Scientists probe Earth’s deep mantle in the laboratory

Extreme conditions experiments sharpen view of our planet’s interior

Simulating the conditions 2700 kilometres deep underground, scientists have studied an important transformation of the most abundant mineral on Earth, bridgmanite. The results from the Extreme Conditions Beamline at DESY’s X-ray light source PETRA III reveal how bridgmanite turns into a structure known as post-perovskite, a transformation that affects the dynamics of Earth’s lower mantle, including the spreading of seismic waves. The analysis can provide an explanation for a range of peculiar seismic observations, as the team headed by Sébastien Merkel from the Université de Lille in France report in the Journal Nature Communications.
Bridgmanite is a magnesian-iron mineral ((Mg,Fe)SiO3) with a crystal structure that is not stable under ambient conditions. It forms about 660 kilometres below the surface of the Earth, and microcrystalline grains found as inclusions in meteorites are the only samples ever recovered on the surface. “In order to study bridgmanite under the conditions of the lower mantle, we had to produce the mineral first,” explains Merkel. To do so, the scientists compressed tiny amounts of iron-magnesium-silicon-oxide in a diamond anvil cell (DAC), a device that can squeeze samples with high pressure between two small diamond anvils.

Image: The crystal structures of bridgmanite (left) and post-perovskite (right).

Credit: Université de Lille, Sébastien Merkel
>Read more on the PETRA III (DESY) website

Rare dinosaur skin offers insights into evolution

International team of scientists finds rare piece of preserved dinosaur skin and, in a world first, compares it directly to modern animals to gain insight into evolution.

Mauricio Barbi has loved dinosaurs for as long as he can remember and dreamed of one day being a paleontologist. “When I was a kid, I loved space, stars, and dinosaurs,” he said.
Fast-forward a few years, and Barbi is trekking through the Alberta Badlands alongside famous paleontologist Philip Currie, whose professional life became the inspiration for characters in the Jurassic Park movies. During this fieldwork, he also met paleontologist and rising star, Phil Bell, who had recently found a well-preserved hadrosaur. When he joined Bell in the excavations, Barbi was shocked and thrilled by what they discovered.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Picture of the dig site.

First stored beam

6 December, 12.30 pm. Today, the electrons have been stored for the first time, in the new Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS) storage ring.

Today, 6 December 12:30 pm was a great and intense moment for all the ESRF teams: the electrons have been stored for the first time in the new EBS storage ring, only five days after the start of the EBS storage ring commissioning. This is a new key milestone on the way to opening to the international scientific community the first high-energy fourth-generation synchrotron light source, known as EBS – Extremely Brilliant Source.

” Seeing the first beam stored only five days after the start of the commissioning is a huge achievement and an intense moment for all involved. EBS is becoming a reality.” said Pantaleo Raimondi, ESRF accelerator and source director and EBS storage ring concept inventor and project leader.

>Read more on the European Synchrotron 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

17th Users’ Meeting at SESAME and inauguration of the guest house

Some 80 scientists from the region and beyond are meeting at SESAME on 30 November and 1 December to discuss the scientific programme and latest results from the laboratory. For the first time, the Users’ meeting is being held on the SESAME campus in a new guest house and meeting facility. Another first this year is that the meeting is being held jointly with the European Synchrotron and FEL User Organisation, ESUO, a sign of SESAME’s growing integration into the international research landscape.

The programme opened with a welcome from the Laboratory’s Director, Khaled Toukan, and an update on the SESAME scientific programme and beamlines. It continued with presentations of results from experiments conducted at SESAME. There were also presentations from representatives of European light sources, as well as from the OPEN SESAME consortium, an EU funded project that has provided training support since 2017 and concludes this year, the BEATS consortium, another EU funded project building a tomography beamline at SESAME, and from HESEB, a SESAME-Helmholtz collaboration for the installation of a new soft X-ray beamline.

>Read more on the SESAME website
Image: A group photo for the 17th annual SESAME Users’ meeting.
Credit: SESAME.

Article about the inauguration of SESAME’s guest house.

Translucency of graphene to van der Waals forces

If in the infinitely large it is the gravitational force that determines the evolution in space and time of planets, stars and galaxies, when we focus our observation on the atomic scale other are the forces that allow materials to exist. These are forces that, like a “special glue”, allow atoms and molecules to aggregate to form living and non-living systems. Among them we find one that, although discovered 150 years ago by Johannes Diderik van der Waals (vdW), still carries with it some aspects of ambiguity. Van der Waals was the first to reveal its origin and to give a first and simple analytical description, even though it took more than a century, with the new discoveries of quantum field theory, to be able to fully understand its quantum character and its relation to the vacuum energy and Casimir force. And only in the last 30 years it has been realized how much this force pervades the natural world. One of the wonders is represented by the geckos, who use these forces to climb vertical and smooth walls thanks to the vdW forces, which are enhanced because of the multitude of hairs present in each finger of their legs. These forces are also known to affect the stability of the double helix of the DNA and are also responsible for the interactions between different groups of amino acids.
What makes the vdW force unique is the fact that it is the weakest of the inter-atomic and inter-molecular forces present in nature and therefore it remains extremely difficult to measure with great accuracy. At the same time, even the inclusion of these force in the most accurate methods of calculation has not yet found a universal solution and the different approaches used by theoretical physicists and chemists to take them into account can sometimes lead to conflicting results.

>Read more on the Elettra website

Image:   CO desorption from Gr/Ir(111). (a) Selected spectra of the uptake corresponding to θCO=0.08 ML (bottom) and 0.30 ML (top). (b) TP-XPS C 1s core level spectra showing its evolution during thermal desorption of CO from Gr/Ir(111). (c) Comparison of CO coverage evolution as a function of temperature for selected CO initial coverages. 

