Feature Stories

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Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics accepting applications

The University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Laboratory will be hosting one of the American Physical Society’s eight Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics from January 17 to 19, 2014.

October 1, 2013
Most people know the caddisfly as the artificial bug on fly fishing lures. Click to enlarge.
X-ray science taps bug biology to design better materials and reduce pollution

Bug spray, citronella candles, mosquito netting – most people will do anything they can to stay away from insects during the warmer months. But those creepy crawlers we try so hard to avoid may offer substantial solutions to some of life’s problems.

September 17, 2013
Science Behind the Fiction: The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

Science Behind the Fiction critiques the science portrayed in popular films and literature. In this issue, Argonne nuclear scientist Keith Bradley debunks the “fusion” bomb in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

September 13, 2013
Aboard the cargo ship Horizon Spirit, scientists assembled radar and other instruments to record climate data as the ship traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Click the link to see more images from the mission. Photo by Jim Mather, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Hawaii-bound in search of global climate data

While the idea of a cruise to Hawaii may sound like paradise, making that same journey 25 times back and forth in a year might start to lose its appeal. For a climate data-gathering machine, however, every trip is a chance to gather more data that is critical to understanding the Pacific Ocean’s role in the global climate.

September 13, 2013
Argonne materials scientist Seungbum Hong studies the internal structure of piezoelectric materials. These are certain types of crystals that generate electricity when you squeeze them.
Batteries not needed?

The day is coming when heartbeats power pacemakers, sneakers charge cell phones during a jog, and tires power their own pressure sensors as they rotate.

September 13, 2013
The grid of the future

What will the electric grid look like in 10 years?

September 13, 2013
Argonne researchers put together a system of sensors called PROTECT to provide early warning in case of a chemical attack in a subway. This is just one part of the work done at Argonne to help communities respond quickly and safely to threats from terrorism to hurricanes, floods or chemical spills. Photo by Ricardo Cabrera Letelier.
A true sense of security

Five men got on the Tokyo subway on a March morning in 1995. It was the peak of morning rush hour. They all carried packets of a tremendously toxic nerve agent called sarin.

September 13, 2013
Argonne biologist Rosemarie Wilton works on ways to stabilize antibodies, which tend to degrade over time.
Antibody builders

Because antibodies are naturally so good at recognizing a host of different pathogens, Argonne biologist Rosemarie Wilton has spent much of her career working to better stabilize antibodies and prevent them from degrading over time.

September 13, 2013
Forrest Jehlik, Argonne mechanical engineer
Ask a scientist: Ethanol & car performance

Does ethanol extend or decrease your gas mileage?

September 13, 2013
Scientists wanted to discover why some bird feathers look blue—without any blue pigments. Instead, X-rays at the Advanced Photon Source helped reveal they use tiny nanoscale-level structures on the feathers that only reflect light in the blue wavelength. 

The top image is what we see: a Plum-throated Cotinga.

The second image is what an electron microscope sees.
Electron microscopes shoot a beam of electrons at the feather and measure how they interact with them to get an image of the structure. But electron microscopes can only see down to the nanometer level. To go even further, to the atomic level, you need X-rays.

The bottom image is what the X-rays see. 
Scientists focus an X-ray beam on one tiny spot. When it hits, the photons scatter symmetrically around the beam (highlighted in different colors). Then they can piece together the scattering information to reconstruct how the feather’s atoms are arranged.

Collage by Vinod Saranathan (University of Oxford); X-ray scattering at the Advanced Photon Source; photo of Plum-throated Cotinga by Thomas Valqui. From V. Saranathan et al., J. R. Soc. Interface. ©2012 The Royal Society.
7 things you may not know about X-rays

At Argonne's massive synchrotron, X-rays are used for a lot more than checking for broken bones.

September 13, 2013