September 1, 1999

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If magnetic data-storage devices for computers could be pushed into the wavelength limit of an electron moving through a solid -- the nanometer scale -- storage capacity could be significantly increased. The key is to confine the movement of the electron. Researchers have taken a significant step toward that end, producing the first high quality images of "quantum wells" -- an energy state in which an electron is sandwiched between two layers of atoms so that its motion is confined to a single dimension.


Many unanswered questions remain about how air pollution affects health. For instance, many pollutants exist in both particle and gas phases, which are deposited differently in the lungs and have different physiological effects. Difficulty in getting good measurements of these gas and solid phases has complicated the EPA's effort to establish air quality standards. Lara Gundel and colleagues have devised an air sampler that is being used around the country to resolve these issues.


Scientists at the Lab's Center for Environmental Biotechnology have shown that underground microbes can transform toxic chromium pollutants into less toxic compounds. What's more, the process may be accelerated by the presence of volatile organic wastes, compounds often found at contaminated sites. These findings point the way toward new, environmentally benign remediation techniques for cleaning up mixed waste sites.


Some of the more shadowy secrets of biology may soon be illuminated through the use of a new type of fluorescent probe that has been licensed to a Palo Alto start-up firm.

Berkeley Lab will co-host a center that will investigate oceanic carbon sequestration -- the capture and storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the oceans.

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