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The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a directorate of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, is an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Stanford University. SSRL produces extremely bright x-rays used to study our world at the atomic and molecular level. As one of five light sources funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, SSRL enables research that benefits every sector of the American economy and leads to major advances in energy production, environmental remediation, nanotechnology, new materials and medicine. SSRL also provides unique educational experiences and serves as a vital training ground for students in the sciences.
SSRL's mission is to enable and support outstanding scientific research by a broad user community in a safe environment. SSRL operates approximately 9 months each year, providing more than 95% of scheduled x-ray beam time for the more than 1500 scientists to conduct experiments at the lightsource. These experiments have resulted in more than 10,000 scientific publications since 1974.
Synergy and Teamwork
With the knowledge gained at SSRL, researchers have improved the design of fuel and solar cells, revealed the very nature of bacteria and viruses, exposed how genetic mutations may cause diabetes, and mapped the structures of proteins for use in biology and medicine.
Opportunities for Training and Discoveries
SSRL, one of the pioneering sources for photon science research, offers outstanding support and training for tomorrow's scientists and engineers. Of the approximately 1,500 scientists who annually participate in experiments at SSRL, over 35% are first-time users. Likewise, of the 500 papers published annually as a result of research at SSRL, approximately 20% are theses prepared by students who relied upon access to SSRL to complete their dissertations.
Partnering with Industry
Companies use SSRL instruments to help bring discoveries and innovations from theory to reality. Products ranging from the world's most advanced computer chips to pharmaceuticals such as Tamiflu® have been created thanks to research conducted at SSRL by companies including HP, IBM, Intel, GE, BP, Northrop Grumman, Sony, UOP, Exelixis, Genetech, Pfizer, and Roche. In addition, research and development activities at SSRL create a great variety of opportunities for commercial ventures, including the foundation of new start-up companies. These start-ups have created hundreds of jobs and give advanced technologies a foothold in the commercial market.
Improving Fuel Cells
Cheaper, more efficient fuel cells are on the way thanks to a new form of platinum created by researchers working at SSRL. The material will likely enable broader use of fuel cells that produce emissions-free energy, which could eventually replace gasoline engines and the batteries found in small electronic devices.
Innovative Solar Cells
A new process that simultaneously combines the light and heat of solar radiation to generate electricity could offer more than double the efficiency of existing solar cell technology. The process, called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," or PETE, could reduce the costs of solar energy production enough for it to compete with oil as an energy source.
SSRL's X-rays are used to identify toxic elements in drinking water, soil, plants and microorganisms, contaminants that have the potential to kill millions. This work supports the development of new technologies for removing contaminants from the environment, directly impacting the health of Americans.
No longer content with materials found in nature or made through trial and error, scientists at SSRL are finding ways to design new materials, in atom by atom detail, that precisely fit society's needs. Applications include power lines that transmit electricity with 100 percent efficiency, new types of solar cells, more powerful electronics, catalysts that speed chemical reactions, and novel computing technologies.