Last year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry – shared by Stanford School of Medicine Professor Brian Kobilka and Robert Lefkowitz of Duke University – recognized groundbreaking research in G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs are embedded in cell membranes. They interact with signaling molecules outside of cells and trigger responses within cells.
In less than a decade, SLAC has built up an impressive array of dozens of laser systems – and a team of laser scientists and engineers – with capabilities that make it one of the most cutting-edge national laboratories under the U.S. Department of Energy.
Lighting the way
Daniel DePonte, a pioneer in finding ways to serve up a steady and precise supply of crystals, viruses and other precious samples for laser experiments, is the newly hired sample-delivery group leader for SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser.
The way electrons move within and between molecules, transferring energy as they go, plays an important role in many chemical and biological processes, such as the conversion of sunlight to energy in photosynthesis and solar cells. But the fastest steps in this energy transfer have eluded detection.
Scientists have found a way to distort the atomic arrangement and change the magnetic properties of an important class of electronic materials with ultra-short pulses of terahertz (mid-infrared) laser light without heating the material up. While the achievement is currently of purely scientific interest, the researchers say this new approach control could ultimately lead to extremely fast, low-energy, non-volatile computer memory chips or data-switching devices.