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.

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
November 2015
Figure

While translocator proteins (TSPO) are clearly important for diverse organisms ranging from bacteria to humans, their roles in cells are not yet fully understood. TSPO is positioned in the outer mitochondrial membrane and binds small molecules, such as benzodiazepine, cholesterol, and porphyrin molecules. It has been implicated as having a role in a number of human diseases, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as inflammation and tumor growth.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2
October 2015
Aina Cohen, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Goniometer image

Scientists have developed a goniometer-based system to study radiation-sensitive macromolecular complexes.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2
October 2015
Axel Brunger, Stanford University
SNARE structure

Scientists have determined the 3-D structure of a complex of synaptic proteins that controls the release of signaling chemicals from brain cells in less than one-thousandth of a second, which ultimately could help unlock a new realm of drug research targeting brain disorders.

Macromolecular Crystallography
XPP
September 2015
Hendrik Ohldag

Conventional electronics encode information using the charge of electrons. Spin transport electronics, or spintronics, seeks to encode information using the spin of electrons, up or down. Spintronics has the potential to be more efficient and more reliable, especially as electronic components become smaller. To advance the field, the mechanics of spin transport from one material to another needs to be understood. In a study that develops methods for studying spin transport, a team of scientists looked at how spin information travels between a spin signal source (a ferromagnet) and a non-magnetic material that transports the signal.

BL13-1
September 2015
Donghui Lu, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Figure 3

A superconductor can carry an electrical current with no resistance, so no energy is lost. This quantum mechanical effect was first discovered in certain materials when cooled to very low temperatures, with the highest record at -250°C. In 1986, a class of high temperature superconductor (HTSC) materials was discovered called cuprates, which show superconducting properties at temperatures as high as -135°C. More recently, superconductivity was found in some iron-containing compounds known as iron-based superconductors (FeSCs).

Angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy
BL5-4
August 2015
Courtney M. Roach (Krest), ckrest@slac.stanford.edu
Figure 1

Bonds between carbon and hydrogen atoms are ubiquitous in organic molecules important for life.  Generally considered to be unreactive, C-H bonds are not easily activated so that the hydrogen can be replaced with a different chemical group. A mechanism that would allow chemists to selectively activate C-H bonds to become reactive would open up numerous new possibilities for synthetic chemistry and is the subject of intense studies.

BL7-3
July 2015
Olav Hellwig, HGST, Hermann Dürr, SIMES
Figure 1

Magnetic data storage devices are ubiquitous in our modern, data-rich world.  Computer hard disks, magnetic recording tape, and magnetic strips on credit cards use such devices, creating pressure to engineer ever greater data density on smaller surfaces.

BL13-3
June 2015
Junfeng He, Boston College, Rui-Hua He, Boston College
Lay Summary Image

The heat that builds up in the shuttling of current in electronics is an important obstacle to packing more computing power into ever-smaller devices: Excess heat can cause them to fail or sap their efficiency.

Angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES) measurements taken at Beam Line 5-4 at SSRL and at the Advanced Light Source have observed an exotic property that could warp the electronic structure of a material in a way that reduces heat buildup and improves performance in ever-smaller computer components.

Angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy
BL5-4

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