A magnetic nano-elevator for spintronic devices

Researchers propose and demonstrate for the first time a new concept for the transfer of magnetic data in three dimensions based on geometrical effects for the interconnection of functional spintronic planes. The device is based on a magnetic nanostructure and promotes the spontaneous motion of bits without the need to apply any external stimuli. This work has promising applications in spintronics. Experiments at the CIRCE beamline in ALBA were key to characterize the magnetic structures and confirm their functioning.

Information technologies will be responsible for about 20% of electricity consumption worldwide by 2025, which urgently requires the development of new types of greener nanoelectronic devices. Spintronics, making use of not only the charge of electrons but also of its intrinsic angular momentum (its spin) is an emerging technology that can overcome some of these challenges, thanks to its non-volatility character, full compatibility with CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor), low and fast write/reading processes, and high endurance.

However, as nanoelectronic devices move towards denser forms exploiting three dimensions, new mechanisms to efficiently interconnect functional planes become necessary. The shift to 3D devices should enable ultra-highly dense storage and memory devices, but their realization brings huge challenges, from their fabrication to their interconnection or effective heat dissipation.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: PEEM magnetic nano-elevator

Carbon nanospheres for improved sodium-sulfur batteries

Sodium-sulfur batteries are promising electrical energy storage technologies that can serve as a key solution to intermittency problems and can be integrated with renewable forms of energy generation. An international research team has reported the synthesis of micro-mesoporous carbon nanospheres with continuous pore distribution as an efficient sulfur host for sodium-sulfur batteries. The work sheds new light on the progress of the sulfur cathode in sodium-sulfur batteries and provides a promising strategy for the viable design of other metal–sulfur batteries. Experiments at the CLAESS beamline in ALBA allowed determining the sulfur species during charge/discharge processes.

Solar and wind power are useful resources for energy generation but they are intermittent (at night or on cloudy days solar panels do not work, for example). Electrical energy storage technologies serve as a key solution to these intermittency problems and can be integrated with renewable forms of energy generation. Among these technologies, room-temperature sodium-sulfur (Na–S) batteries are deemed to be one of the most promising candidates, owing to their high theoretical energy density – the amount of energy they can store – and low cost. Nonetheless, this battery system suffers from a slow reaction rate at room temperature, which radically limits battery performance and makes difficult its practical commercialization.

An efficient strategy to deal with this challenge is the use of porous carbon material as a host to encapsulate molecular sulfur, significantly enhancing its conductivity. This system acts as the cathode of the battery, which is the electrode where reduction occurs. To make the battery work, sodium ions have to migrate from the anode to the cathode. However, in these systems, it is a challenge to provide fully accessible sodium ions that do not obstruct the sub-nanosized pores of the carbon host.

In a publication in the Advanced Materials journal, an international research team made up of Australian and Chinese institutions in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron has reported the synthesis of micro-mesoporous carbon nanospheres (MMPCS) with continuous pore distribution as an efficient sulfur host for sodium-sulfur batteries. This unique feature creates continuous channels that allow the movement of sodium ions without channels being obstructed. This enables a high conductivity, leading to fast sulfur reduction-oxidation reaction during the charge/discharge processes.

Read more on the ALBA website

Ramon Pascual’s #My1stLight on International Day of Light!

Memory of synchrotron light

The first time I learnt about synchrotron light was around 1968 at a seminar by Manuel Cardona at the University of Madrid about an experiment he developed at DESY. As a particle physicist theoretician, at that time I did not had any idea that many years later I would be involved in a synchrotron light source as ALBA.

At the beginning of the ‘90s, with the idea of constructing a particle accelerator in Spain I realized the interest and the importance of a third-generation light source and I proposed to the Catalan Government the construction of a light source in Spain. After a bit more of a decade of efforts of several people, ALBA was finally approved and their beam lines have been operating for users since 2012.

The success of these ten years of reliable operation is that, ALBA is now preparing its upgrade to a fourth-generation source, ALBA II.

Ramon Pascual

Honorary president of ALBA

Find out more about ALBA here

Image: Aerial view of ALBA

Credit: ALBA

Synchrotron light proves effectiveness of several drugs in virus infections like SARS-CoV2

Microtubules are intracellular structures that function as true cellular highways for the transport of substances, vesicles, organelles and even viruses, in the case that a cell gets infected. In most viral infections, they are the transport routes to generate the viral factories, regions close to the nucleus where virus production is concentrated.

