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SSRL Headlines Vol. 1, No. 12  Jun, 2001


Contents of This Issue:

  1. Science Highlight — Studies at SSRL Lead to the Development of New Materials and Processes for Flat Panel Displays
  2. Prototype Crystal Mounting Robot Successfully Tested
  3. 3x3 CCD Detector Received and Installed on SSRL BL11-1
  4. SSRL Powder Diffraction Station Sagittal Focusing Mirror Upgrade
  5. SSRL Users' Organization Activities and Issues
  6. User Research Administration Announcements
  7. Job Opportunities at SSRL

1.  Science Highlight - Studies at SSRL Lead to the Development of New Materials and Processes for Flat Panel Displays
    (contact: Jo Stöhr, stohr@slac.stanford.edu)

Flat panel displays, a $20 billion per year world-wide business, are based on liquid crystal (LC) molecules that are oriented by mechanically rubbed polymer surfaces. It has long been the holy grail of the industry to replace the wet polymer deposition and low-tech rubbing process with a cheap high-tech compatible process. A device enabling breakthrough, however, has been impeded by the lack of scientific understanding of the LC alignment process first discovered in 1907. Polarization and surface sensitive NEXAFS spectroscopy measurements at SSRL have now solved this puzzle and provided the scientific basis for a device enabling breakthrough. The studies revealed a molecular level LC alignment mechanism and showed that even an amorphous inorganic carbon film, if properly treated, can be used for LC alignment. The trick is to induce orientational order of the carbon bonds by directional irradiation with a low energy ion beam. The ion beam preferentially destroys bonds that are oriented perpendicular to its direction, leading to a molecular level template that aligns LCs. The process has been used by IBM to build entire displays with improved performance at reduced cost. The work has been published in Nature and Science (P. Chaudhari et al., Nature 411, 56 (2001); J. Stöhr et al., Science 292, 2299 (2001))

More information regarding this research can be found at:

2.  Prototype Crystal Mounting Robot Successfully Tested
    (contacts: Ashley Deacon, adeacon@slac.stanford.edu, Aina Cohen, cohen@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu and Paul Phizackerley, phiz@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

An automated crystal mounting robot system has been developed under the NIH-NCRR funded Synchrotron Radiation Structural Biology Resource at SSRL. The system has recently been installed and tested on Beam Line 11- 1. The prototype system will be enhanced and developed into a fully operational user facility over the summer shutdown. The system will allow users to remotely mount their crystal samples on the beam line diffractometer, without entering the experimental hutch. This will have a dramatic impact on the throughput of the SSRL macromolecular crystallography beam lines. In addition, it will enable users to more routinely and systematically screen hundreds of samples much more efficiently than in the past. The new robotic crystal mounting system will also form an integral component of the "structural genomics pipeline" being developed for high throughput crystallography as a part of the Joint Center for Structural Genomics (the Center funded by the NIH NIGMS involving SSRL, The Scripps Research Institute, the University of California at San Diego, GNF, and a number of other collaborating institutions and investigators).

More information and a video of the robot in operation is available at: http://smb.slac.stanford.edu/research/robot/

3.  3x3 CCD Detector Received and Installed on SSRL BL11-1
   (contacts: Mike Soltis, soltis@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu, Peter Kuhn, kuhn@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu)

SSRL has taken delivery of the first 3x3 CCD detector produced by Area Detector Systems Corporation (ADSC). The detector was uncrated and set up "off line" before being installed in the hutch on BL11-1 where it is currently undergoing tests. Once operational, the detector will combine a large active area (about 31.5 x 31.5 cm^2) with a very fast readout (a few seconds per frame). The new CCD, with its associated computational and storage subsystem, will provide for a significant advance in detector technology for macromolecular crystallography at SSRL. This is the first of two such new detector systems that will soon become operational. Additional information on the detector and its performance will be discussed in a future newsletter.

