Enhanced magnetic hybridization of a spinterface through Insertion of a two-dimensional magnetic oxide layer

Interfaces between organic semiconductors and ferromagnetic metals offer intriguing opportunities in the rapidly developing field of organic spintronics. Understanding and controlling the spin-polarized electronic states at the interface is the key toward a reliable exploitation of this kind of systems. It is indeed important to master and reliably reproduce the chemical reactions responsible of the spin-polarization at the interface.

Read more on the Elettra website.

Figure 3. a) First-principle density functional theory (DFT) simulations of the XMCD spectra of the Cr4O5 -C60/Fe(001) interface. b): section view of the spin density at the C60/Cr4O5 interface. Source: Elettra website

A Path to a Game-Changing Battery Electrode

If you add more lithium to the positive electrode of a lithium-ion battery, it can store much more charge in the same amount of space, theoretically powering an electric car 30 to 50 percent farther between charges. But these lithium-rich cathodes quickly lose voltage, and years of research have not been able to pin down why—until now.

Read more on the ALS website

Image: Electric car makers are intensely interested in lithium-rich battery cathodes made of layers of lithium sandwiched between layers of transition-metal oxides. Such cathodes could significantly increase driving range. (Stanford University/3Dgraphic)

Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how important bioinorganic electron transfer systems operate. Using a combination of very different, time-resolved measurement methods at DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III and other facilities, the scientists were able to show that so-called pre-distorted states can speed up photochemical reactions or make them possible in the first place. The group headed by Sonja Herres-Pawlis from the RWTH Aachen University  Michael Rübhausen from the University of Hamburg and Wolfgang Zinth from Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University, is presenting its findings in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The scientists had studied the pre-distorted, “entatic” state using a model system. An entatic state is the term used by chemists to refer to the configuration of a molecule in which the normal arrangement of the atoms is modified by external binding partners such that the energy threshold for the desired reaction is lowered, resulting in a higher speed of reaction. One example of this is the metalloprotein plastocyanin, which has a copper atom at its centre and is responsible for important steps in the transfer of electrons during photosynthesis. Depending on its oxidation state, the copper atom either prefers a planar configuration, in which all the surrounding atoms are arranged in the same plane (planar geometry), or a tetrahedral arrangement of the neighbouring ligands. However the binding partner in the protein forces the copper atom to adopt a sort of intermediate arrangement. This highly distorted tetrahedron allows a very rapid shift between the two oxidation states of the copper atom.

>Read more on the PETRA III website

Image Caption: Entatic state model complexes optimize the energies of starting and final configuration to enable fast reaction rates (illustrated by the hilly ground). The work demonstrates that the entatic state principle can be used to tune the photochemistry of copper complexes.
Credit: RWTH Aachen, Sonja Herres-Pawlis

From greenhouse gases to plastics

New catalyst for recycling carbon dioxide discovered

Imagine if we could take CO2, that most notorious of greenhouse gases, and convert it into something useful. Something like plastic, for example. The positive effects could be dramatic, both diverting CO2 from the atmosphere and reducing the need for fossil fuels to make products.

A group of researchers, led by the University of Toronto Ted Sargent group, just published results that bring this possibility a lot closer.

Using the Canadian Light Source and a new technique exclusive to the facility, they were able to pinpoint the conditions that convert CO2 to ethylene most efficiently. Ethylene, in turn, is used to make polyethylene—the most common plastic used today—whose annual global production is around 80 million tonnes.


>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website


X-Rays Reveal ‘Handedness’ in Swirling Electric Vortices

Scientists at Berkeley Lab study exotic material’s properties, which could make possible a new form of data storage

Scientists used spiraling X-rays at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to observe, for the first time, a property that gives handedness to swirling electric patterns – dubbed polar vortices – in a synthetically layered material.

Read more on the Berlekely Lab website

Image: This diagram shows the setup for the X-ray experiment that explored chirality, or handedness, in a layered material. The blue and red spirals at upper left show the X-ray light that was used to probe the material. The X-rays scattered off of the layers of the material (arrows at upper right and associated X-ray images at top), allowing researchers to measure chirality in swirling electrical vortices within the material. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Perovskite solar cells: perfection not required!

Experiments at BESSY II reveal why even inhomogeneous perovskite films are highly functional

Metal-organic perovskite layers for solar cells are frequently fabricated using the spin coating technique. If you follow the simplest synthesis pathway and use industry-relevant compact substrates, the perovskite layers laid down by spin coating generally exhibit numerous holes, yet attain astonishingly high levels of efficiency. The reason that these holes do not lead to significant short circuits between the front and back contact and thus high-rate charge carrier recombination has now been discovered by a HZB team headed by Dr.-Ing. Marcus Bär in cooperation with the group headed by Prof. Henry Snaith (Oxford Univ.) at BESSY II.

>Read more on the HZB website.

How can asbestos teach us about carbon nanotubes?

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are already used in industry.

They have a fibrous structure that resembles that of asbestos. A team from University ofTrieste, IRCCS Burlo Garofolo, University of Turin, Elettra (Italy) and ESRF has studied both materials at the ESRF’s beamline ID21 and Elettra and has found that the presence of iron impurities in CNTs causes an asbestos-like toxicity in pleural cells. The scientists publish their results in Scientific Reports today.

>Read more on the ESRF website

Image: An artistic impression of a carbon nanotube.
Credits: Model.la.

