To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Department of Energy (DOE), the Office of Science (SC) collected 40 scientific milestones from the past 40 years, each one supported by SC through National Laboratories, user facilities, and grants programs. In the 40 days leading up to the October 1st anniversary, SC has tweeted and posted one “Milestone of the Day.” The ALS played a key role in the milestones for 2005 and 2009.
2005: The Blueprints for the Cell’s Protein Factory
At the beginning of this century, the chemical assembly line that cells use to form life’s building blocks—proteins—wasn’t well defined. Understanding that assembly line is key to combatting disease, by disabling the ribosomes in bacteria. This landmark 2005 paper, which used two DOE light sources, shed light on the assembly line. The scientists defined how a ribosome, the cell’s protein factory, quickly connects amino acids to create proteins. Yale University professor Thomas Steitz received the 2009 Nobel Price in Chemistry for his contributions to ribosomal research.
The work was done in part at ALS Beamline 8.2.2.
T.M. Schmeing, K.S. Huang, D.E. Kitchen, S.A. Strobel, and T.A. Steitz, “Structural Insights into the Roles of Water and the 2′ Hydroxyl of the P Site tRNA in the Peptidyl Transferase Reaction,” Molecular Cell 20, 437 (2005). doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2005.09.006
2009: Things Are Different on the Inside
Scientists thought topological insulators were possible, but couldn’t prove it. In this odd state of matter, a material’s interior doesn’t conduct electrons but the surface does. This landmark 2009 paper showed that a bismuth-and-tellurium-based material (Bi2Te3) was a topological insulator. At rates even better than predicted, this easy-to-make material conducted small amounts of electricity without loss at room temperature. This work sparked new ideas about how to make faster computer chips. Tools at the Advanced Light Source and Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, both DOE scientific user facilities, made the work possible.
The work was done in part at ALS Beamline 10.0.1.
Y.L. Chen, J.G. Analytis, J.-H. Chu, Z.K. Liu, S.-K. Mo, X.L. Qi, H.J. Zhang, D.H. Lu, X. Dai, Z. Fang, S.C. Zhang, I.R. Fisher, Z. Hussain, and Z.-X. Shen, “Experimental Realization of a Three-Dimensional Topological Insulator, Bi2Te3,” Science 325, 178 (2009). doi:10.1126/science.1173034