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Vol. 19, No. 1 - July 2018

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From the Director __________________________________________


The FY2018 SSRL run year, which began in October 2017, ended on July 24, 2018. Our SPEAR3 accelerator delivered very stable x-rays (97.4% uptime), and we supported 1,959 user experiments on 32 beam lines. We achieved first light on several new beam lines (BL12-1, BL15, BL16) which we look forward to sharing more about in the next newsletter and at our users’ conference, September 25-28.

This summer, we recognize important SSRL milestones, including the 45th anniversary of the first x-ray beam from SPEAR. As we reflect and look forward to our next user run, which will resume in late October, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge your dedication and thank you for your continued support of SSRL.

Science Highlights _________________________________________

Understanding Reaction Pathways Leading to MnO2 Polymorph Formation – Contacts: Bor-Rong Chen, Laura Schelhas (SSRL) and Wenhao Sun (LBNL)

Metastable materials are materials that exist in their higher-energy configurations. They will eventually transform into their lowest energy form, given a certain amount of time. The classic example is diamond, which given enough time will change into graphite. They can have desired functionalities that make them useful in a variety of applications, such as in electronics, batteries, and catalysts. However, making metastable materials is not an easy job. Read more...

Activation of MnO2 Catalysts by Mn3+ Ions – Contact: Zamyla Morgan Chan (Harvard University)

The more widespread use of solar electricity is not currently limited by the technology for generating energy from sunlight but by the storage of that energy, so that it can be used when needed.  Converting water to O2 and H2 via the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is a fossil fuel free way to store energy for later use; catalysts that improve the efficiency of OER are being sought. Manganese oxide (MnO2) films are good catalysts of OER, with additional benefits of being acid-stable and earth abundant.  Read more...

SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting - September 25-28, 2018 _______________

Online registration is open.  Click here to register now!

The program is coming together for the SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting and Workshops to be held here at SLAC, September 25-28, 2018, so check out the conference website and register to attend. Please help to spread the word – encourage your colleagues to participate and share their latest results or new capabilities at the poster session. There will be an opportunity to promote your poster at the Poster Blitz and compete for Joe Wong Outstanding Poster Awards.

The September 26 and 27 plenary sessions will include a welcome from SLAC Director Chi-Chang Kao, an update by Harriet Kung (DOE BES), updates by facility directors Kelly Gaffney and Mike Dunne who will also lead a town-hall discussion, and invited talks by Eric Lin (NIST), David Reis (Stanford), Junko Yano (LBNL), and Peter Weber (Brown University).

Workshops will be held on each day, covering the following topics:

  • Metals in Structural Biology
  • Catalysis by Single Metal Atoms: What is All the Fuss About?
  • High-Pressure Materials, Energy, and Environmental Sciences Using SSRL and LCLS
  • LCLS-II Early Science
  • Machine Learning for X-ray Science: From Machine Optimization to Experimental Planning
  • Advancing Informational Gain from Synchrotron Techniques in Subsurface Science
  • Defects and Interfaces in Batteries Probed by Synchrotron X-ray Techniques
  • Computational Workflows for X-ray Science
  • User-Focused Beam Line Control and Monitoring for X-ray Science
  • Tips to Communicate your Science
  • Dynamic Phenomena Revealed by Non-Linear Optical Spectroscopy
  • Gas Phase Chemistry from Femto- to Attosecond Physics
  • Sample Delivery
  • Ultrafast Electron Diffraction (UED)

We welcome your input and seek nominations for several awards which will be presented at the conference, including:

Melvin P. Klein Scientific Development Award -- Submit Nominations by AUGUST 1

Farrel W. Lytle Award -- Submit Nominations by AUGUST 5

Nominations Open for SSRL Users' Executive Committee (UEC)

By submitting a proposal or participating in beam time at SSRL, scientists are automatically included in the SSRL user community and a member of the SSRL Users' Organization (SSRLUO). The SSRLUO is broadly concerned with representing the interests of the SSRL user community. Users elect members to serve on a formal organizational unit, the SSRL Users Executive Committee (SSRL UEC), to carry out the business of the SSRLUO. The SSRL UEC organizes and hosts an Annual Users' Meeting, jointly with the LCLS UEC, which provides opportunities to learn about the latest user research results, current/future capabilities and new science opportunities as well as to interact with other scientists.

The SSRL UEC seeks nominations for the election to be held in September and welcomes your input. Candidates are needed to represent several disciplines including Materials/Chemistry, Environmental/Geosciences, Bio Spectroscopy/Bio SAXS, and Ultrafast Science. Postdoctoral candidates (in any discipline) are also needed to represent the postdoc community at SSRL. Please submit nominations online before September 5.

Honors and Awards ________________________________________

SSRL Staff Scientist, Dimosthenis Sokaras, Receives XAFS Award

Congratulations to Dimosthenis Sokaras, recipient of the 2018 Farrel Lytle Outstanding Young Scientist Award. The Award, presented by the International X-ray Absorption Society, was announced at the XAFS meeting in Krakow, Poland on July 27. Dimosthenis, a staff scientist at SSRL, is recognized for his work on high-resolution and ultrafast x-ray spectroscopy and inelastic x-ray scattering. Conference website

Upcoming Events __________________________________________

  • UC Mesoscale Materials Summer School: August 9-10, 2018, UC Irvine Summer School Website
  • SSRL/LCLS Annual Users' Meeting at SLAC: September 25-28, 2018  Meeting website
  • Falling Walls Lab at SLAC: September 25, 2018
    Encourage your colleagues to present research projects, business plans or social initiatives at the Falling Walls Lab to be held at SLAC on Tuesday, September 25 starting at 3 pm.  Join us as a spectator or competitor for exciting discussions and networking with fellow innovators from different disciplines. Participants get 3 minutes to make their pitch, and great ideas from all fields are welcome. Applications are encouraged from Bachelor or Master students, PhD candidates, post-docs, young professionals or entrepreneurs (within 10 years of B.S., 7 years of M.S. or 5 years of Ph.D.).  The event will be hosted by SLAC , Stanford and X, the Moonshot Factory; the prize includes a trip to Berlin, Germany to compete in the Falling Walls Finale in November. Apply to compete at the Falling Walls website.

