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Vol. 13, No. 4 - October 2012
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From Director Chi-Chang Kao

Time flies. It's been more than two years since I came to SLAC as the director of SSRL, but I still clearly remember the warm acceptance I received from both the staff and the user community. I am grateful for the support you have all given me, and I have learned a tremendous amount from all of you. Together, we developed a strategic plan for SSRL that is sure to keep it an exciting place to do science for the next decade.

Now that I've transitioned to my new role as SLAC director, I have asked Piero Pianetta to take over as the interim director of SSRL. Not only has Piero held a leadership position at SSRL for the past 30 years, but he also filled the role of acting director prior to my arrival in 2010. His extensive knowledge of the SSRL organization, the user community and the strategic directions we have developed makes him the clear choice for leading the team at this time.

I will also continue to be a strong advocate for SSRL, because I believe it is the key to developing new scientific programs at SLAC and an essential part of the scientific and technological research infrastructure of the United States. I'm glad my new role allows me to continue to work with all of you in keeping SSRL and SLAC at the forefront of science.

Read more in November 2, 2012 and October 26, 2012 SLAC Today articles and October 24, 2012 Stanford University press release


Science Highlights

SSRL Discoveries Point to Better Batteries – Contact: Jeff Gelb (Xradia)


Energy storage materials, such as batteries, are of increasing importance in the modern world. They support the storage and distribution of electricity generated by different mechanisms, enabling the use of green power sources when the resource itself is unavailable (for example, solar energy at night or wind energy on a calm day). Such devices also provide energy portability for consumer electronics and zero-emission options for transportation, in either hybrid or fully-electric vehicles. Many impressive battery technologies exist today, but the understanding of their operation is somewhat limited, which makes it very challenging to improve their performance. Read more

Botulinum Neurotoxin is Bio-shielded by NTNHA in a Handshake Complex –Contact: Rongsheng Jin (The Sanford-Burnham Research Institute)


Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) invade motor neurons at their junctions with muscular tissue, where the toxins disable the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and subsequently paralyze the affected muscles. Accidental BoNT poisoning primarily occurs through ingestion of food products contaminated by Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that produces BoNTs. However, BoNTs by themselves are fragile and sensitive to low pH environments and digestive proteases. So how do they survive the harsh environment of the host's gastrointestinal tract?

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Research Institute and the Medical School of Hannover in Germany recently discovered that the neurotoxin has a bodyguard, a protein termed non-toxic non-hemagglutinin (NTNHA) protein that is produced by the C. botulinum bacterium simultaneously with BoNT. Read more

Illuminating the Multiconfigurational Ground State of Elemental and Intermetallic Compounds of Uranium and Plutonium –Contacts: Corwin Booth (LBNL) and Tsu-Chien Weng (SSRL)


The structural, electronic, and magnetic properties of U and Pu elements and intermetallics remain poorly understood despite decades of effort, and currently represent an important scientific frontier toward understanding matter. The last decade has seen great progress both due to the discovery of superconductivity in PuCoGa5 and advances in theory that finally can explain fundamental ground state properties in elemental plutonium, such as the phonon dispersion curve, the non-magnetic ground state, and the volume difference between different phases of the pure element.

A new feature of the recent calculations is the presence of multiple electronic configurations within their ground states, where the different properties of these materials are primarily governed by the different relative weights of these configurations. Using the new 7-crystal Johann-type spectrometer on Beam Line 6-2 at SSRL, Corwin Booth and a team of researchers from LBNL, LANL, LLNL and SSRL have collected resonant x-ray emission spectroscopy (RXES) data that show, for the first time, spectroscopic signatures of each of these configurations and their relative changes in various uranium and plutonium materials. Read more ..



Users' Meeting and Workshops Draw Hundreds to SLAC
excerpted from SLAC Today article by Glenn Roberts Jr. and Lori Ann White

Three hundred participants learned about the latest scientific capabilities of SSRL and LCLS during the 2012 Users' Meeting and Workshops.

poster session One highlight of the Oct. 3-6 event was the presentation of the 2012 Farrel W. Lytle Award, given to SSRL Staff Scientist Clyde Smith in recognition of his "outstanding contributions to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource community."

The meeting also included talks about the latest scientific trends and challenges and calls for more public outreach to spread the word about light source science.

Harriet Kung, Associate Director of Science for the DOE's Basic Energy Sciences division, described the appropriations process for scientific funding, and Michael Lubell, Director of Public Affairs for the American Physical Society, cited surveys that found about 7 in 10 Americans support government spending on science, though support has slowly eroded.

SLAC Chief Scientist Z-X Shen promoted research opportunities in the "science-rich range" of terahertz energy - a band of the electromagnetic spectrum between far-infrared and microwave wavelengths. Accelerators at SLAC could produce a unique, high-field source of terahertz radiation that could be coupled with x-ray experiments at LCLS, for example, he said, or tapped for SSRL experiments.

Helmut Dosch, Director of DESY, that operates the FLASH free-electron laser, said in a keynote talk that LCLS and other facilities may be useful tools for approaching "Holy Grails" in a range of scientific fields. For instance, he said, "Can we understand, in principle, how material that is unordered and very dynamic transforms into a very ordered structure?" Studying materials failure at the microscopic level could improve materials performance at the macro level, he added.

