New phase of CIRI beamline construction.

The CIRI beamline has received another piece of its infrastructure. Under construction since 2019, CIRI – Chemical InfraRed Imaging – uses infrared radiation for advanced microscopy experiments.

The SOLARIS Center is continuously improving and expanding its infrastructure. This past week saw the long-awaited installation of the first part of the front-end – the optics component that introduces the IR beam from the accumulation ring – on the CIRI beamline.

– It is a modified dipole chamber that will allow the M1 mirror to be moved a short distance from the electron beam and, as a result, allow infrared (IR) radiation to be reflected out of the chamber. This operation required great precision in both the fabrication of the chamber itself and its positioning relative to the rest of the ring. The next step will be to observe the IR beam once the synchrotron is operational – said Dr. Tomasz Wróbel, supervisor of the CIRI beamline.

Read more on SOLARIS website

New end station on PHELIX beamline

As part of investments related to education and scientific activity, the Minister of Education and Science granted funds for the construction of a new end station. Research equipment for photoelectron spectroscopy under increased pressure will be built at the PHELIX beamline.

With the development of the experimental and theoretical aspects of surface science, knowledge of the complex nature of surfaces at the atomic scale has increased significantly. This, in turn, opened the way to modify and control this nature and to produce improved materials used in, among others, catalysis, solar cells and biosensors. A number of challenges related to traditional methods of surface characterization prompted the scientific community to look for a research method that would allow measurements to be made in conditions similar to real conditions.

The method of near ambient pressure photoelectron spectroscopy (NAP-XPS) is widely popular among scientists from around the world. Equipment for this type of research is available in major synchrotron centers. This is due to the specificity of such measurements – soft X-rays excite low-energy electrons, which are absorbed in the gas phase, making the signal collected by the analyzer weak. A pressure of 1 mbar shortens the electron range to about 1 mm. A very intense source (synchrotron light) is needed to get a satisfactory result.

Thanks to funding received from the Ministry of Education and Science, the Solaris Centre will soon join this group. The funds, amounting to PLN 8,125,420, come from the budget for investment in education and scientific activities as part of a project prepared by Dr Magdalena Szczepanik. 

Read more on SOLARIS website

Two powerful universities join forces in a common cause.

The SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre will soon be the site of a joint project by Jagiellonian University and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. In the hall of only Poland’s synchrotron will house a beamline for research into viruses, drug and vaccine carriers and nanomaterials.

The Ministry of Education and Science, in the framework of the investment grant ‘Construction of a measurement line for small-angle X-ray scattering research’, has decided to award funding for the construction of a new beamline at the SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre, operating within the structures of the Jagiellonian University. This will be the first line in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe dedicated to the study of biological molecules, polymers and their composites, viruses, drug carriers and nanomaterials. Its creation will be possible thanks to the cooperation of scientists from two leading Polish academic communities, from the Jagiellonian University and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.

The rectors of the two universities met on 13 July at the NSRC to discuss collaborative spaces, and plans to develop new experimental techniques and learn about the specifics of shared research centres such as SOLARIS.

– The persistence of scientists from our universities in achieving the success of the joint project is an excellent example of exemplary relations between two powerful academic centres in Poland. I am delighted that, after so many months of perturbations to obtain ministerial approval, we have been able to obtain approval for this project. I wish that in three years’ time, we will all have the opportunity to meet here and together open a new line of research that will enable us to make breakthrough discoveries. – said Prof. Jacek Popiel, Jagiellonian University Rector.

– Science always has two dimensions: the present – the local – but also the global. Projects such as the joint research line project take us to this higher dimension of science.  I am a firm believer that global science does not succeed without collaboration. Our two universities have shown that such cooperation has yielded excellent results for many years. – said Professor Bogumiła Kaniewska, PhD, Rector of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.

Read more on SOLARIS website

Unique properties of a new anode material for Li-ion cells.

