The ALBA Open Day, held last Saturday 5 May, received 2,321 visitors who could discover how this scientific facility works and what its main applications are.
Despite again this year the rain was present in its seventh celebration, the ALBA Open Day welcomed a record number of visitors: 2,321 people.
From 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., more than 100 volunteers, members of the ALBA staff, showed the facilities to the attendees and explained them the operation and characteristics of the electron accelerators’ complex, aimed at producing synchrotron light for analysing the properties of matter.
The event followed a free itinerary where visitors were able to see the devices where the electrons pass through or those used for manipulating the synchrotron light, to participate in fun demonstrations to know more about concepts like vacuum or pressure, microscopy or spectroscopy. New this year, the ALBA Open Day hosted an exhibition to highlight the role of women in science as well as an art exhibition on pinhole photography and solarigraphy, images taken with cans and that collect the trajectory of Sun, respectively. The area devoted to the youngest was also very crowded with experiments and activities for them. Besides, three conferences were given about particle accelerators (Caterina Biscari, director of ALBA), how synchrotron light is generated (Pep Campmany, researcher responsible of the insertion devices section) and why a synchrotron facility is a useful tool (Miguel Ángel García Aranda, scientific director).
Director Jean-David Malo, DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission, received the strategy today at the Bulgarian Presidency Flagship Conference on Research Infrastructures.
“A world where European science is a catalyst for solving global challenges, a key driver for competitiveness and a compelling force for closer integration and peace through scientific collaboration.” This is the vision of LEAPS, League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources, on which the LEAPS Strategy 2030 is based.
“I believe science makes the world a better place and I’m very happy to be able to present this strategy today”, said Caterina Biscari, director of ALBA and Vice Chair of LEAPS. “I’m convinced it will be a major contribution in how to develop European research infrastructures in a cost-effective and sustainable way. I look forward to the upcoming discussions with the European Commission, with our national funders and with our extensive user community on how we, by joining forces, can boost European science and innovation”.
“By bringing together the community of national and pan European synchrotrons and free electron lasers facilities, the LEAPS initiative should be encouraged as it aims at structuring the European landscape of Research Infrastructures, coordinating strategic investments and facilitating transnational access”, said Jean-David Malo, DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission.
The health, prosperity, and security of European citizens today and in the future depend on meeting increasingly demanding challenges. These can be found in energy and transport, health care and food safety, and sustainable living. This demands new technology, new treatments and a better understanding of the world around us, all of which point to an increased role and reliance on highly sophisticated analytical tools like accelerator-based light sources to provide the most incisive means of measuring and unravelling atomic and molecular structures of the world around us.
Europe hosts 13 synchrotron radiation facilities and six free electron laser facilities which all of them are founding members of LEAPS. They represent a multi-billion Euro investment with an annual operation budget of €700M serving more than 24 000 direct users.
>Read more on the ALBA website
When reducing materials at the nanoscale, they typically lose some of their properties. The experiments have been carried out at the CIRCE beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron.
Magnetite is a candidate material for various applications in spintronics, meaning that can be employed in devices where the spin of the electron is used to store or manipulate information. However, when it is necessary to create structures of the material at the nanometric scale, their properties get worse. A study, recently published in the scientific journal Nanoscale, has proved that, with suitable growth, magnetite could be used to create nanostructured magnetic elements without losing their properties.
“Oxides have been proposed to be used for spin waves in triangular structures for computing. And our results suggest that magnetite could be used for this purpose, “says Juan de la Figuera, scientist from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).
Image: Beamline involved where nanometric magnetite has been obtained, keeping its full properties.
The NCD beamline, now NCD-SWEET, devoted to Small Angle and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS, WAXS), is offering users further experimental possibilities and higher quality data.
The SAXS beamline of ALBA has gone through a major upgrade in 2017. Upgraded items in the SAXS WAXS experimental techniques (SWEET) involve a new monochromator system, a new photon counting detector (Pilatus 1M), a new sample table with an additional rotating stage, and a beam conditioning optics with µ-focus and GISAXS options.
The original double crystal monochromator (DCM) has been replaced by a channel-cut silicon (1 1 1), improving the beam stability at sample position up to 0.9% and 0.4% of the beam size horizontally and vertically, respectivelly.
Figure: Vertical beam profile with the Be lenses into the beam (Horizontal axis unit is mm). The plot is the derivative of an edge scan along the vertical direction. The horizontal beam profile shows a gaussian shape as well.
Researchers from the ALBA Synchrotron and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) have analysed with synchrotron light different Alzheimer’s aggregates, their location and their effect in cultivated neuronal cells.
Results, published in Analytical Chemistry, pave the way to better understand the development of this disease that affects more than 30 million people worldwide.