    The Falling Walls Lab will be held in conjunction with the joint SSRL/LCLS Annual Users’ Meeting and will be followed by a reception and a public lecture with Prof. Wah Chiu on Cryo Electron Microscopy.  SLAC Public Lectures website
  • Advanced X-ray Methods and Instrumentation for LCLS-II-HE Science: October 16-17, 2018, SLAC Workshop website
    The specific purpose of this workshop is to further engage the science community in helping to identify the most compelling X-ray methods and instrumentation that will exploit the unique capabilities of LCLS-II-HE for the greatest scientific impact. The outcome from this workshop will help guide planning for new instruments for LCLS-II-HE.
  • Advanced Light Source – 6th International DLSR Workshop: October 29-31, 2018, LBNL  Workshop website
  • U.S. Particle Accelerator School (USPAS) – Winter 2019 Session: January 21 – February 1, 2019 Course description website

Announcements __________________________________________

SLAC Director Emeritus, Nobel Prize-winning Physicist Burton Richter Dies at 87


SLAC Director Emeritus Burton Richter passed away on July 18 at the age of 87. Burt was a member of the SLAC and Stanford communities for more than 60 years, first joining Stanford’s High-Energy Physics Lab in 1956 as a research associate. Burt was unique in that he was both a particle physicist and an accelerator physicist. This rare combination gave him the vision and also the daring to design the SPEAR Storage Ring to look for new elementary particles, which led to him winning the Nobel Prize for discovery of the J/psi subatomic particle. Before SPEAR was finished, Burt made another daring decision in support of two Stanford faculty members who convinced him that creating x-ray beams from “nuisance” radiation generated by the storage ring would revolutionize condensed-matter physics. Burt quickly saw the potential in synchrotron radiation and even went so far as buying the team a Sears garden shed to use for experiments. And with that, SSRL was underway and our future in x-ray science began. Read more

Click here to see a timeline of how SSRL blossomed from a small adjunct to the SPEAR particle physics program into a vital part of SLAC.

SSRL Milestones

June 18, 2018: 50th anniversary of Bill Spicer's 1968 request to Pief Panofsky to consider the possibility that radiation from the planned SLAC storage ring would be useful for solid state studies.

July 6, 2018: 45th anniversary of the first x-ray beam from SPEAR (July 6, 1973 SSRP pilot project in cooperation with the Stanford Center for Materials Research). Stanford Report archive

Please let us know if you are interested in working with us to help commemorate upcoming SSRL milestones. We are planning a 50th anniversary celebration in 2023, and we welcome your input! Email contact:  

SSRL Materials Sciences Division Director, Mike Toney, Quoted in Daily Beast Article

Perovskite Challenges Silicon’s Dominance in Solar Power

Excerpt from July 23, 2018 Daily Beast article by Chris Parker

Perovskites are notable for their ability to transport an electrical charge as evident in frequent features such as superconductivity, colossal magnetoresistance, ferroelectricity and spin dependent transport, among others. Studies exploring why perovskite has proven such an efficient solar collector have zeroed in on its unique crystal structure.

“The progress has been astounding over the past five years, and exceeded any other technology by a lot,” said Mike Toney, a materials expert at Stanford, which set a record last year with a tandem solar cell working in conjunction with Arizona State University.  Read more

Energy Frontier Research Centers Announced

Stanford will soon be home to two new Department of Energy-funded Energy Frontier Research Centers aimed at transforming the way energy is generated, transformed, stored and used. The two new centers, Photonics at Thermodynamic Limits and Center for Mechanistic Control of Water-Hydrocarbon-Rock Interactions in Unconventional and Tight Oil Formations, will involve several SLAC/SSRL staff and are being led by Jennifer Dionne (Materials Science and Engineering) and Tony Kovscek (Energy Resources Engineering).  Read more

DOE Announces $30 Million for “Ultrafast” Science: Research Aims at New Insights into Materials and Chemistry

The Department of Energy Office of Science recently announced $30 million in funding for 10 projects to advance research in “ultrafast” science. Two awards include Tony Heinz (PULSE) and Z-X Shen (SIMES) who will receive funding for research focused on catalysis and novel states of matter, and will involve SSRL staff scientists.  Read more here… and here

Renovated Quad Opens at SLAC

In late June, the main quad at SLAC was re-opened after being closed for several years during construction of the Science and User Support Building (SUSB) and photon science laboratory building. The new landscaping was generously donated by Stanford alumnus, John Arrillaga. The renovated quad includes a fountain and seating which serves as a conduit to connect SLAC's central buildings and research units. Check out the drone footage compiled by SLAC Communications.  Click here for video.

User Research Administration _______________________________

SSRL user operations will be shut down during these scheduled breaks:

  • July 23, 2018 through mid-October 2018 for facility upgrades and maintenance before the FY2019 user run resumes

SSRL Beam Time Request Deadline

  • August 8, 2018 – X-ray / VUV
  • August 29, 2018 – macromolecular crystallography

SSRL Proposal Deadlines

  • November 1, 2018 – X-ray / VUV (for beam time eligibility beginning in May 2019)

See SSRL Proposal & Scheduling Guidelines and 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 Tomoko Nakai or Lisa Dunn