UC Berkeley, UCLA, CU Boulder scientists collaborate to improve real-time functional imaging

Glenn Asakawa/Courtesy
Physics Professors Margaret Murnane, right, and Henry Kapteyn of JILA pose next to one of their laser apparatuses in their laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder campus on August 25, 2010. (Photo by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

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UC Berkeley researchers are collaborating with scientists from UCLA, University of Colorado at Boulder and other institutions to arrive at more detailed scientific findings through the improvement of real-time functional imaging.

The National Science Foundation granted the Science and Technology Center on Real-Time Functional Imaging, or STROBE, $24 million over a five-year period. Researchers said the cooperative efforts of experts in different fields, along with the diversity of resources and technologies accessible to participating institutions, will enable more productive research.

“Our goal is to make it possible to see the atomic or molecular details and motions of complex and difficult-to-characterize materials that change in time,” said Naomi Ginsberg, a campus professor of chemistry and physics who will lead UC Berkeley’s involvement in the network, in an email. “These materials range from biological to plastics, glasses, and materials used in electronics.”

According to Roger Falcone, a campus physics professor and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Light Source facility, researchers will map chemical, electronic and spatial properties of samples at very high resolution. Falcone added that he hopes to move from static pictures to movies of dynamic, functional processes of samples.

The potential applications of STROBE’s anticipated research include the development of batteries for renewable energy, artificial processes of photosynthesis and low-power computing technologies, according to Falcone.

“If you can’t see it, you can’t improve it,” Falcone said.

Ke Xu, a STROBE principal investigator and campus assistant professor of chemistry, said collaboration through STROBE could include researchers at different institutions looking at the exact same sample with different imaging techniques and comparing the results. For instance, while Xu uses super-resolution and electron microscopy to look at mammalian cells, he will collaborate with a UCLA lab that uses x-ray imaging, which may reveal different properties of the samples.

The network includes several campus researchers and the Advanced Light Source — a user facility with an x-ray synchrotron that provides very bright x-ray beams with which scientists can conduct imaging research.

According to Rena Dorph, interim director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, the hall will work with STROBE’s education and outreach team to translate its findings to the public.

“In particular we will leverage our informal science and school networks to disseminate educational experiences, activities and materials to a broad and diverse audience,” Dorph said.

According to Alessandra Lanzara, a campus physics professor who was involved in the process of planning STROBE, real-time functional imaging is important in capturing scientific phenomena that occur on very fast time scales.

“STROBE is unique in that it involves leading universities and combining … efforts. ” Falcone said. “We expect to be much more productive. The sum of us is going to be more than the individual parts.”

Contact Aleah Jennings-Newhouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anj_DC.