NEXT project receives secretary’s achievement award

On Wednesday, Mar. 14, Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes presented the Secretary’s Achievement Award—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Project Management (PM) Award—to the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) Experimental Tools (NEXT) project management team for completing the project on schedule and under budget, and for delivering scientific instruments to NSLS-II that will benefit research for years to come.

The NEXT project team coordinated the development and construction of five new beamlines (experimental stations) at NSLS-II, a highly advanced synchrotron light source and a DOE Office of Science User Facility located at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. Scientists use NSLS-II’s ultra-bright light to study materials with nanoscale resolution and exquisite sensitivity. The five new beamlines developed through NEXT complement the existing beamline portfolio at NSLS-II, and offer new, unique, and cutting-edge scientific capabilities.

“These state-of-the-art beamlines support the DOE Office of Science mission to deliver scientific discoveries and major scientific tools to transform our understanding of nature and to advance the energy, economic, and national security of the United States,” said Robert Caradonna, DOE Brookhaven Site Office Federal Project Director. “This award reflects the drive and dedication of the NEXT project team that made this endeavor a huge success. It was an honor to work with such talented people on such an important a project.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The NEXT team celebrates the completion of the project in NSLS-II’s lobby.
Credit: NSLS II

Scientists have a new way to gauge the growth of nanowires

In a new study, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne and Brookhaven National Laboratories observed the formation of two kinds of defects in individual nanowires, which are smaller in diameter than a human hair.

These nanowires, made of indium gallium arsenide, could be useful for a wide range of applications in a field scientists have termed optoelectronics, which encompasses devices that work by converting light energy into electrical impulses. Fiber optic relays are a good example.

The effectiveness of these devices, however, can be affected by tiny defects in their components. These defects, which can change both the optical and electronic properties of these materials, interest scientists who seek to tailor them to boost the functionality of future optoelectronics, including materials that will be able to manipulate quantum information.

>Read more on the NSLS-II website and the Advanced Photon Source website

Image: Argonne and Brookhaven researchers observed two kinds of defects forming in individual nanowires, depicted here. These nanowires are smaller in diameter than a human hair.
Credit: Megan Hill/Northwestern University

Converting CO2 into usable energy

Scientists show that single nickel atoms are an efficient, cost-effective catalyst for converting carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.

Imagine if carbon dioxide (CO2) could easily be converted into usable energy. Every time you breathe or drive a motor vehicle, you would produce a key ingredient for generating fuels. Like photosynthesis in plants, we could turn CO2 into molecules that are essential for day-to-day life. Now, scientists are one step closer.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory are part of a scientific collaboration that has identified a new electrocatalyst that efficiently converts CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO), a highly energetic molecule. Their findings were published on Feb. 1 in Energy & Environmental Science.

“There are many ways to use CO,” said Eli Stavitski, a scientist at Brookhaven and an author on the paper. “You can react it with water to produce energy-rich hydrogen gas, or with hydrogen to produce useful chemicals, such as hydrocarbons or alcohols. If there were a sustainable, cost-efficient route to transform CO2 to CO, it would benefit society greatly.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: Brookhaven scientists are pictured at NSLS-II beamline 8-ID, where they used ultra-bright x-ray light to “see” the chemical complexity of a new catalytic material. Pictured from left to right are Klaus Attenkofer, Dong Su, Sooyeon Hwang, and Eli Stavitski.

 

Atomic Flaws Create Surprising, High-Efficiency UV LED Materials

Subtle surface defects increase UV light emission in greener, more cost-effective LED and catalyst materials

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) traditionally demand atomic perfection to optimize efficiency. On the nanoscale, where structures span just billionths of a meter, defects should be avoided at all costs—until now.

A team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University has discovered that subtle imperfections can dramatically increase the efficiency and ultraviolet (UV) light output of certain LED materials.

“The results are surprising and completely counterintuitive,” said Brookhaven Lab scientist Mingzhao Liu, the senior author on the study. “These almost imperceptible flaws, which turned out to be missing oxygen in the surface of zinc oxide nanowires, actually enhance performance. This revelation may inspire new nanomaterial designs far beyond LEDs that would otherwise have been reflexively dismissed.”