More magnets, smoother curves: the Swiss Light Source upgrade

The Swiss Light Source SLS is set to undergo an upgrade in the coming years: SLS 2.0.

The renovation is made possible by the latest technologies and will create a large-scale research facility that will meet the needs of researchers for decades to come.

Since 2001, “the UFO” has been providing reliable and excellent service: In the circular building of the Swiss Light Source SLS, researchers from PSI and all over the world carry out cutting-edge research. For example, they can investigate the electronic properties of novel materials, determine the structure of medically relevant proteins, and make visible the nanostructure of a human bone.
“Internationally, the SLS has been setting standards for nearly two decades”, says Terence Garvey, SLS 2.0 accelerator project head. Now, Garvey continues, it’s time for a modernisation. In the coming years, SLS is expected to undergo an upgrade with the project title SLS 2.0. SLS will remain within the same UFO-shaped building, but will get changes in crucial areas inside. Garvey is one of the two project leaders for the upgrade, together with Philip Willmott.

Swiss Light Source (SLS) , , ,

New optical device opens path for extreme focusing of X-rays

Adaptable refractive correctors for X-ray optics

An innovative new type of optical component for X-rays has been developed by a scientific team in the Optics and Metrology Group at Diamond Light Source. This new optical component is designed to correct for the effect of imperfections in the optical elements used for focusing of X-rays. It works by introducing a controlled change to the X-ray’s phase. It is known as an “adaptable refractive corrector” – so called because the corrector uses refraction and can  adapt  the correction to the unique imperfection of any optical element. The researchers have designed and tested such a component at Diamond obtaining reductions in the effect of the imperfections in a range of mirror and lens focusing optical elements by a factor of up to 7. This development is expected to have application to new developing techniques such as hard X-ray microscopy at the nanometre scale.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image: Schematic showing the adaptable corrector with a double mirror system.

Inventing a way to see attosecond electron motions with an X-ray laser

Called XLEAP, the new method will provide sharp views of electrons in chemical processes that take place in billionths of a billionth of a second and drive crucial aspects of life.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have invented a way to observe the movements of electrons with powerful X-ray laser bursts just 280 attoseconds, or billionths of a billionth of a second, long.

The technology, called X-ray laser-enhanced attosecond pulse generation (XLEAP), is a big advance that scientists have been working toward for years, and it paves the way for breakthrough studies of how electrons speeding around molecules initiate crucial processes in biology, chemistry, materials science and more.
The team presented their method today in an article in Nature Photonics.

“Until now, we could precisely observe the motions of atomic nuclei, but the much faster electron motions that actually drive chemical reactions were blurred out,” said SLAC scientist James Cryan, one of the paper’s lead authors and an investigator with the Stanford PULSE Institute, a joint institute of SLAC and Stanford University. “With this advance, we’ll be able to use an X-ray laser to see how electrons move around and how that sets the stage for the chemistry that follows. It pushes the frontiers of ultrafast science.”

Image: A SLAC-led team has invented a method, called XLEAP, that generates powerful low-energy X-ray laser pulses that are only 280 attoseconds, or billionths of a billionth of a second, long and that can reveal for the first time the fastest motions of electrons that drive chemistry. This illustration shows how the scientists use a series of magnets to transform an electron bunch (blue shape at left) at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source into a narrow current spike (blue shape at right), which then produces a very intense attosecond X-ray flash (yellow).
Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

>Read more on the Linear Coherent Light Source (SLAC) website

First electrons turn in the ESRF’s Extremely Brilliant Source Storage Ring

This is an important milestone on the way to opening to the international scientific community the first high-energy fourth-generation synchrotron light source, known as EBS – Extremely Brilliant Source.

It marks the successful completion of the engineering and installation of a worldwide-unique accelerator within the existing ESRF infrastructure, and the start of the commissioning phase of a brand-new generation of high-energy synchrotron.
Expectation was high in the ESRF’s control room on 2 December as teams carefully monitored the first turns of the electrons around the new EBS storage ring. “Seeing the first electrons circulating is a huge achievement and proof of the hard work and expertise of the teams who have been working on this since 2015,” said Pantaleo Raimondi, ESRF accelerator and source director and EBS storage ring concept inventor and project leader. “It’s a great moment for all involved.”

>Read more on the ESRF website

Image: The first three turns of electrons in the new EBS storage ring.

One of Sirius’ most important steps: first electron loop around the storage ring

This is one of the most important stages of the largest scientific project in Brazil .

The Sirius project has just completed one of its most important steps: the first electron loop around its main particle accelerator, called the Storage Ring. In this large structure, 518 meters in circumference, the electrons accelerated to very high energies produce synchrotron light: a very bright light used in scientific experiments that could revolutionize knowledge in health, energy, materials and more.
The first loop demonstrates that thousands of components such as magnets, ultra-high-vacuum chambers and sensors are working in sync, and that the entire structure, with parts weighing hundreds of kilograms, have been aligned to micrometer standards (up to five times smaller than a strand of hair) needed to guide the trajectory of the particles.
Sirius is the largest and most complex scientific infrastructure ever built in Brazil and one of the first 4th generation synchrotron light source to be built in the world and it was designed to put Brazil at the forefront of this type of technology.

The next steps of the project include concluding the assembly of the first beamlines: the research stations where scientists conduct their experiments. These stations allow researchers to study the structure of virtually any organic and inorganic materials, such as proteins, viruses, rocks, plants, soil, alloys, among many others, in the atomic and molecular scale with very high resolution and speed.

>Read more on the LNLS (CNPEM) website

Picture: first loop around the storage ring.