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.

June 2016
Serena DeBeer (Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Cornell University), Ninian J. Blackburn (Institute of Environmental Health, Oregon Health & Sciences University), Vlad Martin-Diaconescu (Institut de Química Computacional i Catàlisi (IQCC), Universitat de Girona), Kelly Chacon (Reed College, Portland, Oregon)
figure

Protein enzymes can contain specific sites to bind copper atoms for a variety of purposes. Depending on the environment and role of the enzyme, different amino acid residues are employed to bind Cu(I).  Oxygenase enzymes employing Cu(I) often use both methionine (Met) and histidine (His) amino acids, while membrane transport proteins often use Met and not His. The identity and placement of the amino acids coordinating the Cu(I) atoms create different local environments, but it is unclear how this affects the Cu(I) atom to fulfill the role it serves for the enzyme or transporter.  A team of scientists has recently developed a new experimental approach to measure the local environmental effects on Cu(I) reactivity. 

X-ray emission spectroscopy
BL6-2
June 2016
Mary P. Ryan, Department of Materials and London Centre for Nanotechnology, Imperial College London
figure

Zinc oxide (ZnO) is used to coat optoelectronic technology, which includes components that create and/or detect light, x-rays, infrared, or other forms of radiation. When ZnO properly crystallizes, it creates a transparent conducting film. The performance of the film is compromised when there is disruption in nucleation and growth of ZnO. A team of scientists collaborated to study the process of electrodeposition of ZnO into films.

BL6-2c
May 2016
Jena Johnson, University of Colorado - Boulder
Figure 1

The element manganese can have complex interactions with the environment, depending on the prevailing conditions. Manganese(IV) is a strong oxidant but can also bind to environmental toxins and heavy metals, rendering them less harmful. Both geochemical and microbial processes affect the reactions of manganese(IV) in the environment. A team of researchers were interested in following the complicated reactions and mineral products produced during the reduction of manganese(IV) under different environmental conditions.

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy
BL4-1, BL11-2
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
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
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
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
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

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