MAX IV research contributes to the development of new cancer drugs

In the battle against cancer, scientists from the drug discovery company Sprint Bioscience and researchers from MAX IV have taken important steps together toward developing new and more efficient cancer drugs with the help of fragment screening by X-ray crystallography.

Cancer accounts for nearly one out of six deaths yearly. It begins when one or more genes in a cell mutate, creating an abnormal protein or preventing a protein’s formation.

Therefore, you need to start at the protein level to fight cancer.

Sprint Bioscience is working to develop new drug candidates by identifying small molecules (fragments) that can bind targeted cancer proteins. In collaboration with researchers from the FragMAX team at MAX IV during 2019 and 2020, Sprint Bioscience optimised and developed a protein crystallisation system corresponding to a cancer protein chosen by the company.

Read more on MAX IV website

Image: Crystal incubated with fragment XB00143 mounted on the BioMAX beamline during the screening campaign.

Credit: Sprint Bioscience/BioMAX

Real-time observation of hydrocarbon polymerization

The polymerization of hydrocarbons into linear chains lies at the heart of many industrially relevant chemical reactions. One prominent example is the alkene polymerization with the Ziegler Natta catalysts, which is responsible for 2/3 of the global production of polyolefins. Long-chain hydrocarbons can also be produced from syngas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) through the so-called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS), occurring typically on cobalt-based catalysts. This process is experiencing a renewed interest, especially in the context of modern power-to-gas and power-to-liquid plants.

From a microscopic point of view, the identification of the complex series of reaction steps involved in the polymerization of small molecules into long hydrocarbon chains is still under debate. Surface-science techniques have proved to be extremely powerful to explore the mechanisms of heterogeneous catalysis. However, due to the harsh reaction conditions of FTS, analysis using such techniques poses a real experimental challenge.

Though the step sites of the catalytic surface are also commonly assumed to promote the C-C coupling of CHx monomers, the typical strong adsorption of small molecules at the step edges could trap the CHx species, hindering the polymerization. This behavior can be understood in the framework of the Sabatier’s principle, stating that if the adsorption energy of the substrate is too low, then the catalytic activity is suppressed; if it is too large, then the product will not desorb and blocks the surface, leading to catalyst poisoning. Therefore, elucidating the actual role of the step sites is crucial for an in-depth atomistic understanding of the hydrocarbon chain growth process.

Here we investigated the formation of hydrocarbon chains resulting from acetylene polymerization on a Ni(111) model catalyst surface. Exploiting X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) performed at the SuperESCA beamline of Elettra, the intermediate species and reaction products have been directly identified. This has been enabled by the high energy resolution (about 100 meV) of the instrument, allowing resolving vibrational fine structures.

Read more on the Elettra website

Tetra Pak commences first-of-its-kind sustainability research

The newest research station at MAX IV, ForMAX, has hosted its first industry experiment: A ground-breaking study on fibre-based sustainable food packaging, performed by Tetra Pak in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology.

Today, global food packaging and processing company Tetra Pak announces the commencement of new research using advanced X-ray scattering imaging techniques at ForMAX, the newest beamline at MAX IV laboratory. The study aims to uncover fresh insights into the nanostructure of fibre materials, with the first application to optimise the composition of materials used for paper straws.

In the strive to meet the increased global market demand for more sustainable packaging solutions, new materials based on paper can bring novel opportunities. Yet, these new, paper-based materials must remain food safe, recyclable, and durable against liquids and humidity while meeting the increased sustainability demands.

These are some of the challenges that Tetra Pak is collaborating with MAX IV to address using the laboratory’s advanced research techniques.

“Our first experiment, which starts with paper straws, provides additional analysis capabilities into how paper straw material responds to changes in the environment in real-time, as well as how the straw interacts with different types of liquids under stringent conditions. These new insights and knowledge will be applied to developing the paper straws of the future in our virtual modelling tools, helping us to improve their functionality”, explains Eskil Andreasson, Technology Specialist, Virtual Modelling at Tetra Pak.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: Eskil Andreasson (middle), Technology Specialist at Tetra Pak, with the research team listening to Linnéa Björn in the ForMAX control room at MAX IV.

