Study suggests water may exist in Earth’s lower mantle

Water on Earth runs deep – very deep. The oceans have been measured to a maximum depth of 7 miles, though water is known to exist well below the oceans. Just how deep this hidden water reaches, and how much of it exists, are the subjects of ongoing research.

Now a new study suggests that water may be more common than expected at extreme depths approaching 400 miles and possibly beyond – within Earth’s lower mantle. The study, which appeared March 8 in the journal Science, explored microscopic pockets of a trapped form of crystallized water molecules in a sampling of diamonds from around the world.

Diamond samples from locations in Africa and China were studied through a variety of techniques, including a method using infrared light at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Researchers used Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), and Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source, which are research centers known as synchrotron facilities.

>Read more on the Advanced Light Source website

Photo: Oliver Tschauner, professor of research in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, holds a diamond sample during a recent round of experiments at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source.
Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

Twin Orbit operation successfully tested at BESSY II

The first “Twin Orbit User Test week” at BESSY II in February 2018 was a big success and can be considered as an important step towards real user operation.

Physicists at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin have been able to store two separate electron beams in one storage ring. The twin orbit operation mode can serve users with different needs of the time structure of the photon pulses simultaneously and offers elegant options regarding the future project BESSY VSR.

The Twin Orbit operation mode makes use of non-linear beam dynamics and provides two stable well separated orbits for storing two electron beams in one storage ring. The bunch fill patterns of both orbits can be chosen, to some extent, independently, which allows for fulfilling normally incompatible user needs, simultaneously. For example, one orbit can be used to store a homogenous multi bunch fill to deliver high average brilliance for photon hungry experiments, whereas only one single bunch is stored on the other orbit for timing experiments, providing a much lower pulse repetition rate.

>Read more on the Bessy II at HZB website

Image: A synchrotron source point image of a bending magnet of the Twin Orbit modus. The second orbit closes after three revolution and is winding around the standard orbit at the center. (full image here)
Credit: HZB

Researchers obtain nanometric magnetite with full properties

When reducing materials at the nanoscale, they typically lose some of their properties. The experiments have been carried out at the CIRCE beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron.

Magnetite is a candidate material for various applications in spintronics, meaning that can be employed in devices where the spin of the electron is used to store or manipulate information. However, when it is necessary to create structures of the material at the nanometric scale, their properties get worse. A study, recently published in the scientific journal Nanoscale, has proved that, with suitable growth, magnetite could be used to create nanostructured magnetic elements without losing their properties.

“Oxides have been proposed to be used for spin waves in triangular structures for computing. And our results suggest that magnetite could be used for this purpose, “says Juan de la Figuera, scientist from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

>Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Beamline involved where nanometric magnetite has been obtained, keeping its full properties.
Credit: ALBA

Major upgrade of the NCD beamline

The NCD beamline, now NCD-SWEET, devoted to Small Angle and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (SAXS, WAXS), is offering users further experimental possibilities and higher quality data.

The SAXS beamline of ALBA has gone through a major upgrade in 2017. Upgraded items in the SAXS WAXS experimental techniques (SWEET) involve a new monochromator system, a new photon counting detector (Pilatus 1M), a new sample table with an additional rotating stage, and a beam conditioning optics with µ-focus and GISAXS options.

The original double crystal monochromator (DCM) has been replaced by a channel-cut silicon (1 1 1), improving the beam stability at sample position up to 0.9% and 0.4% of the beam size horizontally and vertically, respectivelly.

>Read more on the ALBA website

Figure: Vertical beam profile with the Be lenses into the beam (Horizontal axis unit is mm). The plot is the derivative of an edge scan along the vertical direction. The horizontal beam profile shows a gaussian shape as well.

Scientists work toward new canola varieties as clubroot spreads across the Prairies

Scientists are in a race against a disease that threatens canola, one of Western Canada’s most important crops, and they are looking to the Canadian Light Source to learn more about the genetic resistance to this disease.

Clubroot causes swelling on the canola roots eventually killing the plant. Finding a way for those roots to resist this soil-borne disease is the cornerstone of the strategy for managing the disease, says Gary Peng, a scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Saskatoon Research and Development Centre.

“The consequences of clubroot in a canola field can be devastating. It can wipe out the whole crop,” said Peng.

