Kilian Peter Heeg wins ESRF Young Scientist award

Kilian Peter Heeg has been awarded the title of Young Scientist 2018 by the ESRF User Organisation in recognition of his pioneering work on light-matter interactions enabling resonant brilliance enhancement of X-ray pulses. This award is presented every year at the ESRF annual User Meeting to a scientist aged 37 or younger for outstanding work conducted at the ESRF.

Kilian Heeg is a physicist and postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany. Aged just 31, Kilian has already significantly shaped the field of X-ray quantum optics.

Kilian says: “I wanted to be a mathematician when I was a child and I was always fascinated by natural sciences. However in my final years in school I fell in love with physics and very quickly became fascinated with quantum mechanics and especially quantum optics. I feel very honoured and pleased to have been chosen as the winner of this year’s ESRF Young Scientist Award.”

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Image: Kilian on ESRF’s ID18 beamline
Credit: ESRF/C. Argoud

ID23-EH2: Gearing up for serial crystallography

ID23-EH2 is up and running, catering to small samples and serial crystallography experiments. Its small beam and unique diffractometer are the trademarks of this new MX beamline.

“This is amazing”, says David Drew, a user from Stockholm University, on the new ID23-EH2. “There is a perfect beam line to be screening LCP crystals. After 5 years working on this… it is amazing to be able to speed up finding the best spot to collect”, he adds. Drew and his team are on ID23-EH2. They are the first users since ID23-EH2 opened for business this month and have just started the experiment. He works with his team in transport proteins, which carry nutrients across membrane proteins and are important drug targets. 

>Read more on the ESRF website

Picture: Max Nanao with the users from the University of Stockholm (Sweden).


Did plate tectonics aid the development of life on Earth?

The appearance of plate tectonics 2.5 billion years ago, favouring the internal dynamics of the Earth, would have allowed a significant release of oxygen in the atmosphere inducing the development of life on our planet, according to a study published by the journal Geochemical Perspectives.

The Earth’s atmosphere remained anoxic for two billion years after the formation of our planet. Then, its oxygen content increased drastically during a well-identified Great Oxygenation Event. It is generally believed that the release of free oxygen was due to the biosphere itself, in relation with the evolution of life on Earth. An international team of researchers from Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans (Université Clermont-Ferrand, CNRS-IRD-OPGC), Géosciences Montpellier (Université de Montpellier, CNRS), the laboratory Conditions Extrêmes et Matériaux: Haute Température et Irradiation (CNRS), and involving five scientists from the ESRF propose a completely different scenario. Based on the experimental observation of a significant amount of ferric iron in the deep Earth’s mantle, they suggest an ascent toward the Earth’s surface of a primordial oxidised-mantle material, inducing the arrival of oxygen into the atmosphere. The upwelling movements would have been hampered during the Archean eon, which was dominated by floating micro-plates at the Earth’s surface. Then, major mantle mixing started when modern plate tectonics and deep slab subduction were established about 2.5 billion years ago, enabling the release of oxygen to the Earth’s surface.

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G. Ghiringhelli and L. Braicovich win 2018 Europhysics Prize of Condensed Matter

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How can asbestos teach us about carbon nanotubes?

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are already used in industry.

They have a fibrous structure that resembles that of asbestos. A team from University ofTrieste, IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, University of Turin, Elettra (Italy) and ESRF has studied both materials at the ESRF’s beamline ID21 and Elettra and has found that the presence of iron impurities in CNTs causes an asbestos-like toxicity in pleural cells. The scientists publish their results in Scientific Reports today.

>Read more on the ESRF website

Image: An artistic impression of a carbon nanotube.

Scientists measure accelerated emission

Grazing light for rapid events

An international team, including scientists from DESY,  has verified a prediction about the quantum-mechanical behaviour of resonant systems made more than 50 years ago. In experiments at SACLA, the Japanese X-ray laser, and at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility ESRF in France, the group led by Aleksandr Chumakov from ESRF could show a dramatic reduction in the time to emit the first X-ray photon from an ensemble of excited nuclei when the number of X-rays for the excitation was increased. This behaviour is in good agreement with one limit of a superradiant system, predicted by the US physicist Robert Dicke in 1954, as the scientists report in the journal Nature Physics.

One of the broad challenges of science is to understand the behaviour of groups of atoms based on the response of a single atom in isolation, which is usually much simpler. A facet of this is understanding the behaviour of a group of identical oscillators. An analogy is a collection of bells that all have the same tone: one can easily imagine the sound of a single bell struck once – a clear tone ringing out with a volume that decays away over time.

But what happens if one gently taps all the bells in a large collection? Will the tone be the same as a single one? What about the volume? What about the direction – does it matter where you are standing when you listen to the sound? Does it matter if you tap them all at the same time?

>Read more on the FLASH website

Brittle star shows how to make tough ceramics

Nature inspires innovation.

