Public Release: 

Berkeley Lab researchers at AAAS

DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The secrets of photosynthesis, how CAT scans can be used to analyze cells, frozen soil's impact on climate change, and how cancer patients can use a cell phone as a diagnostic tool are some of the presentations by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab researchers at this year's AAAS meeting. Here's a quick look at Berkeley Lab@AAAS:

Quantum Secrets of Photosynthesis Revealed

Friday, February 17, at 8:00 a.m., Room 208-209 VCC West

Photosynthesis is one of nature's finest miracles. Through the photosynthetic process, green plants absorb sunlight and convert the photonic energy into chemical energy so fast that virtually no energy is lost as heat. If we can learn from nature and develop an artificial version of photosynthesis we would have an energy source that is absolutely clean and virtually inexhaustible. Graham Fleming, a leading chemist for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who now serves as Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of California Berkeley, has pioneered groundbreaking research that has revolutionized our understanding of the quantum mechanics underlying photosynthesis. Through femtosecond spectroscopy, he and his research group have provided new details on quantum entanglement and other quantum effects that not only advance the development of artificial photosynthesis, but also quantum computing. Fleming's talk, "Ultrafast Laser Measurements of Coherences and Entanglement in Light-Harvesting Systems," is under the panel "Imaging and Controlling Molecular Dynamics with Ultrashort Laser Pulses."

CAT Scans for Biological Cells

Friday, February 17, at 10:30 a.m., Room 208-209, VCC West

Soft X-ray Tomography (SXT) is a fast and powerful technique for obtaining three-dimensional CAT scans of biological cells, resolving structural details 50 nanometers or less in size. Carolyn Larabell, director of the National Center for X-ray Tomography at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will discuss and display the remarkable SXT images produced using photon beams in the "water window" energy range from Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source. In this energy range, cells can be rapidly frozen rather than chemically fixed for imaging so they can be visualized in a close-to-native, fully functional state. Larabell will highlight the use of SXT to study the effects of antimicrobial agents on pathogenic yeast. Her talk, "X-Ray Microscopy and the View Inside Living Cells," is under the panel session "Understanding Cellular Machinery Through X-Ray Imaging."

CellScope: Diagnostic Microscopy with a Cell Phone

Sunday, February 19, at 8:30 a.m., Room 212, VCC West

Cancer patients must often make frequent trips to clinics or hospitals for blood cell counts and other diagnostic procedures. Imagine if they could perform these tests at home on their cell phone and transmit the results to their physician. Daniel Fletcher, a bioengineer with joint appointments at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California Berkeley, is the mastermind behind "CellScope," technology that transforms the camera of a standard cell phone into a diagnostic-quality microscope that can capture and transmit magnified images of patient blood and phlegm slides for evaluation by specialists who are miles or even continents away.

CellScope can be used to study the physical characteristics of individual cancer cells, identify the presence of malaria or tuberculosis in blood samples, or even spot early warning signs of pandemics. Fletcher's talk, "Practical Microscopy: Bringing Cancer into Focus," is under the panel "Physical Sciences Approaches to Cancer: Growing Interdisciplinary Collaborations."

Frozen Soil Carbon and its Impact on Climate Change

Sunday, February 19, at 1:00 p.m., Room 109, VCC West

The vulnerability of soil carbon to warming is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in the projection of future climate change. If, in a warmer world, bacteria decompose organic soil matter faster, releasing carbon dioxide, this will set up a positive feedback loop, speeding up global warming. According to recent estimates the global mass of soil carbon needs to be revised upwards by a frightening amount: from 2,500 billion tonnes to more than 4,000 billion tonnes. Charles Koven, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory climate scientist, will discuss this research as part of a panel entitled "Northern Soils: What If They Thaw?"


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