Gerold Rosenbaum’s #My1stLight – First Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction Pattern

August 1970:  First Synchrotron X-ray Diffraction Recorded at DESY

In order to verify that we could get the flux from the 7.5 GeV synchrotron DESY we had calculated actually onto a small specimen, I designed and we had built an in-vacuum, remote-controlled, focusing x-ray monochromator which we were allowed to insert into the vacuum-ultraviolet beamline of the F41 group at DESY. Preparing for the last trip to DESY from our home lab at Heidelberg, my supervisor Ken Holmes told me to pack a muscle fiber and put it into the beam. Being a physicist by education, I asked why, we measure the flux and X-rays are X-rays and do the same whether from a synchrotron or from a tube at home. Ken: “Not for biologists.” Good that I followed his advice. Thus, I recorded the first synchrotron X-ray diffraction pattern (in the universe – as I like to brag and nobody can dispute this).

There it is and it shows the same pattern as with a home source. So, biologists and everybody else could be confident in what synchrotrons promised.

Credit: The results of the flux verifications were published in Nature in April 1971:

Benedetta Casu’s #My1stLight

Synchrotron: Destiny

When I was a physics student, the Physics Department of my University in the capital city of Sardinia organized a journey to Berlin for the senior master students to visit the most important labs. Among them, there was BESSY I. What an incredible experience, everything looked so fantastic, exciting, and complicated.

After that, for sake of curiosity, I attended the Italian synchrotron School that at the time was organized in Sardinia. I attended the school because I wanted to know more about synchrotron light, but I was sure that it would stay a “cultural opportunity” and nothing more.

A few years later I was offered a Ph.D. position at the University of Potsdam. The plan was that I would have been in charge of photocurrent investigations. BUT, the Ph.D. student that was in charge of the beamtime at Synchrotron in the same research group was never back from his vacation preferring to stay in sunny Spain. My supervisor decided that I would take over the Synchrotron beamtimes.

My very first beamtime was with the last photon at BESSY I.

Since then, I had the opportunity to perform wonderful experiments using Synchrotron facilities all over Europe, from working with the world record laterally resolved PEEM-LEEM at BESSY II to measuring XMCD at 150 mK at Petra III. I am also one of the German national delegates of the European Synchrotron and FEL User Organisation (ESUO).

Synchrotron was certainly my destiny

Image: Benedetta Casu during beamtime at BESSY II

Credit: Benedetta Casu

Aleksei Kotlov’s #My1stLight

Aleksei was responsible for setting up the new P66 beamline at PETRA III at DESY

Setting up the P66 beamline was a challenging time. The years of discussions, iterations, doubts, calculations, ordering of parts, and construction end at some point with commissioning of the beamline. Only then could you see the final result of your work and see that all decisions were right. To me personally it was like the birth of a baby. Suddenly you realize, that small beam spot on the sample is a big event for you and whole beamline community and to make it happen you have invested a significant part of your life.

Image: Aleksei on the P66 beamline at PETRA III

Canadian Light Source’s #My1stLight on the Far Infrared Beamline in 2005

The Queen of England helped us get the beamline operating in May of 2005, while she was visiting Saskatchewan and the Canadian Light Source with Prince Philip. The ring had been operating but the IR beamlines needed vacuum bellows installed due to delays in shipment. These would complete the UHV chambers to the window outside the shield wall. There were no beam outages on the schedule long enough to do this for 6 months into the fall, so the IR operation was being badly delayed.

But! the CLS had to shut down for a day before the Royal visit on Friday May 20*, to allow security screening and preparation for the Royals. So with two days of no-beam, the technicians quickly vented the ring magnet cell and installed the bellows and we had nearly 48 hours to pump down and bake the system. Then on Sat May 21 at 12:30 pm there was beam in the ring (thankfully no leaks from the bellows!) and the search for beam began. The M2 mirror was steered until a spot of light was seen glowing near the edge of the UHV window. This glow was adjusted to line up along one side, and a lateral scan was made while recording a video at the window.

