Century-old problem solved with first-ever 3D atomic imaging of an amorphous solid

April 14, 2021|National Science Foundation|

Glass, rubber and plastics all belong to a class of matter called amorphous solids. In spite of how common they are in our everyday lives, amorphous solids have long posed a challenge to scientists.

Since the 1910s, scientists have been able to map in 3D the atomic structures of crystals, the other major class of solids, which has led to myriad advances in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, geology, nanoscience, drug discovery and more. But because amorphous solids aren’t assembled in rigid, repetitive atomic structures, as crystals are, they have defied researchers’ ability to determine their atomic structure with the same level of precision.

Until now, that is.

UCLA-led research published in the journal Nature reports on the first-ever determination of the 3D atomic structure of an amorphous solid — in this case, a material called metallic glass.

“We know so much about crystals, yet most of the matter on Earth is non-crystalline, and we know very little about its atomic structure,” said the U.S. National Science Foundation-funded study’s senior author, Jianwei “John” Miao.

Metallic glass tends to be both stronger and more shapeable than standard crystalline metals. It is used today in products ranging from electrical transformers to high-end golf clubs and the housings for Apple laptops and other electronic devices. Understanding the atomic structure of metallic glasses could help engineers design better versions of these materials, for a wider array of applications.

The researchers used a technique called atomic electron tomography, a type of 3D imaging pioneered by Miao and collaborators. The approach involves beaming electrons through a sample and collecting an image on the other side. The sample is rotated so measurements can be taken from multiple angles, yielding data that is stitched together to produce a 3D image.

“This groundbreaking result exemplifies the power of a transdisciplinary team,” said Charles Ying, a program director in NSF’s Division of Materials Research. “It demonstrates the need for long-term support of a center to address this type of complex research project.”

—  NSF Public Affairs, researchnews@nsf.gov

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Century-old problem solved with first-ever 3D atomic imaging of an amorphous solid

March 31, 2021|UCLA Newsroom|

UCLA-led study captures the structure of metallic glass. Glass, rubber and plastics all belong to a class of matter called amorphous solids. And in spite of how common they are in our everyday lives, amorphous solids have long posed a challenge to scientists. Since the 1910s, scientists have been able to map in 3D the atomic structures of crystals, the other major class of solids, which has led to myriad advances in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, geology, nanoscience, drug discovery and more. But because amorphous solids aren’t assembled in rigid, repetitive atomic structures like crystals are, they have defied researchers’ ability to determine their atomic structure with the same level of precision. Until now, that is. A UCLA-led study in the journal Nature reports on the first-ever determination of the 3D atomic structure of an amorphous solid — in this case, a material called metallic glass.

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Atomic structure of a glass imaged at last

March 31, 2021|Nature News and Views|

The positions of all the atoms in a sample of a metallic glass have been measured experimentally — fulfilling a decades-old dream for glass scientists, and raising the prospect of fresh insight into the structures of disordered solids. If the chemical element and 3D location of every atom in a material are known, then the material’s physical properties can, in principle at least, be predicted using the laws of physics. The atomic positions of crystals have long-range periodicity, which has enabled the development of powerful methods that combine diffraction experiments with the mathematics of symmetry to determine the precise atomic structure of these materials. Moreover, deviations from periodicity that create defects in crystals can be imaged with sub-ångström resolution. But these methods do not work for glasses, which lack long-range periodicity. Our knowledge of the atomic structure of glasses is therefore limited and acquired indirectly. Writing in Nature, Yang et al.1 report the experimental determination of the 3D positions of all the atoms in a nanometre-scale sample of a metallic glass.

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Do You Know the Way to Berkelium, Californium?

March 24, 2021|Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory News Center|

Heavy elements and a really powerful microscope help scientists map uncharted paths toward new materials and cancer therapies. Heavy elements known as the actinides are important materials for medicine, energy, and national defense. But even though the first actinides were discovered by scientists at Berkeley Lab more than 50 years ago, we still don’t know much about their chemical properties because only small amounts of these highly radioactive elements (or isotopes) are produced every year; they’re expensive; and their radioactivity makes them challenging to handle and store safely.

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New Buff Innovator Insights podcast to spotlight faculty innovators

March 18, 2021|CU Boulder Research & Innovation Office|

The first episode of the inaugural season of Buff Innovator Insights, a new podcast from the Research & Innovation Office (RIO), will premiere on Thursday, March 18. The podcast will offer a behind-the-curtain look at some of the most ground-breaking innovations in the world—all emanating from the CU Boulder campus—along with the personal journeys that made those discoveries possible. Terri Fiez, Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation, hosts this up-close and personal look at how researchers, scholars and artists become global pioneers, why they are so dedicated to discovery, and their visions of the future in the wide range of fields they explore.

