This cylinder may prove crucial to the vehicles of the future, just so long as we can pinpoint its atomic structure.

That rotating GIF is a 3D reconstruction of a solid oxide fuel cell, featuring billionth-of-a-meter details about the multilayer structure. While you marvel at those little textures, just consider that the entire cylinder is just about 35 micrometers in diameter — the average human hair is more than three times as wide!

We worked with scientists at Northwestern University to reveal these unprecedented details using a technique called transmission x-ray tomography.

The nanoscale structures of this material help explain its performance and point to new and improved architectures. And get this: Once our next-generation National Synchrotron Light Source II comes online, we’ll take that image resolution down to a single nanometer and while watching energetic reactions in real time.


Unlikely Symbiosis: Coalmines and SANAA’s Zollverein School

Japanese architecture firm SANAA, led by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, designed the first building to be constructed for the new Rem Koolhaas/OMA masterplan on the historic Zeche Zollverein coal mine site. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, the Zeche Zollverein, located just outside Essen, Germany, is a monumental array of mine heads, coking plants and coal-washing units scattered over an area of several hundred acres. As the vein of coal expired, the site was gradually decommissioned in the mid-80s. Spurred by the renewed international interest in the site, however, the city of Essen laid out plans to transform the Zeche Zollverein into a primary pole for design, architecture and art within Europe. SANAA’s Zollverein School of Management and Design, a bright white, perforate cube, stands out in stark contrast to its surroundings. But its design is not simply aesthetic: its ultra-thin concrete walls were made possible by pumping warm water from nearby operative coal mines through the facade, doing away with the need for thick insulation. The innovation allowed for the recycling of abundant, naturally heated wastewater from mines and drove the overall cost, both in terms of implementation and day-to-day use, lower than if conventional insulation had been used.


The Birth of the Modern Energy: LIFE Captures the Rise of Middle East Oil

In June of 1945, LIFE magazine published one of the earliest and most comprehensive features on the highly fraught and lucrative Mideast petroleum industry. The photo essay, titled “Middle East Oil,” showcased work by photographer Dmitri Kessel, who spent eight weeks traveling in Iran, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, and Iraq. Kessel’s photos capture the sprawling industrial complexes of multinational oil corporations and the ancient desert cultures they uproot and transform. Today, in the face of continued conflict surrounding Middle East oil, these jarring contrasts appear both familiar and impossibly remote.


Wind Power                                                                                          

Workers construct turbine blades at the Siemens AG turbine blade plant in Fort Madison, Iowa.

The U.S. Export-Import Bank agreed to lend $65 million for Peruvian wind farms that will use Siemens AG turbines made in Fort Madison and at another Siemens plant in Kansas.

Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg      

© 2014 Bloomberg Finance LP