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Vol. 13, No. 1 - July 2012
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From Director Chi-Chang Kao

SSRL passed yet another important milestone in July, when the first SPEAR3 fill for user operations on Wednesday morning, July 25, was a little different than all the prior user operations fills in the forty year history of SSRL. The SPEAR3 current display climbed up through 350 mA without stopping as SSRL delivered the first user operations shifts at 450 mA. This milestone represented the culmination of over a decade of effort conceptualizing, designing, fabricating, installing, and commissioning the SPEAR3 storage ring and associated beam line upgrades, followed by developing and validating the safety of top off injection and beam line operations at elevated current. Along the way, SPEAR3's emittance has been reduced from the 18 nm*rad design emittance to the present 10 nm*rad, new undulators have been deployed, the low alpha short pulse operations mode has been developed and implemented, and the beam stability has been enhanced. Performance improvement will not stop with this latest milestone. Over the past year a number of accelerator physics shifts have been devoted to reducing the SPEAR3 emittance even further. Approximately 6 nm*rad has been successfully demonstrated, although further work is required before such an emittance reduction will be realized during user operations. Nonetheless, it is clear that even brighter times are ahead for SSRL and for providing our user community new capabilities.

On a different note, mesoscale science and technology opportunities, with input from the scientific community through several town-hall meetings, were summarized and discussed at the recent Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee meeting. The priority research areas that were identified include:

  • Mastering Defect Mesostructure and its Evolution

  • Regulating Coupled Reactions and Pathway-Dependent Chemical Processes

  • Optimizing Transport and Response Properties by Design and Control of Mesoscale Structure

  • Elucidating Non-equilibrium and Many-Body Physics of Electrons

  • Harnessing Fluctuations, Dynamics and Degradation for Control of Metastable Mesoscale Systems

  • Directing Assembly of Hierarchical Functional Material

In order to realize these opportunities, new capabilities to synthesize, characterize and model materials on the mesoscale will be needed. SSRL is poised to take advantage of these opportunities with our emphasis on the development of tools for multi-scale, multi-model imaging, time-resolved and in-situ measurements, as well as the integration of theory, synthesis, characterization and testing.

To engage the user community in this exciting new research direction, a workshop that will focus on these opportunities will be held at the upcoming SSRL/LCLS joint Annual Users' Meeting, October 3-6. In addition, Dr. George Crabtree from Argonne National Laboratory and University of Illinois at Chicago, who co-chaired the BESAC Mesoscale Subcommittee, will give one of the key note talks at the Users' Meeting. I encourage you find time to attend the meeting.

Science Highlight

  • SSRL Scientists Confirm Method to Make Platinum a Better Catalyst

    Schematic representation of Pt subsurface alloys and corresponding shifts in Pt d-band center.
    The ability to customize and control the activities of scarce, expensive transition metal catalysts is extremely important for the development of economical industrial and energy-saving processes. Over the years several methods have been suggested, especially for processes employing platinum, the most active metal catalyst in many important reactions.

    One promising option is to tune chemical functionality by implementing a ligand effect – in other words, by changing the atomic nearest neighbor environment, a conceptually simple way to modify the electronic structure of platinum to enhance its catalytic activity. However, confirming the effect experimentally has been difficult; conventional methods have been unable to disentangle the various constituents of such a catalyst's electronic structure.

    Now scientists at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource have used the unique capabilities of SSRL Beam Line 13-2 to study the ligand effect in platinum. They used oxygen-resonant x-ray emission and absorption spectroscopies to look at Pt(111) with either nickel or cobalt embedded in the subsurface region. These spectroscopic techniques provided the means to probe the density of states (DOS) projected on an atomic site in both occupied and unoccupied electronic states. Because of element specificity, the DOS of chemisorbed oxygen atoms could be disentangled from the substrate states and any change in the platinum-oxygen chemical bond probed directly.

    The researchers used these element-specific core level spectroscopy techniques to separately probe the catalyst's metal valence states and the density of the adsorbate (oxygen) states, and were able to show changes in the strength of the bonding between platinum and its oxygen and hydrogen adsorbates. This demonstrated how to modify the electronic configuration of the adsorbate-metal bond and how the resulting effect can translate to improved catalytic activity. Read more...


  • SSRL Helps in Discovery of How Fungus Could Aid Mine Cleanups

    Harvard-led researchers have discovered that an Ascomycete fungus that is common in polluted water produces environmentally important minerals during asexual reproduction.

    The key chemical in the process, superoxide, is a byproduct of fungal growth when the organism produces spores. Once released into the environment, superoxide reacts with the element manganese (Mn), producing a highly reactive mineral that aids in the cleanup of toxic metals, degrades carbon substrates, and controls the bioavailability of nutrients.

    The results, which will inform a wide range of future studies in microbiology, environmental chemistry, developmental biology and geobiology, were recently published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

    The principal investigator was Colleen Hansel, a faculty associate at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Co-authors of the study included SSRL staff scientist Sam Webb.

    Visit Harvard SEAS to read the full announcement.

