Welcome to 
Inquiry 2011Issue 2

Materials Characterization

This issue of Inquiry focuses on materials characterization, the vast array of techniques that Ames Laboratory scientists use to identify the various characteristics of materials that in turn give those materials specific properties. As you can see by the cover, we are celebrating Ames Laboratory researcher Dan Shechtman's selection as the winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of quasicrystals. But it was while he was characterizing a new material using transmission electron microscopy that Shechtman made is award-winning discovery.

Because Ames Laboratory researchers make materials that sometimes have novel or exotic properties, we also have a high investment in world-leading materials characterization to probe and explore those properties. When the Ames Lab first started, its job was to purify uranium metal, and it quickly developed chemical-analysis tools to characterize the purity of the product, resulting in some of the most sensitive chemical analysis techniques used in the world today.

In this issue, we are providing an update on some of the materials characterization tools and techniques under development at the Ames Lab. These provide exciting new capabilities, such as studying the behavior of single layers of atoms on crystal surfaces, seeing the internal workings of materials as they deform, or seeing how materials behave inside living cells, among many others.


Inquiry is a biannual science magazine highlighting research at Ames laboratory. Below you'll find links to the individual articles. To download a pdf version of the complete issue, click here or on the cover image (at right).

For additional information about the Ames Laboratory or any of the topics covered in this publication, please contact:

Inquiry Editor
Ames Laboratory
111 TASF
Ames, IA 50011-3020
(515) 294-9557

Danny Shechtman’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the
discovery of quasicrystals was also the impetus behind
discoveries by other Ames Laboratory scientists. Pat
Thiel’s work on surface structure resulted in the
development of the blue, five-fold symmetry pattern
shown in the small inset. Paul Canfield helped prove
the existence of quasicrystals by growing a large,
single crystal of holmium-magnesium-zinc (Ho-Mg-Zn)
that clearly shows five-fold symmetry. Alan Goldman
captured the X-ray diffraction image of a scandium-zinc quasicrystal that shows the same 10-dot pattern that Shechtman first witnessed.

Image  Battin' A Tousand in SULI Success

When it comes to attracting Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program students to attend graduate school at Iowa State University, Ames Lab senior scientist Mark Gordon has a perfect record. (Go to article)




The Ames Laboratory has a wealth of expertise in a wide variety of characterization techniques so that the properties of new materials can be quickly determined and that feedback used to tweak compositions to enhance the desirable characteristics. (Go to article). 


 Image Anomaly Results in Nobel Prize

A characterization anomaly brought criticism and derision to Danny Shechtman, but eventually resulted in a Nobel Prize in chemistry for the Ames Laboratory scientist. (Go to article)



Laser-guided Discovery

 Ames Laboratory scientist Emily Smith is using a tool called Raman spectroscopy to help unlock the secrets of efficiently converting plant material into biofuels. (Go to article)


 Image Uncharted Territory

Ames Lab scientist Tanya Prozorov is hoping to break new ground by using transmission electron microscopy to determine how bio-inspired magnetic nanocrystals form. (Go to article)



Scattering at the Ames Laboratory

 Ames Lab physicists use neutron and X-ray scattering to help map out the properties of new materials, such as iron-arsenide superconductors. (Go to article)



Power of Nanomachines
Tracking tiny gold nanorods using optical microscopy helps Ames Lab chemists understand tiny motions in living cells. (Go to article)



Nanosized Look at Rare-earth Graphene Bonds

 Graphene may be the key to super-small electronics, so Ames Lab scientists are using scanning tunneling microscopy to understand how graphene and metals interact at the nanoscale. (Go to article)


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