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Vol. 15, No. 10 - June 2015

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Science Highlight


Multiscale Speciation of U and Pu at Chernobyl, Hanford, Los Alamos, McGuire AFB, Mayak, and Rocky FlatsContacts: Steve Conradson (LANL/Synchrotron-SOLEIL) and Sam Webb (SSRL)

When a geographical area is contaminated with radioactive elements, time and heat can cause them to combine with other atoms to form a variety of compounds. Knowing what compounds form and when they form is important for containing and cleaning contaminated sites. Computer models can make predictions but are limited to the currently known reactions and compounds that can be described in the laboratory.  A collaboration of scientists has taken samples from the fields of six different contaminated sites to discover which chemical species are formed from uranium and plutonium. The sites studied released these elements under different circumstances and into different environments. Read more...

Citation: O. N. Batuk et al., Env. Sci. & Tech., 2 June 2015 (10.1021/es506145b)

More SSRL-related Science

Newly Discovered Property Could Help Beat the Heat Problem in Computer Chips:
X-ray Studies Conducted at SSRL Confirm Long-theorized 3-D Property in Exotic Material

Excerpted from June 10, 2015 SLAC News Feature

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.

The team studied a form of iridium oxide, Sr3Ir2O7, that belongs to a class of so-called correlated materials in which electrons can be made to behave in sync. It is a candidate for reducing the heat generated by the billions of transistors at the core of modern computers.

The researchers discovered that the material has a long-theorized property, formerly found only in 2-D materials and known as 3-D negative electronic compressibility that is caused by its unusual electronic structure.  Read more...

Citation:  J. He et al., Nature Materials, 27 April 2015 (10.1038/nmat4273)

Kneading Enzyme Makes Ammonia Levels Rise: Electron-delivering Protein Manipulates Natural Catalyst, Changing Ideas about Fertilizer Production

Excerpted from June 2015 PNNL Physical Sciences Division Research Highlight

In industry, synthesizing ammonia for fertilizers uses massive amounts of hydrogen, typically generated from fossil fuels, but in nature, the nitrogenase enzyme produces ammonia without added hydrogen. In studying the enzyme, scientists came up against a protein, called the Fe protein. This little protein delivers electrons to the larger nitrogenase MoFe enzyme. The smaller protein's actions limit the enzyme's speed.  Using macromolecular crystallography data collected on SSRL Beam Line 9-2 scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and three universities found that the smaller protein and larger enzyme roll across each other, likely pushing at the MoFe surface to deliver electrons. Read more...

Citation: K. Danyal et al., Biochemistry, 1 April 2015 (10.1021/acs.biochem.5b00140)

What Would it Take to Double a Cell Phone's Battery Life?

Excerpted from May 30, 2015 Article in The Atlantic

How is it possible that mobile phones can do so much—summon cars, order groceries, make video-calls, count footsteps—and yet still drain power so quickly? For devices that are so mind-bogglingly smart, the constant charging that’s required seems painfully outdated. Why hasn’t anyone built a better phone battery?

“To have a battery that can last for a week or longer, you’re looking for a more energy-dense battery—that’s the fundamental thing you’re searching for,” said Venkat Srinivasan, a materials scientist who directs the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Energy density refers to the amount of energy stored within a battery. To extend a battery charge on a cell phone or laptop to weeklong lengths would require researchers to, say, double the energy density of a battery within the next couple of years. Recent improvements to phone batteries have increased energy density by about 5 to 6 percent each year—which translates to a few extra hours on a smartphone or laptop.

Breakthroughs in battery technology are relatively rare. The last one came in the 1990s, with the advent of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. “Batteries are very complex objects,” said Michael Toney, co-leader of the Materials Science Division at SSRL. “The complexity makes it very hard to get any sort of sustained improvement.”   Read more...

See also:  3 New Kinds of Battery that Just Might Change the World

Awards and Honors

President Obama Honors Claudio Pellegrini with Enrico Fermi Award

Excerpted from June 8, 2015 SLAC News Feature

Claudio Pellegrini, a visiting scientist and Consulting Photon Science Faculty professor at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Los Angeles, will receive the 2014 Enrico Fermi Award for his role in laying the scientific groundwork for the x-ray free-electron laser.

