Biological material discovered in Jurassic fossil

Ichthyosaurs were reptiles that roamed the Jurassic oceans 180 million years ago. They are extremely well studied and the form will probably be instantly recognisable from museums and textbooks. They resemble modern toothed whales such as dolphins and this similarity led researchers to hypothesise that the two creatures had similar strategies for survival in the marine environment. However, until now, there was little evidence to support this hypothesis. The research team led by Lund researcher Johan Lindgren went on the search for biological material within fossils to help solve this puzzle. After a lot of preparation in the lab and traveling around the world to perform experiments, they discovered that the fossil contained remnants of smooth skin and subcutaneous blubber. This is compelling evidence that the Ichthyosaurs were indeed warm-blooded and confirms the previous hypothesis. Lindgren showed visible delight when he described how you could see that the 180-million-year-old blubber was indeed visibly flexible after treatment in his laboratory.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Image: MAX IV’s Anders Engdahl was part of a team that published a landmark study about biological tissue found in a Jurassic fossil. The work published this week in Nature is one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind and sheds new light on the life of a prehistoric sea creature.

The quest for better medical imaging at MAX IV

Advances in the world of physics often quickly lead to advances in the world of medical diagnostics. From the moment Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays he was using them to look through his wife’s hand.

A lot of the physics principles at the foundation of MAX IV are also at the foundation of medical imaging technologies such as nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, x-ray computed tomography and positron emission tomography.
Positron emission spectroscopy is more commonly known as PET imaging. It’s a method used to study metabolic processes in the body as a research tool but also to diagnose disease. An important use today is in the diagnosis of metastases in cancer patients, but it can also be used to diagnose certain types of dementia.

In PET, a positron-emitting radionuclide is injected into a patient and travels around the body until it accumulates somewhere, depending on the chemical composition. For example, the fluorine-18 radionuclide when bound to deoxyglucose accumulates in metabolically active cells which is useful for finding metastases. The radionuclide is unstable and emits positrons which is the antimatter equivalent of an electron. When a positron and an electron inevitably meet, they annihilate one another, producing two pulses of gamma radiation traveling in opposite directions. By placing a detector around a patient, it is possible to measure the gamma radiation and convert the signal into something that can be more easily measured. These detectors are made up of materials known as scintillators which take high energy radiation and emit lower energy radiation that can be detected using fast photodetectors – photomultiplier tubes.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

 

The human behind the beamline

Happy Birthday, Felix Bloch – 23rd October 1905

Felix Bloch was born on this day (23rd October) in 1905 in Zürich, Switzerland. He got a Ph.D. in 1928 studying under Werner Heisenberg. In his thesis, he established the quantum theory of solids describing how electrons moved through crystalline materials using Bloch waves. The phenomena he described are observed today using the technique ARPES which is carried out at the Bloch beamline at MAX IV.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Image: Detail of a Max Bloch illustration. To discover the entire illustration click here.
Credit: Emelie Hilner.

The search for clean hydrogen fuel

The world is transitioning away from fossil fuels and hydrogen is poised to be the replacement.

Two things are needed if we are to make the transition to a low carbon, “hydrogen economy” they are clean and high yielding sources of hydrogen, as well as efficient means of producing and storing energy using hydrogen.

Hydrogen powered cars are the perfect case study for how a hydrogen-fuelled future would look. While they work and show a great deal of promise, the best examples of hydrogen being used in fuel require very clean sources of hydrogen. If the source of hydrogen is mixed with contaminants like carbon monoxide, the efficiency of the fuel goes down and causes downstream problems in the fuel cell.

A team from KTH led by Jonas Weissenrieder is visiting MAX IV this week to try and solve this exact problem, how can we generate clean hydrogen for fuel cells? The team is working on a process to catalyse the oxidation of carbon monoxide, which adversely affects fuel cell performance, to harmless carbon dioxide. The catalysis reaction must be selective, and not affect the hydrogen gas that could be oxidised to water which is not great for running car engines.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Acid-base equilibria: not exactly like you remember in chemistry class

Work published in the Royal Society of Chemistry with the support of the Helmholtz Association through the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science at DESY, MAX IV Laboratory, Lund University, Sweden,  European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 and the Academy of Finland.

Remember doing titrations in chemistry class? Adding acid drop-by-drop to the beaker and the moment you took your eye off it the solution completely changed colour.
We learned in chemistry that by doing this titration, we were actually affecting an important equilibrium in the beaker between acids and bases. This equilibrium was first described at the turn of the 20th century by American biochemist Lawrence Henderson and modified by Karl Hasselbalch giving us the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation. The discovery and subsequent study of acids and bases using this equation has led to the discovery of many important phenomena in the natural world from as how cells function to how materials are formed.

