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SSRL Headlines Vol. 12, No. 1  July, 2011


Contents of this Issue:

  1. From the Director of SSRL: Collaboration and Community
  2. Science Highlight — Better Batteries through Nanoscale 3D Imaging
  3. Science Highlight — Seeking Similarities between Two New Types of Superconductors
  4. SSRL X-rays Help Discover New Drug against Melanoma
  5. Swift Start to SSRL Summer Activities
  6. Summer Continues Strong: Upcoming SSRL Events
  7. Call for Lytle Award Nominations
  8. User Administration Update
  9. In the News: Protein Structure, Grad Students, 10 Questions, Bird Fossils

1.   From the Director of SSRL: Collaboration and Community

Chi-Chang Kao
As the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource reaches the end of our FY2011 operational run - the last experiments wrapped up this morning - the support staff is gearing up for a busy period of upgrades, maintenance and big-picture thinking.

This summer started with a series of six scientific workshops aimed at exploring the scientific case for an "ultimate light source" with higher brightness and smaller emittance than current synchrotrons can offer. Many scientific staff members from across SLAC participated in these workshops, which were co-organized by SSRL, Japan's KEK, Germany's DESY and Cornell University, and we are now working to further develop the promising directions identified there.

This effort is accompanied by the design of a PEP-X lattice, a Laboratory Directed Research and Development project led by the Accelerator Directorate's beam physics group. The latest design is very promising, showing that it is possible to realize an ultimate storage ring in SLAC's existing 2.2 kilometer PEP tunnel-a significantly greater reduction in the size of the accelerator than previously thought obtainable. It is this kind of close interaction between science goals and accelerator designers that makes SLAC unique and the laboratory's future very exciting.

Until such an ultimate ring can become a reality, we are working hard to keep SSRL at the forefront of today's synchrotron light sources. We recently commissioned a new high-resolution energy-dispersive x-ray spectrometer, a joint project between the Linac Coherent Light Source, SSRL and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Designed for time-resolved spectroscopic experiments - such as the process by which electrons are transferred in photosynthesis systems - it will be used at LCLS to view ultra-fast time scale dynamics and at SSRL to view dynamics on the longer time scale. SSRL is also working on the ability to provide x-rays with few picosecond pulse length, a factor of ten shorter than the normal synchrotron pulse length, to the user community. We believe these efforts will maximize the synergy between SSRL and LCLS and enable new science at both facilities.

As we work to enhance the capabilities available at SSRL, we're also working to increase the number and diversity of researchers who have access to our facility. This month, SSRL along with Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source and Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source the 5th annual workshop of INCREASE, the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Research and Educational Access in Science and Engineering, to encourage minority scientists to take advantage of Department of Energy research facilities. The event was successful at broadening the light-source community - I know of at least two proposals for SSRL beam time nearing completion, and I am sure there are many others in the works for facilities around the country. Similarly, in June SLAC hosted the annual National User Facility Organization (NUFO) meeting, which focused on communicating the benefits of publicly funded national user facilities more effectively to the public, lawmakers and funding agencies. This is a crucial task for user facilities and I was pleased that more than 100 people from the light-source community came together for this meeting.

This is an exciting time for all of us. The past few months have been very busy for the SSRL community - in a good way - and as we prepare for the start of the FY2012 run in November, we look forward to welcoming new users and new research opportunities.

—Chi-Chang Kao

2.  Science Highlight — Better Batteries through Nanoscale 3D Imaging
       (contact: Joy Andrews Hayter,

Cr(VI) figure
As an important step toward reducing oil dependence and greenhouse gas production, electric vehicles are becoming more and more prevalent. However, one major barrier remains: their batteries. Today's lithium-ion technology has yet to meet energy density, cost, life cycle and safety goals.

To combat these difficulties, two recent studies conducted at SSRL Beam Line 6-2 used a combination of techniques, together termed X-ray Absorption Near-Edge Structure (XANES) Microscopy, to study lithium-ion batteries. XANES Microscopy, with its ability to combine spatial and energy resolution over large areas with fast acquisition, is likely to benefit not only the field of energy storage, but also fields ranging from biomaterials to archaeology.

The first of the two studies, led by Wilson Chiu from the University of Connecticut, obtained nanoscale spatial information about materials found in lithium-ion battery electrodes. The second study, led by Fondazione Bruno Kessler's Florian Meirer and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Jordi Cabana, looked at the battery electrodes themselves. The studies provided 2D and 3D chemical information about the changes taking place in the electrodes, revealing the location of nickel and nickel oxide. By correlating this with changes in the morphology and porosity of the cathode, this work provides a new perspective on lithium-ion battery electrodes that could direct new design strategies for the next generation of batteries.

