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Vol. 17, No. 1 - July 2016

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Science Highlights


Persistent State-of-Charge Heterogeneity in Fully Relaxed Battery Electrode Particles  – Contacts: Johanna Nelson Weker (SSRL) and William C. Chueh (Stanford University)

Most portable electronic devices depend on lithium ion batteries for energy storage. The current capabilities of lithium ion batteries are insufficient for the requirements of emerging and growing industries, like electric cars and renewable energy storage. These industries require batteries that are longer-lived, smaller, lighter, and cheaper. One way to improve lithium ion batteries is to increase the charging cutoff voltage, which increases the energy that can be stored in the battery, but it leads to shortened battery life, called capacity fade. A team of scientists has discovered a new mechanism for capacity fade.  Read more...


A New Type of Pilus from the Human Microbiome   – Contacts: Ian A. Wilson (The Scripps Research Institute) and Koji Nakayma (Nagasaki University)

Many bacteria, including many colonizing our own gut biomes, produce hair-like pili structures on their surfaces. There are various types of pili used for different purposes, like exchanging genetic information (conjugation), movement, and adhesion. A bacterium builds pilus through oligomerization of protein subunits. A group of scientists have determined the structure of a new type of pilus, which they named the type V pilus.  Read more...

SSRL Science in the News

SSRL Part of ‘Battery500’ - to Develop New Technology for Electric Vehicles

Excerpted from July 29, 2016 SLAC News Feature

A newly formed Battery500 consortium, including researchers from Stanford University and SLAC will receive up to $10 million each year for the next five years to develop a new battery technology that could make electric vehicles go two to three times farther and make them less expensive. Support for Battery500 is one of several federal and private sector actions announced on July 21 by the Obama administration that aim to boost the spread and affordability of electric vehicles in the U.S. It is part of a broader effort to fight climate change, make clean energy widely accessible and reduce dependence on oil.

Funded by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the consortium will work on making smaller, lighter and cheaper batteries that can be seamlessly adopted by battery and car manufacturers. Battery500 will take advantage of a number of facilities, including SSRL, where synchrotron x-ray based studies will be used to diagnose various battery materials on the nanoscale and under operating conditions.  Read more...

X-ray Studies Could Help Make LIGO Gravitational Wave Detector 10 Times More Sensitive

Excerpted from July 19, 2016 SLAC News Feature

Scientists from Stanford University and SSRL are using x-rays to study high-performance mirror coatings that could help make the LIGO gravitational wave observatory 10 times more sensitive to cosmic events that ripple space-time.


An experimental setup used to study mirror coating materials with the grazing-incidence x-ray pair distribution function (GI-XPDF) technique.

The current version of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, called Advanced LIGO, was the first experiment to directly observe gravitational waves, which were predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years ago. In September 2015, it detected a signal coming from two black holes, each about 30 times heavier than the sun, which merged into a single black hole 1.3 billion years ago.

“The detection of gravitational waves will fundamentally change our understanding of the universe in years to come,” says Riccardo Bassiri, a physical science research associate at Stanford’s interdisciplinary Ginzton Laboratory. ”Extremely precise mirrors are the heart of LIGO, and their coatings determine the experiment’s sensitivity, or ability to measure gravitational waves. So improving those coatings will make future generations of the experiment even more powerful.”

Bassiri has teamed up with Apurva Mehta, a staff scientist at SSRL, to study the atomic structure of coating materials and develop ideas for better ones.  Read more...

SSRL X-ray Studies Help NASA Develop Printable Electronics for Mars Mission Scientists Create Plasma-Printed Sensors to Monitor Astronaut Health on Long Space Trips

Excerpted from July 28, 2016 SLAC News Feature

Plans begin decades in advance for a tremendous effort such as the first manned mission to Mars. The details are as fine – and essential – as how astronauts will breathe and eat and track their health. To help prepare for the endeavor, Ram Gandhiraman, a scientist with Universities Space Research Association at NASA Ames Research Center, is creating a tool that will allow astronauts to craft materials in space using a jet of plasma – an energized gas of free electrons and ions. The plasma jet can spray tiny semiconductor particles onto cheap, flexible surfaces, such as paper or cloth, and form wearable electronic circuits. Astronauts can use these sensors to track their health and also the environment. The sensors contain small semiconductors tailored to detect biomolecules, such as dopamine and serotonin, as well as gases like ammonia in the environment. The NASA team brings the sensors to SSRL to look at the fine details of the sensors’ surfaces. This characterization allows them to optimize the process for printing sensors with the same quality every time.