Airing Thursday, March 18: Margaret Murnane–JILA; Physics; STROBE Science & Technology Center

In the first episode of Buff Innovator Insights, we meet Dr. Margaret Murnane, CU Boulder professor of physics and one of the world’s leading experts in ultrafast laser and x-ray science. Join us to learn about her improbable journey from growing up in the Irish countryside to developing the microscopes of the future and cultivating the world’s next generation of physicists.

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A COSMIC Approach to Nanoscale Science

March 3, 2021|Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory News Center|

COSMIC, a multipurpose X-ray instrument at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (Berkeley Lab’s) Advanced Light Source (ALS), has made headway in the scientific community since its launch less than 2 years ago, with groundbreaking contributions in fields ranging from batteries to biominerals…

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Family legacies that grew from FLC

February 17, 2021|FLC News|
The Sells-Wheeler Family By Natalia Sells

My name is Natalia Sells (Business Management, ‘18) and I am a second-generation Fort Lewis College alumna. My parents, Earlisa Sells (Student-Constructed Major, ‘06) and Leon Wheeler (Psychology, ‘06 and Student-Constructed Major, ‘07), started at FLC in 2004 when I was 10 years old.

Since we lived in Shiprock, New Mexico, my father commuted to Durango for his lecture classes every other day. Often, he would sleep in the family truck to save on gas and money. Sometimes he would take my siblings and me to the College, where he would reserve a corner window study hall room on the second floor of the Education Business Hall. I remember reading my book and looking out the window at the students changing classes. My younger sister, then three years old, sometimes sat with Dad in his lecture classes.

Prior to completing their degrees, my parents struggled to make ends meet. We witnessed firsthand how a college degree opens access to opportunities and financial stability. After graduating, my father worked as a history teacher at a local school and my mother’s pay grade increased. They were able to send us to a local college-prep high school, and through Dad’s job, we had health insurance. When they would go on their summer education trainings, we got to travel to different parts of the U.S.

After graduating from high school in 2014, I joined FLC as a full-time, ‘traditional’ student. With enough scholarships to afford my room and board, I was able to partake in campus culture. I graduated in 2018, debt-free, with my Business Administration degree and decided to pursue a career in higher education. My younger brother, Kyii Sells-Wheeler, started at FLC in Fall 2018, declaring a major in Engineering. After our dad, he is set to become the second man in our family to earn a bachelor’s degree. He has already been awarded multiple recognitions, like the Cobell Scholarship, Chief Manuelito Scholarship, and the American Indian Graduate Center Wells Fargo Scholarship.

Our family appreciates the affordability of Fort Lewis College and the opportunities higher education presents. Our parents’ story has made us appreciate the value of an education and how we can use it to help our own communities.

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Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, who are also fellows in JILA, recognized for work in cutting-edge lasers

December 10, 2020|CU Boulder Today|

Two scientists who pioneered technologies for generating coherent X-rays, which helped propel research in dynamic processes in atoms, molecules and materials, have been named fellows of the National Academy of Inventors, the academy announced today. Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn, physics professors at the University of Colorado Boulder, direct a laboratory in JILA, a joint institute of CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. They are among 175 inventors to be named 2020 National Academy of Inventors. Murnane and Kapteyn are co-inventors on 17 U.S. patents and have published more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles. They are co-founders of KM Labs, a startup company that produces high-power, high-performance table-top laser systems.

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Native American Heritage Month at UCI: Franklin Dollar

November 10, 2020|UCI School of Physical Sciences|

Native American Heritage Month at Physical Sciences: This month, you’ll be hearing about Native Americans at the School of Physical Sciences, and how they make the School what it is.

I’m Franklin Dollar, a member of the Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians and an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at UCI. I study ultrafast laser matter interactions, and how we can convert laser energy into beams of particles and X-rays for next-generation microscopes. I also try to understand how physics education can be improved, from mentorship, to curriculum, to environment.

PS: What advice do you have for Native American students who are considering a career in STEM?

The most important thing you learn with a degree like physics is how to solve problems in the real world. This is useful in nearly any career, and can provide the flexibility to try out different career paths. So though you may not know what you want to do today, as you work and learn you will be able to find your own path.

 

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New electron microscope at CU Boulder enables groundbreaking research across disciplines—and from a distance

October 26, 2020|CU Boulder Research & Innovation Office|

Capable of achieving spatial resolutions of 70 pm—smaller than the size of an atom—the Thermo Scientific Titan Themis S/TEM, located in the newly-launched CU Facility for Electron Microscopy of Materials (CU FEMM), is now the highest-resolution electron microscope in Colorado.

Taller than a person and equipped with multiple cameras and detectors, this state-of-the-art, aberration-corrected electron microscopy platform makes groundbreaking research possible in a wide range of fields, including catalysis, advanced imaging, quantum information, energy conversion, biomaterials, battery research, geology, materials development and even archaeology. A team from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is even exploring a potential COVID-19 study using the microscope to inspect the salt from dried saliva droplets.

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