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SSRL Headlines Vol. 3, No. 7  January, 2003


Contents of This Issue:

  1. Science Highlight - The Role of Surface X-ray Scattering in Electrocatalysis
  2. SSRL Visited by Dr. Walter Stevens
  3. House Science Committee Staff Visit SLAC and Tour SSRL
  4. Spectroscopy Findings Help the Toxic Waste Clean Up Effort
  5. Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology Institute to be Built at SLAC
  6. Sesame Project is Launched
  7. Flory Conference 2003
  8. User Research Administration Announcements

1.  Science Highlight - The Role of Surface X-ray Scattering in Electrocatalysis
      (contacts: Christopher Lucas and Nenad Markovic)

Electrocatalysis is the science of modifying the overall rates of electrochemical reactions so that selectivity, yield and efficiency are maximized. Studies in electrocatalysis have resulted in tools such as highly selective multicomponent gas mixture sensors and better electrocatalysts for the fuel cells. Markovi and Lucas have been very active in studying the mechanisms by which these catalysts operate and developing in-situ surface x-ray scattering (SXS) techniques for their studies. SXS capabilities at SSRL were recently used to investigate the interface structure of an ultrathin carbon monoxide overlayer on platinum. Carbon monoxide is the simplest C1 molecule that can be electrochemically oxidized in a low temperature fuel cell at a reasonable (although not necessarily practical) potential. It thus serves as an important model "fuel" for fundamental studies of C1 electrocatalysis.

More information regarding this research can be found on the SSRL Home Page (click on the Jan 2003 Science Highlight link). Please see the SSRL Science Highlights page for an archive of the highlights.

2.  SSRL Visited by Dr. Walter Stevens
      (contact: Jo Stöhr)

Dr. Walter Stevens, who was recently appointed Director of the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division in DOE's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, visited SSRL on January 15, 2003. The reason for his visit was mainly to familiarize himself with the SSRL facility and its scientific programs. He was hosted by Prof. Joachim Stöhr, SSRL Deputy Director, and Gordon E. Brown Jr., Kirby Professor of Geology in the Stanford School of Earth Sciences and SSRL Faculty Chair. Dr. Stevens was given an overview of SSRL and learned about the close link between SSRL and Stanford University and their faculties. He also spent time with Prof. Britt Hedman and Dr. John Bargar, talking about their scientific research programs in the areas of chemistry and molecular environmental science. His visit concluded with a tour of the SSRL floor, where one of the features included a presentation by Drs. Ingrid Pickering and Graham George of the new SSRL microXAS imaging setup for BL9-3.

3.  House Science Committee Staff Visit SLAC and Tour SSRL
       (contact: Keith Hodgson)

Members of the House Science Committee Staff, Gabe Rozsa, Tina Kaarsberg, Charlie Cook and Chris King, toured SSRL as part of their January 12, 2003 visit to SLAC. Two experimental stations, BL11-1 and BL11-2, were highlighted for the visitors. At BL11-1, cutting-edge automation, which allows for optimized efficiency at the station, was demonstrated. Ashley Deacon and Linda Brinen, leaders of the Structural Genomics effort at SSRL, explained the impact of these new technologies - for the general x-ray crystallography user community as well as specialized high throughput structural biology endeavors. As an example of the kind of biological puzzles that can be examined with SSRL's resources, the visitors were shown the molecular structure of the anthrax lethal factor complexed to its natural biological substrate. This structure, displayed in three-dimensional graphics for the visitors, represents a critical step towards creating effective therapeutic agents to combat anthrax infection. The committee then visited the molecular environmental sciences beam line, BL11-2. An SSRL user, Dr. Steve Conradson from LANL, described the research that he and his colleagues are doing in the area of remediation and stockpile stewardship. The visit concluded with a discussion of future developments like the LCLS project.

4.  Spectroscopy Findings Help the Toxic Waste Clean Up Effort
      (contact: Gordon E. Brown Jr.)

Synchrotron-based spectroscopy can be used to identify the chemical form of contaminants such as mercury, chromium and other heavy metals in different environmental settings. With this information, potential dangers and the best course of action to deal with these dangers can be determined. For example, some contaminants occur in the environment in inert forms -- so it may be better to leave them alone than to clean them up. Geological features may also create impermeable barriers to other contaminants. These findings may guide the cleanup strategies for some of the 1,235 hazardous waste sites identified as priorities for remediation under the Superfund Program.

At a recent three-day course sponsored by the Geochemical Society and the Mineralogical Society of America in Monterey and at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, Gordon E. Brown Jr. gave overviews of synchrotron applications in geochemistry and environmental science. This work was also recently profiled in an article "Contaminants not always toxic: new tool determines Superfund priority. Synchrotron spectroscopy shows whether to clean up waste sites -- or leave them be" by Dawn Levy for the Stanford Report.

5.  Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology Institute to be Built at SLAC

Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation have pledged $7.5 million to establish the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology. Located here at SLAC, the new Institute will bring together astrophysicists, high-energy physicists, and cosmologists to explore science at the intersections of their fields. A separate gift pledged by Pehong and Adele Chen in 2001 will be used to name and endow the directorship of the Institute. Roger Blandford and Steven Kahn have accepted positions as Director and Deputy Director of the Institute. (see press release)

6.  Sesame Project is Launched
      (contact: Herman Winick)

Koichiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, formally launched the SESAME project (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) at a groundbreaking ceremony on January 6, 2003 in Alaan, Jordan. The founding members of SESAME including Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey now form the SESAME Council, with Herwig Schopper (former Director-General of CERN) elected as President and Khaled Toukan (Minister of Higher Education of Jordan) and Dincer Ulku (Hacettepe University in Turkey) as Vice-Presidents. The government of Jordan is providing the site and has agreed to fund the construction of the building. A contract for the building construction is expected to be signed within the next couple of months. For more information please visit the SESAME website.

7.  Flory Conference 2003
       (contact: Piero Pianetta)

The Stanford Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Departments are organizing a Flory Conference on Novel Electronic Materials. SSRL is a co-sponsor of the conference along with several other Stanford Departments including Materials Science and Engineering, the Center for Integrated Systems, Stanford Nanofabrication Facility, Geballe Laboratory for Advanced Materials and the Center for Polymeric Interfaces and Molecular Assemblies. Eastman Chemical Company is a co-sponsor as well. The program (see conference website) includes an excellent set of speakers slated to give presentations on materials ranging from dielectrics to polymers. Jack Kilby (co-inventor of the integrated circuit and Nobel Laureate) will be the banquet speaker. Students and postdocs interested in presenting a poster should contact: Aileen Augustin.

8.  User Research Administration Announcements
       (contact: Cathy Knotts, Liaison to SSRLUO-EC)

  • All users are encouraged to participate in SSRL Users' Organization meetings and activities. The next SSRLUO meeting will be held on Thursday, February 6, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Orange Conference Room (SLAC Bldg. 40). The agenda for this meeting and minutes of previous meetings are available at:
  • Each month we feature user science in this electronic newsletter and archive past scientific highlights on our website. Many of these stories have been included in reports to funding agencies and have been picked up by other media, so we encourage users to let us know when exciting results are about to be published. We can work with users and the SLAC Office of Communication to develop the story, ensure that the authors have the opportunity to review the drafts, and communicate user research findings to a much broader audience.

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 Institute for General Medical S ciences. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL WWW site.

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Last Updated: 30 JAN 2003
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