Researchers from AGH, Shanghai Institute of Space Power-Sources and the University of Silesia have conducted research on a new anode material. The material features a simple synthesis method, excellent cyclic stability and good electrochemical performance. Experimental studies have been carried out using the technique of X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS on PIRX line), and the pioneering results have been published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Lithium-ion batteries are a ubiquitous technology for today’s society, being crucial especially for portable electronics and the electrification of transport. However, from a point of view of further growth of the Li-ion batteries market and emerging applications, new cells with an extended lifespan, improved safety, as well as higher energy and/or power density are indispensable. To achieve this goal, one of the most significant objectives is to replace the conventional graphite anode, working already at its theoretical limits, with other, better compounds. Although much higher capacities can be obtained by employing anode materials that store lithium based on different Li-storage mechanisms, as compared to graphite, new challenging issues have emerged regarding their application. The main one is poor stability during cycling (i.e. charging and discharging), resulting in the unacceptable capacity fade. Recently it has been proposed to combine two different Li-storage mechanisms within a single compound, benefiting from their advantages and confining the disadvantages. The so-called conversion-alloying materials (CAMs) have been proposed and developed. Despite the overall improved electrochemical properties of CAMs, their still insufficient cycling stability remains a significant problem. So far, the only possibility of improving cyclability was to use complex and expensive synthesis methods and additives, which are hard to scale and expensive, and because of that, the vast majority of them will never be used for commercial production.

When studying the literature, authors of the publication found that a novel group of materials, the so-called high-entropy oxides (HEOs), has brought particular attention in the field of materials science and is currently extensively studied all over the world. HEOs are materials containing numerous elements (typically five or more) in a ratio close to equimolar, resulting in the high configurational entropy of the such system (hence the name). Because of the presence of many constituents and complex interactions between them, these compounds may exhibit exceptional properties, which cannot be simply predicted by analyzing the components individually. For example, one such effect is the excellent cycling stability observed for HEOs when they are applied as anode materials in Li-ion batteries. The reasons for this behavior, however, have not been fully understood so far.

Maciej Moździerz, the first author of the publication says: “In our work, we decided to resolve the problem of the capacity fade of CAMs by developing a novel concept of application of the high-entropy approach to CAMs. We successfully created a new anode material for Li-ion batteries, Sn0.80Co0.44Mg0.44Mn0.44Ni0.44Zn0.44O4, characterized by the excellent cycling stability, as well as good electrochemical performance. Very importantly, it can be obtained using a simple synthesis method, without expensive additives, and therefore, is easily transferable to the industrial scale. Then, we wanted to take a step further and explain in details why exactly this material works very well, and how in particular the high-entropy approach ensures great stability. For this purpose, we had to use several experimental techniques allowing investigating battery materials at the atomic scale, including X-ray absorption spectroscopy experiments, which were possible thanks to the use of the research infrastructure of the National Synchrotron Radiation Centre SOLARIS.”

Read more on SOLARIS website

The first X-ray images recorded at POLYX beamline

POLYX is a beamline under construction at SOLARIS that is focused on X-ray microimaging and microspectroscopy in the tender/hard energy range of 4-15 keV. A recent publication described the general concept of the beamline and showed first X-ray images measured at POLYX with a white (polychromatic) X-ray beam. Performed experiments demonstrated the possibility of X-ray phase contrast imaging of weakly absorbing test samples and focusing of the X-ray beam with polycapilllary optics for X-ray fluorescence imaging of elemental distribution inside samples.

POLYX is a compact beamline that is being constructed at SOLARIS and is scheduled for user operation in 2023. The main idea behind POLYX is to provide SOLARIS users with access to X-ray microimaging and X-ray microspectroscopic methods at higher energies (4 keV–15 keV) without using insertion devices or sophisticated X-ray optics. The name POLYX originates from polycapillary optics that will be extensively used to concentrate not only monochromatic, but also polychromatic X-rays.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

New orbit for electrons

Energy savings and a solution to a beam orbit correction problem are the results of a recent optimization carried out as part of a project initiated by Dr. Roman Panaś of the Accelerators Department. The correction problems stemmed from suboptimal alignment of the electron beam position “centers” (so-called offsets). It turned out that the correction magnets were undergoing periodic saturation, which made it impossible to maintain the correct orbit. Optimization of the beam orbit was essential, as it indirectly affects the quality and power of synchrotron light. It took about 2 months to develop and implement the new algorithms.

Precision at the synchrotron

Synchrotrons are a large, if not the largest, research infrastructure. Despite their size and diameters that range from tens to hundreds of meters, the precision of individual components is extremely important. As with a space rocket, accuracy to the hundredth of a millimeter on a synchrotron is crucial to the operation of the entire machine. This is why the synchrotron beam optimization project was such a great challenge. At the center of the initiative were the correction magnets, which directly affect the orbit of the electrons in the circular accelerator (ring). The orbit of electrons is determined by an algorithm and corrected in the vertical and horizontal axes with an accuracy that reaches fractions of micrometers.

