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Vol. 12, No. 12 - June 2012
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From Director Chi-Chang Kao

The SSRL Scientific Advisory Committee met on June 8 and 9. The meeting covered several important issues. First, the demand for beam time at SSRL continues to grow, and we are working with the SAC to evaluate the proposal review process to see if we could improve the current system with the aim to optimize scientific impact. Second, SAC reviewed and approved the first batch of Collaborative Access Proposals. We will use the terms and conditions developed for these CAP proposals as a general guideline for the development of future partnership between SSRL and user community. Third, we presented to SAC new scientific opportunities in molecular environmental & interface science, and high magnetic fields.

On June 26, SSRL staff, working in collaboration with representatives of the SLAC Radiation Protection Division, successfully completed high current radiological characterization of the last two SSRL beam lines in preparation for operating with up to 500 mA stored current in SPEAR3. These carefully planned studies, which have been conducted over the course of seven Accelerator Physics shifts during the FY2012 user run, represented the last major qualification effort necessary before the anticipated release to operate SSRL beam lines at the full SPEAR3 design current of 500 mA. In parallel with these radiological studies, SSRL staff have characterized beam line performance at elevated current with particular attention paid to the high power insertion device beam lines.

To honor Herman Winick's 80th birthday (which happened on June 27), Herman's colleagues both within and outside of SLAC are planning a one-day symposium on October 2, 2012 on the day before the LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting. Herman, who is Deputy Director Emeritus of SSRL, has been a strong proponent of synchrotron radiation since he came to Stanford in the 1970's to lead the technical design of SSRP (the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Project) at the time. He is best known for his leadership role, starting in the mid-1970's, in the development of wiggler and undulator insertion devices as advanced synchrotron radiation sources. He pushed to operate PEP at reduced energy in the late 1980's as the lowest emittance light source to date, and participated in the study with Claudio Pellegrini (UCLA) and others to implement a soft X-ray FEL in a switched bypass in PEP, a concept that is now being considered for PEP-X. In 1992, he and Pellegrini initiated studies of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) Project to construct an x-ray laser using the SLAC linac which became the LCLS. He has also been active internationally to promote the development of facilities in many countries, the latest being his efforts in the initiation of SESAME (, a UNESCO-sponsored project which is now constructing a synchrotron radiation laboratory in Jordan, with nine countries in the Middle East participating.

We anticipate an exciting symposium to celebrate Herman's significant accomplishments and more information will become available on the LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting website as the program develops.

  Science Highlights

SSRL Data Directs Prostate Cancer Drug Design
Prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men, is often a localized, slow-growing cancer, which aids treatment and improves survival rates. However, highly aggressive, metastatic forms of the cancer occur frequently enough to make it the No. 2 cause of death in U.S. men, and there is a lack of effective drugs to fight these more aggressive cancers. Since prostate cancer cells proliferate in the presence of androgen steroid hormones such as dihydrotestosterone, blocking the synthesis of such hormones is an obvious strategy for treating prostate cancer. A promising target is cytochrome P450 17A1 (CYP17A1), a heme-containing monooxygenase that produces androgens via a two-step process. However developing drugs targeted to CYP17A1 has proven challenging because of a lack of information about the enzyme's structure. CYP17A1 is partially embedded in membranes and the technical difficulties of generating, stabilizing, and forming crystals of this protein had long frustrated attempts to determine the enzyme's structure.

Dr. Emily Scott and Natasha DeVore from the University of Kansas overcame this challenge, and used SSRL macromolecular crystallography BL9-2 to solve the structure of CYP17A1 in the presence of two promising drugs, abiraterone, which was recently approved by the FDA, and TOK-001, which is in early clinical trials. The structural information revealed how the drugs bind, which is different from what had been predicted by other methods, and immediately provides insights on how to improve these drugs or design new drugs. Read more...

Learn more at this University of Kansas news release

X-ray Characterization of Lithium-Sulfur Batteries in Action
Dramatic improvements in energy storage devices are essential to meet the increasing need to move away from fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable energy. Rechargeable lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries hold great potential for high-performance energy storage systems because they have a high theoretical specific energy, low cost, and are eco-friendly; but a better understanding of how the battery functions is required to design improvements for higher efficiency and capacity.

Scientists from SSRL and Stanford University have used a two-pronged approach to characterize Li-S batteries during normal battery operation, a process dubbed in operando. In operando x-ray diffraction (XRD) at SSRL tracked real-time changes in the active battery material's crystal structure, while in operando x-ray imaging revealed nanometer-sized changes in the material's morphology, showing that during the battery discharge cycle crystalline sulfur interacted with lithium to form amorphous polysulfides. However, that process was not followed by the complete loss of the polysulfides into the electrolyte and the formation of crystalline Li2S, as reported in ex situ XRD studies, confirming that ex situ studies can lead to false conclusions about battery mechanisms. These results will guide future electrode designs in order to increase capacity in subsequent cycles and prolong battery life, such as encapsulating the sulfur to increase the Li-S lifetime. Read more...

Catalyst Design Parameters Revealed
Changing the electronic structure of a catalytic metal in order to "tune" its performance is a key element in the design of new, more efficient catalysts. Tailor-made catalysts are particularly needed in fuel cells, which could efficiently power electric vehicles without the range limitations of current batteries. However, two requirements of such a catalyst require an extremely careful design to provide high catalytic activity (to minimize the need for costly materials) and high stability (to prevent degradation during long-term operation in a corrosive environment). Recently, SIMES and SUNCAT researchers joined efforts at SSRL to examine the "tuning" of a bimetallic fuel cell catalyst consisting of ultrathin platinum layers grown on a single-crystal rhodium substrate. They discovered that both activity and stability of the platinum-rhodium catalyst could be optimized if, in addition to its elemental composition, its nanostructure is made a design criterion.