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The research team, front to back and left to right: Danhua Yan, Mingzhao Liu, Klaus Attenkoffer, Jiajie Cen, Dario Stacciola, Wenrui Zhang, Jerzy Sadowski, Eli Stavitski.

 

Pigments in Oil Paintings Linked to Artwork Degradation

Scientists have observed how lithium moves inside individual nanoparticles that make up batteries.

The finding could help companies develop batteries that charge faster and last longer. Experts have long known that as oil paintings age, soaps can form within the paint, degrading the appearance of the artworks. The process significantly complicates the preservation of oil paintings—and cultural manifestations, which the paintings themselves help to preserve.

“These soaps may form protrusions that grow within the paint and break up through the surface, creating a bumpy texture,” said Silvia Centeno, a member of the Department of Scientific Research at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met). “In other cases, the soaps can increase the transparency of the paint, or form a disfiguring, white crust on the painting.”

Scientists do not understand why the soaps take on different manifestations, and for many years, the underlying mechanisms of how the soaps form remained a mystery.

“The Met, alongside our colleagues from other institutions, is trying to figure out why the process takes place, what triggers it, and if there’s a way we can prevent it,” Centeno said.

 

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Picture: Scientists from Brookhaven Lab and The Met used beamline 5-ID at NSLS-II to analyze a microscopic sample of a 15th century oil painting. Pictured from left to right are Karen Chen-Wiegart (Stony Brook University/BNL), Silvia Centeno (The Met), Juergen Thieme (BNL), and Garth Williams (BNL).

 

 

 

Surprising Discovery Could Lead to Better Batteries

Scientists have observed how lithium moves inside individual nanoparticles that make up batteries. The finding could help companies develop batteries that charge faster and last longer

UPTON, NY – A collaboration led by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory has observed an unexpected phenomenon in lithium-ion batteries—the most common type of battery used to power cell phones and electric cars. As a model battery generated electric current, the scientists witnessed the concentration of lithium inside individual nanoparticles reverse at a certain point, instead of constantly increasing. This discovery, which was published on January 12 in the journal Science Advances, is a major step toward improving the battery life of consumer electronics.

“If you have a cell phone, you likely need to charge its battery every day, due to the limited capacity of the battery’s electrodes,” said Esther Takeuchi, a SUNY distinguished professor at Stony Brook University and a chief scientist in the Energy Sciences Directorate at Brookhaven Lab. “The findings in this study could help develop batteries that charge faster and last longer.”

 

>Read more on the NSLS-II website

Picture: Brookhaven scientists are shown at the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department’s TEM facility, where part of the study was conducted. Pictured from left to right are Jianming Bai, Feng Wang, Wei Zhang, Yimei Zhu, and Lijun Wu.

 

 

2017’s Top-10 Discoveries and Scientific Achievements

Each year we compile a list of the biggest advances made by scientists, engineers, and those who support their work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. From unraveling new details of the particle soup that filled the early universe to designing improvements for batteries, x-ray imaging, and even glass, this year’s selections span a spectrum of size scales and fields of science. Read on for a recap of what our passion for discovery has uncovered this year.  (…)

4. Low-Temperature Hydrogen Catalyst

Brookhaven chemists conducted essential studies to decipher the details of a new low-temperature catalyst for producing high-purity hydrogen gas. Developed by collaborators at Peking University, the catalyst operates at low temperature and pressure, and could be particularly useful in fuel-cell-powered cars. The Brookhaven team analyzed the catalyst as it was operating under industrial conditions using x-ray diffraction at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). These operando experiments revealed how the configuration of atoms changed under different operating conditions, including at different temperatures. The team then used those structural details to develop models and a theoretical framework to explain why the catalyst works so well, using computational resources at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).

 >Read more on the NSLS-II website

 

Scientists Named 2017 American Physical Society Fellows

Five Brookhaven Lab Scientists recognized for their outstanding contributions

The American Physical Society (APS), the world’s largest physics organization, has elected five scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory as 2017 APS fellows. With more than 53,000 members from academia, government, and industry, APS seeks to advance and share physics knowledge through research journals, scientific meetings, and activities in education, outreach, and advocacy. Each year, a very small percentage of APS members are elevated to the status of fellow through a peer nomination process. Fellows are recognized for their exceptional contributions to physics, including in research, applications, leadership and service, and education.

