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Vol. 17, No. 5 - November/December 2016
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From the SSRL Team

We have reached the end of another exciting year at SSRL and are getting ready for the winter break.  We had a very successful run this year, continued to enhance our facility and enjoyed the scientific excellence of our users.  We wish you all a wonderful holiday, and look forward to seeing users back in early 2017!

Science Highlight


Flipping the Switch on AntiferromagnetsContacts: Hendrik Ohldag and Jun-Sik Lee, SSRL

Over the past three years a team of researchers has worked to understand the thermodynamic transitions in the antiferromagnetic ferroelectric BiFeO3 with La substitutions in relation to a new strategy for finding the ultimate magnetoelectric single phase material. The researchers made the striking finding that structural, ferroelectric, and magnetic phases evolve due to strong spin-lattice coupling, thereby producing a multiferroic triple phase point where three competing multiferroic phases merge.  Read more...

More SSRL-Related Research

Simon Bare Catalyzes New Chemistry Effort at SLAC

Excerpted from November 29, 2016 SLAC Q&A News Feature


Most people know catalysts as the things that break down noxious exhaust gases in a car’s catalytic converter. But their usefulness goes far beyond that, touching every aspect of modern life by making the chemical reactions used to manufacture fuel, fertilizer and other products more efficient. Simon Bare spent 30 years as an industrial chemist investigating how catalysts work. Now, as co-director of the Chemistry and Catalysis Division at SSRL, his goal is to build on research strengths at SLAC and Stanford University to create a West Coast center for catalyst research and define new research directions.  Read more...

For Platinum Catalysts, a Tiny Squeeze Gives a Big Boost in Performance

Excepted from November 24, 2016 Stanford News article by Mark Shwartz

A nanosize squeeze can significantly boost the performance of platinum catalysts that help generate energy in fuel cells, according to a new study by Stanford scientists.

The team bonded a platinum catalyst to a thin material that expands and contracts as electrons move in and out, and found that squeezing the platinum a fraction of a nanometer nearly doubled its catalytic activity. The findings are published in the November 25 issue of the journal Science.

“In this study, we present a new way to fine-tune metal catalysts at the atomic scale,” said lead author Haotian Wang, a former graduate student at Stanford now at Harvard University. “We found that ordinary battery materials can be used to control the activity of platinum and possibly for many other metal catalysts.”  Read more...

‘Brighter than a Billion Suns’: Imaging Life on Earth

Excerpted from November 22, 2016 SLAC News Feature

Phil Manning and his colleagues have used synchrotron light for nearly a decade to help interpret the chemical signatures locked within fossilized life. Bright x-rays have allowed them to study fossilized worm burrows, recreate pigment patterns in ancient bird feathers, see how Jurassic dinosaur bones heal and image the living chemistry of 50-million year old plant fossils. Manning, a Professor of Paleontology at the College of Charleston and Professor of Natural History at the University of Manchester, recently spoke about these efforts during his talk “Brighter Than A Billion Suns: Imaging Life On Earth” at a TEDx event in Charleston, South Carolina. He collaborates with Uwe Bergmann, in SLAC's Science Division, and Roy Wogelius, Professor of Geochemistry at the University of Manchester, to apply synchrotron rapid scanning x-ray fluorescence to iconic fossil specimens. These imaging experiments take place SSRL as well as the Diamond Light Source in the United Kingdom.  See YouTube video.


William Chueh Honored for Research in Energy Storage and Conversion

Excerpted from Trade News | November 22, 2016


BASF and Volkswagen recently announced in a joint press release that “Science Award Electrochemistry 2016” goes to Dr. William Chueh from Stanford University. The jury of representatives from BASF, Volkswagen and from academia selected him for his outstanding research results in the area of energy storage and conversion.

Dr. William C. Chueh is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Materials Science & Engineering and Center Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy. Over the past several years he has conducted battery research studies at SSRL in collaboration with staff scientists Johanna Nelson Weker and Mike Toney. Through his research studies he has attained a new level of understanding for diverse fundamental battery dynamics which limit battery rate capability and life cycle. His insights are paving the way for further improving lithium-ion batteries and significantly enhancing their performance. By visualizing electrochemical reactions as they take place on length scales ranging from tens of microns down to sub-nanometer, William Chueh has delivered unprecedented insights into the design of functional materials with novel compositions and structures.   See also: Stanford News

SSRL User Wins 'Breakthrough' Prize for Pathbreaking Research


Harry Noller, a noted biochemist at UC Santa Cruz, has won a 'Breakthrough' prize for discovering the structure of ribosomes, the molecular engines inside human cells where RNA links amino acids together to build proteins. He also used macromolecular crystallography at the SSRL, ALS and APS to reveal the detailed structure of ribosomes, and his work has been held to support the idea that life on Earth actually began in an “RNA world.” 

