeks to find patterns that do not quite exist.  In this work, the researchers observed that quasicrystals made of nanomagnets form magnetic states having both an ordered, rigid ‘skeleton’ spanning the entire network, and smaller domains with configurations that are switchable without energy cost.

Why does this achievement matter?

Bistable magnetic elements can naturally represent bits of stored digital information, and interactions between elements can be used to perform logical operations. In magnetic quasicrystals, different groups of nanomagnets can play each role.

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Mixing the Right Blend Speeds Up Polymer Self-Assembly

What is the scientific achievement?

Although polymer self-assembly offers a cost-effective method for creating nanoscale patterns across wide areas, slow ordering kinetics typically result in self-assembled patterns that are riddled with defects.  In this work, CFN scientists discovered that mixtures self-assembling block copolymers combined with small homopolymers can speed the process of nanoscale pattern formation by more than 10 times and improve their quality — providing a material for efficient, wide-area nanopatterning in a fraction of the time compared to block copolymers alone.

Why does this achievement matter?

The dramatically improved pattern quality and reduced processing time afforded by these composite polymer blends enhances the practicality for using self-assembly in design of next-generation energy materials.

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Researchers Discover Novel Exciton Interactions in Carbon Nanotubes

Nanotechnology researchers studying small bundles of carbon nanotubes have discovered an optical signature showing excitons bound to a single nanotube are accompanied by excitons tunneling across closely interacting nanotubes. That quantum tunneling action could impact energy distribution in carbon nanotube networks, with implications for light-emitting films and light harvesting applications. In the study, a collaborative research team from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies and the National Institute of Standards and Technology showed that Raman spectroscopy (a form of light scattering) can provide more extensive characterization of intertube excitons. The team used chemical separations to isolate a sample of a single type of carbon nanotube structure. The nanotubes in these samples were then bundled to force interactions between individual nanotubes.

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Imaging Flexible DNA 'Building Blocks' in 3-D

Over the past decade, researchers have been working to create nanoscale materials and devices using DNA as construction materials through a process called “DNA origami.”

Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Ohio State University have generated 3-D images from 129 individual molecules of flexible DNA origami particles. Their work provides the first experimental verification of the theoretical model of DNA origami.

The research team focused on DNA structures modeled after a basic mechanism called a “Bennett linkage,” which is a 3-D structure consisting of a chain of four rods connected by hinges. This creates a skewed quadrilateral shape in which the hinges are not parallel or in-line. Using Bennett linkages as building blocks, it’s possible to create expandable, useful structures, like supports for tents that can be rapidly assembled.

The researchers relied on a technique developed at the Molecular Foundry to image the individual molecules that make up these structures. The method, called individual-particle electron tomography (IPET), takes pictures of a target molecule from multiple viewing angles, and then combines these pictures to create one 3-D, whole-molecule rendering, similar to how a medical computed tomography (CT) scan works.

Researchers captured 129 3-D images, with a resolution of 6 to 14 nanometers, that enabled them to tease out information about the dynamics and flexibility of DNA origami structures.

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Tripod nanocatalysts support faster fuel cell reactions

What is the scientific achievement?

Highly-efficient catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction are important for fuel cell performance.  Platinum-based catalysts have shown the best performance, but it is desirable to replace these due to high cost and the relative scarcity of Pt.  Collaborators from Soochow Univ., Peking Univ., Hong Kong Polytechnic Univ., and CFN designed and characterized palladium-lead (Pd3Pb) catalysts shaped like tripods, which show improved catalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction compared to commercial Pt/C and Pd/C catalysts, and maintain high performance over 20,000 cycles.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

This work demonstrates the promise of rational design of high-performance catalysts through appropriate control of nanomaterial facets and electronic structures.

 



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Molecular “Roller-Wheels Make Better Solar Cell Materials

What is the scientific achievement?

Scientists from the University of New Mexico and CFN synthesized and characterized new platinum-containing (Pt) conjugated small molecules with an unconventional “roller-wheel” structure, improving molecular ordering and boosting the performance of solar cells made from these materials to 5.9% — a nearly 50% improvement over previous Pt-containing small molecules.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

Platinum-containing molecules are desirable for solar cells for their ability to generate multiple charge carriers via long-lived triplet excitons. The novel molecular design demonstrated here overcomes the structural issues of previous Pt-containing molecules that hindered performance.