The idea is to design drugs that, by binding to microtubules, prevent viruses from using them during the infection process. In general, drugs that target microtubules are called MTAs (microtubule targeting agents). There are two types: stabilizers (MSA) and destabilizers (MDA). Both are widely available and most of these drugs are in the WHO Essential Medicines List, and hence, they are therapeutic alternatives that are affordable and available worldwide.

Researchers from CIB Margarita Salas selected 16 commercially available MTA (including 15 in clinical use) to analyse their capacity to inhibit the viral replication against 5 different virus: the human common cold coronavirus (HCoV), the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the vesicular stomatitis virus, the poxvirus vaccinia and African swine fever virus.

Scientist confirmed that the MTA tested had an effect on virus replication and spreading and that this effect varies according to the virus dependency on the microtubular network. “The inhibitory effect obtained varied depending on the specific functions that viruses have developed throughout evolution to exploit cellular transport machinery”, explains Dra. Marian Oliva, researcher at CIB Margarita Salas-CSIC.

In particular, the most complex use of microtubules filaments might correspond to coronavirus (CoVs), such as the one responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. Microtubules are necessary both for virus internalization and later at several levels of the formation of the viral replication site. In fact, S and M coronavirus proteins (located on the virus surface) interact with tubulin (protein that forms microtubules) during the infection, although their specific function is currently unknown. Various projects involving the use of the ALBA Synchrotron are under way to study deeper these aspects.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Image obtained at the XALOC beamline of ALBA. Drug mebendazole (MBZ) bounds to the protein that forms the microtubules: tubulin (T2RT and T1D).

Synchrotron light for faster and more effective tooth whitening treatments

A recent work of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron, has studied the side effects of typical tooth whitening treatments, based on oxidation, compared to a new treatment developed by the authors through reduction. Results showed the whitening effect of the novel treatment to be highly improved in terms of application time needed, efficiency and safety, which makes it a promising candidate to develop novel whitening treatments. Experiments at the MIRAS beamline of ALBA helped to determine the chemical mineral modifications in the dental enamel.

Tooth whitening is a common aesthetic treatment around the world. To obtain better results, higher concentrations of oxidizing agents and longer application times are needed, but this may increase side effects like hypersensitivity and pulp damage, tooth demineralization and gingival irritation. Besides, the need to apply these products for hours is not very comfortable for the user.

Typical tooth whitening treatments are based on the oxidizing power of hydrogen peroxide, which breaks the double bonds of the staining molecules on the teeth’s surface making them unable to absorb light. This way the molecule becomes transparent, thus obtaining a bright, clean and white smile.

In a recent work of the Research Group of Separation Techniques in Chemistry (GTS) from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron, researchers have used bovine incisors as in vitro model to study the side effects of whitening treatments. They compared typical whitening treatments (based on oxidation with carbamide peroxide) to new treatment developed and patented by the authors through reduction via metabisulfite, which also makes the staining molecules colorless. However, metabisulfite presents a faster whitening effect, which permits the use of lower concentrations and shorter application times. Results showed how the whitening effect of the novel treatment is highly improved in terms of application time needed, with the consequent reduction of side effects. This makes it a promising candidate to develop novel whitening treatments.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Dental smile

Credit: jannoon028 – www.freepik.es

ALBA initiates new beamline

3Sbar (Surface Structure and Spectroscopy at 1 bar) is the name of the next ALBA beamline that will be extremely useful to provide answers to environment protection. 3Sbar is a unique instrument that will provide unprecedented insight on the understanding of fundamental processes in catalytic reactions. The project, funded by the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan within the framework of the NextGenerationEU, will enter operation in 2026.

The 3Sbar project has been chosen as ALBA 14th beamline. It will allow simultaneous photoemission experiments at 1 bar gas pressures and surface X ray diffraction. The electronic and atomic structures will be both probed during surface chemical reactions and catalytic operando reactions. The products of the reactions will also be analysed by gas phase photoemission.

