BER Structural Biology and Imaging Resources
Synchrotron, Neutron, and Cryo-EM
U.S. Department of Energy | Office of Science | Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory

DOE scientific user facility sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research

Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) advances and integrates process-level understanding of complex systems across wide temporal and spatial scales by coupling observations, experiments, and theory with modeling and simulation.

EMSL hosts more than 150 premier experimental instruments that provide users with high-resolution spatiotemporal imaging and structural data to study biological and environmental systems at the molecular level. These instruments, in combination with EMSL’s supercomputing capabilities, have helped thousands of researchers use a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to solve important challenges in biological interactions and dynamics, biogeochemistry and subsurface science, and interactions at the interfaces of natural and engineered materials.

Structural biology expertise at EMSL includes a breadth of cutting-edge capabilities. Combining these with high-performance computing and complementary expertise in other areas enables correlative multimodal imaging and analyses.

  • High-resolution single particle cryo-electron microscopy determines the atomic-scale structure of proteins and protein complexes greater than 50 kDa and uncovers the molecular mechanisms regulating cellular processes.
  • Cryo-electron tomography characterizes cellular ultrastructure in microbial systems, providing clues into how organisms respond within a microbial consortium or to environmental stresses.
  • Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy measures the distance between protons to determine the structure of small proteins less than 30 kDa.
  • Mass spectrometry examines the organizational relationship between protein complex subunits, providing insights into the molecular mechanisms driving enzymatic reactions in these complexes.
  • Cryogenic atom probe tomography produces three-dimensional maps of elements and molecular fragments at the atomic scale and is being adapted to soft biological materials.

For fundamental biological research, EMSL’s focus is to understand, predict, manipulate, and design biological processes in microbial, fungal, and plant systems for bioenergy and bioproduct production and enhance the understanding of carbon, nutrient, and inorganic element transformations. The focus for fundamental environmental research is to characterize the structure and function of Earth systems to develop and validate predictive models by studying atmospheric chemistry and physics, vegetative ecosystems, and soil or subsurface hydrology and biogeochemistry.