The NASA team plans to collaborate with SSRL scientist Dennis Nordlund to develop even more applications for the versatile plasma jet. They have already shown the jet can be used for sterilizing equipment. Next up – NASA is developing a way to use microbes to recycle metals needed for electronics during long-term missions. The plasma jet is being tested to see how well it can print electronics using the metal “bioink” produced by the microbes. Using SSRL's x-ray spectroscopy tools, they will look at the purity of recycled materials and pinpoint any contaminants present. The researchers also plan to look at how the same recycling and printing process might be used here on Earth.  Read more...

Workshop Summary

SSRL Summer School on Synchrotron X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy and Imaging

The SSRL Structural Molecular Biology and Chemistry & Catalysis teams held a summer school on synchrotron x-ray absorption spectroscopy, July 18-22, 2016. The first day of the week-long school was devoted to a series of lectures on the theoretical, experimental and practical concepts of spectroscopy and imaging. Leading experts in the field discussed applications of the two techniques in various areas of scientific research. The lectures were followed by two days of hands-on training at five experimental beam lines at SSRL, where the participants obtained in-depth instruction on sample preparation, beam line operational protocols and experimental data collection. During the final two days the participants were trained in experimental data reduction and analysis. Instructions on rational experimental design, beam time proposal writing and methods for result reporting in peer-reviewed journals were provided. The school received overwhelming interest and was limited in attendance to 40 participants from the US, Canada and Europe.  It was enabled by funding from NIH NIGMS, DOE BER and DOE BES. 

Upcoming Events

12th International Conference on Biology and Synchrotron Radiation - August 21-24, 2016

This meeting provides a forum for scientists involved in research and development on synchrotron and free electron laser sources to come together with a broad community of biologists, with the ambition to make the best use of the most advanced infrastructures in structural biology. Possible applications range from atomic-resolution and time-resolved structures of biological macromolecules, medium resolution images of the largest molecular complexes in the living word, and cellular and sub-cellular structures. Registration closes August 12.  Conference website

Scientific Opportunities for Ultrafast Hard X-rays at High Repetition Rate: An Energy Upgrade of LCLS-II – September 26-27, 2016

Looking to the future, the proposed energy upgrade of LCLS-II to 8 GeV (LCLS-II-HE) promises to open entirely new areas of science by providing x-ray energies extending beyond 12 keV to enable high repetition-rate studies of atomic, electronic, and chemical dynamics at the atomic scale.

The objective of this workshop is to further develop the science case for this proposed upgrade, and refine the technical requirements to ensure maximum scientific impact. The results of this workshop will help guide the design and performance capabilities of the upgraded facility; and will inform the planning for new future scientific instrumentation. Workshop website

4th High-Power Laser Workshop – October 3-4 2016

This workshop will bring together the international science community to discuss recent experimental results from matter in extreme conditions (MEC) enabled by the combination of high-power laser drivers with the world-class LCLS x-ray beam. We will discuss novel experiments in the high-pressure regime created by nanosecond lasers and in particular discuss results obtained with the recently commissioned 25 TW-laser. We will describe the scientific opportunities at the MEC instrument and provide time to discuss important physics proposals and experimental needs for cutting-edge research with the upcoming 200 TW-laser that is expected to become available shortly after the workshop.

The workshop will provide opportunities for presentations by students and postdocs in discussion and poster sessions. Workshop website

Register for SSRL/LCLS Users' Conference – October 5-7, 2016

The Annual SSRL/LCLS Users' Conference is an excellent opportunity for our user community to participate in an event that provides a broad sampling of multidisciplinary photon science through plenary presentations, poster talks, workshops and satellite events. Activities planned for this event include:

Workshops: Wednesday, October 5

  • High Throughput Serial MX Data Collection at Synchrotrons and FELs
  • Hybrid Methods and Dynamics in Structural Biology
  • LCLS-II Instrumentation Workshops NEH 1.x & NEH 2.x  (Parallel Workshops)
  • Discovering Functional Materials Faster
  • LCLS Data Analysis and Interface Hands-on Analysis Tutorial
  • Applying Machine Learning to LCLS Data Analysis