This new beamline will be key to understand the correlation between chemical reactions and structural changes at atmospheric pressures, which represents a big step ahead for fundamental research in surface chemistry and catalysis. It will allow to get a deep insight in the basic processes determining the efficiencies of catalysts under industrial operating pressures.

3Sbar will be extremely useful to provide answers to environmental protection, challenges such as CO2 reduction, the wastewater treatment, development of environmentally friendly industrial catalytic processes or recycling of greenhouse gases.

The beamline, adaptable to many different sample environments, will serve a wide community of users at a national and international level, from academy and industrial worlds.

Its estimated cost is 9 million euros, which have been granted by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the European Recovery and Resilience Facility within the NextGenerationEU Programme. It covers the construction and staff positions needed for designing and operating this new beamline. Two new job positions are open now. The detailed design of the beamline starts now, the construction is expected to finish in 2025 and the instrument will be in operation by 2026.

Read more on the ALBA website

Researchers reproduce the learning and forgetting functions of the brain with magnetic systems

A research led by the UAB has managed to emulate learning neuromorphic abilities using thin layers of cobalt oxide. The experiment, performed at the ALBA Synchrotron, is a new step towards brain-inspired computers.

  • The experiment, performed at the ALBA Synchrotron, is a new step towards brain-inspired computers

With the advent of Big Data, current computational architectures are proving to be insufficient. Difficulties in decreasing transistors’ size, large power consumption and limited operating speeds make neuromorphic computing a promising alternative.

Neuromorphic computing, a new brain-inspired computation paradigm, reproduce the activity of biological synapses by using artificial neural networks. Such devices work as a system of switches, so that the ON position corresponds to the information retention or ‘learning’, while the OFF position corresponds to the information deletion or ‘forgetting’.

In a recent publication, scientists from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), the CNR-SPIN (Italy), the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), the Institute of Micro and Nanotechnology (IMN-CNM-CSIC) and the ALBA Synchrotron have explored the emulation of artificial synapses using new advanced material devices. The project was led by Serra Húnter Fellow Enric Menéndez and ICREA researcher Jordi Sort, both at the Department of Physics of the UAB, and is part of Sofia Martins PhD thesis.

A new approach to mimic synapse functions

Until now, most systems used for this purpose were ultimately controlled by electric currents, involving significant energy loss by heat dissipation. Here, researchers’ proposal was to use magneto-ionics, the non-volatile control of the magnetic properties of materials by voltage-driven ion migration, which drastically decreases power consumption and makes data storage energy-efficient.

Although heat dissipation decreases with ion migration effects, magneto-ionic motion of oxygen at room temperature is usually slow for industrial applications, involving several seconds or even minutes to toggle the magnetic state. To solve this problem, the team investigated the use of target materials whose crystal structure already contained the ions to be transported. Such magneto-ionic targets can undergo fully reversible transformations from a non-ferromagnetic (switch OFF) to a ferromagnetic (switch ON) state and vice versa just by the voltage-driven oxygen motion from the target towards a reservoir (ON) and vice versa (OFF).

Given their crystalline structures, cobalt oxides were the chosen materials for the fabrication of the films, ranging from 5nm to 230nm thick. They investigated the role of thickness on the resulting magneto-ionic behaviour, revealing that the thinner the films, the faster the generation of magnetization was reached.

X-ray absorption spectra (XAS) of the samples were performed at the BOREAS beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron. XAS was used to characterize, at room temperature, the elemental composition and oxidation state of the cobalt oxide films, which resulted to be different for the thinner and thickest films. These findings were crucial to understand the differences in the magneto-ionic motion of oxygen between the films.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: BOREAS beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron

Revealed: 3D magnetic configuration of ferrimagnetic multilayers with competing interactions

Researchers from the Physics Department of the Universidad de Oviedo, CINN-CSIC and HZB, in collaboration with ALBA, have explored the magnetic configuration of ferrimagnetic structures often employed to build modern spintronic devices and magnetic recording media. At the MISTRAL beamline of ALBA, using vector magnetic tomography, a magnetic trilayer fabricated at Oviedo was characterized. These findings will permit to generate precise physical models describing the magnetic behaviour of this type of systems and control and exploit them for the design of spintronics and magnetic storage devices.

 Modern spintronic devices and magnetic recording media often consist of complex magnetic structures. These structures are designed by precisely adjusting magnetic interactions as exchange, anisotropies and magnetostatics to achieve specific characteristics.