An international team lead by researchers at Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, together with ESRF scientists, have discovered how a brittle star can create material like tempered glass underwater. The findings are published in Science and may open new bio-inspired routes for toughening brittle ceramics in various applications.

A beautiful, brainless brittle star that lives in coral reefs has the clue to super tough glass. Hundreds of focal lenses are located on the arms of this creature, which is an echinoderm called Ophiocoma wendtii. These lenses, made of chalk, are powerful and accurate, and the deciphering of their crystalline and nanoscale structure has occupied Boaz Pokroy and his team, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, for the past three years. Thanks to research done on three ESRF beamlines, ID22, ID13 and ID16B, among other laboratories, they have figured out the unique protective mechanism of highly resistant lenses.

Read more on the ESRF website

Image: The brittle star Ophiocoma wendtii shows amazing properties.
Credit: Sinhyu.

Synchrotron sheds light on the amphibious lifestyle of a new raptorial dinosaur

An exceptionally well-preserved dinosaur skeleton from Mongolia at ESRF.

The skeleton unites an unexpected combination of features that defines a new group of semi-aquatic predators related to Velociraptor. Detailed 3D synchrotron analysis allowed an international team of researchers to present the bizarre 75 million-year-old predator, named Halszkaraptor escuilliei, in Nature.

The study not only describes a new genus and species of bird-like dinosaur that lived during the Campanian stage of the Cretaceous in Mongolia but also sheds light on an unexpected amphibious lifestyle for raptorial dinosaurs.

>Read more on the ESRF website

Image: The team of scientists at ESRF’s BM05 beamline during the set up of Halszkaraptor escuilliei fossil. From left to right: Pascal Godefroit, Vincent Beyrand, Dennis Voeten, Paul Tafforeau, Vincent Fernandez, Andrea Cau.
Credit: ESRF/P.Jayet



How do asbestos fibres lead to cancer? #weekendusers

Asbestos has been forbidden for some years in many countries around the world. Yet the peak of mortality related to asbestos-related diseases will take place in the next decade, as it takes a long time to develop the disease. Researchers from the Italian national research council (CNR-Nanotec) (Rome, Italy) hope that by studying the interactions between asbestos with host organisms can lead to develop more efficient medical treatments or prevention policies. They are on ID16A looking at the nanoscale at the elements making up the coating developing around asbestos once in the lungs.

Read more on the ESRF website

Image: Asbestos roofing sheets. Credits: Nick.

Inauguration of a Cryo-electron microscope platform at the ESRF

A TITAN KRIOS cryo-electron microscope has been inaugurated at the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, in Grenoble, France. The inauguration took place in the presence of Ada Yonath, chemistry Nobel Prize laureate in 2009, Francesco Sette, Director General of the ESRF and all the partners that jointly run the facility with the ESRF: the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the Institut de Biologie Structurale (IBS) and the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). This cryo-electron microscope will provide Europe with a new, innovative and complementary facility for structural biology, serving a vibrant scientific community and addressing new biology and health challenges.

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Image: The team of the CRYO-EM. Credits: Stef Candé.

#weekendusers Searching for the secrets of butterfly colours

Butterfly colour has always amazed scientists, who are trying to find the origins of these vivid tones in order to maybe one day be able to reproduce them. Researchers from the University of Sheffield (UK) have come to the ESRF to study the subtle differences in the structural colour elements of Heliconius butterflies, and link them to the genetics that controls these structures.

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Image credit: A Heliconius butterfly. Credit: Dany 13.

A study reveals half billion year old fabrication mystery of nature

A study published in Science Advances reveals a half billion year old fabrication concept, employed by nature, which only recently has been used by mankind to produce novel technologically relevant nanomaterials. Using data from three different X-ray imaging and analysis instruments at the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, Grenoble, France, the international team of scientists unravels how living organisms create very complex highly regular glass structures.

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Image credit: Electron microscopy image of glass spicules form the sponge Geodia cydonium. Credits : Igor Zlotnikov, B CUBE–Center for Molecular Bioengineering, Technische Universität Dresden

Record 30,000 publications for ESRF users

Working round the clock, the ESRF users have diligently collected every bit of useful data.

Every data that could help them to solve a problem or to better understand materials or living matter. They have a new record with 30,000 publications being reached in September 2017.

The users of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility have published 30,000 publications in peer-reviewed journals since the facility first opened its doors in 1994. The publications included many breakthroughs that were achieved with ESRF data, such as the discovery of the structure of the ribosome that led to a Nobel prize shared by two of our users.

These 30,000 publications reflect the scientific vibrancy of our user community. Since 1994, ESRF users from all over the world, from different cultures and disciplines, have worked together to push back the frontiers of science, unlocking the secrets of materials and living matter. All the inventive research carried out at the ESRF propagates to society and boosts the scientific cultures, the economies and the competitiveness of the ESRF member states and beyond.

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