SSRL Science Highlights Archive

Approximately 1,600 scientists visit SSRL annually to conduct experiments in broad disciplines including life sciences, materials, environmental science, and accelerator physics. Science highlights featured here and in our monthly newsletter, Headlines, increase the visibility of user science as well as the important contribution of SSRL in facilitating basic and applied scientific research. Many of these scientific highlights have been included in reports to funding agencies and have been picked up by other media. Users are strongly encouraged to contact us when exciting results are about to be published. We can work with users and the SLAC Office of Communication to develop the story and to communicate user research findings to a much broader audience. Visit SSRL Publications for a list of the hundreds of SSRL-related scientific papers published annually. Contact us to add your most recent publications to this collection.

April 2016
Mike Toney, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource

Most solar panels use technology that employs a silver-silicon interface. Because silver is expensive and the lead used in the creation of this interface is toxic, researchers are interested searching for other materials that could work instead of these components. A team of scientists are working to understand the process involved in the silver-silicon contact formation so that alternatives that perform the same function can be found.

X-ray diffraction
BL7-2
April 2016
Suhas Kumar, Hewlett Packard Labs
Figure

Theorized decades ago and currently being developed into useable technology, memristors are passive memory storage units especially useful for nanoelectronics. Memristors could replace the ageing flash memory in the near future. Memristors are usually made of a transition metal oxide layered between two metallic electrodes and are able to change their resistance in a non-volatile way between two states depending on an applied voltage.

Scanning transmission x-ray microscopy
BL6-2
March 2016
David R. Barbero, Umeå University
Figure 1

Current technologies of light emitting diodes (LEDs), photovoltaic systems (PVs), and other optical electronic devices typically use inorganic silicon-based semiconductors. However,  organic polymers could provide thinner, lighter and cheaper opto-electronic devices (like OLEDs and OPVs).

X-ray diffraction
BL2-1, BL11-3
March 2016
Douglas Kauffman; National Energy Technology Laboratory
Figure 1

The electrocatalytic conversion of carbon dioxide and water into useful chemicals and fuels is a promising way of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and of providing sources for renewable energy. Part of these processes is the oxidation of water into molecular oxygen, a reaction that requires a catalyst. Previously, heterogeneous catalysts have been used, but adoption of homogeneous catalysts allows more understanding and fine-tuning of the atomic-level processes.

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
BL8-2
March 2016
Figure

Filoviruses, such as Ebola virus require host-cell receptors, endocytosis, proteolytic cleavage, and fusion with the endolysosomal membrane for release of viral material into the cytoplasm. Two-pore channels (TPCs) comprise a subfamily (TPC1-3) of eukaryotic voltage- and ligand-gated cation channels that contain two non-equivalent tandem pore-forming subunits that then dimerize to form quasi-tetramers and orchestrate the trafficking of Filoviruses, including Ebola, in human cells.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2
February 2016
Jun-Sik Lee, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Figure

The list of mechanical and electronic uses for oxide materials is continuously growing, piquing researchers’ interest in how the microscopic properties of these materials affect their functionalities. Oxygen vacancies, which affect electron hopping, have long been identified as a defect in oxide compounds, but researchers now view them as a way to create new, potentially useful, behaviors.

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
BL13-3
February 2016
Figure 2

The practice of storing reclaimed or storm water by refilling an aquifer is called managed aquifer recharge (MAR). Advantages of MAR to regions vulnerable to drought or which have depleted aquifers include water storage for future use, reduced water loss of stored water from evaporation, and stabilization of the aquifers. However, refilling aquifers can change the chemistry, allowing naturally occurring toxins in aquifer sediments to dissolve into the water. Arsenic, a potential poison, is of particular concern, since use of MAR has led to arsenic-contaminated water.

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
BL11-2
February 2016
Ying Zhang, Plexxikon Inc.
PLX7904 Figure

Mutation of the gene coding for the BRAF kinase, an important enzyme in the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway, can lead to melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer. The pharmaceutical company Plexxikon has developed drugs, like vemurafenib, that treat metastatic melanoma harboring BRAF mutation.

Macromolecular Crystallography
January 2016
Anna Wise, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Johanna Nelson Weker, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Michael F. Toney, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Figure 1

The widespread adoption of renewable energy in many applications, such as electric cars, is dependant on the development of better batteries. A lithium ion battery can be made to have a higher capacity, better thermally stability, and lower cost by changing the cobalt component of the battery cathode (usually LiCoO2) to a mixture of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. While providing great benefits, this material, known as NMC, also has a downside: increased reactivity at the cathode resulting in a shorter battery lifetime. To counteract this reactivity, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado developed a coating for the NMC cathode.

X-ray diffraction
BL4-1
January 2016
Figure 1

Ion transport across the hydrophobic barrier of the cell membrane is central to life.  Biological membranes are hydrophobic barriers that are impermeable to ionic species. Thus, ionic movements across these membranes require catalysis by specific proteins situated at the membranes such as ion channels and transporters. CLC transporters are such proteins that facilitates transport of chloride (Cl-) and protons (H+) across biological membranes.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2

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