The award is one of the oldest and most prestigious scientific awards granted by the U.S. government. Pellegrini learned of the honor in late May when he got a surprise call from U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Professor Pellegrini will travel to the White House later this year to receive the award from President Barack Obama.

“It’s really a great honor,” Pellegrini said. “I just had my 80th birthday. This is an unexpected and wonderful birthday gift.”

The award specifically recognizes Pellegrini’s “pioneering research advancing understanding of relativistic electron beams and free-electron lasers” and “transformative discoveries profoundly impacting the successful development of the first hard x-ray free-electron laser, heralding a new era for science,” according to the DOE announcement.

Pellegrini’s work was critical in establishing a new concept for how to wiggle bunches of electrons with powerful alternating magnetic fields to give off x-ray light and then greatly amplify the light pulses. The process is known as “self-amplified spontaneous emission” or SASE. This is the process that generates ultrabright x-ray laser pulses at the LCLS.  Read more...

See also: 2002 SASE Science Highlight - VISA: A Milestone on the Path towards X-ray Free Electron Lasers

Upcoming Workshops and Conferences

12th International Conference on Synchrotron Radiation Instrumentation, July 6-10, 2015, New York City, NY

The National Synchrotron Light Source ll (NSLS-ll) at Brookhaven National Laboratory is pleased to invite you to register to attend the 12th International Conference on Synchrotron Radiation Instrumentation (SRI 2015) at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, New York City, July 6-10, 2015.  SRI website

2015 X-ray Science Gordon Research Conference, July 26-31, 2015, Easton, MA

The 2015 X-ray Science Gordon Conference, X-ray Science Utilizing the Dramatic Increases in Peak and Average Brightness from Current/Planned Next Generation Accelerator Based X-ray Sources, will be held July 26-31 at Stonehill College in Easton, MA. The deadline to apply is June 28.

These conferences have historically played an important role in pushing the boundaries of x-ray science and informing the community of the exciting cutting edge opportunities that accelerator based light sources enable.  Review the program and registration material online.

16th International Conference on X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (XAFS16)

This conference will be held August 23-28, 2015, at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.   Conference website

Joint SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference, October 7-9, 2015

The website is now live for our joint SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference and registration is open.  To get started, click on "Create an Account" . 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015 Parallel Workshops

  • Applications of Ptychography
  • Beyond SASE at the LCLS & LCLS-II
  • Characterization of Ultrafast Magnetization Dynamics Using X-rays
  • Coupled Cycling of Biogeochemical Critical Elements and Contaminants
  • Hybrid Methods for Integrative Structural Biology
  • LCLS Data Collection, Diagnostics, Analysis, Interpretation
  • Time Resolved Studies with Femtosecond X-ray Pulses:  Towards Molecular Movies of Molecules at Work

Friday, October 9, 2015  Parallel Workshops

  • Advances in High Resolution X-ray Spectroscopy
  • Attosecond FELs:  Capturing the Dynamics of Electrons in the Time Domain
  • New Discoveries in Biology with XFELS
  • Probing Structure and Dynamics of Quantum Materials via X-ray Scattering at LCLS
  • Science Opportunities at SLAC in the Tender X-ray Range (1-5 keV)
  • Scientific Opportunities with PS-Pulses at SSRL
  • Single Particle Imaging Initiative: Year One

For the parallel sessions, please identify your primary workshop to help us with the headcount for each event.  More information will be available soon on the conference website.

Reserve accommodations at the Stanford Guest House before August 2. Contact the Guest House which is located on-site at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at (650) 926-2800 or book online (use group block "USERS1015").

Symposium 'Celebrating Artie Bienenstock', October 10, 2015

Please join us on Saturday, October 10, for a special symposium to honor Arthur Bienenstock. This symposium is scheduled immediately following the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference and Workshops, separate registration is required.