 



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Uniform Size Rules the Performance of Quantum Dot Solids

What is the scientific achievement?

Researchers from MIT combined ultrafast transient absorption measurements and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations to show that the intrinsic electrical mobility of materials made by assembly of lead sulfide quantum dots decreases with increasing dot size.  Furthermore, in realistic solids made from quantum dots with size variations, this structural disorder more strongly degrades the electronic performance relative to other factors.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

This work quantifies the relative impacts of quantum dot size and size dispersity on important charge transport properties of materials synthesized by assembly of quantum dot components.  The results indicate that self-assembly of monodisperse quantum dots into electronically-coupled solids is a pathway to high-efficiency optoelectronic devices.



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Nanoscience Moves the Continents

What is the scientific achievement?

CFN users from Yale University measured the melting behavior of ferropericlase (MgO–FeO), one of the main constituents of the lower earth mantle, at high pressures using a laser-heated diamond-anvil cell.  The measurements indicate that ferropericlase has a local viscosity maximum at pressures of ~40 GPa, likely caused by a spin transition occurring in iron.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

The melting relations determined by this study predict the ferropericlase viscosity depth profiles required to explain some of the observed tectonics of the earth’s continents, such as subducting slabs stagnating at depths between 700 and 1000 kilometers.


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Engineering Pathways for Better Self-Assembly

What is the scientific achievement?

Self-assembly is a powerful concept for creating nanostructures, with molecular materials designed to spontaneously organize themselves into desired nanoscale configurations. However, the assembly process often results in arrangements with many defects. CFN scientists are pursuing a new concept of ‘pathway-engineering,’ which uses a sequence of steps to assist in assembly of an ideal material structure.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

Engineering better assembly pathways improves the quality of resulting patterns and facilitates formation of otherwise impossible-to-realize structures, which opens the door to new tailored material functions.

 

What are the details?

Self-assembly is a clever way to make nanostructures. Molecules are designed so that they spontaneously organize themselves into well-defined nanoscale objects that pack in a well-defined way. Thus, a wide variety of structures can be made simply by selecting the right molecules. However, self-assembled materials frequently do not form the ‘right’ structure—that is, they may not form the structure desired by a scientist for a particular application. This often occurs because the system gets ‘stuck’ in the wrong structure and can’t rearrange into a different structure. Heat is often used to coax the system into a better configuration (so-called ‘thermal annealing’) but even this may not be enough.

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Observing structural changes in sub-nm catalysts in action

What is the scientific achievement?

This work investigated the structural evolution of sub-nanometer Pt species confined within MCM-22 zeolites using in-situ transmission electron microscopy. The Pt species undergo dynamic structural transformations under reaction conditions in CO2 + O2 gas environments, aggregating into larger clusters when heated, but disintegrating back into smaller clusters upon further heating to higher temperatures.

 

Why does this achievement matter?

Observing dynamic structural transformations of sub-nm metal species under reaction conditions is helpful for understanding catalytic phenomena and for developing more efficient/stable catalysts based on single atoms and clusters.

 

What are the details?

Understanding the behavior and dynamic structural transformation of subnanometric metal species under reaction conditions will be helpful for understanding catalytic phenomena and for developing more efficient and stable catalysts based on single atoms and clusters. In this work, the evolution and stabilization of subnanometric Pt species confined in MCM-22 zeolite has been studied by in situ transmission electron microscopy (TEM). By correlating the results from in situ TEM studies and the results obtained in a continuous fix-bed reactor, it has been possible to delimitate the factors that control the dynamic agglomeration and redispersion behavior of metal species under reaction conditions. The dynamic reversible transformation between atomically dispersed Pt species and clusters/nanoparticles during CO oxidation at different temperatures has been elucidated. It has also been confirmed that subnanometric Pt clusters can be stabilized in MCM-22 crystallites during NO reduction with CO and H2.

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