Breakthrough Prizes recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and awarded in the fields of Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Laureates attend a televised awards ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions. The Breakthrough Prizes were founded by Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, and Yuri and Julia Milner. Selection Committees composed of previous Breakthrough Prize laureates choose the winners. Information on the Breakthrough Prizes is available at  Read also: UC Santa Cruz News Center Release

Former SSRL Staff Scientist Wins 2016 Inorganic Chemistry Lectureship Award


The ACS Division of Inorganic Chemistry recently announced Prof. Serena DeBeer as the winner of this year’s award.  A former SSRL staff scientist and current user, Prof. DeBeer is a professor and research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. Her research group is focused on the development and application of advanced x-ray spectroscopic tools for understanding key mechanisms in biological, homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis. A combination of synchrotron-based, as well as a broad range of advanced laboratory spectroscopies tightly coupled to modern computational methods, are utilized in order to obtain quantitative insights into electronic structural changes in catalytic systems.  See selected articles

AIP | APL Materials 2016 Excellence in Research Awards


Kevin Stone, an Associate Staff Scientist at SSRL, has been named second place winner for the AIP | APL Materials 2016 Excellence in Research Awards for his contribution, "Influence of Amorphous Structure on Polymorphism in Vanadia."  While awarded to the first author, the full author list includes Laura T. Schelhas, Lauren M. Garten, Badri Shyam, Apurva Mehta, Paul F. Ndione, David S. Ginley and Michael F. Toney. A reception to celebrate the awards was held during the Fall MRS Meeting in Boston, MA on November 29. 

Upcoming Events

RapiData 2017 at SSRL – Data Collection and Structure Solving: A Practical Course in Macromolecular X-ray Diffraction Measurement, April 16-21, 2017

Synchrotron radiation is an indispensable tool in macromolecular crystallography and most of the macromolecule structures deposited in the PDB are solved and refined with data collected at synchrotron sources. Some of the skills needed to make optimal use of state-of-the-art beamlines and data processing and analysis software are difficult to learn without intensive hand-on training.

The main goal of the course Rapid Data Collection and Structure Solving is to provide such an educational experience.  RapiData 2017 will use a similar format to previous years, with equal emphasis on the ideas and concepts behind conventional methods for diffraction-data collection, and practical experience collecting and processing data.  RapiData 2017 website

Event coordinators: Ana Gonzalez, Clyde Smith and Silvia Russi (SSRL)

canSAS-IX Meeting, June 5-7, 2017, San Francisco, CA

Please join us in San Francisco for canSAS-IX Meeting from June 5-7 2017. The meeting will be held jointly between the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The collective action for nomadic small angle scatterers (canSAS) is an ongoing activity to provide the small-angle scattering user community with shared tools and information. This work involves both users and facilities and currently includes:

  • Providing access to information about small angle scattering
  • Providing information about SAS facilities
  • Providing forum for discussions regarding reliability of data, analysis, uncertainty estimates, and interpretation
  • Working with reference samples to allow comparison of instruments and better understand reliability issues
  • Proposing and agreeing common reduced data formats

For more information please visit both canSAS and the meeting website

Local organizers: Alex Hexemer (LBNL) and Chris Tassone (SSRL)


Cyber Security and ES&H Online Training Changes

Both Cyber Security and Environment, Safety and Health (ES&H) have recently implemented changes to SLAC’s training programs to keep SLAC up to date with current trends and to improve the training process across the lab.

  • Cyber Security Training for Lab Users - (CS100) has been condensed and streamlined to address lab users more appropriately; it is required for any lab personnel who is not an employee. CS100 must be taken by lab users once a year. CS101, the current introductory cyber security training, has been discontinued.
  • Orientation to ESH (ES&H 219) is now the primary course replacing the old combination of courses 396 (or 219) and 154 SLAC Traffic Safety and should be taken in combination with GERT (115) and CS100 (as mentioned above) by users completing the training for their first visit to SSRL.

Users who have already taken 396 or 219 will be offered the option of taking Orientation Refresher Training (ES&H 219R), which provides a test-out option.  Non-expired training has been grandfathered so that staff and users do not need to take the new courses until their training is expiring.

A general training status is available to users upon logging into the User Portal with a green check mark indicating that you have current training. More details including your SLAC ID and a link to the training website are available on top right-hand side on the pulldown list under your name.

User Research Administration

SSRL Beam Time Request Deadlines

  • January 18, 2017 – Macromolecular Crystallography (March through May beam time)

SSRL and LCLS Proposal Deadlines

  • January 19, 2017 – LCLS Protein Crystal Screening (PCS) proposals for run 15 (submit by 4 pm PACIFIC). More Info

Note: Rapid Access Requests for selected beam lines can be submitted at any time.  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