  • Using X-ray Imaging to Observe Running Batteries in Real Time

    Most electric cars, from the Tesla Model S to the Nissan Leaf, run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries - a pricey technology that accounts for more than half of the vehicle's total cost. One promising alternative is the lithium-sulfur battery, which can theoretically store five times more energy at a much lower cost. But lithium-sulfur technology has a major drawback: After a few dozen cycles of charging and discharging, the battery stops working.

    "The cycle life of lithium-sulfur batteries is very short," said Johanna Nelson, a postdoctoral scholar at SSRL. "Typically, after a few tens of cycles the battery will die, so it isn't viable for electric vehicles, which require many thousands of cycles over a 10- or 20-year lifetime."

    A typical lithium-sulfur battery consists of two electrodes - a lithium metal anode and a sulfur-carbon cathode - surrounded by a conductive fluid, or electrolyte. Several studies have attributed the battery's short cycle life to chemical reactions that deplete the cathode of sulfur.

    But a recent study by Nelson and her colleagues is raising doubts about the validity of previous experiments. Using high-power x-ray imaging of an actual working battery, the Stanford-SSRL team discovered that sulfur particles in the cathode largely remain intact during discharge. Their results, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), could help scientists find new ways to develop commercially viable lithium-sulfur batteries for electric vehicles.

    Read more in the Stanford News article summarizing these research results, SSRL's June 2012 science highlight on the same topic, and the SLAC Today User Spotlight.

  • 2012 Structural Molecular Biology Summer School Wrap-up

    The 2012 Structural Molecular Biology (SMB) Summer School was held at SSRL from July 16 to 20. This year the School focused on five main applications of synchrotron radiation to Structural Biology: Macromolecular Crystallography, Small Angle X-ray Scattering, X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy, X-ray Fluorescence Imaging and X-ray Emission Spectroscopy. The five-day Summer School included invited lectures by experts in the field on the first two days, followed by hands-on data acquisition and practical training sessions on the Wednesday and Thursday at Beam Lines 2-1 (X-ray Imaging), 4-2 (Small Angle X-ray Scattering), 7-3 (X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy) and 14-1 (Macromolecular Crystallography). A half day on Friday was devoted to topics including data analysis, how to write SSRL beam time proposals and some advanced lectures in each of the topics by invited experts and on data analysis. Although the lectures were aimed at the graduate student/beginners level, they were also appropriate for experienced researchers with expertise in one technique and with an interest in other techniques to further the scope of their Structural Biology research. Eighteen participants with varying degrees of experience in Structural Biology, predominantly at the graduate student level, attended the School. Both the lecture and practical sessions were enthusiastically received by the participants, expressing thanks to the tutors for providing a valuable learning experience for everyone involved.

    Co-Chairs for the 2012 SMB Summer School were SSRL Staff Scientists Ritimukta Sarangi, Clyde Smith and Thomas Weiss, with the hands-on data collection and analysis sessions facilitated in addition by SSRL Staff Scientists Sam Webb and Tsu-Chien Weng. Funding for the SMB Summer School program is provided by NIH-NIGMS and DOE-BER.

  • Crystallography Users Learn Remote Data Collection Ahead of NSLS Shutdown

    This year's annual RapiData course at the NSLS included a remote access data collection workshop organized by the Protein Crystallography Research Resource (PXRR) and SSRL's Structural Molecular Biology group (SMB). The intent of the workshop was to present a data-acquisition option for NSLS crystallography users during the transition period between the end of NSLS operations and the start of NSLS-II. SSRL staff scientists Graeme Card and Clyde Smith provided hands-on training to the workshop participants in the use of remote operations and data collection at SSRL macromolecular crystallography beam lines. While other synchrotrons will certainly contribute towards users' needs during the NSLS-II transition, SSRL's expertise with remote users and the ability to handle new users makes it a leading choice for this remote-user support initiative. Read more...

  • From the Acting Chief Operating Officer: SLAC is a Busy Place These Days:
    How's Your Work Planning and Control?

    This is an exciting time to be at SLAC: The Arrillaga Recreation Center and grounds – built through a generous donation from Stanford alum John Arrillaga – were just completed and opened following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 18.

    Then, on track for completion around April 2013, the 65,000-square-foot Research Support Building (Bldg. 52) along Loop Road will house the Accelerator Directorate. And now, just breaking ground, the Stanford Research Computing Facility on PEP Ring Road will provide data-center support to multiple Stanford users.

    Adding to this, SLAC is about to shut down our Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests (FACET) and linac for two months of scheduled maintenance and repairs. One critical project during this shutdown will carefully switch SLAC's power to a backup source in order to repair the 7.5-mile, 230-kilovolt power line (DOE owned) at Skyline Boulevard that serves as the lab's main power source.

    SLAC will continue the celebration of its 50th anniversary with 2,000 of our closest friends at main events including a formal anniversary celebration, and a technical symposium focusing on key research areas that will lead to the lab's next major scientific discoveries. And shortly after these events, we anticipate welcoming a new lab director to SLAC!

