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Search for the Higgs Boson Reveals New Particle

ATLAS detector

The ATLAS detector at the LHC

Physicists working on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland—including many from Brookhaven Lab—announced in July that they have observed a new particle. These preliminary results—based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis—indicate that this particle could be the long-sought Higgs boson, thought to impart mass to matter. A more complete picture will emerge later this year after more data is provided from the experiments.

Scientists have been looking for the Higgs particle for more than two decades to complete and help validate the Standard Model theory that is used to explain the nature of matter. The Standard Model has proven to explain correctly the elementary particles and forces of nature through more than four decades of experimental tests. But it cannot, without the Higgs boson, explain how most of these particles acquire their mass, a key ingredient in the formation of our universe.

“I congratulate the thousands of scientists around the globe for their outstanding work in searching for the Higgs boson,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “The latest results of this search show the benefits of sustained investments in basic science by governments around the world.”

Hundreds of scientists and graduate students from American institutions have played important roles in the search for the Higgs at the LHC. More than 1,700 people from U.S. institutions— including 89 American universities and seven U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories—helped design, build, and operate the LHC accelerator and its detectors. The United States, through DOE’s Office of Science and the National Science Foundation, provides support for research and detector operations at the LHC and also supplies computing for ATLAS and CMS, the two large experiments involved in the Higgs search.

To learn more, read the full press release.

2012-3371  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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New Enzyme Could Improve Production of Biofuels

Kewei Zhang and C.J. Liu

Scientists are exploring ways to make plants easier to convert to biofuels

Scientists at Brookhaven have created a new enzyme that effectively “masks” the synthetic precursors of lignin, a plant cell wall component that makes plant biomass particularly difficult to break down. The new enzyme should make it easier to convert plant biomass into biofuels.

As a very rigid aromatic polymer and integral cell wall component, lignin prevents digestive enzymes from accessing the simple sugars of cellulose fibers, which are needed to produce useable fuels. Today’s industrial processing methods require cell wall biomass to be pretreated to remove lignin, significantly adding to the cost of biofuel production. Incorporating the new enzyme into plants could substantially reduce the cost of that step.

The new enzyme reduced the lignin content of experimental Arabidopsis plants by up to 24 percent, leading to a 21 percent increase in the release of cell wall sugars. Furthermore, it did so without compromising the plant’s development or significantly reducing the biomass yield. The next step is to test the enzyme’s function in a dedicated energy crop to see if it will improve cell wall biomass digestibility. 

See the press release to learn more.

2012-3372  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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User Facilities Drive Innovation and Economic Growth


Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source

A bright future of scientific innovation and U.S. economic security hinges in part on the advanced research conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) major user facilities, according to congressional leaders. At a June 21 hearing of the House Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, politicians, scientists, and industry leaders expressed strong support for the past triumphs and great potential of these cutting-edge facilities.

Brookhaven is home to several of the nation’s top scientific user facilities, hosting thousands of researchers dedicated to driving discoveries in fields including energy, bioscience, physics, chemistry, and medicine. Among these are the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) and future NSLS-II, the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, the Tandem Van de Graaff accelerator, and facilities for computational analysis and modeling. 

“At user facilities, federal funds support more efficient cars and trucks; more effective drugs; lighter and stronger metals; cheaper and more durable batteries; cleaner power plants; reduced reliance on foreign energy; a clearer picture of our changing climate; and even a better understanding of the origins of the universe and the nature of space and time,” said U.S. Rep. Brad Miller. 

Ernie Hall, a chief scientist at General Electric Global Research, spoke highly of his experience partnering with DOE facilities at the hearing. He specifically noted the commercial impact and economic boost created by GE’s collaboration with Brookhaven Lab. GE now plans to open a new battery manufacturing plant in Schenectady, NY, that owes basic breakthroughs in underlying technology to research conducted at Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS).

2012-3373  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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BNL Receives Funds for New Photon-Counting Detectors

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded $1 million to purchase new precision detector technology for Brookhaven’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS).

The award comes from NIH’s Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, Office of Research Infrastructure Programs High-End Instrumentation Grant, which supports NIH scientists doing biomedical research. It will pay for new photon-counting detectors for beamline X9 at the NSLS, a DOE-funded facility used by nearly 2,400 researchers annually.

With photon-counting detectors, biologists can better perform x-ray scattering on proteins in solution. This technique can capture proteins in various states of interaction with other molecules, providing valuable information about protein function to scientists so they can develop new medicines and drugs.

2012-3374  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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  • October 9, 2012 – BSA Distinguished Lecture, Dr. Michael Devine, Director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum will speak on topics current then and now (Korea, The Bomb, firing a general by a president). 4 PM, Berkner Hall Auditorium
  • October 11, 2012 – Community Advisory Council, 6:30 PM, Berkner Hall, Room B
  • October 17, 2012 – Concert, the Amphion String Quartet will perform. Noon, Berkner Hall Auditorium.

*The events above are free and open to the public. Visitors 16 and over must bring a photo ID for access to BNL events.

2012-3375  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office