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Argonne National Laboratory

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Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in New Jersey and across the United States have led to groundbreaking discoveries and development of new technologies that help meet the nation’s needs for sustainable energy, economic prosperity, and security.

Argonne Advanced Photon Source helps identify how meteorite strikes affect planet Earth

Artist’s representation of meteorites falling to earth. (Image by Shutterstock/Triff/NASA.)

Researchers from Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C., and Washington State University, Pullman, used the capabilities of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility, located at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, to learn more about how quartz transforms when struck by meteorites, and how such impacts affect the geological makeup of planets.

The team found a new crystal structure of quartz, one that lasts only about 100 nanoseconds after impact. The team analyzed the atomic-level changes that occurred in the quartz’s structure at the very moment of impact.

At the APS’ Dynamic Compression Sector, the team was able to capture the moment of impact on a quartz sample, taking snapshots of its structure at extremely short timescales. Researchers used a hydrogen gas gun to fire a projectile at the quartz, then used an X-ray beam to probe the changes the quartz underwent in the nanoseconds during and after impact.

Princeton scientists use APS to investigate chemical exposure in South Carolina wetlands

Tracking long-term changes in South Carolina wetlands, scientists from Princeton investigated the effect of bromine introduced into the soil. (Image by Shutterstock/makasanaphoto.)

Naturally forming organic compounds containing halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine) are common in most environments. In wetlands and freshwater sediments, organic compounds containing chlorine are the most common. But when saltwater seeps into freshwater wetlands, higher levels of bromine are introduced, which can turn the chlorine compounds toxic. These new compounds, when they enter the atmosphere, add to the destruction of the ozone layer and contribute to a rising sea level.

Where four rivers — the Black, the Pee Dee, the Sampit and the Waccamaw — converge on the coast of eastern South Carolina, they form the Winyah Bay estuary. A team of scientists from Princeton University studied the level of bromine introduced into the freshwater wetlands of Winyah Bay in an effort to track long-term changes in the ecosystem as a result of bromide exposure.

Scientists used the extremely bright X-rays at the APS to analyze samples from leaf litter and soil in the bay. Their analysis revealed a strong relationship between the introduction of bromine and, on average, a 39% loss of organic chlorine from leaf litter and soil. Their discovery could offer insight into climate change.

The APS is a DOE Office of Science user facility.