SSRL Annual Award Nomination Deadlines

August 1:  William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award

All SSRL users and staff are eligible for this $1,000 award honoring the professional and personal contributions that William E. and Diane M. Spicer made to our community. Nomination packages should include a letter of nomination as well as the candidate's curriculum vitae and publications; supporting letters are encouraged. Nomination packages should summarize the technical or scientific contributions of the candidate.

August 1:  Melvin P. Klein Scientific Development Award

The $1,000 award honoring Melvin P. Klein's many contributions is intended to recognize outstanding research accomplishments by new investigators and to promote dissemination of research results based on work performed at SSRL. Nominations for undergraduate or graduate students, or postdoctoral fellows within three years of receiving their Ph.D., can be submitted. The nomination package should include a letter of recommendation from the advisor as well as an abstract written by the candidate describing the SSRL related experiments and scientific results. Candidates are encouraged to include their curriculum vitae and information on their plans to present their work at a scientific conference.

August 15: Farrel W. Lytle Award

The Farrel W. Lytle Award was established to promote important technical or scientific accomplishments in synchrotron radiation-based science and to foster collaboration and efficient use of beam time among users and staff at SSRL. The Lytle Award consists of a certificate and $1000. SSRL users and staff are eligible to be nominated for the Lytle Award, but only nominations for individuals will be considered (no group awards please). Letters of nominations should include a summary of the individual's contributions and why they should be recognized through this award. Supporting letters are welcome.

These awards will be presented at the Users' Conference. The awardees of the Spicer and Klein awards will be asked to give a presentation on his/her research during the Users' Conference.

Nomination packages for all three awards should be sent by email to the attention of Cathy Knotts.

NUFO News: ARIA Comes Alive

After considering recommendations from NUFO membership, the Department of Energy, and others, the NUFO Steering Committee decided it would best serve its user community as a formal, incorporated non-profile entity. Incorporation will enable the organization to broaden its funding base and allow it to serve as an independent, third-party validator of the importance of research at user facilities.  NUFO member facilities will still have the ability to fully participate in and support the new organization as allowable activities.

An Incorporation Committee was formed and charged with developing purpose and mission statements, recruiting an initial Board of Directors, and preparing incorporation documents. A naming contest was held and the winning name for the new organization was the American Research Infrastructure Alliance (ARIA). A Board of Directors has been appointed and will serve as the primary decision-making body for ARIA, while members of the current NUFO Steering Committee will become an Operations Committee to support the Board and handle day-to-day operations.

For the most part, facilities and users will see little immediate change in the activities of ARIA vs. NUFO. Plans are underway for a Capitol Hill user science exhibition on December 8, 2015, Congressional home visits in states that do not host a user facility in late summer, and a Congressional briefing in DC in the fall.  See: NUFO Incorporation Committee and initial ARIA Board of Directors and 2015 NUFO Annual Meeting Summary

User Research Administration

The current FY2015 operations run ends on Monday, August 10.  Plan ahead for the 2015-16 user operations run by reviewing upcoming deadlines for new proposals and beam time requests.

Proposal Deadlines

  • July 1 is the next deadline for submitting standard Macromolecular Crystallography proposals for beam time starting fall 2015. 
  • September 1 is the deadline for submitting new X-ray/VUV proposals for beam time eligibility starting February 2016.
  • July 31 is the deadline for submitting new LCLS proposals. Submit by 4 pm Pacific Standard Time.

Fall Beam Time Request Deadlines

  • August 22 is the next X-ray/VUV Beam Time Request deadline.
  • September 17 is the next deadline for Macromolecular Crystallography Beam Time Requests.

Submit proposals and beam time requests through the user portal


The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) is a third-generation light source producing extremely bright x-rays for basic and applied research.  SSRL attracts and supports scientists from around the world who use its state-of-the-art capabilities to make discoveries that benefit society. SSRL, a U.S. DOE Office of Science national user facility, is a Directorate of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science.  The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is supported by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences. For more information about SSRL science, operations and schedules, visit

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Questions? Comments? Contact Lisa Dunn