Credit: Anna Sandahl, MAX IV

MAX IV and nine Swedish universities launch joint effort to educate young scientists

PRISMAS, Ph.D. Research and Innovation in Synchrotron Methods and Applications in Sweden is launched. The programme includes hands-on training in cutting-edge synchrotron skills that is applicable in various research areas at MAX IV in Lund, Sweden. It combines practical experience with courses covering all aspects of synchrotron radiation to produce researchers who are experts in these methods and their fields. 

Students from diverse scientific backgrounds will be recruited through partner universities to learn to use and develop synchrotron methods in their research while acquiring the skills to tackle some of the most critical sustainability development goals and future societal challenges in their projects led by selected Principal Investigators from around Sweden. This 5-year intersectoral and interdisciplinary project will create a connected network of next generation X-ray experts, enabling a wider range of stakeholders to take full advantage of world-leading synchrotron facilities such as MAX IV, while tackling current societal challenges in the same breath.

Read more on the MAX IV website

A toothy temporal map of Arctic climate change

In the vast, remoteness of the Arctic, few have the opportunity to gather data on the environmental conditions over time or decipher the long-term effects of climate change. What is required? A considerable period to observe, a nearly autonomous method or actor for collection, a robust character to withstand the harsh surroundings. Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark are tackling this issue through an interdisciplinary NordForsk project. At DanMAX beamline, the group will analyse a narwhal tusk to determine its chemical composition and biomineralization, both important potential markers of the changing environment.

Significant, accelerated signs of climate change have been reported in the Arctic and Antarctic zones, which research shows impact global climate. Scientists are looking at different ways to interpret the terrestrial and oceanic changes occurring in these areas, and how the change affects native wildlife. The described NordForsk project, developed by researchers from Denmark, Greenland and Sweden, seeks to elucidate the structure and formation of the narwhal tusk, and map the full life history of the animal through the growth lines along the full length of the tusk.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: Peter A. S. Vibe readies samples of the tusk at DanMAX beamline. 

Credit: MAX IV Laboratory

ForMAX beamline is now open for experiments

ForMAX, the newest beamline at MAX IV, is now officially open for experiments. The focus will be research on new, sustainable materials from the forest, but the beamline will also be useful for research in many other fields and industries, including food, textiles, and life science.

ForMAX is specially designed for advanced studies on wood-based materials. It allows in-situ multiscale structural characterization from nm to mm length scales by combining full-field tomographic imaging, small- and wide-angle X-ray scattering (SWAXS), and scanning SWAXS imaging – in a single instrument.

The beamline is an initiative where several market-leading industry companies, mainly from the paper and pulp industry, and academia have joined forces. The construction work has been funded by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and the operational costs are funded by the industry through Treesearch, a national collaborative platform for academic and industrial research in new materials from the forest.

One goal with ForMAX is to facilitate the development of new, wood-based products that can replace today’s plastic products.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: ForMAX beamline

Credit: Anna Sandahl, MAX IV

Creating tastier vegan cheese using synchrotron X-rays

The quest for tastier, more sustainable vegan cheese has led Swedish food company Cassius AB to take a closer look at cheese protein structures. Using synchrotron X-rays at MAX IV, Cassius are searching for the perfect scientific recipe for plant-based cheese.

When regular cheese is produced, the milk proteins react with rennet and form a cheese curd. These specific proteins, formed in a certain structure, are unique to mammalian milk, which makes them difficult to mimic. 

Cassius AB:s research project focuses on getting a deeper understanding of how the proteins in regular cheese form structures spontaneously. It also investigates whether this could happen with mammalian milk proteins produced by genetically engineered microorganisms, in a process called precision fermentation.

Since mimicking all proteins in regular cheese is not necessary, Cassius is concentrating on two of the protein types that play a key role in how cheese coagulates.

Cheese gel balls as protein samples

Johan Krakau, founder of Cassius and brands like GoVego, has teamed up with researchers from RISE within the NextBioForm center to perform the experiment at the MAX IV CoSAXS beamline.

