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Science Happens Here!

Ever wonder what goes on at the Lab? From a World War I Army base to a world-renowned center of high-tech research, see how the Lab and our science have evolved to meet the challenges of the 21st Century in this exciting 3-minute video:

Science Happens Here!

Learn even more about the diversity of our research in the stories below – from renewable energy research to why chocolate tastes so good — Science happens at Brookhaven National Laboratory!

2013-3886  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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LEED-designed Facility to House Renewable Energy Research

ISB dedication ceremony

The Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB), BNL's recently opened hub for energy research, will provide customized laboratories for multidisciplinary research teams working to tackle the nation's most pressing energy and environmental challenges. Scientists will engineer and optimize materials with the goal of developing breakthrough technologies for batteries, biofuels, and solar panels.  

The 87,700 square foot building contains offices, 60 standard laboratories, and 4 specialty labs with unique features. The labs include a humidity-controlled dry room, where researchers can safely assemble and test new lithium-ion batteries, and two ultra-low vibration laboratories housing the new Mirage Spectroscopic Imaging Scanning Tunneling Microscope used to explore materials' electronic structure at the atomic scale. A lab customized for molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), a process researchers use to fabricate new materials a single atomic layer at a time, is connected directly to one of the ultra-low vibration labs via a vacuum-locked system. This allows scientists to transport MBE-created samples directly to the microscope without exposing them to air, which can diminish sought-after properties.

Sustainable design and energy efficiency influenced construction of the ISB. Compared to benchmark studies, the ISB design reduces use of potable water by 55 percent and energy consumption by 37 percent, contributing toward an overall cost savings of 29 percent. 

In addition to energy-cost-saving strategies such as heat recovery, and high-efficiency lighting systems and laboratory equipment, the sustainable LEED-designed facility was built with certified environmentally-sustainable wood, recycled materials, and materials from vendors within the region to reduce the building's overall carbon footprint by minimizing the distance materials traveled to the site. 

The total cost for the project was $66.8 million, most of which was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. The Lab also received an initial investment of $18.6 million in 2009 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that accelerated construction of the facility. 

2013-3887  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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The Nanostructure of Edible Fats

X-ray diffraction patterns of fat crystals

X-ray diffraction patterns reveal the orientation of fat crystals. The distribution and directionality of these crystal nanostructures affects the flavor and texture of foods.

Researchers at Brookhaven are using the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) to categorize the many facets of fat crystals. They've learned that the distribution and directionality of these crystal nanostructures affects the flavor and texture of foods. 

From butter in croissants to cocoa solids in chocolate, edible fats pack a flavor punch that delights like no other macronutrient we consume. Fats are the most energy dense macronutrients, providing more than twice as many kilocalories per gram as proteins or carbohydrates, which may be the reason we've developed a taste for them. Fats are an efficient method of fueling a surviving species, but what gives them their oh-so-delicious disposition?

As explained in a review paper by NSLS user Alejandro Marangoni, published in Soft Matter, fats are made up of fractal-like crystalline structures, which give rise to properties such as flavor, texture, meltability, and mouthfeel. For example, six different forms of crystal structure have been identified for cocoa butter. But only one form will turn out chocolate that tastes and feels good to eat.

Marangoni and his collaborators used x-ray diffraction at NSLS to study their complex arrangements. "We can witness a very diverse assortment of crystal habits – spherulites, needle-like crystals, microplatelets, disordered crystal aggregates, spherical crystal aggregates, fractal-like aggregates, and even some morphologies that defy proper description. Despite the wide variety of crystal morphologies, they all share some common attributes: (1) the structures are awe-inspiringly beautiful when viewed under a polarized light microscope and (2) the crystalline mass in a network of these crystals is distributed in a fractal fashion."

The discovery and characterization of these nanoplatelets adds to the knowledge upon which the food industry bases its design and engineering of food materials. Understanding how the physical chemistry of fats affects the way foods taste and feel could also potentially be useful when trying to curb the excessive consumption of fat-rich foods.

For more:

2013-3888  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office

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  • May 1 – BSA Distinguished Lecture, "Research at CERN – From the Highest Energies to the Smallest Particles." Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Director  General, CERN. 5:30 pm, Berkner Hall Auditorium.
  • May 9 – Community Advisory Council Meeting. 6:30 p.m., Berkner Hall, Room B
  • May 15 – Lecture, "Why Has Earth Not Warmed as Much as Expected?" Presented by Stephen Schwartz, Environmental Sciences Department, 4 pm, 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.

2013-3889  |  INT/EXT  |  Media & Communications Office