A collaboration between researchers from the Physics Department of the Universidad de Oviedo, the Centro de Investigación en Nanomateriales y Nanotecnología (Oviedo), the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (Berlin) and the ALBA Synchrotron have investigated a combination of ferrimagnetic structures, often employed to build this type of devices. 

At the MISTRAL beamline of ALBA, a dichroic vector magnetic tomography of the device was performed and it revealed details of complex magnetisation configurations of the sample. The importance of synchrotron light lies in the fact that this information is currently impossible to evidence with other techniques when studying magnetic thin films.

The ability to characterize the configuration of the magnetisation in complex structures with competing magnetic interactions will permit to generate precise physical models describing the magnetic behaviour of these systems. Thus, experts will be able to control and exploit them for the design of spintronics and magnetic storage devices.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Magnetisation obtained from the magnetic tomography data at the MISTRAL beamline.

Cyborg plants: roots can store energy

Researchers of the HyPhOE European Project have developed biohybrid plants with an electronic root system, which could be used to store energy or as electronic sensors. This study proved the integration of circuits and electrochemical devices into the plants without damaging them, so that they continued to grow and adapt to their new hybrid state. Experiments at the NCD-SWEET beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron were crucial to shed light on the plant-based technology field.

Plants are amazing machines: not only they are solar-powered and convert carbon dioxide into chemical energy, but they are also capable of producing cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer on Earth, and can self-repair via tissue regeneration. All these factors make plants the perfect candidates for developing biohybrid technological systems, integrating smart materials and devices into their structure.

In a recent publication, the team led by researcher Eleni Stavrinidou from the Linköping University (Sweden) has presented a study about biohybrid plants with an electronic root system. They found out how to integrate circuits and electrochemical devices into the plants without damaging them, so that they can continue to grow and develop, and use them as supercapacitors or electronic sensors.

The results pave the way for using roots for energy storage and the creation of a root-based supercapacitor. Supercapacitors based on conductive polymers and cellulose offer an environmentally friendly alternative for energy storage that may also be more affordable than those currently in use. As a proof of concept, the research team built a supercapacitor where the roots served as the charge storage electrodes.

Another possible application of these plant-based systems are electronic sensors. For example, by adding a humidity sensor in the root, the information could be transmitted through the electronic root network to an intelligent system, which could act accordingly by increasing or decreasing the frequency of irrigation. These discoveries open the door to new intelligent stimulus-response applications.

This study is part of the European project Hybrid Electronics Based on Photosynthetic Organisms (HyPhOE), which involves several European institutions and aims to achieve a symbiosis between photosynthetic organisms and technology.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Bean plant before, during and after functionalization

Promising new extra-large pore zeolite

An international research team, led in Spain by CSIC scientist Miguel A. Camblor, has discovered a stable aluminosilicate zeolite with a three dimensional system of interconnected extra-large pores, named ZEO-1.

Zeolites are crystalline porous materials with important industrial applications, including uses in catalytic processes. The pore apertures limit the access of molecules into and out of the inner confined space of zeolites, where reactions occur.

The research, published in Science, proved that ZEO-1 possesses these “extra-large” pores of around 10 Å (1 angstrom equals one ten billionth of a meter), but also smaller pores of around 7 Å, which is actually the size of traditional “large” pores.

Because of its porosity, strong acidity and high stability, ZEO-1 may find applications as a catalyst in fine chemistry for the production of pharmaceutical intermediates, in controlled substance release, for pollution abatement or as a support for the encapsulation of photo- or electroactive species (they react to light or an electric field).

“The crossings of its cages delimit super boxes, open spaces that can be considered nanoreactors to carry out chemical reactions in their confined space”, explains Miguel A. Camblor, researcher at the Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid – CSIC.

To prove that this new zeolite may be useful in applications involving bigger molecules, researchers measured the adsorption to the inner surface of the zeolite of the dye Nile red – a big molecule. Moreover, they tested its performance in fluid catalytic cracking of heavy oil, a process the world still relies on to produce fuels. In both processes, the new zeolite performed better than the conventional large pore zeolite used nowadays.

