PHELIX beamline is ready to research

Synchrotron light has finally been observed for the first time on a sample at the end station of the experimental beamline PHELIX. This success is the crowning achievement of three years of hard work designing, constructing, fitting, and tuning its components to the synchrotron beam.   

The installation of this new beamline began in mid-2018. In March of 2020, the final elements were delivered. Then on 18th September 2020, the scientific supervisors of beamline, Dr. Magdalena Szczepanik – Ciba and Tomasz Sobol, announced readiness for test experiments using the synchrotron beam.  

The first results testing the capabilities with the active beam of the analyser at the PHELIX end station were performed using the sample of gold in the presence of a specialist from the SPECS company, Dr. Robert Reichelt. As  a result of testing this calibration material, among others, the XPS Au4f spectrum was acquired (see pic.1). Additionally, an angle – resolved and spin – resolved measurements were performed .

During the latest open call for the beamtime the applications on the PHELIX beamline where included for the first time. This line will use soft X-ray radiation. The end-station will enable a wide range of spectroscopic and absorption researches, characterised by different surface sensitivity. Besides acquiring standard, high-resolution spectra, it will allow e.g. for the mapping of band structure in three dimensions and for the detection of spin in three dimensions.  

Users will thus be able to conduct research on new materials, thin films, and multi-layer systems, catalysers and biomaterials, as well as research on solids, on spin-polarised surface states, and on chemical reactions taking place on the surface.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image:  From left Tomasz Sobol, Dr. Robert Reichelt, Dr. Magdalena Szczepanik – Ciba. Credit – Solaris

Expansion of SOLARIS experimental hall

The SOLARIS Centre has been awarded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education a grant for the expansion of the experimental hall. This long-awaited decision opens up new perspectives for the development of the Centre.

The area of ​​the synchrotron hall will be increased by over two thousand square meters. This space will enable the construction of four new beamlines, which require a long distance of the sample from the synchrotron radiation source. These new facilities include the SOLCRYS beamline for the structural research. The beamline end stations will enable analyses of the structure of proteins, viruses, nucleic acids, and polymers. These studies provide knowledge on the molecular structure of the basic building blocks of living organisms, including the architecture of macromolecules. Research carried out on the beamline will be used, among others, in biological sciences, medicine (drug design and discovery), chemistry, and materials science. SOLCRYS will be the only research infrastructure of this type not only in Poland, but also in the entire Central and Eastern Europe.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: Visualisation of the new building.

PHELIX beamline – delivery of analyzer and spin detector

On July 22, 2020, the last components of the PHELIX end station were delivered to SOLARIS. The delivery included a high-resolution hemispherical photoelectron energy analyzer and a VLEED spin detector.

The PHELIX end station will be exceptional: it will allow scientists to perform circular dichroism measurements (CD-ARPES) and provide direct insights into the spin texture of electron states (SP-ARPES) in the same UHV system and for the same sample. Both of these methods give information about the electron spin, but the interpretation of the CD-ARPES results alone can be challenging. However, the combination of these two methods has a number of advantages allowing for the better understanding of the systems, as it excludes differences in quality between samples and the risk of surface contamination when transferring the sample between experimental systems. Both of these factors significantly affect the obtained results, and the limited control over them reduces the reliability of the research. To our knowledge, the PHELIX beamline will be one of the very few facilities in the world where such combined measurements can be performed.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Faster diagnosis of esophageal cancer

Scientists from SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre (Kraków, Poland), University of Exeter (UK), Beckman Institute (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – USA), and Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences (Kraków, Poland) performed research that will facilitate the rapid and automated diagnosis of esophageal cancer.

Dr. Tomasz Wróbel`s group focuses on cancer detection through a combination of Infrared Imaging (IR) and the use of Machine Learning (ML) algorithms. Thanks to this approach, it is possible to develop an effective model, which will allow histopathologists to confirm the diseased area automatically and in a much shorter time.

Infrared Imaging (IR), which will soon also be available on the newly built beamline at SOLARIS, has found widespread use in biomedical research over the last couple of decades and is currently being introduced into clinical diagnostics.

Read more on the Solaris website

Image: The above graphic shows two esophageal biopsies: the top of the graphic contains a biopsy taken from a patient suffering from esophageal cancer, the bottom of the graphic contains a biopsy taken from a healthy patient. In the left part of the graphic, microscopic images of the mentioned biopsies are visible after the H&E staining (Hematoxylin and Eosin) (in this image of the stained biopsy, the histopathologist visually assigns tissue types), in the middle of the graphic, biopsy images obtained using infrared imaging are visible, the right part of the graphic presents a histological picture of a biopsy obtained after assigning tissues and structures to three classes (cancer, other, benign) by Machine Learning (ML).

Red – cancer
Blue – other
Green – benign

Cryo-electron microscopy for industry coming soon to SOLARIS

The SOLARIS Centre and the Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology (Jagiellonian University) won a two-stage competition for the purchase of an electron microscopy for industrial research.

Funding was awarded by the National Information Processing Institute (OPI PIB) as part of the EU’s Smart Growth Operational Programme.

“We have been trying to purchase a microscope because Polish companies keep asking us about the possibility to carry out measurements using the Cryo-EM technique” – says Michał Młynarczyk, Finance and Administration Deputy Director at SOLARIS. “We expect that the total time allocated for the commercial study will be at least 40% of operational time. The remaining time will be available for academic researchers” –  continues the director.