At the controls was Dr. Dominique Appadoo, now at the Australian Synchrotron, who was the Far IR beamline scientist at the time. Assisting were Tim May the optics designer/project manager for the IR beamlines, and Craig Hyett a graduate student working on the IR beamlines. Subsequently the first light was steered out of the window port on the Mid IR beamline.

Image: Tim and Dominique searching for first light

* Read more on the CLS website

Ryan Tappero’s #My1stLight

Ryan is the XFM Lead Beamline Scientist at NSLS-II on Long Island, New York. His #My1stLight celebrates the night back in 2017 when the beamline succeeded in taking first light! A smiling team AND results. Definitely worth remembering as part of our 75 Years of Science with Synchrotron Light #My1stLight campaign

Read more about NSLS-II’s XFM beamline here

Karen Appel’s #My1stLight

Karen was a beamline scientist at DESY and is currently a beamline scientist at the European XFEL

My first synchrotron experiment was at beamline L at DORIS at DESY, which at that time just set up the possibility to do micro-focus X-ray fluorescence measurements. The first experiment I was involved in was headed by the group of Prof Schenk at the Institute of Mineralogy of the University of Kiel  and focused on minerals that were formed at high pressures and high temperatures. At that moment, I was a PhD student at the University of Bonn, working on metamorphic rocks and isotope geochemistry of rocks and got involved in the experiment, because I was interested in analytical methods that could be applied to minerals that were formed at high pressures and temperatures. Besides some connections through my earlier studies, my main interest was to learn about this new method of X-ray fluoresence. We investigated the chemical trace element composition (Rare Earth elements) of minerals that were formed during metamorphic processes and commonly show a gradient of the element distribution, which is related to the metamorphic formation process. 

As we were simply providing the samples, we had the chance to have a close look at the instrumentation. Having worked with commercial machines so far, I remember that I was very much impressed by the modular set- up of a beamline and this one-day experience motivated me to apply for a job that was offered from GFZ Potsdam that included a main part in experimental work at beamline L.

Later, as a postdoc, my experiences led me into the van Gogh experiment, where we used the polychromatic mode at beamline L and were able to detect the elemental distributions of a van Gogh painting. Now I am working at the High Energy Density Science instrument at the European XFEL, studying extreme states of matter, allowing me to work as a beamline scientist and also pursue my own scientific interests.

Image (above): Karen and her colleague working at the experimental station at the beamline L of DORIS III.

Credit: DESY

Image: DE: Die Experimentierstation HED (High Energy Density Science) dient der Erforschung von Materie unter extremen Druck- und Temperaturbedingungen oder sehr starken elektromagnetischen Feldern. Zu den wissenschaftlichen Anwendungen gehört die Untersuchung von Zuständen, wie sie im Inneren astrophysikalischer Objekte wie Exoplaneten bestehen, von Phasenzuständen unter extremem Druck, von Plasmen mit hoher Dichte oder von Phasenübergängen komplexer Feststoffe unter dem Einfluss starker Magnetfelder. EN: The HED experiment station will be used to study matter under extreme conditions of pressure, temperature, or electromagnetic fields. Scientific applications will be studies of matter occurring inside astrophysical objects such as exoplanets, of new extreme-pressure phases and solid-density plasmas, and of phase transitions of complex solids in high magnetic fields.

Credit: European XFEL / Jan Hosan

Gerold Rosenbaum’s #My1stLight

From Gerold Rosenbaum – Advanced Photon Source user

A Playful Use of the Last 10 Minutes of a Run Turns Out to be Very Educational

In 1967, after finishing data collection on the DESY XUV beamline on the polarizer/polarization analyzer I had built for my diploma thesis, there were 15 minutes to go before the synchrotron was to be shut down. Since I always wanted to know how good the vacuum had to be for working in the XUV, I suggested to bleed up the 1-m-long sample chamber to 1/10000 atm or 0.08 torr. The playful use of the last 10 minutes of the run turned out to be an impressive demonstration of the superiority of the continuous spectrum of synchrotron radiation over other XUV sources (paired with a high-resolution monochromator). The very low intensity below 800 Å, even though at the peak of the monochromator spectrum, told me clearly where vacuum-UV starts.