The correction magnets got periodically saturated

The accumulation ring, in which the electrons circulate, is made up of 12 blocks of electromagnets. These blocks are called Double-Bend Achromat (DBA) cells. A typical DBA cell consists of two bending magnets, focusing magnets, and correction magnets. It is the latter that the team of researchers led by Dr. Roman Panaś, the originator of the project, focused on.

Steering magnets are responsible for keeping circulating electrons at the correct orbit. Until now, many power supplies for the correction magnets went to maximum currents, which is called saturation (reaching values of 11 A). This caused disturbances in the proper functioning of the beam correction. When electron beam is not properly corrected, it begins to oscillate in an uncontrolled manner, and resulting in faster electron beam losses.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Opening Ceremony for the new ASTRA (SOLABS) beamline

On 29 June 2022, the official opening ceremony was held for the ASTRA beamline (formerly SOLABS), a beamline dedicated to measurements using X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) in the energy range of 1 keV to 15 keV. The ceremony was attended by a number of distinguished guests along with the international team involved in building the beamline.

International cooperation is the key to success.

The ASTRA beamline was created thanks to the cooperation of 4 scientific institutions, the Hochschule Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Synchrotron Light Research Institute (Thailand), the Institute of Physics at Bonn University (Germany), and the SOLARIS Center.

Read more on the Solaris website

Image: Starting from right to left: Prof. Alexander Prange (Hochschule Niederrhein), Dr Thomas Grünewald (Hochschule Niederrhein), Prof. Stanisław Kistryn (Jagiellonian University), Prof. Marek Stankiewicz (SOLARIS, JU), Dr Michael Groß (Consul General of Germany), Prof. Josef Hormes (University of Bonn). Further Dr Alexey Maximenko (SOLARIS), Dr Henning Lichtenberg (Hochschule Niederrhein), Marcel Piszak (SOLARIS) – credit Solaris Synchrotron. 

What role does Elongator play in brain development?

What role does a tRNA modification complex, called Elongator, play in brain development?

SOLARIS Centre users from the Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology (of the Jagiellonian University, together with Australian, Turkish and Canadian colleagues, have found a link between defects in the cellular protein production machinery and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs), characterized by an inability to reach cognitive and motor milestones. Key studies in this publication were conducted using Cryo-EM microscopes located at our center.

The speed rate of protein synthesis is crucial to the integrity of the proteome

Scientists showed how genetic mutations in patients affect the Elongator activity and lead to severe clinical symptoms. The study provided the first clinical evidence for missense mutations in the Elongator accessory subcomplex ELP456 to cause neurodevelopmental disorders. Genome-wide analysis allowed identification of pathogenic variants in patients with severe clinical presentation of NDDs. Further modelling of the patient-derived mutations in mice resembled the complex neurodevelopmental phenotype and revealed neuron-specific consequences of the found genetic mutations.

We report patient-derived substitutions in the accessory ELP456 subcomplex to affect different types of neurons than previously known mutations in the catalytic core of the complex” – explains Dr. hab. Sebastian Glatt, the senior author and head of the Max Planck Research Group, that carried out the experimental work in Krakow. This provides a novel concept in the field that depletion of specific tRNA modifications in patient cells may induce specific changes in the cellular proteomes.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Arranging gold nanoparticles precisely in three dimensions

Metal nanoparticles have a wide variety of applications many of which stem from the fact that extremely small particles a few nanometres to  10’s of nanometres in diameter can have very different properties from those of the same material at a larger scale (a nanometre is just a billionth of a metre). Such particles are used as catalysts, coloring agents and can even  make antibacterial coatings. Some effects are due to the pattern of the particles and the spacing between them, but these are very difficult to control and particles are typically used in solution where they randomly move around like motes of dust in the air.   