    It's easy to find ourselves distracted at a time with so much activity. And it's times like these when we should be extra vigilant about planning our work, being aware of what is going on around us, and watching out for unusual activities. Read more...


  • Pittsburgh Diffraction Conference @ SLAC, September 30-October 2, 2012

    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.

  • Instruments of Discovery - Past and Future of Synchrotron Light Sources. A Symposium to Honor Herman Winick on his 80th Birthday, October 2, 2012

    A one-day symposium is being held to honor Herman Winick's many contributions to synchrotron radiation science. 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). He is best known for his leadership role in the development of wiggler and undulator insertion devices as advanced synchrotron radiation sources but has been involved in a number of significant synchrotron science-related developments over the years. He has also actively promoted the development of facilities in many countries, the latest being his efforts in the initiation of SESAME.

  • LCLS/SSRL Users' Meeting & Workshops, October 3-6, 2012

    Please join us October 3-6 for our Users' Meeting & Workshops. This annual event is a valuable opportunity to learn about our latest plans, new developments and exciting research at 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. Keynote talks will include:

    • George Crabtree, ANL, Opportunities with Synchrotron Radiation at the Mesoscale (October 4)
    • Helmut Dosch, DESY, Future Opportunities with XFELs (October 5)

    This year's workshop topics include the following:

    • De-Mystifying the Lightsource Experience
    • Opportunities for Nanoscale Spectromicroscopy - Hard and Soft X-ray Imaging
    • Science with High Energy X-rays
    • Toward Control: Untangling Ultrafast Mechanism of Lattice and Electron Dynamics
    • Translating Your Science for the Public
    • Opportunities with Synchrotron Radiation at the Mesoscale
    • LCLS-II Instrument Workshop

    More details can be found at the meeting website.

  • Advanced Techniques in Actinide Spectroscopy (ATAS), November 5-7, 2012
    Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany

    The workshop focuses on recent advances in actinide chemistry from both a spectroscopic and theoretical point of view. It covers vibrational spectroscopy (IR and Raman), laser-induced spectroscopy (luminescence and photoacoustic), X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and quantum chemical calculations. Improvements of in situ experimental setups, applications of quantum chemical methods in predictive and interpretative ways as well as new data processing algorithms are major topics.  Conference website.


  • Call for Nominations for Spicer and Klein Awards - Due August 1

    Please submit your nominations for SSRL's annual Klein and Spicer awards to Cathy Knotts by August 1. These awards, as well as talks from the award recipients, will be presented at the joint SSRL and LCLS Users' Meeting during the Thursday, October 4 plenary session:

          William E. and Diane M. Spicer Young Investigator Award
          Melvin P. Klein Professional Development Award

  • Call for Lytle Award Nominations - Due August 15

    Take a few minutes to nominate your colleagues, fellow users or staff for the Farrel W. Lytle Award. The Lytle Award was established in 1998 by the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee to promote important technical or scientific accomplishments in synchrotron radiation-based science and to foster collaboration and efficient use of beam time among users and staff at SSRL. Submit nominations to recognize outstanding achievements by SSRL users or staff by August 15 (send email to Cathy Knotts). Nominations will be reviewed and the recipient selected by members of the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee. The Lytle Award will be presented at the annual Users' Meeting awards dinner on October 4, 2012.

  • User Research Administration Update

    • X-ray/VUV Beam Time Requests Due August 13
      Please submit X-ray/VUV beam time requests by August 13 to be considered for beam time during the first scheduling period next year (Nov. 2012-Feb. 2013). Macromolecular Crystallography beam time requests are due by September 15. Request beam time via the user portal.

    • X-ray/VUV Proposals Due September 1
      New SSRL X-ray/VUV proposals can be submitted three times a year: September 1, December 1, and June 1. X-ray/VUV Proposals submitted by September 1 will be peer reviewed, rated and eligible for beam time beginning in February 2013. The next deadline for submitting new Macromolecular Crystallography proposals is December 1, 2012.

    • Submit End-of-Run Survey via User Portal
      Comments about your experience at SSRL are extremely important to us. If you haven't already done so, please submit an End-of-Run Summary through the user portal.

    • Inform Us of Publications
      SSRL provides technical tools for world-leading science at no charge for scientists who conduct non-proprietary research, with the understanding that significant results are to be publicly disseminated. Scientists must acknowledge use of the facility in presentations and publications and must inform the facility of all publications, theses, awards, patents and other forms of recognition resulting from research conducted fully or partially at SSRL. These metrics of scientific achievements and productivity are extremely important to the facility and to funding agencies. Please contact us as results are about to be published so that we can work with you to more broadly communicate your research. More information can be found on our publications page.

    • Marguerite Shuttle Adds Early Service to SLAC from Hoover Tower
      For you early birds, Stanford has expanded its Marguerite service to SLAC, adding a shuttle that departs from Hoover Tower on the main campus at 7:05 a.m. and arrives at SLAC at 7:27 a.m. The free weekday SLAC/Stanford shuttle service operates every 20 minutes during the day. Shuttle schedule

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