The rhizosphere is a critical zone where plant roots, microbes, and minerals interface and where biogeochemical weathering provides nutrients to plants. Shown here is a pine tree root surrounded by a soil fungus imaged by EMSL’s scanning electron microscope and colorized.
The mission of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientific user facility, is to lead molecular-level discoveries for DOE and its Office of Biological and Environmental Research that translate to predictive understanding and accelerated solutions for the nation’s energy and environmental challenges.
EMSL’s scientists and unique, state-of-the-art capabilities can help users gain a predictive understanding of the molecular-to-mesoscale processes in environmental, climate, biological, and energy systems. EMSL offers access to more than 60 premier experimental and computational systems, including many one-of-a-kind analytical instruments for studying atomic to molecular to larger-scale processes and a data management and storage platform with associated computation, modeling, and simulation capacities. EMSL scientists collaborate with users to generate impactful and timely results.
Terrestrial and Subsurface Ecosystems
EMSL’s Terrestrial and Subsurface Ecosystems (TSE) Science Theme encompasses a holistic view of belowground processes including carbon and nutrient cycling among plants, soil, water, and the atmosphere and the fate and transport of contaminants. Developing a mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical and microbial processes in soils and the subsurface, and linking those processes via pore-scale hydrological models, leads to improved strategies for sustainable approaches to land use and contaminant remediation.
New capabilities in TSE include advanced spectrometric and spectroscopic techniques to characterize organic matter in soil and groundwater; in situ tomographic imaging for studying intact roots and nutrient allocation; enhanced pore- to intermediate-scale capabilities in unsaturated porous media; and multiscale reactive transport models.
Research on uranium-contaminated wetlands leveraged helium ion microscopy capabilities in EMSL’s Quiet Wing to image biogenic nano-iron oxides oriented along a root recovered from a wetland plant from the Savannah River Site. Scientists Daniel Kaplan, Savanah River National Laboratory, and Peter Jaffe, Princeton University, conducted the research, and Bruce Arey, EMSL technologist, took the colorized image.
Users can access more than 150 premier and accompanying instruments and systems distributed among these scientific capabilities:
One of only a few such user facilities worldwide, RadEMSL houses a collection of experimental tools uniquely suited for actinide chemistry studies. It is equipped with advanced spectroscopic and imaging instrumentation to provide the molecular-level chemical speciation information needed to develop mechanistic models of radionuclide chemical behavior under environmental conditions. RadEMSL offers nuclear magnetic resonance capabilities and surface science capabilities, such X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, electron microscopy, electron microprobe, transmission electron microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and more.
See instruments at this facility.
EMSL’s Quiet Wing is a specialized environment for the study of atmospheric, biological, environmental, biogeochemical, surface, and material sciences. It is among the most advanced quiet laboratories in the world and was designed to help accelerate critical science by allowing state-of-the-art ultrasensitive microscopy equipment to operate at optimal resolution. A temperature-controlled facility, the wing’s design eliminates or reduces to a minimum the vibrations, acoustics, and electromagnetic noise that can interfere with the resolution of ultrasensitive scientific instrumentation. The 9,500-square-foot facility features eight quiet laboratory cells and a sample preparation area. The wing currently houses seven premier microscopy instruments and has room for one more.
See the instruments in this facility.
EMSL post-doctoral research assistants Tzu-Yung “Terry” Lin (center) and Jared Shaw work with EMSL’s new high resolution and mass accuracy mass spectrometry capability, or HRMAC. HRMAC’s higher-resolution and mass accuracy measurements ensure identification of molecular constituents in complex samples and materials and will be used to characterize complex environmental and biological materials.
EMSL and BER are investing in the development of two new instruments and are considering development of a plant phenomics facility that will enable researchers to advance their understanding of biosystems and their design. Capabilities under development include:
Researchers may submit a general proposal to use EMSL capabilities through the EMSL website at any time. DOE’s EMSL supports both open and proprietary research proposals, all of which are externally peer reviewed. In addition to general proposals, EMSL issues an annual Science Theme call and periodic calls for specific types of proposals.
More than half of EMSL’s 700 annual users are from academia; the rest are from DOE national laboratories, other federally sponsored labs, and industry.
Visiting Scientist Program and Fellowships
DOE’s EMSL seeks to attract new, highly qualified users and honor their major contributions through fellowships and awards:
For more information about EMSL, contact:
Climate and Environmental Sciences Division
U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research