In the current work, scientists based at the Bionanoscience and Biochemistry Laboratory at the Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology (MCB), Jagiellonian University showed that an artificial protein structure, a hollow sphere called a TRAP-cage, was able to act as a scaffold and provide regular-spaced points of attachment for small gold nanoparticles. “TRAP-cage is itself tiny, but at around 15 nm in diameter is still big enough to attach multiple  gold nanoparticles” explained Jonathan Heddle the head of the lab, “The protein cage is made of 12 rings, so overall it looks a little like a 12-sided dice – a dodecahedron.”  The researchers showed that there are spaces equivalent to the corners of the dodecahedron that offer just the right environment to snugly fit the gold nanoparticles inside. As a result, instead of randomly floating around, the particles appear to be constrained into a fixed three-dimensional pattern. It is hoped that the ability to arrange metal nanoparticles in this way may be developed further to produce new materials with useful properties.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: The structure of the protein cage (purple) with three of the embedded gold nanoparticles highlighted (yellow) 

Credit: Jonathan Heddle

New techniques available at SOLARIS synchrotron

From 2022, National Synchroton Radiation Center SOLARIS provides access to two new research techniques. Access to the Scanning Transmission X-ray Microscope and X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy beamline optimized for measurements in the soft and tender energy range, will be possible in the next call for proposals, in March 2022.

Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy (STXM) is a method to obtain a microscopic image of the raster-scanned sample by detecting the transmission intensity of the focused X-rays. The STXM is one of the two end stations of the DEMETER beamline in NSRC SOLARIS. The operating principle of the STXM is scanning of the sample in the focus of the Fresnel zone plate, which for this device is the lens focusing X-rays. In the next step, the detector measures the intensity of the radiation passing through the sample and, on the basis of the intensity images recorded by the detector, it is possible to calculate the absorption X-ray radiation in a selected place of the tested system. The most important measurement mode in STXM is the so-called “image stack” – a series of images are collected as a function of photon energy to obtain a dataset with space (XY) and energy (E) dimensions. A local absorption spectrum can be obtained from the arbitrary region of interest at the image. It allows a detail chemical composition analysis of a measured sample. The source for the STXM end station is elliptically polarized undulator, which enables to cover the energy range from 100 to 2000 eV. The undulator allows measurements using linear, circular and elliptical polarization. Detailed information about the STXM end station you can find here:

X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy beamline – SOLABS is a bending magnet beamline dedicated to X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) in the energy range from 1 keV to 15 keV. The beamline was especially designed for XAS measurements in the tender X-ray range, i.e., at the K absorption edges of important elements such as P, S, Si, Al and Mg. Besides, the energy range also includes K-edges of heavier elements up to Se, L-edges of elements up to Bi and some M-edges of elements including U, which allows investigation of a variety of highly relevant materials. Due to this straightforward concept without any optical components such as lenses or mirrors, SOLABS can be quickly aligned and easily operated.  At the beamline spectroscopic experiments in different measurement modes and with various sample environments are possible. XAS is a non-destructive, element-specific characterization method that can be applied to both crystalline and amorphous materials, liquids and samples in the gas phase. Detailed information about the SOLABS beamline and the features of its end station can be found here:

Agnieszka Cudek

The Head of Communication, SOLARIS National Synchrotron Radiation Centre

To apply for beamtime, please visit the SOLARIS website

A welcoming and friendly community awaits!

Challenges are part of daily life at a synchrotron. In his #LightSourceSelfie, Tomasz talks about the importance of flexibility and how teams work together, adjusting to overcome challenges and get things done. When describing the synchrotron community, Tomasz says, “I think it is one of the most welcoming and friendly communities I have ever met.” Tomasz is driven by curiosity and the need to help others. He says, “Light sources are a nice combination of both because I can actually help people to solve their problems, their interesting scientific problems, and this gives me the everyday fulfilment.”

After over a decade working in infrared spectroscopy, Tomasz is excited that SOLARIS now has funding to construct an infrared beamline that will allow scientists to do cutting edge infrared imaging experiments of cells and tissues primarily for cancer diagnostics and understanding of biological systems.

To find out more about SOLARIS, visit

Science Advances cover dedicated to research results on Cryo-EM

The research carried out at NCPS SOLARIS with the use of electron cryomicroscopy and at the Malopolska Biotechnology Centre, and at the British National Electron Bioimaging Center eBIC (Diamond Light Source) allowed to solve the structure of the protein responsible for introducing compounds necessary for the life of bacterial cells. The exceptional importance of the research was honored with a dedicated, unique image by Alina Kurokhtina published on the cover of Science Advances!