Plenary Talks: Thursday, October 6

  • Simon Bare, SLAC SSRL
  • Mike Dunne, SLAC LCLS
  • Kelly Gaffney, SLAC SSRL
  • Harriet Kung, DOE BES
  • Mike Lubell, CCNY/American Physical Society
  • Marius Schmidt, University of Wisconsin
  • Stan Williams, Hewlett Packard

Workshops: Friday, October 7

  • Electrochemical Energy Materials and Fundamental Studies Using Synchrotron X-rays
  • In-Situ Catalysis with Advanced X-ray Methods
  • Sample Delivery: Methods & Equipment
  • SAXS for Biological Characterizations
  • ScÅtter Software Tutorial
  • Nonlinear X-rays - Advanced Methods and Science Applications
  • Analysis of xFEL scattering data from Biomolecules and Nanoparticles
  • Timing and Synchronization of X-ray and Optical Lasers

Satellite Events: Saturday, October 8

  • Young Investigators Session organized by BioXFEL
  • PULSE Institute 10-Year Anniversary Symposium

The activities scheduled over this multi-day event provide opportunities to discuss the latest user research results, current/future capabilities and new science opportunities as well as to network with scientists in many areas as well as vendors of light source related products and services.

We look forward to seeing you there!  Users' Conference website


Call for Award Nominations

It has been an exciting year, so please take a few minutes to reflect on accomplishments from your group and the overall SSRL community. Recognize outstanding achievements of your colleagues, postdocs, students (or yourself) by submitting nominations for the following awards.

William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award – Submit Nominations by August 1: The $1,000 Spicer Young Investigator Award honors the professional and personal contributions that William E. and Diane M. Spicer made to our community. Submit nomination packages including a letter summarizing the scientific contributions of the candidate as well as their CV and publications (supporting letters also encouraged).

Melvin P. Klein Scientific Development Award – Submit Nominations by August 22 (extended from August 15): This $1,000 award honoring Mel Klein's many contributions recognizes research accomplishments of undergraduate/graduate students or postdoctoral fellows within three years of receiving their Ph.D. This award provides peer recognition and helps to promote dissemination of results based on work performed at SSRL. The nomination package should include the candidates CV, letters of recommendation from the advisor and colleagues, as well as an abstract written by the candidate describing the SSRL related experiments, scientific results, and plans to present the findings.

Farrel W. Lytle Award – Submit Nominations by August 22 (extended from August 15): The $1,000 Lytle Award was established to promote technical or scientific accomplishments in synchrotron radiation-based science and to foster collaboration and efficient use of beam time at SSRL. SSRL users and staff are eligible to be nominated for the Lytle Award. 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.

Send nomination packages for these awards to by the above mentioned deadlines. These awards will be presented at the SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Conference, October 5-7, 2016. The recipients of the Spicer and Klein awards will be asked to give a presentation on his/her research during the plenary session of the Users' Conference on October 6.

Call for User Science Posters  Submit Poster Abstracts by September 28

The user science poster session during our Annual Users' Conference on October 6 is a great time to share your latest advances and results as well as network with colleagues to learn about new capabilities, technology and research results. And, there will be refreshments!  Poster abstract submission

User Research Administration

SSRL Beam Time Request Deadlines

  • August 22, 2016 – X-ray/VUV (November 2016 through January 2017 beam time)
  • September 15, 2016 – Macromolecular Crystallography (Mid-November 2016 through February 2017 beam time)

Proposal Deadlines

  • September 1, 2016 – X-ray/VUV proposals (for beam time eligibility beginning in late winter 2017)
  • December 1, 2016 – X-ray/VUV proposals (for beam time eligibility beginning in spring 2017)
  • December 1, 2016 – Macromolecular Crystallography proposals (for beam time eligibility beginning in March 2017)

Submit proposals and beam time requests through the user portal.

Acknowledge SSRL in Your Publications

SSRL provides technical tools for world-leading science with the understanding that significant results are to be publicly disseminated. Please remember to acknowledge SSRL in ALL publications resulting from use of SSRL beam lines. This acknowledgement of SSRL is relevant even when final results are obtained at other facilities. If SSRL is not acknowledged in your paper or supplementary material, we are not able to include it on our list or report it to our funding agencies. Your assistance is essential to help us to meet our mission requirements, including assessment and reporting. More information is available on our publications page.

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