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Vol. 14, No. 12 - July 2014

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Science Highlights


Mass-selected Nanoparticles of PtxY as Model Catalysts for Oxygen ElectroreductionContacts: Dan Friebel (SUNCAT), Ifan Stephens and Ib Chorkendorff (Technical University of Denmark)

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which electrochemically transform hydrogen and oxygen into water, hold the promise to generate electricity in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner and could, one day, replace batteries in zero-emission vehicles. A major challenge of this technology is the design of the fuel cell’s cathode, at which oxygen is electrochemically reduced. This process typically involves the use of platinum-based catalysts. However, current cathode materials either demand the use of large amounts of the precious heavy metal or lack long-term stability. A research team has now reported that nano-sized particles of a platinum-yttrium alloy (PtxY) show a remarkable performance superior to that of other available catalysts for oxygen reduction.  Read more...

See SLAC News Feature: New Platinum Alloy Shows Promise as Fuel Cell Catalyst


Architectures of Whole-module and Bimodular Proteins from 6-Deoxyerythronolide B SynthaseContacts: Andrea Edwards (Stanford University) and Thomas Weiss (SSRL)

Many organisms produce chemicals known as secondary metabolites that are not directly vital for survival but often play important roles in the organisms’ defense against other species. Due to their wide range of medically relevant properties, these compounds are also of great interest to humankind. The secondary metabolite erythromycin, for instance, is an important antibiotic of bacterial origin. Recently, researchers have shed light on the structural architecture of 6-deoxyerythronolide B synthase (DEBS) – a large multi-protein complex that acts as an assembly line for one of erythromycin’s precursors.  Read more...

More SSRL-Related Science

Batteries: An Inside Story

Excerpt from Stanford alumni

Making batteries better is not just a goal for Professor Yi Cui—it's something close to a life's work. His breakthroughs hold the promise of far-reaching electric cars, long-running smartphones and a cleaner, greener world.

If Cui succeeds in making the new materials work, it will be partly because he can see inside the experimental batteries while they are operating. This "in situ" technology, providing extraordinary black-and-white images, has become readily available only in the past several years and is improving all the time. High-energy, extra-bright x-rays generated at SSRL can capture a material expanding and breaking, helping researchers probe batteries closely. The x-rays travel through helium-filled pipes so that they are not absorbed too soon, and then get focused through a condenser lens on the tiny battery sample that had been prepared in an argon-filled box, away from moisture and oxygen.  Read more...

See also:  Charging Ahead

SSRL Award Nomination Deadline

Lytle Award Nominations Due August 15

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.

Nomination packages should be sent via email to Cathy Knotts.

Upcoming Onsite Events

SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference and Workshops, October 7-10, 2014

Help us spread the news that registration has opened for the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference and Workshops, October 7-10, 2014. The activities scheduled over this multi-day event provide opportunities to learn about the latest user research results, current/future capabilities and new science opportunities as well as to interact with other scientists and vendors of light source related products and services.  Conference website.

The plenary session keynote talks, award presentations, exhibits, user poster session and reception will be held on October 9. Joint workshops will be held October 7, 8 and 10

  • In-situ/Operando Characterization of Soft Materials (Oct. 7)
  • Progress Toward Single Particle Imaging (Oct. 7)
  • Application of LCLS in Industrial Research (Oct. 7-8)
  • Advances in Actinide Science from Synchrotron Spectroscopy -Joint SSRL/ALS Workshop (Oct. 8)
  • Detector Development (Oct. 8)
  • LCLS Data Acquisition (Oct. 8)
  • In-Situ Studies of Inorganic Transition-Metal Complexes (Oct. 8)
  • International Year of Crystallography - X-ray Diffraction Success Stories (Oct. 8)
  • Characterizing and Controlling Chemical Dynamics -- New Approaches to Resolving Long Standing Questions in Chemical Reactivity (Oct. 10)
  • Looking Ahead: SAM Developers Forum (Oct. 10)
  • Resonant Soft X-ray Scattering (Oct. 10)
  • Sample Delivery Systems (Oct. 10)
  • Software for Serial Crystallography (Oct. 10)

Reserve lodging at the Stanford Guest House (650-926-2800) before AUGUST 8 (Use group code: USERS1014).

Other events being held in parallel with Users' Conference:

  • High Power Laser Workshop, October 7-8, 2014

    A workshop on High Power Lasers will be organized on October 7-8, 2014 at Stanford University Munger Graduate Residence Conference Center. Paul Brest Hall is located in Building 4 at 555 Salvatierra Walk and Nathan Abbott Way.  Shuttle service will be provided between SLAC and campus. Separate registration for this event will be required. See workshop website.

  • Macromolecular Crystallography: Stanford AutoMounter (SAM) Developers' Forum Workshop, October 10, 2014

Other Events and Announcements

Synchrotron Environmental Science-VI, September 11-12, 2014

Registration and abstract submission are open for the SES-VI conference, set for September 11 and 12, 2014, at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory.  Abstract for oral and poster presentations are due August 1, 2014. There is no registration fee.

SPIE International Year of Light Photo Contest

Please help to promote this photo contest and increase awareness about the International Year of Light  (IYL 2015). Submit photographs by September 30 and show how light and light-based technologies play a vital role in our everyday lives. The photo contest is open to anyone not employed by SPIE with prizes totaling $4,500 -- winning photographs will be published in SPIE Professional magazine. Learn more

ALS User Meeting, October 6–8, 2014

More information is available at the Meeting website.

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

SLAC Partners with Small Businesses to Put Technology to Good Use

DOE-funded Program Benefits Companies, the Lab and Society. Even the cleverest invention is no good if no one gets to use it – and even the most useful invention may need a lot of tweaking to operate at its best. That’s why researchers at SLAC collaborate with small businesses to develop technology so it can benefit the world at large.

The DOE Office of Science funds programs that award contracts to small companies, which often work with scientists at DOE national labs on projects of mutual interest: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). The Office of Science just released the list of topics for its next round of SBIR and STTR funding, with applications due Oct. 14.  Read more...

User Research Administration Update

  • Beam Time Requests

    Submit SSRL X-ray and VUV Beam Time Requests by August 24 and Macromolecular Crystallography Beam Time Requests by September 17 to be considered for beam time in the next run, November 2014-February 2015.

  • Proposal Deadlines

    – SSRL X-ray/VUV proposals can be submitted three times a year: September 1, December 1 and June 1.

    – SSRL Macromolecular Crystallography proposals can be submitted December 1, April 1 and July 1.

    Submit proposals and beam time requests through the user portal.

Food Truck Service at SLAC Discontinued

Stanford discontinued food truck service to SLAC after July 25.  Over the past 10 months the number of people using the trucks declined substantially to the point that the number of customers was too low to sustain service.  The Eat Club and Starbucks kiosk will remain the onsite food options during the construction. See Guide to Dining Options Near SLAC and at Stanford

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