Bacterial species are under continuous warfare with each other for access to nutrients. To gain an advantage in this struggle, they produce antibacterial compounds that target and kill their competitors. Different species of bacteria, including ones that live inside us, can battle each other for scarce resources using a variety of tactics. Now, researchers from the laboratories of Prof Jonathan Heddle from Malopolska Centre of Biotechnology, Jagiellonian University, Krakow and Dr Konstantinos Beis at Research Complex at Harwell /Imperial College, London, have uncovered the mechanism of one such tactic in work that may eventually lead to the development of new antibacterials.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: A view of the determined SbmA structure in gold

Credit: Alina Kurokhtina

Retrovirus research using Cryo-EM

Reverse transcription involves the conversion of single-stranded RNA to double-stranded DNA. This is a key step in the replication of retroviruses, catalyzed by the enzyme reverse transcriptase. Retroviruses are divided into two subfamilies, one of which, Spumaretrovirinae, has a different proliferation cycle and a different reverse transcriptase domain structure. The presented studies provide the first structural description of the nucleic acid binding by viral reverse transferase, demonstrating its ability to change the oligomeric state depending on the type of bound nucleic acid.

Reverse transcriptases (RTs) use their DNA polymerase and RNase H activities to catalyze the conversion of single-stranded RNA to double-stranded DNA, a crucial process for the replication of retroviruses. Foamy viruses (FV) possess a unique RT which is a fusion with the protease (PR) domain. The mechanism of substrate binding by this enzyme has been unknown. The authors report a crystal structure of monomeric full-length marmoset FV (MFV) PR-RT in complex with an RNA/DNA hybrid substrate. Moreover, the describtion of a structure of MFV PR-RT with RNase H deletion in complex with a dsDNA substrate in which the enzyme forms an asymmetric homodimer has been presented. Cryo-electron microscopy reconstruction of full-length MFV PR-RT – dsDNA complex confirmed the dimeric architecture. These findings represent the first structural description of nucleic acid binding by a foamy viral RT and demonstrate its ability to change its oligomeric state depending on the type of bound nucleic acid. 

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: Model of FV

New insights into the photochemical activity of titanium dioxide

Not so many compounds are as important to industry and medicine today as titanium dioxide (TiO2). The electronic structure of transition metal oxides is an important factor determining the chemical and optical properties of materials. Specifically for metal-oxide structures, the crystal-field interaction determines the shape and occupancy of electronic orbitals. Consequently, the crystal-field splitting and resulting unoccupied state populations can be foreseen as modeling factors of the photochemical activity. The research on titanium dioxide inaugurated the presence of IFJ PAN scientists in research programs carried out at the SOLARIS synchrotron. The measurements, co-financed by the National Science Center, were carried out at the XAS beamline.

In many chemical reactions, TiO2 appears as a catalyst. As a pigment, it occurs in plastics, paints, and cosmetics, while in medical implants, it guarantees their high biocompatibility. A group of scientists from the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFJ PAN) in Krakow, led by Dr. Jakub Szlachetka, engaged in research on the oxidation processes of the outer layers of titanium samples and related changes in the electronic structure of this material. Scientists from the IFJ PAN conducted their latest measurements, co-financed by the National Science Center, at the XAS beamline. They analyzed how X-rays are absorbed by the surface layers of titanium samples previously produced at the Institute under carefully controlled conditions.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Scientist from the SOLARIS team awarded with the prestigious ERC Grant

Dr Sebastian Glatt the member of SOLARIS Team and the researcher from Małopolska Centre of Biotechnology (MCB) of the Jagiellonian University has received the ERC Consolidator Grant worth almost 2 million euro. His research will contribute to the better understanding of molecular mechanisms behind the fundamental processes of high clinical relevance, which shape and control the functioning of cellular protein in all living organisms.

Since 2008, the European Research Council (ERC) has been awarding grants for ground-breaking research conducted in the European Union member states and associated countries. The ERC consolidator grant has been addressed to experienced and  deserved researchers. The recently published list of this year’s Consolidator Grant winners comprises 327 researchers from 23 European countries, who will receive 655 million euro in total. Three of the winning projects will be carried out at Polish universities: the AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, the University of Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University. The last one is represented by the project “Deciphering the role of RNA modifications during ribosomal decoding and protein synthesis” by Dr Sebastian Glatt. This is the first grant of the European Research Council in the field of life sciences, which received a researcher from the Jagiellonian University.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: Dr Sebastian Glatt with colleagues in the lab


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