The 2017 APS fellows representing Brookhaven Lab are Anatoly Frenkel, Morgan May, Rachid Nouicer, Eric Stach, and Peter Steinberg.

Anatoly Frenkel, APS Division of Materials Physics

“For seminal contributions to in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy, transformative development of structural characterization methods for nanoparticles, and their pioneering applications to a broad range of functional nanomaterials in materials physics and catalysis science.”

Anatoly Frenkel holds a joint appointment as a senior chemist in Brookhaven Lab’s Chemistry Division—where he serves as principal investigator of the Structure and Dynamics of Applied Nanomaterials Group—and tenured professor in Stony Brook University’s Materials Science and Chemical Engineering Department. Frenkel’s research focuses on the application of synchrotron-based x-ray methods to characterize materials and study how their structures and properties relate.

 

>Read more on the NSLS II website

Image: Anatoly Frenkel

 

Case Center receives Resource-Sharing Award

Winners were chosen for successfully sharing resources between institutions and campuses

The Case Center for Synchrotron Biosciences (CSB), located at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory—has been awarded second prize in the 2017 Sharing Research Resources competition, held by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). Winners were chosen for successfully sharing resources between institutions and campuses, including medical schools, teaching hospitals, and other academic institutions.

For over 20 years, CSB—a partnership between Brookhaven Lab and Case Western Reserve University—has made highly complex and expensive research resources available to thousands of scientists around the world. First at the National Synchrotron Light Source and now at NSLS-II, CSB has supported the construction and operation of multiple experimental stations for studies on the structure and function of biological macromolecules.

>Read more on the NSLS II website

Image: Jennifer Bohon, lead beamline scientist, prepares samples at beamline 17-BM.

 

Translation of ‘Hidden’ Information Reveals Chemistry in Action

New method allows on-the-fly analysis of how catalysts change during reactions, providing crucial information for improving performance.

Chemistry is a complex dance of atoms. Subtle shifts in position and shuffles of electrons break and remake chemical bonds as participants change partners. Catalysts are like molecular matchmakers that make it easier for sometimes-reluctant partners to interact.

Now scientists have a way to capture the details of chemistry choreography as it happens. The method—which relies on computers that have learned to recognize hidden signs of the steps—should help them improve the performance of catalysts to drive reactions toward desired products faster.

The method—developed by an interdisciplinary team of chemists, computational scientists, and physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory and Stony Brook University—is described in a new paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. The paper demonstrates how the team used neural networks and machine learning to teach computers to decode previously inaccessible information from x-ray data, and then used that data to decipher 3D nanoscale structures.

RAW Power!

MacCHESS software brings synchrotron-level data processing to the laptop and home laboratory

Since its introduction by Søren Skou (Nielsen) in 2010, the BioXTAS RAW software has been a familiar interface to the many biomedical scientists collecting data at CHESS beamlines in recent years. From the start, RAW was designed specifically with novice users in mind: when scientists arrive at the beamline, they need something fast and easy to learn in the very limited time available … often late at night.

The program was literally designed by looking over the shoulders of beamline users as they collected data. But rather than simply create an automated data processing pipeline, we opted to give people the power to fully process data on their own computers at home, if they choose. This allows them to use the same software at other beamlines and even on their own home X-ray sources: from initial raw data reduction to final publication. Indeed, with over 4000 downloads in 2017, RAW is now the primary processing software at several other beamlines and lab source facilities worldwide.

>Read More

Picture: Richard Gillilan, Jesse Hopkins, and Soren Skou at the annual Amrican Crystallographic Association meeting where they conducted a tutorial in the BioXTAS RAW software.

NSLS-II Welcomes New Tool for Studying the Physics of Materials

Versatile instrument for precisely studying materials’ structural, electronic, magnetic characteristics arrives at Brookhaven Lab.