This research is the result of an international collaboration between eight research centers in China, the USA, Sweden and Spain. The team was led by Fei-Jian Chen (Bengbu Medical College, China), Xiaobo Chen (China University of Petroleum), Jian Li (Stockholm University) and Miguel A. Camblor (Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid, CSIC).

Structure determination with synchrotron light

The zeolite was discovered following a high-throughput screening methodology. The structure solution was challenging because the zeolite has a very complex structure, with a small crystal size (<200nm) but an exceedingly large cell volume.

“The combination of electron diffraction data with synchrotron powder X-ray diffraction data collected at the MSPD beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron and the Argonne National Laboratory (USA) made possible the accurate structure determination of ZEO-1″, says Camblor.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: A perspective view of the extra-large pore of ZEO-1 along (100)

Crossing the border for understanding how life is assembled

Ana’s #LightSourceSelfie from the ALBA synchrotron in Spain

Ana Joaquina Pérez-Berná is a beamline scientist at the ALBA synchrotron near Barcelona in Spain.

As a biologist working on the soft X-ray cryo tomography beamline (MISTRAL), her role involves supporting the users with their experiments and also doing her own research. The beamline’s capabilities enable scientists to study down at the cellular level and the research covers a wide variety of diseases such as malaria, zika virus and SARS-CoV-2, along with treatments such as antivirals and chemotherapy. When describing her work, Ana says, “You are the first person who can enter the cell and see how it is inside, discover how the virus builds its bio-factories inside the cells, or discover how therapies work. Crossing that border for understanding how life is assembled, that is a privilege!”

Differences between African, Caucasian and Asian Hair

Researchers of IQAC-CSIC, in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron, demonstrate that African hair has more lipids that are highly disordered. This distinction with Caucasian and Asian hair might be relevant to develop new ethnic hair-care products.

Cerdanyola del Vallès, 14th December 2021Researchers from the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia (IQAC-CSIC) in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron have studied and compared the lipid distribution of African, Caucasian and Asian hair fibers. More specifically, the work has determined the presence, distribution, and function of lipids of each ethnicity. The differences observed can explain some of the barrier properties against external substances that each hair type presents. In particular, African hair was demonstrated to have more lipids that are highly disordered, which can explain its differentiation from Asian and Caucasian hair concerning moisturization and swelling (when water content inside the fiber increases).

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Left: Cross-sections observed by optical microscopy for Caucasian hair selected to analyze by μ-FTIR, regions were manually determined. Right: Chemical map of second derivative obtained at 2850 cm−1 (CH2 symmetric stretching) of Caucasian virgin hair (a) and Caucasian delipidized hair (b).

Credit: ALBA

Novel protocol for mass production of nanowires

Nanotechnology is one of the major driving forces behind the technological revolution of this century and nanomaterials play a key role in this revolution. While the use of nanoparticles is widespread in industrial applications, the use of nanowires -wires with a diameter of only a few nanometres- is mostly reduced to scientific areas. The fields of biomedicine and permanent magnets would benefit from the cost-effective mass production of nanowires.

In a recent publication, researchers from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) and various centres from the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), in collaboration with ALBA, have established a novel and sustainable synthesis protocol that allows obtaining a greater number of nanowires than conventional laboratory fabrication processes with considerably reduced production time and cost.

The goal of this project was to increase the production of metallic nanowires, reducing costs and timings to expand their applicability to industry. Due to the high costs associated with the high-purity aluminium normally used as the starting material, as well as with the low temperature and large anodization time, the commercial application of nanowires using anodized aluminium oxide is still limited by their fabrication process.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: The CIRCE beamline (variable polarization soft X-ray beamline dedicated to advanced photoemission experiments)

Credit: ALBA

Spintronics: Exotic ferromagnetic order in two-dimensions

An international team has detected at HZB’s vector magnet facility VEKMAG an unusual ferromagnetic property in a two-dimensional system, known as “easy-plane anisotropy”. This could foster new energy efficient information technologies based on spintronics for data storage, among other things. The team has published its results in the renowned journal Science.

The thinnest materials in the world are only a single atom thick. These kinds of two-dimensional or 2D materials – such as graphene, well-known as consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms – are causing a great deal of excitement among research teams worldwide. This is because these materials promise unusual properties that cannot be obtained using three-dimensional materials. As a result, 2D materials are opening the door to new applications in fields such as information and display technology, as well as for critical components in extremely sensitive sensors.

