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diamond microscope

NSE’s Cappellaro brings proteins into focus through diamonds

New technique could use tiny diamond defects to reveal unprecedented detail of molecular structures.

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes.

But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail — and for many proteins, that is either impossible or dauntingly difficult.

Now a new technique being developed by researchers at MIT and elsewhere shows great promise for producing highly detailed images of individual proteins, no matter how complicated their structure, without the need for crystallization. The findings are described in the journal Physical Review X by MIT graduate student Ashok Ajoy, postdoc Ulf Bissbort, associate professor of nuclear science and engineering Paola Cappellaro, and others at MIT, the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and Harvard University.

The technique makes use of microscopic defects within the crystal structure of diamond — defects that can be induced, in a controlled way, in the lab. These defects, called nitrogen-vacancy (NV) centers, occur when nitrogen atoms are introduced into the crystal structure, each replacing one carbon atom in a perfectly spaced diamond lattice. ... more

electronic device based on 2D materials

How to prevent metal embrittlement

Analysis shows certain crystal boundaries can enhance, or reduce, hydrogen’s damaging effects.

When a metal tube lines an oil well thousands of feet below the surface of the ocean, that metal had better be solid and reliable. Unfortunately, the environment in such deep wells is often rich in hydrogen, a gas that can penetrate high-tech alloys and make them brittle — making fractures and leaks more likely.

Now researchers at MIT have figured out exactly which characteristics of a metal structure tend to foster this embrittlement in the presence of hydrogen. More significantly, they have also determined that simple changes in processing can modify the structure in a way that may greatly reduce the chances of damage, extending the safe operating lifetime of such tubing.

Their findings are published this week in the journal Nature Communications, in a paper co-written by MIT faculty members Michael Demkowicz and Silvija Gradecak, materials science and engineering postdoc Matteo Seita, and John Hanson, a doctoral student in nuclear science and engineering.

“We want to engineer reliability into the metal,” says Demkowicz, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at MIT. The research was supported by BP, whose well in the Gulf of Mexico was responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (Metal failure was not implicated in that particular spill.) ... more

NSE’s Derek Sutherland is one of Forbes magazine’s 30 under 30 in energy

NSE alum Derek Sutherland has been named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in the energy sector for 2015.


NSE’s Ju Li named 2014 American Physical Society Fellow

Ju Li, Battelle Energy Alliance Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, has been named a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Nominated by the Division of Materials Physics, Li was cited, “[f]or seminal work on understanding the fundamental properties of ultra-strength materials and formulating the concept of elastic strain engineering.”


NSE alum Yang brings solar-powered electricity to rural Tanzania

Over the years, EGG Energy, co-founded by MIT and Harvard University engineering and business students, has garnered public praise as the “Netflix of electricity” for rural Tanzania.


NSE alums Leslie Dewan and Ashley Finan testify in congress on future of nuclear energy

The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing to examine the future of civilian nuclear energy in the US, including the potential path forward to greater utilization of nuclear energy within the country’s energy portfolio.


NSE’s Mareena Robinson-Snowden moderates Black Lives Matter event at MIT

MIT community engages in dialogue on race &mdash President Reif: Winterfest protestors “are asking us to listen, to collaborate, and to act.”


Bilge Yildiz

NSE’s Yildiz participates in MITís Materials Day Symposium

Materials Day Symposium highlights breakthroughs in simulation methods, manufacturing techniques, and improved alloys.


Del Favero Lecture: The future of fusion power

The next two years in MITís Nuclear Science and Engineering Department may see fusion research embark on a landmark period of innovation. In his address to the NSE community in the inaugural Del Favero Doctoral Thesis Prize Lecture, Dr. Zach Hartwig not only described his group’s research achievements but also explained why


The Zero-Knowledge NRF x-ray source at LNSP

LNSP receives $3.2M for nuclear warhead verification

NSE’s Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy (LNSP) has received $3.2 million from the National Nuclear Security Administration to support research that could revolutionize the verification of international arms-control treaties.


R. Scott Kemp

The Iran nuclear deadline

On November 19, 2014, the MIT chapter of Global Zero and Radius hosted a roundtable discussion on the status of negotiations between Iran and the E3+3 (The United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France, and Germany) about Iran’s nuclear program. The discussion covered the history of the diplomatic process, the forces influencing current negotiations, and likelihood and implications of a successful agreement.


electronic device based on 2D materials

New 2-D quantum materials for nanoelectronics

NSE team provides theoretical roadmap to making 2–D electronics with novel properties.

Researchers at MIT say they have carried out a theoretical analysis showing that a family of two-dimensional materials exhibits exotic quantum properties that may enable a new type of nanoscale electronics.

These materials are predicted to show a phenomenon called the quantum spin Hall (QSH) effect, and belong to a class of materials known as transition metal dichalcogenides, with layers a few atoms thick. The findings are detailed in a paper appearing this week in the journal Science, co-authored by MIT postdocs Xiaofeng Qian and Junwei Liu; assistant professor of physics Liang Fu; and Ju Li, a professor of nuclear science and engineering and materials science and engineering.

QSH materials have the unusual property of being electrical insulators in the bulk of the material, yet highly conductive on their edges. This could potentially make them a suitable material for new kinds of quantum electronic devices, many researchers believe.

But only two materials with QSH properties have been synthesized, and potential applications of these materials have been hampered by two serious drawbacks: Their bandgap, a property essential for making transistors and other electronic devices, is too small, giving a low signal-to-noise ratio; and they lack the ability to switch rapidly on and off. Now the MIT researchers say they have found ways to potentially circumvent both obstacles using 2–D materials that have been explored for other purposes. ... more

Dennis Whyte

NSE’s Dennis Whyte named Director of the Plasma Science & Fusion Center

NSE’s Professor Dennis Whyte will serve as the next Director of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC), effective January 1, 2015. He succeeds Professor Miklos Porkolab who, after nearly 20 years in the position, has decided to step down and return to teaching and research.


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