These studies were published in Applied Physics Letters and the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, respectively.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight

3.  Science Highlight — Science Highlight: Seeking Similarities between Two New Types of Superconductors
       (contact: Donghui Lu,

Over the past 25 years, two families of materials have been discovered that allow electricity to flow without resistance at surprisingly high temperatures. These new materials, called cuprates and iron pnictides, superconduct at temperatures higher than conventional superconductors, but still not near room temperature. The aim now is to understand how these high-temperature superconductors work, knowledge that may allow for the design of materials that superconduct at even higher temperatures.

In a study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Stanford University Graduate Student Ming Yi and SSRL Material Sciences Division Scientist Donghui Lu, along with several Stanford University colleagues, performed experiments at SSRL Beam Line 5-4 and Advanced Light Source Beam Line 10 to study the electronic structure of a family of iron pnictides, Ba[Fe1-xCox]2As2. These, the first such measurements on "detwinned" single crystals in which the intrinsic twin structures are forced to align under uniaxial mechanical stress, revealed an unexpected rotational symmetry breaking in the orbital degree of freedom. This symmetry lowering process can be thought of as similar to a square changing to a rectangle. This finding is especially interesting as other experiments have found similar symmetry breaking in cuprates, suggesting that perhaps such symmetry breaking is critical to high temperature superconductivity.

To learn more about this research see the full scientific highlight

4.   SSRL X-rays Help Discover New Drug against Melanoma
       (July 12, 2011 SLAC News Center article by Mike Ross)

ribbon structure
It was front page news around the world: a drug designed to disrupt malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, was so successful in its latest round of testing in humans that the tests were halted - like an early-round knockout in boxing - so patients in the trial who were receiving other treatments could be moved to the new medicine.

A crucial part of the research for developing this new drug, called vemurafenib, took place at three Department of Energy national laboratories: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A Berkeley-based drug-discovery company, Plexxikon, used the labs' powerful x-ray facilities to determine the precise structure of a mutated protein involved in this cancer - and potential drug candidates that could stop its spread.

Read more in the SLAC News Center.

5.   Swift Start to SSRL Summer Activities

TRANSMISSION X-RAY MICROSCOPY WIZARDS TRAINED AT SSRL. On Monday, July 11, Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource Postdoctoral Researcher Yijin Liu and Visiting Scientist Florian Meirer of Fondazione Bruno Kessler led a transmission x-ray microscope "Wizard Workshop" at SSRL. In the half-day meeting, Meirer and Liu presented software called "TXM Wizard" that they created for data collection and analysis using SSRL Beam Line 6-2's Xradia transmission x-ray microscope, which offers researchers and users the ability to peer into the three-dimensional chemistry and structure of a range of materials. Learn more.

summer school participants
SYNCHROTRON X-RAY ABSORPTION SPECTROSCOPY SUMMER SCHOOL. SSRL hosted the sixth annual Synchrotron X- Ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) Summer School June 28 through July 1, with lectures from subject matter experts and plenty of opportunities for hands-on experience at four SSRL beam lines. The more than 40 attendees included two researchers from the Middle East who hope to put their new-found skills to use at SESAME. The summer school received excellent feedback from the participants. Many thanks to the guest speakers and the instructors and organizers Ritimukta Sarangi, Sam Webb, John Bargar and Apurva Mehta.

SLAC WELCOMES 5TH ANNUAL INCREASE WORKSHOP. A workshop aimed at encouraging minority scientists to take advantage of Department of Energy research facilities drew nearly 30 scientists from historically black and Hispanic-serving colleges and universities to SLAC on July 11 and 12. The occasion was the 5th annual workshop of INCREASE, the Interdisciplinary Consortium for Research and Educational Access in Science and Engineering. Participants got acquainted with SLAC and its research programs and learned how to create scientific collaborations and successful proposals for beam time at facilities such as SSRL and the Linac Coherent Light Source. Learn more.

ENERGY, ENTHUSIASM, COOPERATION AND COMMITMENT CHARACTERIZE NUFO ANNUAL MEETING. More than 100 attendees of the National User Facility Organization annual meeting, held at SLAC on June 27-29, explored topics ranging from best practices, to various forms of outreach, to effective communication with universities and other organizations representing users, user facilities, and science in general. Learn more...