The SIMES team, led by Associate Staff Scientist Daniel Friebel, used grazing incidence x-ray absorption fine structure techniques at SSRL Beam Line 11-2, and found two very different nanostructures: one in which the platinum was deposited in the rhodium substrate in a single, atom-thick layer, and one in which the same amount of platinum formed thicker islands with voids in between. The team then used high-energy resolution x-ray absorption spectroscopy at Beam Line 6-2 to examine the electronic structure of both nanostructures in an electrolyte solution. The studies showed a markedly different behavior: the platinum islands exhibited a much greater affinity to adsorbed oxygen species than the single platinum monolayer, with adsorbed oxygen almost completely absent on the latter. Density functional theory established a simple correlation between oxygen chemisorption energy and the local metallic coordination environment. Researchers were also able to predict which platinum sites would be most active, and that an optimized platinum-rhodium nanostructure could be up to five times more active than pure platinum. Moreover, such a structure is expected to be much more stable against catalyst degradation than platinum-nickel or platinum-cobalt catalysts with comparable activity, thus fulfilling both requirements of high activity and stability. Read more...

  • SSRL and at SRI 2012, July 9-13
    SSRL staff and users who are attending the
    2012 Synchrotron Radiation Instrumentation (SRI) Conference in Lyon, France (July 9-13) are invited to visit an exhibit being hosted by members of, the international collaboration of light source communicators. More than 30 facilities will be represented by posters that will feature each facility's capabilities, research opportunities, recent science highlights, and future plans. also welcomes your suggestions about the kinds of information that could be added to the website or other initiatives that could benefit the worldwide lightsource community. Contact Cathy Knotts.

  • Structural Molecular Biology Summer School 2012, July 16-20
    The Structural Molecular Biology Summer School 2012 will be held at SSRL from July 16-20 and will focus on the following disciplines: Macromolecular Crystallography, Small Angle X-ray Scattering, X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, Fluorescence XAS Imaging and X-ray Emission Spectroscopy. The five-day summer school will include invited lectures by experts in the field, hands-on data acquisition, and practical training session for data analysis. The goal of the summer school is to disseminate information about scientific opportunities in synchrotron techniques applicable to biologically-relevant systems and to train the participants at both the beginner and expert levels to successfully plan, execute and report their research at SSRL. Space is limited and advanced application is mandatory. More information is available at: SMB Summer School 2012.

  • Save the Date: LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting, October 3-6
    In response to user feedback, the 2012 Users' Meeting will include joint SSRL/LCLS parallel science sessions and many opportunities for students to present their work. The organizers encourage your suggestions for workshop topics and speakers who would draw in the larger photon science community to explore new opportunities for SSRL and LCLS. In addition, we will reserve slots for contributed talks (see below). Stay tuned for registration details on the meeting website.

  • Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference @ SLAC, September 30-October 2
    The 70th Annual Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference will be held at SLAC immediately preceding the 2012 SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting and Workshops on October 3-6. The Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference is a three-day event featuring lecture and poster presentations covering a wide range of subjects of interest to researchers in chemistry, physics and structural biology. The conference brings together researchers in all areas of fundamental and applied diffraction and crystallographic research to present current topics. The program of the 2012 conference includes nanocrystallography, femtosecond diffraction methods, hybrid methods for structural biology research, powder diffraction and exciting macromolecular structures. Student poster abstracts may be considered for an oral presentation and are eligible for the Chung Soo Yoo Award. Conference social events include an opening reception on September 30 and a banquet on October 1. Register at the conference website.

  • Call for Nominations for Spicer and Klein Awards
    Please take a few moments to consider nominating your colleagues or students for the annual Klein and Spicer awards, which will be presented at the joint SSRL and LCLS Users' Meeting, October 3-6:

    William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award - due August 1
    Melvin P. Klein Professional Development Award - due August 1

    Submit your 2012 nominations to Cathy Knotts by August 1.

    Gifts may be made in support of these memorials to Professors Spicer and Klein. These can be sent by check, made payable to "Stanford University" (noting "Spicer Award" or "Klein Award" on the memo line), to SSRL c/o Cathy Knotts, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, 2575 Sand Hill Road MS 99, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Alternatively, if you would like to make a gift by credit card, please phone 866-543-0243 (toll free) Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST to reach a customer service representative. Please specify that your gift is designated for "The Spicer Award" or "The Klein Award." Callers from outside the US, please phone 650-724-0627 (not toll free).

  • Call for LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting Contributed Talk and Poster Abstracts
    We have reserved several slots during our upcoming LCLS/SSRL Annual Users' Meeting science sessions for contributed talks in the areas of Atomic, Molecular & Optical Physics/Matter in Extreme Conditions , Bio-/Chemical Catalysis, Environmental Science and Materials Sciences (Energy Storage, Correlated Materials). We encourage members of our user community, particularly students, to submit an abstract to share their research results during these science-themed sessions. Abstracts for contributed talks should be submitted by August 10, and abstracts for poster presentation, by September 17. Your abstract can be sent via direct email attachment to Lisa Dunn or submitted via the meeting website once registration and abstract submission become available.

SSRL Headlines is published electronically monthly to inform SSRL users, sponsors and other interested people about happenings at SSRL. SSRL is a national synchrotron user facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences by Stanford University. Additional support for the SSRL Structural Molecular Biology Program is provided by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, and by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Center for Research Resources. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL website.

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Questions? Comments? Contact Lisa Dunn