Using Small-Angle X-ray Scattering techniques (SAXS), the research team studies different types of protein samples in the form of micelles – spherical protein aggregations that resemble gel balls – and how different conditions affect their shape and size. For example, when mixed with different amounts of salt, or when the pH value is changed. The team also investigates if these proteins coagulate into a curd structure in the same way that mammalian milk proteins do.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Modelling electrochemical potential for better Li-batteries

To understand the electrochemical potential of lithium-ion batteries, it’s important to decipher the chemical processes at electrode interfaces occurring during device activity. Using HIPPIE beamline, a research group investigated and modelled the influence of electrochemical potential differences in operando in these batteries.

“With our experiments at HIPPIE, we had the opportunity to look at battery materials and interface reactions under operating conditions exploring the capabilities of the electrochemical setup at the end station,” said Julia Maibach, study author and professor at the Institute for Applied Materials – Energy Storage Systems at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany. “We were among the first users testing the electrochemical set up including the glove box for inert sample transfer.”

Why study electrochemical potential difference in batteries? This phenomenon drives the transfer of charged particles to different phases in redox reactions at battery electrode-electrolyte interfaces. In simple terms, the difference enables the chemical reaction necessary for Li-ion battery function.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: Research group studies gold and copper model electrodes at MAX IV’s HIPPIE beamline with Ambient Pressure Photoelectron Spectroscopy (APPES) during lithiation

Credit: MAX IV Laboratory

#SynchroLightAt75 – The first multi-bend achromat synchrotron light source

At the end of the 1990’s, the MAX-lab management realized that it was necessary to start planning for a possible next step in the development of the laboratory. Although MAX II, one of the first 3rd generation light sources in the world and the flagship of the laboratory, had just recently come into operation, the long lead times made it necessary to start exploring possible further developments already at that stage. This is the saga of MAX IV Laboratory, the world’s first Multi-Bend Achromat (MBA) Synchrotron Radiation Light Source. MBAs strongly focus and guide electrons around the storage ring, creating an ultra-low emittance beam and therefore ultra-bright X-ray radiation.

Read more in this Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research – section A (NIM-A) publication

Image:  Prof. Ingolf Lindau, Director of MAX-lab 1991–97, shows the facility to the king of Sweden, Carl XVI Gustav, at the inauguration of MAX II, 15 September 1995

Credit:  MAX IV

Clearest crystalline form revealed

To capture extraordinary nanoscale details in crystallography takes the powerful coherent flux of a 4th generation light source. Recent work in Light: Science & Applications by an international research team has revealed 3D images of a complex crystalline star structure using Bragg ptychography and new advanced analysis tools at MAX IV’s NanoMAX beamline. The results demonstrate the possibility of unprecedented data quality beyond experimental limitations from new synchrotron sources.

It is the high brilliance of 4th generation synchrotrons which now makes high resolution 3D Bragg ptychography especially valuable for investigation of crystal samples, from biominerals found in teeth, bones, shells and more, to a diversity of technologically relevant materials exhibiting magnetic, ferro-electric, topological properties to cite a few.

“New microscopy tools can provide not only sharper images but allow completely new ways of studying extremely complex materials, improving our understanding of the world around,” said Dina Carbone, MAX IV Scientist and study author. “This is the first step to produce technologies that truly responds to our needs in an efficient and sustainable way.”

The current study succeeded in producing a 3D image of the silicon crystalline sample with internal atomic deformations. The star is a well-known structure, chosen to assess the capabilities of the new diffraction end-station of NanoMAX previously designed by Carbone. The research team involved pioneered the 3D Bragg ptychography technique in 2011, and continues with its development.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: (left) 3D volume rendering (iso-surface) of crystalline Si-star with Bragg-ptychography, (center), atomic displacement along the z direction. The color map shows strain (dimensionless) (right) SEM image of the same Si-star sample, for comparison. 

Credit: Dina Carbone

Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

The theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March, 2022 (IWD 2022) is, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, recognizing the contribution of women and girls around the world, who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response, to build a more sustainable future for all.

To mark the day and the theme, brings you a special #LightSourceSelfie montage featuring just a few of the dedicated women who feature in our video campaign.