However, after years of study, an idea arose that questioned the validity of the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation, what happens at the surface? If you have a beaker filled with a dilute acid, what happens at the very top atomic layer? The top layer of a liquid in a beaker is special for many reasons, but if you’re a dissolved molecule, it means that you’re no longer surrounded by water on all sides. For hydrophobic molecules, this means that it is favourable to be at the surface. With this in mind, the scientists took another look at the Henderson-Hasselbalch equilibrium equation and thought that it couldn’t work at the surface. Many studies have measured indicator chemical species, and determined that the Henderson-Hasselbalch equation does not seem to apply at the surface, and concluded that the concentration of hydronium or hydroxide ions, which determines the acidity/basicity, is different at the air-liquid interface than in the bulk.

>Read more on the MAXIV Laboratory website

 

 

Golden nanoglue completes the wonder material

Modern microelectronics relies on semiconductors and their metal electrodes. High-performance device functionality demands high transistor density within a single chip, which soon will reach the physical limits of bulk materials. Alternatives have been found in atomically thin materials, e.g. graphene and its semiconductive inorganic relatives.

MoS2 (molybdenum disulphide) is the representative inorganic layered crystal with properties similar to those of graphene. To be useful in applications, it must be joined to the metallic electrodes to enable charge flow between the metals and semiconductive (M/S) counterparts. In a recent study, scientists from University of Oulu, Finland have demonstrated the success of joining MoS2 to Ni (nickel) particles by using gold (Au) nanoglue as a buffer material. Through in-house observations and the first-principles calculations, the semiconductor and metal can be bridged either by the crystallized gold nanoparticles, or by the newly formed MoS2-Au-Ni ternary alloy.
A metallic contact is formed, leading to enhanced electron mobility crossing the M/S interface.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Image: representation of gold nanoglue joining molybdenum disulphide and nickel. 

Impressions from the 30th MAX IV user meeting

At the 30th MAX IV user meeting over 250 attendees met to discuss and learn for three days in Lund.

The impressions that we collected from the meeting are positive overall.
There was a very good atmosphere, good backup from the users, lively discussion, and full rooms for the parallel sessions. These are very important signs for for us going forward, says interim director Ian McNulty and science director Marjolein Thunnissen. We also talked to a few of the users who appreciated that the user meeting is a good place to meet with colleagues and collaborators to discuss and learn. The other comment that we got from several of them was that it was important that they now have a clear time plan and overview of the status so that they can plan for their experiments at MAX IV.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

First-year operational results of the MAX IV 3 GeV ring

If you fly over MAX IV right now and look down, you’ll see a large circular building. The reason for this size and shape is the 528-meter-long 3GeV storage ring which precisely guides bunches of electrons traveling at velocities approaching the speed of light. As the electrons pass through arrays of magnets called insertion devices, they produce bright X-rays which are then used by beamline scientists to do many different types of experiments.

In an article published this month in the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, the 3 GeV ring team led by Pedro Tavares describe the results for the first year of operation. This important milestone in the MAX IV project provides validation for many of the brand-new concepts that were implemented in the MAX IV design in order to improve the performance of the machine and reduce downtime.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

 

Synchrotrons in Black and White

Recently on social media, a number of synchrotrons have taken part in the Black and White Challenge. The rules are simple, each facility must take a photo every day, in black and white with no people and post it on social media. You are not allowed to explain what is in the photo or why you chose to post it, you must also nominate one more account to take up the challenge every day.

A few weeks ago, MAX IV was nominated by both ESRF and ALBA Synchrotron to take part in the challenge and we accepted. Below are examples from each challenge, along with links to all the photos on Twitter (account not required).

This is a good opportunity to follow our various social media accounts if you haven’t already. We are very active and post exclusive content there that can’t be found anywhere else.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Science Village gets go-ahead to start construction

The detailed development plan for Science Village gets a green light from the Government of Sweden which means that the construction of important support infrastructure for MAX IV and ESS can now start.

“This decision is obviously good for us. We welcome it and we have been waiting for a long time. We are happy for several reasons ­– in general, MAX IV needs neighbors to interact with, so this is an important step in that direction.  The first project for us is the SPACE building that will be constructed for ESS and MAX IV in the near future. In the somewhat more distant future, Lund University plan to move a significant part of their activities to Brunnshög. For that, a green light from the government is mandatory and very much appreciated”, says Christoph Quitmann, Director of MAX IV.

>Read more about the Science Village.

Illustration: ESS

MAX IV becomes the first synchrotron to successfully trial neon venting from CERN

The vacuum chambers of MAXIV are only 22 mm of diameter; the chamber size was chosen in order to fit inside the compact magnets of the storage ring. Due to the small diameter of the chamber, the conventional way of pumping using lumped pumps is not efficient nor practical, accordingly, the vacuum system of the 3 GeV storage ring is fully NEG (non-evaporable getter) coated vacuum system.
NEG coating provides the needed pumping and reduces the outgassing due to the photons hitting the chamber walls. For NEG coating to be pumping down it should be activated, activation means that the coating should be heated up to around 200˚C, consequently, any venting to atmosphere will cause the NEG coating to be saturated (can not pump) and should be followed with NEG activation to restore the coating performance. At MAX IV, in order to activate the NEG coating, a major intervention is needed, where the whole achromat (23 m) should be lifted and heated up inside an oven. Such an intervention would last from 2 weeks (if the achromat does not have insertion devices) up to 4 weeks (for achromats with insertion devices).