A new instrument for studying the physics of materials using high intensity x-ray beams has arrived at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. This new diffractometer, installed at beamline 4-ID at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a DOE Office of Science User Facility that produces extremely bright beams of x-rays, will offer researchers greater precision when studying materials with unique structural, electronic, and magnetic characteristics. Understanding these materials’ properties could lead to better electronics, solar cells, or superconductors (materials that carry electricity with almost no energy loss).

A diffractometer allows researchers to “see” the structure of a material by shooting highly focused x-rays at it and measuring how they diffract, or bounce off. According to Brookhaven physicist Christie Nelson, who worked with Huber X-Ray Diffraction Equipment to design the diffractometer, the new instrument has big advantages compared to one that operated at Brookhaven’s original light source, NSLS. Most significantly, it gives researchers additional ways to control where the beam hits the sample and how the x-rays are detected.

Focusing on microbeam: Initial installment of CRLs at CHESS

A great challenge is to direct x-rays into a very small, very clean footprint while maintaining high photon flux.

A great challenge at many x-ray beamlines is to direct x-rays into a very small, very clean footprint while maintaining high photon flux. This is especially important when illuminating very small samples, as in protein microcrystallography where crystals can be on the order of a micron across and diffract weakly compared to larger crystals. Any excess scatter in these conditions will contribute unwanted noise and decrease the overall signal-to-noise ratio – an important measure of data quality. Consider an experiment where you first must take the water from a firehose and somehow get a water thread thinner than a human hair without any mist! That is akin to the scale of creating x-ray microbeam at CHESS.

One solution would be to simply block the x-rays down to the size desired, but this has the unfortunate side effect of throwing away vast numbers of photons. Fortunately, x-rays can be manipulated similar to visual light and therefore focused using optical components such as mirrors and lenses. Recently, an optical design of interest at CHESS incorporates the focusing power of x-ray compound refractive lenses (CRLs) to create an x-ray beam on the order of microns across – effectively, a microbeam.

>Read More

Picture: The assembled and aligned lenses in their casing. Two brass pinholes bookend the stack of lenses, which all sit in a v-groove designed to be sub-micrometer in accuracy.

Speedy X-Ray Detector Arrives at NSLS-II

Advanced detector fuels discovery by allowing users to collect massive datasets in less time.

The National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, is a truly international resource. Geoscientists from Australia and France recently trekked across the globe to aim NSLS-II’s tiny, intense beams of x-ray light at thin samples of nickel-rich mineral gathered from a mine in far-off Siberia. They scanned these slices of geological material to see what other chemical elements were associated with the nickel. The group also examined slices of minerals grown in a lab, and compared results from the two sample suites to learn how massive metal deposits form.

Their experiment was the first to use a newly installed x-ray detector, called Maia, mounted at NSLS-II’s Submicron Resolution X-Ray Spectroscopy (SRX) beamline. Scientists from around the world come to SRX to create high-definition images of mineral deposits, aerosols, algae—just about anything they need to examine with millionth-of-a-meter resolution. Maia, developed by a collaboration between NSLS-II, Brookhaven’s Instrumentation Division and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), can scan centimeter-scale sample areas at micron scale resolution in just a few hours—a process that used to take weeks.

The state of CHESS-U beamlines

The beamline upgrade portion of the CHESS-U project is moving ahead at full steam.

Scientific needs have been identified. A suitable layout for the experimental floor has been devised. The work breakdown structure (WBS) has been created and System Managers have been assigned. Two large contracts have been awarded and designs are being vetted. We are almost ready to cut metal.

One year has passed since I was asked to be Project Manager for the beamline half of what has become the CHESS-U project. With fits and starts, working around an intense operations schedule, CHESS staff have accomplished a remarkable amount of work so far in preparation for the largest upgrade we have tackled in CHESS history. Summer 2016 started off with a series of science workshops to facilitate creating a science case for the future of CHESS. They also provided guidance for fleshing out upgrade concepts leading up to an External Conceptual Design review in December. With those concepts blessed, technical specs and designs proceeded in earnest. Critical paths were identified, leading to contracts being awarded for sector front ends and hutches to local company Advanced Design Consulting (ADC).