More to life than light

The #LightSourceSelfies video campaign highlights the dedication and enthusiasm that is felt by those working in this field. To maintain a sense of physical and mental wellbeing, it is also important to make time for non-work related things like family, hobbies and interests. This montage, with contributors from the ESRF, ALS, MAX IV and Diamond, gives a flavour of the wide range of activities that those in the light source community enjoy when they are not working.

Pushing the limits of science and technology every day

Silvia Forcat is a mechanical engineer working at MAX IV in Sweden. Her role as floor coordinator involves coordinating a wide range of projects for the beamlines. Silvia says, “What inspires me to do my job is to know that I’m contributing to this country’s research and in science in general. There are so many experiments happening in this type of facility and many of them turn into publications. Also my dream would be that one of these publications will get the Nobel Prize. You never know!”

Using strain to control echoes in ultrafast optics

Researchers at MAX IV measured echoes produced by silicon crystals using the coherent X-ray based technique, tele-ptychography, at NanoMAX imaging beamline. Their findings reveal that strain can be used to tune the time delay of echoes, an important step for tailoring ultrafast X-ray optics.

“The use of coherent X-rays to visualize echoes is new. This is the first time it has been used for this purpose, however, the technique itself is not new,” said Dina Carbone, MAX IV Beamline Scientist and project leader.

Echoes are parallel, monochromatic X-ray beams which appear, with time delay, from the diffraction of perfect crystals, which are often used in ultrafast optics systems. Dynamical diffraction effects produce echoes.

Echoes are difficult to observe because of their proximity to each other—only a few microns apart—and appear even closer in the presence of strain, explained Carbone. “We knew it would become possible to see them using this new special approach. It would also be quite a challenge because we had to build an ad-hoc setup at NanoMAX. The experience of the group from PSI [Paul Scherrer Institute] was quite crucial.”

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: Experimental setup for tele-ptychography at NanoMAX beamline. 

Credit:  Angel Rodriguez-Fernandez

Aymeric Robert appointed Physical Sciences Director at MAX IV

Aymeric comes to MAX IV from the Linac Coherent Light Source at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, where he was the deputy division director for the Science and R&D Division for four years.

His research focuses is the structure and dynamics of amorphous and disordered systems. These types of systems can be investigated by developing advanced X-ray instrumentation that uses the X-ray properties from high brightness and coherence beams.

Aymeric earned an M.A. in physics in 1998 and, in 2001, a PhD in physics at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility from the Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble (France). During his PhD, postdoctoral studies, beamline scientist positions at the ID10A Troika beamline at the ESRF, he was among the European team of scientists pioneering the use of X-ray coherence to develop X-ray Photon Correlation Spectroscopy. This coherent scattering technique uniquely allows probing dynamics in complex systems in ways never achievable before.

Read more on the MAXIV website

Image: Director at MAX IV

Examining individual neurons from different perspectives

Correlative imaging of a single neuronal cell opens the door to profound multi-perspective sub-cellular examinations

Scientists combined two nano-imaging techniques that stand at opposite ends of the electromagnetic spectrum to demonstrate the benefits of correlative imaging to examine individual neurons from different perspectives.

To showcase this, they studied the molecular structures of amyloid proteins and investigated the role metal ions may play in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease at a previously never achieved resolution. Their detailed observations at the sub-cellular level underscore the potential of using combined nanospectroscopic tools to deal with uncertainties due to the complex nature of a biological sample.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia. Many research groups are working to reveal molecular mechanisms to better understand the process by which the disease evolves. Due to the current lack of effective treatments that could stop or prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, new approaches are necessary to find out how people can age without memory loss.

High-resolution microscopy techniques such as electron microscopy and immunofluorescence microscopy are most often used to detect amyloidogenic protein molecules, often considered key factors in the disease’s evolution. However, these commonly used methods generally lack the sensitivity necessary to depict molecular structures. This is why scientists from Lund University in collaboration with SOLEIL and MAX IV carried out a proof of concept study which showcases that combining two imaging modalities can be used as effective tools to assess structural and chemical information directly within a single cell.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: a O-PTIR setup: a pulsed, tunable IR laser is guided onto the sample surface (1). b X-ray fluorescence nanoimaging of individual neuronal cells deposited on Si3N4 (1). c Conceptualization of the data analysis based on superimposed optical, O-PTIR, and S-XRF images.