The first case of clubroot in canola was reported in 2003 in several fields in the Edmonton area. The infestation spread rapidly to fields north of the city and the disease is now found in more than 2,000 fields in a wide band across Alberta. In Saskatchewan, it was first detected in 2008, but significant evidence of the disease attacking the roots of canola plants wasn’t identified until 2011, according to the Canola Council of Canada.

>Read more on the Canadian Lightsource website

Antiferromagnets as a new kind of information storage technology

Magnetic materials have been used for storing information for more than half a century, from the first magnetic tapes to modern data servers. These technologies have in common the usage of ferromagnets, producing magnetic fields which are easily measurable. Researchers at the University of Nottingham are working with Diamond Light Source to develop new technologies based on a different class of magnetic material: an antiferromagnet, which does not produce a magnetic field, but which has a hidden magnetic order that can be used to store the ones and zeros of information.

Looking at the atomic scale, each atom is like a small magnetic compass, having a small magnetic moment. In a ferromagnet, once the information is written, all those atomic moments remain oriented in the same direction. In antiferromagnets, each magnetic moment aligns exactly opposite to its neighbours, effectively cancelling them out (Figure 1). This arrangement has some important advantages for memory applications: magnetic bits do not interact with each other, so can be packed more closely; they do not interact with external magnetic fields; their resonant frequencies, which determine the speed that information can be written, is typically 1000 times larger than in ferromagnets. Antiferromagnets can therefore be useful, but how would you store and read information in a material whose total magnetic moment is always zero? Dr Peter Wadley, a researcher at the University of Nottingham, and Sonka Reimers, a joint Nottingham and Diamond PhD student, are trying to answer that question in their search for new technologies for information storage and processing.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Figure: Schematic of magnetic moment orientation for binary information storage using (left) a ferromagnet. Full image here.

The early bird got to fly: Archaeopteryx was an active flyer

Was Archaeopteryx capable of flying, and if so, how?

The question of whether the Late Jurassic dino-bird Archaeopteryx was an elaborately feathered ground dweller, a glider, or an active flyer has fascinated palaeontologists for decades. Valuable new information obtained with state-of-the-art synchrotron microtomography at the ESRF, the European Synchrotron (Grenoble, France), allowed an international team of scientists to answer this question in Nature Communications. The wing bones of Archaeopteryx were shaped for incidental active flight, but not for the advanced style of flying mastered by today’s birds.

Was Archaeopteryx capable of flying, and if so, how? Although it is common knowledge that modern-day birds descended from extinct dinosaurs, many questions on their early evolution and the development of avian flight remain unanswered. Traditional research methods have thus far been unable to answer the question whether Archaeopteryx flew or not. Using synchrotron microtomography at the ESRF’s beamline ID19 to probe inside Archaeopteryx fossils, an international team of scientists from the ESRF, Palacký University, Czech Republic, CNRS and Sorbonne University, France, Uppsala University, Sweden, and Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum Solnhofen, Germany, shed new light on this earliest of birds.

>Read more on the European Synchrotron website

Image: The Munich specimen of the transitional bird Archaeopteryx. It preserves a partial skull (top left), shoulder girdle and both wings slightly raised up (most left to center left), the ribcage (center), and the pelvic girdle and both legs in a “cycling” posture (right); all connected by the vertebral column from the neck (top left, under the skull) to the tip of the tail (most right). Imprints of its wing feathers are visible radiating from below the shoulder and vague imprints of the tail plumage can be recognised extending from the tip of the tail.
Credits: ESRF/Pascal Goetgheluck

W7 SSRL Slider

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL) is one of the pioneering synchrotron facilities in the world, known for outstanding user support, training future generations and important contributions to science and instrumentation. SSRL is an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy by Stanford University.

W7 FERMI Slider

The program of construction and commissioning through user experiments of the FEL source FERMI, the only FEL user facility in the world currently exploiting external seeding to offer intensity, wavelength and line width stability, achieved all of its intended targets in 2017.

W7 NSRRC Slider

Taiwan Light Source (TLS, 1.5 GeV) and Taiwan Photon Source (TPS, 3.0 GeV) are the two synchrotron light sources currently operated by the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center (NSRRC). There are around 13,000 academic user visits to NSRRC every year; approximately 10% are international.