6.   Summer Continues Strong: Upcoming SSRL Events

11TH INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON X-RAY SPECTROSCOPY OF MAGNETIC SOLIDS, October 21-22. The 2011 X-ray Spectroscopy of Magnetic Solids (XRMS) meeting will take place October 21-22 at SLAC. These annual meetings have proved as a fruitful forum for informal discussion of recent results and future projects of synchrotron radiation based research on magnetism and magnetic materials. They also serve for the formation of new collaborations. Learn more on the XRMS website.

ANNUAL USERS' CONFERENCE, October 24-26 - Plans are underway for the Annual SSRL/LCLS Users' Meeting and Workshops, October 24-26, 2011. Mark your calendar and plan to participate to learn about new developments and share exciting user research at both LCLS and SSRL. It is also a great time to interact with other scientists, potential colleagues, and vendors of light source-related products and services. Check back later for more details and registration. The draft program and registration details will be posted shortly. You can also reserve lodging for the meeting by contacting the Stanford Guest House. Specify SSRL/LCLS/SLAC to take advantage of discounted rates.

7.   Call for Lytle Award Nominations
       (contact: C. Knotts,

Please take a few moments to consider nominating your colleagues or students for the annual Lytle Award, which will be presented at the joint SSRL and LCLS Users' Meeting, October 24-26. Given annually since 1998, the award recognizes technical or scientific achievements in synchrotron radiation-based science as well as efforts to promote collaboration and efficiency at SSRL.

Last year's Lytle Award winner, Sam Webb, received the honor for his exceptional skills and motivation, dedication to technical and software developments, remarkable commitment to the user community, positive attitude and generous personality. In all, Webb helps users to achieve a satisfying and productive scientific experience at SSRL's micro-imaging spectroscopy beam lines.

Submit your 2011 nominations to Cathy Knotts ( by August 15. Learn more on the Lytle Award website.

8.   User Administration Update
       (contacts: Cathy Knotts,; Lisa Dunn,

Our 2011 experimental run ended on July 25. After the summer shutdown, operations will resume the week of November 13, 3011. The preliminary 2012 operating schedule is now online.

SSRL BEAM TIME REQUEST DEADLINES. Proposal spokespersons or their authorized lead contacts can submit new beam time requests for the first scheduling period in our 2012 experimental run (November 2011 - February 2012) by September 1. Requests for time on Macromolecular Crystallography (PX) time are due September 15. Request beam time via the user portal.

SUBMIT NEW SSRL PROPOSALS BY SEPTEMBER 1 OR DECEMBER 1. New proposals can be submitted three times a year: June 1, September 1, and December 1 for x-ray/VUV and April 1, July 1, and December 1 for Macromolecular Crystallography (PX). X-ray/VUV proposals submitted by September 1 will be peer reviewed, rated and eligible for beam time beginning in February 2011. Both X-ray/VUV and PX proposals should be submitted via the user portal. Proposals that were submitted before June 1 (X-ray/VUV) and July 1 (PX) are currently under review. Ratings for these proposals should be distributed within the next few weeks.

COMPLETE END OF RUN SURVEY. Comments about your experience at SSRL are extremely important to us, and we need your feedback to meet our mission requirements, including assessment and reporting. If you haven't already done so, please submit an End of Run Summary Form through the user portal.

INFORM US OF PUBLICATIONS. After data have been collected, analyzed and prepared for publication, please inform us and acknowledge the user facility and funding agencies in your publications using the formats posted on the SSRL website. We strongly encourage you to contact us via phone or email when especially exciting results are about to be published. We can work with users and the SLAC Office of Communication to develop a press release and to communicate user research findings to a broader audience.

9.   In the News: Protein Structure, Grad Students, 10 Questions, Bird Fossils

Researchers Decipher Protein Structure of Key Molecule in DNA Transcription System
Indiana University School of Medicine's Newsroom

An Ultra-bright Future: UD Grad Students Benefit from Research at National Laboratories
University of Delaware's UDaily

10 Questions for a Physicist: Uwe Bergmann blog

In TEDx Talk, SLAC Scientist Shares Idea worth Spreading
SLAC News Center

Scientists Close to Finding Colors of Fossil Birds
San Francisco Chronicle


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 by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Basic Energy Sciences. Additional support for the structural biology program is provided by the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research, the NIH National Center for Research Resources and the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL WWW site.


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Last Updated: 25 JULY 2011
Headlines Editor: K. Tuttle