Memory loss, communications’ difficulties, personality and behaviour changes, orientation problems … Unfortunately, these symptoms are widespread in our society, since 30 million people worldwide and 1.5 in Spain suffer from the effects of Alzheimer’s, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Spanish Confederation of Family Members of Alzheimer’s and other dementias patients (CEAFA), respectively. Alzheimer’s is the most important cause of dementia and is described as a multifactorial disease that leads to neuronal cell death. Nowadays, there is no effective treatment to fight against or to prevent it.
When a person has Alzheimer’s, amyloid plaques are generated inside his brain. They are made of deposits or aggregates of the amyloid beta peptide. This peptide – which comes from a protein that is necessary for cellular functioning – tends to be aggregated by adopting different sizes and morphologies, depending on the physical and chemical conditions around it. Although it is already known that the presence of the beta amyloid peptide, together with other factors such as oxidative stress, play a key role in the onset and development of the Alzheimer’s disease, it is not still clear what causes the disease and what the consequences are.
ALBA is hosting the Coordination Board and Task Force meetings of the LEAPS Initiative, the League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources.
LEAPS is a strategic consortium initiated by the Directors of the Synchrotron Radiation and Free Electron Laser (FEL) facilities in Europe. 19 facilities are taking part with the aim to offer a step change in European cooperation, through a common vision of enabling scientific excellence, solving global challenges, and boosting European competitiveness and integration.
These days, the ALBA Synchrotron is hosting the first face-to-face meeting of the Coordination Board with the participation of all facility representatives, followed by a meeting of the Task Force which is preparing a position paper to be submitted to the European Union at the end of March 2018. Rafael Abela, from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, is chairing this task.
>Learn more about the LEAPS initiative
This installation allows recycling 80% of the liquid helium consumed in ALBA for operating the superconducting magnets and for experiments at ultra-low temperatures.
Despite being the second most abundant element in the universe, helium is very scarce on Earth and it is expected to be completely exhausted in a few decades. This inert gas, which is generated by fusing hydrogen atoms, is hidden in the subsoil of some natural gas reserves and its extraction is expensive and difficult to obtain. This is why different systems are being explored to recover helium and thus facilitate its application in the wide range of equipment in which it is used (beyond the popular balloons).
Liquid helium is basic for the operation of medical equipment such as magnetoencephalography (MEG) to cool down the superconducting magnets they contain to almost 270 ºC. It is also necessary for carrying out different scientific experiments; at the ALBA Synchrotron there are currently two superconducting magnets: one for producing synchrotron light in one of the beamlines and the other one for the sample area of another beamline, needing both a considerable amount of helium. Besides, four of the eight beamlines use it to keep cold the samples that must be analysed when they are irradiated with synchrotron light.
In order to guarantee the availability of this limited substance (it is foreseen that its cost will double in the near future), ALBA has built a plant to liquefy the helium gas and reuse it again once liquefied.
“With the new plant we can recycle 80% of the helium that we consume in our experiments and save more than € 10 per litre nowadays”, says Joan Casas, Head of the Engineering division of the ALBA Synchrotron.
Scientists from University of Isfahan in Iran have analysed in the ALBA Synchrotron how were made ancient Iranian glass objects that date back to 2.500 BC. These decorative glass pieces were excavated from the ziggurat of Chogha-Zanbil, a type of stepped pyramidal monument, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Ziggurats, the most distinct architectural feature of the Mesopotamian, are a type of massive stone structure built thousand years ago as a temple where deities lived. Nevertheless, Chogha-Zanbil, near Susa (Iran), is one of the few existent ziggurats found outside the Mesopotamian area. During ancient times Chogha-Zanbil was known as Dur Untaš, and may had been a sacred city of the Elamite Kingdom, an ancient Pre-Iranian civilization centred in the far West and Southwest of what is now modern-day Iran.
In order to determine the chemical composition of these unique samples, including one piece of ceramics and one piece of metallurgical crucible, a team of Iranian scientists came to ALBA Synchrotron to analyse them using X-Rays Powder Diffraction at the MSPD beamline. The MSPD analyses were carried out on more than 100 points on the glass objects. Synchrotron light enabled them to obtain high resolution diffraction patterns, from whose interpretation researchers have deduced the exact composition of the clay based structure as well as glassy part of the samples.
Image: The glass objects were originally used at the walls and doors of the tempel Chogha-Zanbil.
Credit: Mohammadamin Emami
Molecules, due to their wide-ranging chemical functionalities that can be tailored on demand, are becoming increasingly attractive components for applications in materials science and solid-state physics. Remarkable progress has been made in the fields of molecular-based electronics and optoelectronics, with devices such as organic field-effect transistors and light emitting diodes. As for spintronics, a nascent field which aims to use the spin of the electron for information processing, molecules are proposed to be an efficient medium to host spin-polarized carriers, due to their weak spin relaxation mechanisms. While relatively long spin lifetimes are measured in molecular devices, the most promising route toward device functionalization is to use the chemical versatility of molecules to achieve a deterministic control and manipulation of the electron spin.