4.  SSRL Powder Diffraction Station Sagittal Focusing Mirror Upgrade
   (contacts: Bart Johnson, bart@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu, John Arthur, jarthur@slac.stanford.edu)

The 23-year-old mirror system on BL 2-1 was replaced during last summer's SPEAR shutdown. The mirror mover assembly was replaced with the old, but well designed, BL7-2 mover assembly. This mover assembly was fitted with new LVDTs (linear voltage displacement transducers) for micron resolution position read-back. The old quartz mirror was replaced with a new Pt-coated single-crystal Si mirror. The Pt coating and 0.5 degree nominal angle of incidence produce an x-ray energy cut-off at 10.5 keV. The new system provides the mechanical and thermal stability needed to deliver a sharp and stable focus with dimensions 1.1 mm vertical by 1.7 mm horizontal FWHM. To make the system complete, vertical and horizontal apertures were installed just upstream of the mirror during a SPEAR maintenance period in May and were recently commissioned and characterized. The horizontal aperture can be used to minimize the effects of mirror aberrations, reducing the beam vertical divergence by as much as 50% without reducing the peak intensity. This yields an immediate gain in the beam line's resolution function.

5.  SSRL Users' Organization Activities and Issues
    (contact: Paul Foster, foster@msg.ucsf.edu)

It is a pleasure to announce that future meetings of the SSRL Users' Organization Executive Committee (SSRLUO-EC) will include open sessions that all members of the SSRL user community are welcome to attend. The meetings are planned to take place about every four months. The agenda of the next meeting, tentatively planned for August, will include issues brought up by users, such as the impact of the SPEAR3 upgrade shutdown period in 2003. If you have issues that you would like to present to the committee or have added as a discussion item on the agenda, please feel free to contact Paul Foster directly. Meeting schedules and minutes will be posted on the SSRL website at:

The SSRLUO-EC has been busy over the last few months. On May 7-8, representatives from the user groups of the four U.S. DOE synchrotron facilities met with staff members of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, the House Science Committee, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget. On May 11, the SSRLUO-EC made a presentation to the SLAC Scientific Policy Committee. On May 23, the SSRLUO-EC held a meeting at SSRL to discuss activities and plans for the next SSRL Users' Meeting which will be held on October 18-19, 2001. See meeting minutes at:

SLAC Director, Jonathan Dorfan, has informed the chairs of the SLAC and SSRL users' organizations that construction of the user lodging facility has been delayed by approximately four months. The current plan is to take the final approval request to the University in September 2001, with construction expected to begin shortly thereafter.

6.  User Research Administration Announcements

X-Ray/VUV Beam Time Requests Due in July - The current run year ends on July 3 at 4 pm, so it is time to start thinking ahead and planning for your beam time needs in the fall. The next run year is scheduled to begin on Thursday, November 1, 2001. Beam Time Requests for X-ray/VUV beam lines for the period from November 1, 2001 through January 30, 2002 will be accepted all of July (the deadline is August 1st). The beam time request mailing will go out in early July, or you can submit your request electronically through our website at:
http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/users/user_admin/xray_btrf.html or

Macromolecular Crystallography Beam Time Requests - Spokespersons can expect to receive an email message regarding beam time requests for the November 2001 through February 2002 period in early August.

The FY2002 Run Schedule is posted at:

SSRL Users' Meeting - As part of the planning for the upcoming Users' Meeting in October, users are encouraged to nominate individuals to fill upcoming vacancies on the SSRLUO-EC and to suggest individuals to be recognized through the Annual Farrel Lytle Award. Please contact Cathy Knotts for more details concerning these nominations or visit the web page at:

7.  SSRL Job Opportunities
    (contact: Stephanie Carlson - steph@slac.stanford.edu)

SSRL currently has positions available for mechanical, electronic and beam line engineers, technicians and administrative staff. More information is available at the following web site:http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/jobs.html

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 Sciences. Additional information about SSRL and its operation and schedules is available from the SSRL WWW site: http://www-ssrl.slac.stanford.edu/

You can subscribe or remove your name from the distribution list by sending a brief email with your request to Lisa Dunn, editor, at lisa@ssrl.slac.stanford.edu.


Last Updated: 25 MAY 2001
Content Owner: L. Dunn
Page Editor: L. Dunn