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

 

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for N. Mårtensson

The Helmholtz Association has presented the Swedish physicist Nils Mårtensson with a Helmholtz International Fellow Award. 

The synchrotron expert of the University of Uppsala, who heads the nobel comitee for physics, cooperates closely with the HZB-Institute Methods and Instrumentation for Synchrotron Radiation Research. Nils Mårtensson is a professor at Uppsala University. He directed the development of the Swedish synchrotron radiation source Max IV and received a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in 2013. Mårtensson is a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and chairman of the Nobel Committee for Physics. At HZB, he cooperates with Alexander Föhlisch’s team at HZB-Institute Methods and Instrumentation for Synchrotron Radiation Research. Together they run the Uppsala Berlin Joint Laboratory (UBjL) to further develop methods and instruments.

Image: Nils Mårtensson, University of Uppsala, cooperates closely with HZB.

Linac team has reached major milestones

A big milestone was reached for the MAX IV linear accelerator end of May 2018.

The electron bunches accelerated in the linac was compressed to a time duration below 100 femtoseconds (fs). That means that they were shorter than 1*10^-13s. In fact, we could measure a pulse duration as low as 65 fs FWHM.

The RMS bunch length was then recorded at 32 fs. These results were achieved using only the first of the 2 electron bunch compressors in the MAX IV linac and shows not only that we can deliver short electron bunches, but also that the novel concept adopted in the compressors is working according to theory and simulations.

The ultra-short electron pulses are used to create X-ray pulses with the same short time duration in the linac based light source SPF (Short Pulse Facility). These bursts of X-rays can then be used to make time resolved measurements on materials, meaning you can make a movie of how reactions happen between parts of a molecule.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Picture: Linac team at MAX IV.

First serial crystallography experiments performed at BioMAX

BioMAX has successfully performed the first serial crystallography experiments at the beamline. This new method is performed at room temperature which allows structural biologists to study their molecules at more biologically relevant conditions. The technique can also be used on smaller crystals which will alleviate some of the restrictions for molecules such as membrane proteins, that do not typically form large crystals. Eventually, it is hoped that this technique will allow users at the BioMAX and MicroMAX beamlines to take snapshots of the dynamic states of proteins in rapid succession giving a dynamic view of protein movement and activity.

The serial crystallography technique promises to be very useful to users of both synchrotrons and XFELs. Over the course of one experiment, users were able to measure between 20 and 50 crystals every second, resulting in 20 TB of data from just 3 proteins. BioMAX hopes to quickly master this complex technique in order to offer it to users as soon as possible. It also gives us a glimpse of what will be possible at the newly funded MicroMAX beamline.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Image: BioMAX serial crystallography setup using a High Viscosity Extrusion (HVE) injector specially designed for the BioMAX endstation by Bruce Doak of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, and fabricated at that institute.

The quest for atomic perfection in semiconductor devices

A research team, including scientists from MAX IV have reported in Nature Communications that the quest for atomic perfection in semiconductor devices was based on an oversimplified model.

Semiconductors are the fundamental building blocks of all modern electronics. Improvements to these materials could affect everything from the clock on our microwave to supercomputers used to crunch big data. The search to make them better involves looking at atomic level changes in semiconductor materials in order to understand how they could be improved, and even made perfect.

The problem with semiconductors and the way they are manufactured is that they need to be processed with metal contacts and thin insulating layers, and the interface between the semiconductor and these contacts contains a lot of defects which hamper device performance. If scientists can find a way to reduce the defects or eliminate them completely, then semiconductors could conceivably become faster and smaller. The problem is, these defects occur on the atomic scale and are very difficult to measure.

Scientists working at Max Lab, the predecessor to the newly built MAX IV, together with physicists from Lund University used the SPECIES beamline to investigate a common semiconductor synthesis method. Hafnium dioxide was deposited on the surface of indium arsenide and monitored using ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS). The scientists were able to monitor the very first atomic layer that was deposited, and monitor the chemical reactions that were occurring as the process was underway.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Video presentation of thesis at NanoMAX

In April 2018, Karolis Parfeniukas (image) defended the first thesis to be fully completed at one of the new MAXIV beamlines called NanoMAX Here’s an interview with Karolis about this project making zone plates to improve focusing of the X-ray beam. Thesis from KTH university, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. PLease watch here the presentation of his research at MAX IV Laboratory:

>Read more here about MAX IV Laboratory