Spin-polarized hybrid states induced by the interaction of the first molecular monolayers on ferromagnetic substrates are expected to govern the spin polarization at the molecule–metal interface, leading to changes in the sign and magnitude of the magnetoresistance in spin-valve devices. The formation of spin-polarized hybrid states has been determined by spin-polarized spectroscopy methods and principle-proven in nanosized molecular junctions, but not yet verified and implemented in large area functional device architectures.
Image: Magnetoresistance (top) and X-ray spectroscopy (bottom) measurements, evidencing the control of the magnetoresistance sign and amplitude by engineering spin valves with NaDyClq/NiFe and NaDyClq/Co interfaces, and their corresponding interfacial molecule-metal hybridization states.
More than 150 high school students from Barcelona have visited the ALBA Synchrotron
The event aimed at fighting against stereotypes and prejudices linked to research environments. The event, which had the support of the Barcelona City Council, has been open by the first Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Mr. Gerardo Pisarello.
The near future will demand more professionals with skills in science and technology. However, women in STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) only represent 15% of all the university undergraduates, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport for the period 2015-2016.
With the aim of stimulating scientific vocations, guaranteeing gender equality and opportunities and avoiding clichés that separate women from scientific and technological environments, the ALBA Synchrotron has launched the STEM Preparades project. It consisted of a series of workshops where women scientists and engineers from ALBA came to the classrooms, complemented by a visit where students had the opportunity to know in first-hand the job and workspace of the ALBA staff, as well as doing hands-on activities related to synchrotron light
The European project CALIPSOplus is funding industry (SMEs) trans-national access to light sources. Call for proposals is now open for SMEs.
The European project CALIPSOplus brings together 19 partners offering access to 14 synchrotrons and 8 FELs in Europe and the Middle East. In particular, the project is funding industry (SMEs) trans-national access to light sources. Call for proposals is now open for SMEs.
Results have been published in Sientific Reports.
Researchers have proved the ability of peculiar magnetic materials to hide magnetic information and reveal it under certain conditions and at room temperature.
Since the 1950’s, magnetic materials have been used to store all kinds of information. Magnetically stored information is convenient because it is easily accessible using very well-known magnetic data reading procedures. However, sensitive information must be carefully stored to ensure confidentiality; thus easy access becomes a bad instead of a good feature. The optimal way to prevent unauthorised information access is to make it invisible.
Students from SESAME members have been awarded to work in European light source laboratories in 2018.
OPEN SESAME is a Horizon 2020 project, which began on 1 January 2017 and runs until the end of 2019. It provides training opportunities for the SESAME light source in Jordan. An intergovernmental organisation, SESAME’s members are Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. This call for Fellowships was open to students working towards Masters or Doctoral degrees in the realm of light source science in any of these Members.
Some 49 applications were received. After scrutiny by an expert committee, nine places were offered, with six candidates in reserve. The successful applicants represent four SESAME Members, with two coming from Egypt and two from Iran, four are from Pakistan and one is from Turkey. Seven are women and two are men, and they will each be spending a minimum of eight weeks between February and June 2018 in European labs. Their fields of interest are all areas that will be addressed by SESAME’s phase-one beamlines, namely powder diffraction, X-ray absorption spectroscopy, infrared microspectroscopy, macromolecular crystallography and X-ray tomography. These techniques address questions ranging from life sciences where antibiotic resistance in bacteria and the interactions of essential oils and macromolecules will be investigated by single crystal diffraction, to geology where oil and gas flow properties in porous rock will be characterised by hard X-ray micro-tomography.
The aim: cooperating in the development of scientific research and technological innovation activities.
Madrid, 10th October 2017. The president of the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC), Emilio Lora-Tamayo, and the director of the ALBA Synchrotron, Caterina Biscari, have signed today a collaboration agreement to develop projects and research programs in the scientific areas shared by both institutions.
The objectives of this collaboration include the advice, support and information exchange related to scientific activities. In addition, the document establishes the cooperation to train research and technical staff as well as to promote the common activities that pursue social awareness of science and technological innovation. The agreement also foresees staff exchanges and joint research units in areas of common interest. ALBA receives more than 200 CSIC researchers per year, performing 20% of the experiments conducted in the facility. This agreement expands the ongoing collaborations between both institutions, such as the participation in European research projects, the development of a helium recovery plant in ALBA or having CSIC visiting members at the ALBA Synchrotron.
Unraveled details about how the malaria parasite acts after invading the red blood cells.
Infographic: Model for biochemistry processes that occur inside the parasite. The parasite takes the hemoglobin from the red blood cell (RBC)
1 and digests it inside the digestive vacuole (DV)
2. as a consequence, heme groups are released
3. and HDP protein packages them in pairs (heme dimers)
4. finally, in the crystallization process these dimers are converted in hemozoin crystals
5. blue arrow points out the suggested feedback mechanism that regulates hemoglobin degradation.