“We are keen to enable Polish companies to access this exciting new technology, which is developing very fast and is currently becoming the most important one used in structural biology. The achievable results facilitate to understand the cellular mechanisms behind human diseases, the design of new drugs, the optimization of existing drug molecules. The technique is also successfully applied in nanotechnology and other fields” – adds Sebastian Glatt, Max Planck Research Group leader at the Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology – the main partner of SOLARIS in the implementation of this project.

>Read more on the SOLARIS website

Electronics of future: magnetic properties of InSb-Mn

The recent volume of “ACS Nano Letters” presented the results of research conducted at the SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre and at the Academic Centre for Materials and Nanotechnology of the University of Science and Technology in Kraków.

The research was led by Dr Katarzyna Hnida-Gut and demonstrated that the magnetic properties of indium antimonide nanowires with an addition of manganese (InSb-Mn) can be controlled by the concentration of the dopants. The ground-breaking aspect of this research was that for the first time in the pulse electrosynthesis process in AAO pores (anodic aluminium oxide) high quality InSb-Mn nanowires were obtained, making use of previously determined optimum conditions for the synthesis of the semiconductor indium antimonide.

Some of the measurements conducted as part of the research project were performed using synchrotron radiation at the SOLARIS Centre in Kraków. Thanks to an experiment conducted on PEEM/XAS beamline, it was possible to determine the local structure in the vicinity of manganese atoms. This allowed for the confirmation of the hypothesis that “the manganese atoms in the studied nanowires form small clusters, such as Mn3. It is precisely these clusters that are the source of the magnetic response at room temperature,” explains Dr. Marcin Sikora, one of the co-authors of the paper.

>Read more on the SOLARIS website

New beamlines at SOLARIS

Environmental protection, nanotechnology, diagnosis of diseases, and even samples of cosmic dust – these are only some of directions in research that will be performed soon thanks to the decision of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education to finance the construction of two new beamlines and  end station at the SOLARIS synchrotron in Kraków.

The new research infrastructure, eagerly awaited by the Polish scientific community, includes:

  • a beamline for infrared spectroscopic studies (FTIR)
  • a beamline for multimodal X-ray imaging (POLYX)
  • a scanning transmission X-ray end station (STXM).

The main research conducted on the FTIR beamline will focus on biomedical aspects, from in vitro  (conducted on cell cultures in laboratory conditions) to ex vivo experiments (on tissues or cells collected from living bodies), in the range of basic research, developing new analytical technologies and diagnostics.

>Read more on the SOLARIS website

PHELIX beamline – undulator installation and hutch construction

The PHELIX beamline construction continues. In October 2018 the light source for the beamline – an undulator – was installed in the storage ring. In November construction of the an optical hutch ended.

The hutch will protect people from radiation hazards. In the near future it will house the first optical components of the beamline.
The next planned steps are the installation of the front-end, i.e. the part of the beamline situated in the storage ring tunnel after the source (January 2019), the installation of the beamline with optical components for X-rays (February-March 2019) and the installation of the end-station (May-June 2019).

The PHELIX beamline will use soft X-rays. Its end station will enable a wide range of spectroscopic and absorption studies characterized by different surface sensitivity. In addition to collecting standard high-resolution spectra, it will allow, for example, to map the band structure in three dimensions and to detect electron spin in three dimensions. Users will, therefore, be able to conduct research on new materials, thin films and multilayers systems, catalysts and biomaterials, surface of bulk compounds, spin polarized surface states, as well as chemical reactions taking place on the surface.

>Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image credit: Agata Chrześcijanek

Funds for the latest generation of electron cryomicroscopy

The Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education handed over to SOLARIS the official decision to establish the National Cryo-EM Centre at the Polish partner facility, granting the requested financial support.

The successful application is the result of an agreement and cooperation of 17 leading scientific institutions in Poland in the area of structural biology. This very unique nation-wide consortium, led by Dr. Sebastian Glatt (the Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University, Kraków) and Dr. hab. Marcin Nowotny (the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Warsaw), was not only key to bring this breakthrough research technique to Poland, but also exemplifies how scientists from around the country are able to work efficiently together for a greater common goal. This state-of-the-art microscope will allow its users to follow the progress of other international research centres and will transfer Polish and international scientists into the first class of structural biology.

The advances made in cryo-EM have revolutionized the field of structural biology over the last decade. The increased recognition of this technology has also culminated in the Chemistry Nobel Prize being awarded to its creators in 2017. The development of this technique has opened up new research horizons, which resulted in a long list of groundbreaking studies published in the most prestigious scientific journals. Foremost, the anticipated results are extremely relevant for a better understanding of the function of the human body, of the formation of human diseases and of processes like aging, and can lead to the development of new effective therapies. Structural biology has already contributed to a huge progress in the treatment of various human diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Last but not least, the presence of a high-end cryo-electron microscope at SOLARIS means that Krakow will attract national and international structural biologists.

>Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: The image of mimivirus made with the use of a cryo-electron microscope.
Credit: Xiao C, Kuznetsov YG, Sun S, Hafenstein SL, Kostyuchenko VA, et al. (2009) [CC BY 2.5]