George Crabtree, Associate Director of the Materials Science Division at Argonne National Laboratory, advocated broader scientific collaborations for pursuing challenging questions in emerging fields such as "mesoscale science," in which the same sort of molecular self-assembly found in living cells is used to build exotic new materials from scratch. This new undertaking, Crabtree said, is a "constructionist vision and opportunity" that requires researchers in diverse scientific specialties to talk to each other. Read more ..

UEC Advocacy Update and Challenge to Users – Contacts: Nora Berrah (Western Michigan University), Katherine Kantardjieff (CSU San Marcos), Beth Wurzburg (LBNL)

Following up on the talks and workshops on advocacy and engaging the public during our Annual Users' Meeting, we want to challenge everyone to tell five family members, friends, colleagues or neighbors about the importance of science in improving lives (and the US economy) and the importance of DOE user facilities in allowing scientists to use state-of-the-art instruments that they would not normally have access to at their home labs to try new ideas and push new developments.

How can you help?

  • Get involved by spreading the word about the importance of science in everyday life. Tell your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and people that you meet every day.
  • Contact your local representatives to share your stories (why supporting science and technology are important to you, why you chose a career in science, what types of research you and your students are working on, why you value the national user facilities). Encourage your family, friends and students in other parts of the country to also share this message.
  • Contact your Department Head, Dean, University President and the Communications group at your institution to let them know why you use national user facilities (this is really important as studies show that universities rarely know that their faculty, scientists or students even use the national user facilities).
  • Volunteer to speak to local school or community groups, be a tour guide, or help with science outreach in the community to engage young people (and their parents) to appreciate the importance of science and potential career opportunities.
  • Sign up for any of the NUFO working groups that interest you. These groups have periodic conference calls to communicate/coordinate efforts, and there is a working group on Outreach and Communications.
  • Share specific scientific advances from user facilities summarized in the NUFO testimony at the June 2012 Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment "Department of Energy User Facilities: Utilizing the Tools of Science to Drive Innovation through Fundamental Research."
       oral testimony   |   written testimony   |   hearing charter
  • Forward and share this message with your colleagues.

Remember, "Science Matters: It Makes Your Life Better!" (see more of Mike Lubell's article "Inside the Beltway")

Stanford's Gordon E. Brown Jr Wins 2012 Ian Campbell Medal
Stanford Report article by Bjorn Carey

Gordon E. Brown Jr, has won the 2012 Ian Campbell Medal for Superlative Service to the Geosciences.

The award is given by the American Geosciences Institute.

Brown, the Dorrell William Kirby Professor of Earth Sciences and Professor of Photon Science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, was honored for pioneering the use of synchrotron radiation in Earth sciences. He was also recognized for his contributions as an educator, administrator and public servant.

The medal has sentimental significance to Brown. The inaugural awardee - the late Richard Jahns, who served as Dean of the School of Earth Sciences - recruited Brown to campus in 1973. It was good timing, Brown said, because Stanford and SLAC had just opened the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project (SSRP), which was the first user-facility synchrotron in the world. It gave him the opportunity to pioneer innovative techniques of using the extremely intense x-rays produced by the machine.

Brown used the x-rays produced by the SSRP to study extremely small quantities of elements, and in doing so pioneered techniques for probing Earth materials - soils, atmosphere, water, etc. - for various contaminants.

A very small amount of arsenic or mercury can have a big impact on human health, Brown said, and by using synchrotron radiation techniques, he could measure these in the parts-per-billion range, and even distinguish whether the element was present in a toxic form. His cutting-edge research of geochemical reactions at mineral-water interfaces has helped to focus future studies on the societal repercussions that human activities such as mining have on the global ecosystem.

Brown will receive his award at the Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 5.



SSRL Science-related Public Lecture on YouTube

Ritimukta Sarangi, staff scientist in the Structural Molecular Biology group at SSRL, delivered the most recent SLAC Public Lecture on October 2. The title of the lecture, "Saving the Mary Rose: Synchrotrons and the Preservation of a Tudor Warship" focused on explaining how synchrotron-generated x-ray absorption spectroscopy techniques were used to help address problems with the preservation of the 500-year-old warship, after it was salvaged from the bottom of the Atlantic. The lecture is now available on YouTube.



User Research Admin Update
  • Submit new X-ray/VUV beam time requests for the February/March-May scheduling cycle by November 15.

  • Submit new X-ray, VUV and Macromolecular Crystallography proposals by December 1. Proposals will be rated by the PRP in January and be eligible for beam time beginning next spring. Research teams are encouraged to combine related experiments into a single proposal and are discouraged from submitting multiple proposals with overlapping research. Multiple proposals from members of the same research team will be flagged during the peer review process and these may be combined, and/or limited in lifetime and beam time if overlapping in science. User Portal

  • Upcoming Holiday Shutdowns. SSRL will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday along with the rest of SLAC and Stanford Campus with a facility-wide closure on Thursday, November 22, 2012. SPEAR3 beam will be down by 10 pm on 11/21/12. User operations to resume by noon in the "low alpha" operating mode at 100 mA current. Another shutdown is scheduled over winter break, beginning at 6 am on Friday, December 21 with user operations resuming on Tuesday, January 8.


SSRL Headlines is published electronically monthly to inform SSRL users, sponsors and other interested people about happenings at SSRL. SSRL is a national synchrotron user facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences by Stanford University. Additional support for the SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is provided by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Center for Research Resources. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL web site.

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Questions? Comments? Contact Lisa Dunn