Read more on the HZB website

Image: STM topography of a monolayer CrCl3 grown on Graphene/6H-SiC(0001). Inset, a magnified topography image, which reveals the grain boundaries.

Credit: HZB

Silver nanoparticles for the elimination of ammonia released to the atmosphere

Researchers from the ITQ-UPV-CSIC, in collaboration with ALBA, have explored the use of silver nanoparticles as catalysts for the selective catalytic oxidation of ammonia, one of the main atmospheric pollutants. Thanks to the CLÆSS beamline at ALBA, researchers proved that the active catalyst for the reaction of ammonia to nitrogen and water is metallic silver, instead of silver cations. These findings will contribute to developing new methods for the elimination of ammonia released to the atmosphere in industry and in diesel vehicles.

Ammonia is one of the main atmospheric pollutants and damages both the human health and the environment. Most ammonia emissions come from fertilizers used in agriculture, but it is also released to the atmosphere in biomass burning, fuel combustion and industrial processes, in which unreacted ammonia escapes into the atmosphere in the exhaust gases.

In the last years, more strict environmental regulations have been intensified with the aim to develop new methods for the elimination of this pollutant. The most promising technology is the selective catalytic oxidation of ammonia to nitrogen and water.

In a recent publication, researchers from the Instituto de Tecnología Química, Universitat Politècnica de València – Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (UPV-CSIC), in collaboration with ALBA, have explored the use of silver-containing zeolites (microporous aluminosilicates) for the catalytic oxidation of ammonia. Results confirmed that the active site for the reaction is the silver found in the form of metallic nanoparticles at the external surface of the zeolite, whereas silver cations (Ag+)are practically non-active.

Furthermore, the experiment proved that silver nanoparticles present in the active catalyst were dispersed and oxidized to silver cations during the reaction. These findings will allow the scientific community to develop a method for removing ammonia released to the atmosphere in industry and in diesel vehicles.

The experiment, performed at the CLÆSS beamline in the ALBA Synchrotron, allowed to study the catalysts under reaction conditions. The researchers recorded several X-ray absorption spectra (XAS) while submitting the samples to the reactive atmosphere (ammonia and oxygen) at increasing temperatures. Results showed that the silver nanoparticles formed before the reaction were dramatically modified under reaction conditions, being most of them dispersed and resulting in small clusters and cations Ag+.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: NH3-SCO reaction pathway using Ag-Zeolites

Metal pollutants cause metabolic alterations in algae

Contamination by metals like cadmium or mercury is considered a serious threat to the environment and human health. Several human activities such as mining, metallurgy industry, and extensive use of mineral fertilizers are the main sources of ongoing metal pollution in numerous ecosystems. This environmental risk is potentiated by bioaccumulation and trophic chain biomagnification phenomena, which are associated with the long persistence of toxic metals in the polluted ecosystems. Aquatic and soil ecosystems affected by runoffs loaded with toxic metals are particularly vulnerable, where primary producers photosynthetic organisms (phytoplankton and soil microalgae) represent the first stage of pollution build-up. Knowledge about mechanisms of toxicity in these organisms is essential for appropriate assessment of environmental risks.

Researchers from the Plant Physiology Laboratory of the Department of Biology, also affiliated with the Research Centre for Biodiversity and Global Change, at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), have discovered the major changes of biomolecules caused by cadmium and mercury in the model green microalga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii.

The use of synchrotron technology at MIRAS beamline was a valuable tool and has made it possible to analyze in detail variations in the biomolecular pattern caused by heavy metals at levels of resolution rarely described before. “Among the cellular components that readily changed upon metal treatments, we detected alterations in the lipid composition by synchrotron light infrared spectroscopy at ALBA, which corresponded to accumulation of neutral lipids and increased fatty unsaturation” specifies Ángel Barón, scientist at UAM.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Electron transmission microscopy of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii cells to show alterations caused by cadmium and mercury. The pyrenoid (p) looks aberrant, with proliferation of lipid vesicles (green arrowhead) and starch grains (s). Metals also triggered the appearance of autophagy vesicles (red arrowhead). Right: image of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii 

Credit: image of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii  Wikimedia Commons.