Journal reference: R.P. Godwin, “Synchrotron radiation as a light source,” Springer-Verlag Tracts in Modern Physics 51, p.66, 1969.


Cecilia Rocchi’s #My1stLight

#My1stLight memory at the SOLEIL synchrotron in Paris (PROXIMA-1 beamline) during my first year of PhD! So fascinated by the robotic arm, the collector of loops in liquid nitrogen and to see the place where our crystals diffract (although not always ^^’’) and the coveted three-dimensional structures born. I will never forget it! 😊

You never forget the first time, it was a real adventure. I ‘shot’ the crystals we had transported from Lyon with X-rays, and I also remember very well the first time I saw a high-resolution diffraction: even though it was not ‘my’ sample I was so happy! Since then, my adventure with structural biology has become a real love affair ♥

Image: Cecilia Rocchi on the PROXIMA -1 beamline at SOLEIL

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

Piero Pianetta’s #My1stLight

First light from the SPEAR Ring at SLAC July 6, 1973
Ingolf Lindau & Piero Pianetta

#My1stLight memory submitted by Piero Piantetta, Deputy Director of SSRC at SLAC

Pilot project to extract synchrotron radiation from the SPEAR ring at SLAC. In-alcove video camera imaging light emitted from a fluorescent screen just downstream of the Be exit window. No beam steering beyond global steering for colliding beam operation. Our group, including Gerry Fisher, waiting to see if beam would even make it through all the apertures. SUCCESS on first opening of line!!!!!

Giorgio Margaritondo’s #My1stLight

Synchrotron Radiation from a Synchrotron

We must face reality: almost all synchrotron radiation users of today have never seen a synchrotron! As we know, what they call “synchrotrons” are really “storage rings”. Only a tiny minority of elderly, retired scientists worked at real synchrotrons – and were lucky to survive the experience. I am one of them. Indeed, the first time I used synchrotron radiation was in the 1970s at the 1.1 GeV “elettrosincrotrone” of the Frascati National Laboratory. Which in the 1970s was the source for our synchrotron radiation project “PULS”.

How was my experience? Miserable! Contrary to a storage ring, a synchrotron is a pulsed source in which electron bunches are continuously injected, accelerated and dumped. The bunches cause very dangerous radiation, so we could not work close to our experimental chamber when they travelled in the ring. This transformed simple operations into a nightmare. For example, a sample alignment that takes a few minutes at a storage ring required days or weeks — subsequent small adjustments being separated by hours of accelerator operation.

At Frascati, we were dreaming of using the excellent storage ring Adone instead of the synchrotron — but this happened only later. Personally, after months of misery I found a way out when I was hired by Bell Labs in New Jersey. Which, to my relief, was as far as possible from the synchrotron facilities of that time. But I could not escape my destiny: shortly after my arrival, Bell Labs asked me to start experiments at the Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center! Fortunately, the source there was not a synchrotron but the storage ring Tantalus. I could thus appreciate the huge advantage over real synchrotrons. I am indeed convinced from experience that, without the arrival of storage rings, synchrotron radiation research would have died at birth.

Giorgio Margaritondo
Faculté des Sciences de Base, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
(EPFL), CH-1020 Lausanne, Switzerland

Image: The Frascati electron synchrotron, where my career in synchrotron radiation started and almost

The first direct visual observation of synchrotron light in a laboratory has created this short video to mark the 75th Anniversary of the first direct visual observation of synchrotron light in a laboratory. It’s release marks the start of our celebrations, which have been made possible thanks to contributions from our member facilities, guest speakers and members from our around the light source community.

Marking the 75th Anniversary of the 1st direct visible observation of synchrotron light in a laboratory

We are hugely grateful to all those who have taken the time to support our activities. On behalf of all the members, we hope you enjoy our celebrations, which will include:

The creation of a collection of achievements from across our 30 member facilities to be shared on the website and social media. Also, our #My1stLight campaign, which invites light source staff and external researchers to send in their memories of first encounters with synchrotron light. Visit our campaign page to find out more

A special online symposium to mark 75 Years of Science with Synchrotron Light took place on Thursday 28th April. You can watch the symposium recording here