Modifications to novel non-fullerene small molecule acceptor in organic thin film

… for solar cells demonstrates improved power conversion efficiency.

Scientists from the Imperial College London, Monash University, CSIRO, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have reported an organic thin film for solar cells with a non-fullerene small molecule acceptor that achieved a power conversion efficiency of just over 13 per cent.

By replacing phenylalkyl side chains in indacenodithieno[3,2-b]thiophene-based non-fullerene acceptor (ITIC) with simple linear chains to form C8-ITIC, they improved the photovoltaic performance of the material.

C8-ITIC was blended with a fluorinated analog of the donor polymer PBDB-T to form bulk-heterojunction thin films.

The research was recently published in Advanced Materials.

Dr Xuechen Jiao of McNeill Research Group at Monash University carried out grazing incidence wide angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS) measurements at the Australian Synchrotron to gain morphological information on pure and blended thin films.

“By changing the chemical structure of the organic compound, a promising boost in efficiency was successfully achieved in an already high-performing organic solar cells” said Jiao.

>Read more on the Australian Synchrotron website


Determining the impact of post-conservation corrosion

When King Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, sank off Portsmouth in 1545, it took with it 1248 iron cannonballs. Since the excavation of the shipwreck (from 1979-1983), the cannonballs have been conserved in different ways, offering a unique opportunity to study different conservation methods.

Humans have been using iron to make weapons, tools and ceremonial items for more than 20,000 years, but once these objects have been excavated they are at risk from corrosion, which can be accelerated in the presence of chlorine. Each recovered artefact has to be conserved to prevent it from deteriorating in the presence of air and water. Until now, a comparison of the effectiveness of different conservation methods has been hampered by the variable nature of both the artefacts found, and the environment in which they were buried.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image: Dr Eleanor Schofield, Dr Giannantonio Cibin and Hayley Simon with iron shot and samples on Diamond’s B18 beamline.
Credit: Diamond Light Source

Marianne Liebi winner of Swedish L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science 2018

L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Prize is awarded in Sweden for the third time. The purpose of the prize is to pay attention to and reward young women who have shown great potential in science, while offering positive female role-models. Researchers Marianne Liebi, Chalmers, and Ruth Pöttgen, Lund University, get L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award, supported by Sweden’s young academy 2018.

Marianne Liebi gets the award “for the constructive use of advanced imaging methods for biomaterials with the aim of understanding the connection between molecular and mechanical properties”. Marianne Liebi uses powerful X-ray technology to study how, for example, the smallest building blocks, collagen fibrils, the bone tissue, look and are organised. The goal is to develop a mimicking, biomimetic material, where nature’s own design principles are imitated and applied to develop artificial bone and cartilage.
“It’s important to show that in research, it does not matter where you come from or who you are – what matters is passion and dedication. At best, this kind of award will not be needed in the future, it would be aimed at all young researchers. It would not matter who you were, says Marianne Liebi.

>Read more on the MAXIV Laboratory website

Photo: Researchers Ruth Pöttgen (left), Lund University, and Marianne Liebi (right), Chalmers, get L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award 2018, supported by Young Academy Sweden.
Credit: Emma Burendahl

Stressing over new materials

Titanium is a workhorse metal of the modern age. Alloyed with small amounts of aluminum and vanadium, it is used in aircraft, premium sports equipment, race cars, space craft, high-end bicycles, and medical devices because of its light weight, ability to withstand extreme temperatures, and excellent corrosion resistance. But titanium is also expensive. Metallurgists would love to understand exactly what makes it so strong so that they could design other materials with similarly desirable properties out of more common, less expensive elements. Now, researchers utilizing the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) have used high-intensity x-rays to show how titanium alloy responds to stress in its (until now) hidden interior. Eventually, the researchers believe they will be able to predict how strong a titanium part such as an aircraft engine will be, just by knowing how the crystals are arranged inside of it. And materials scientists may be able to use such a computational model to swap in atoms from different metals to see how their crystalline structures compare to that of titanium.

>Read more on the Advanced Photon Source website

Figure: (extract) (A) A computational model of crystals inside a block of titanium, (B) includes effects noticed during the experiment to place permanent deformations (the darkened areas,) [not visible here, entire picture here]  while (C) models permanent deformations without incorporating the diversity of load seen in the experiment.