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 and to add your most recent publications to this collection.

While we continue to refine our science highlights content you may access older science summaries that date between 04/2001 to 06/2010 by visiting http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/science/sciencehighlights.html. We will be offering science summaries that date from 06/2012 to the present soon.

February 2015
Young-Sang Yu, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Yijin Liu, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Jordi Cabana, University of Illinois at Chicago
operando figure

Lithium-ion batteries, the mobile power source for most electronic devices, play an important role in everyday life. In the coming decades, they could play an even greater role, powering electric vehicles or storing electrical energy for the grid – if researchers can find ways to improve them.

In particular, the energy density of current batteries is limited by the capacity of the positive electrode, which in turn is determined by the properties and concentration of its active material. By better understanding this material and its limitations, researchers hope to design the highest capacity electrodes possible.

BL6-2c
February 2015
David Singer, Kent State University
Figure 1

When radioactive elements enter the environment – whether through natural processes or an accidental spill – it’s important to understand how to clean them up. This is especially true at the interface between water and minerals, which dominate the surface area of most geological landscapes. 

Recently, researchers came to SSRL to better understand how trace radioactive elements like uranium and strontium come to preferentially enrich materials that have pores with diameters just a few nanometers wide, called mesopores.

BL11-2
February 2015
James J. Lee, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Figure 1

For three decades, scientists have worked to engineer materials that allow electricity to flow without resistance at ambient temperatures. That could make just about everything that runs on electricity more efficient – saving enormous amounts of energy. But current superconductors are far from that dream: they only operate well below minus 135 degrees C. 

A recent study suggests a promising path toward room-temperature superconductors.

BL5-4
January 2015
David Barbero, Umeå University
Figure 1

Graphene – a one-atom thick sheet of carbon – shows great promise for future electronics. With its desirable electrical properties, flexibility and strength, the material could enable powerful capacitors, high-quality protective coatings and flexible transparent electronics.

BL11-3
January 2015
Makoto Hashimoto, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource
Figure 1

For years, scientists have chased after the promise of high-temperature superconductors – materials that carry current through a material with 100% efficiency. Yet the closest they have come to creating such a material still requires temperatures more than 100 degrees Celsius below freezing.

Angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy
BL5-4
January 2015
Scott Bailey, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health
CRISPR figure

With more viruses that infect bacteria than any other type of biological entity, bacteria have developed a sophisticated means of defending themselves. At the heart of their defenses is a system called CRISPR.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2
January 2015
Blake Wiedenheft, Montana State University, Ryan N. Jackson, Montana State University
CRISPR figure

With more viruses that infect bacteria than any other type of biological entity, bacteria have developed a sophisticated means of defending themselves. At the heart of their defenses is a system called CRISPR.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL12-2
November 2014
Yoshikazu Kurosawa, Fujita Health University, Ian A. Wilson, The Scripps Research Institute

Influenza viruses infect millions of people each year, cause severe illness, and present a significant health challenge. Vaccines are effective in preventing the flu but they require almost yearly reformulation to keep up with the constantly changing viruses. The highly variable hemagglutinin (HA), the major surface glycoprotein on influenza viruses, binds host cells to initiate infection. Scientists have identified a broadly neutralizing antibody, F045-092, that can inhibit this binding.

Macromolecular Crystallography
BL11-1
October 2014
Ritimukta Sarangi, SSRL, Wonwoo Nam, Ewha Womans University, Shunichi Fukuzumi, Osaka University/Japan Science and Technology Agency
Fig 1

Understanding the global process of photosynthesis is not only of fundamental interest in biology but is also relevant to attempts in the energy sciences to copy nature’s ability to turn light into chemical energy. With a recent study an international research team has come a step closer to understanding a key chemical reaction in the photosynthetic process – the splitting of water and the production of oxygen gas, O2, at the oxygen-evolving complex (OEC) in photosystem II. The OEC is known to be a tetrameric manganese cluster, Mn4CaO5, but its exact mechanism remains a mystery. The new study sheds light on the role of the cluster’s calcium, suggesting that it critically fine-tunes the OEC’s ability to produce oxygen.

BL7-3, BL9-3
October 2014
Kelly N. Chacón, Oregon Health and Science University, Ninian J. Blackburn, Oregon Health and Science University
Fig 1

Copper is an essential element for many organisms, however, it becomes toxic to cells at high concentrations. Therefore, organisms have developed ways to tightly regulate cellular copper levels. An example of such a regulatory mechanism is the CusCBFA efflux pump in the bacterium Escherichia coli – a multi-protein system that removes toxic copper (Cu+) and silver (Ag+) ions from the space between the bacterium’s inner and outer cell membranes known as the periplasm. Researchers have recently obtained new insights into the mechanism of this system. This information may prove beneficial for the future development of antimicrobial drugs that shut down bacterial efflux pumps.

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
BL7-3, BL9-3

Pages

Subscribe to SSRL Science Highlights
Find Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource on TwitterFind Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource on YouTubeFind Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource on Flickr