MAX-IV at Big Science Business Forum 2018

Join MAX IV at Europe’s new one-stop-shop on the Big Science market

More than 650 delegates from 25 countries, representing more than 250 businesses and organisations from the international Big Science landscape, have already registered for Big Science Business Forum 2018 (BSBF2018). As a selected Affiliated Big Science organisation, MAX IV will be present at BSBF2018, giving a talk on our future procurement plans. With less than two months to go, interested is encouraged to sign up for BSBF2018 now.

Read more on the MAX-IV website

Notes from the NSF INCLUDES Summit

Broadening the participation of underrepresented populations

For the past 20+ years, the National Science Foundation has been funding initiatives aimed at broadening the participation of underrepresented populations though the Broader Impact efforts supported by the various research divisions.

Millions of dollars and countless hours of work have done little to “move the needle” towards the desired outcome of achieving the full participation of diverse individuals in all facets of STEM. According to Dr. Alicia Knoedler who serves on NSF’s Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE), states that the “cumulative, overall impact on underrepresented groups is minimal.”  To address this shortcoming, CEOSE released a list of recommendations to the NSF in their 2011-2012 report to implement a bold new initiative to fund broadening participation through institutional transformation and systems change using clear benchmarks of success, longitudinal data, and significant financial support. NSF Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) is what emerged from this report, along with adoption of a framework to ensure shared accountability to promote participation and excellence.

>Read more on the CHESS website

Image caption: Visual display depicting one brain-storming session held by NSF INCLUDES participants during the Summit held January 8-10th, 2018.

Updates from the CHESS User Office

Happy New Year! Here are a few updates and deadlines from the user office…

ORCID id: You will now find a field in userdb for your ORCID id; currently this is not a required field but a strong suggestion. An ORCID id provides a unique identifier acknowledged and used by publishers, funders, professional organization and research organizations. This unique identifier will help us improve searches for publications and funding sources in order to provide the best data possible in our activity reports.

Activity Report: Notifications of Activity Reports have been going out. All PI’s who had received beamtime in calendar year 2017 are asked to report on the progress of their research for our annual activity report. Reports are due no later than March 5, 2018. When writing your progress report, please keep in mind that these reports are published in both print and pdf form, which will be provided to our funding sources and found on our website. Please do not disclose data that has not been published.

>Read more on the CHESS website


European astroparticle physicists present their strategy in Brussels

Astroparticle physicists from across Europe have gathered in Brussels

…on January 9th, alongside their international colleagues and important guests from the European Commission, for the official announcement of the new strategy by the Astroparticle Physics European Consortium (APPEC) which will guide the community’s recommended research priorities over the next ten years.

Astroparticle physics is a relatively new and rapidly growing field that is already achieving important results, the most recent and well-known being the first detection of gravitational waves that has opened a new era of multi-messenger astronomy and earned the field the 2017 Nobel Prize for physics.

Gravitational waves, neutrino, dark matter and gamma ray research are high on the list of research priorities being recommended with the launch of the latest European astroparticle physics strategy.

>Read more on the PETRA III website

Image Caption: The new astroparticle physics strategy has been officially launched and presented to Robert-Jan Smits (third left), Director General of DG Research and Innovation (RTD) at the European Commission France A. Córdova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF in USA) and Giorgio Rossi (first left), chairman of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) in the presence of the scientific and funding community.

Scientists discover why biochar fertilizers work so well

It’s a process that is as old as humankind taming fire and growing crops. The practice of returning carbon to the soil through charcoal (called “biochar” when put into the ground) from fires has been known for centuries to have a positive effect on plant growth.

Now, thanks to some work done at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, advocates of using biochar know the reason why charcoal works so well in capturing and releasing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus slowly into the soil to improve crop yields over an entire growing season and beyond. The findings could lead to the creation of an organic slow release fertilizer with significantly better performance than current agricultural management practices.

The answer researchers from Europe got in a trip to the CLS beamlines was not the one that everyone had previously presumed.  Instead of the old assumption that oxidization of biochar enabled the storage and release of nutrients for crops, team leader Nikolas Hagemann says the CLS allowed researchers to see the actual pathway.  Martin Obst, one of Hagemann’s collaborators and frequent user of the CLS, used the soft X-ray spectromicroscopy beamline to get a picture at the molecular level so they could see how other nutrients such as composted manure clung to the biochar due to size and shape of the carbon molecules. Incorporated into soil, the biochar is slow to give up the nutrients clinging to it.


>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Ingredients for Life Revealed in Meteorites That Fell to Earth

Study, based in part at Berkeley Lab, also suggests dwarf planet in asteroid belt may be a source of rich organic matter

Two wayward space rocks, which separately crashed to Earth in 1998 after circulating in our solar system’s asteroid belt for billions of years, share something else in common: the ingredients for life. They are the first meteorites found to contain both liquid water and a mix of complex organic compounds such as hydrocarbons and amino acids.

Read more on the Berkeley Lab website.

Image: Artist’s rendering of asteroids and space dust. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Extraterrestrial Oceans

Exploring the solar system does not need spacecraft

One of the amazing things scientists can do at Diamond is to recreate conditions of other parts of the Universe. Recently they used this remarkable ability to peer into the salty waters hidden underneath kilometres of ice on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons.
In September, NASA ended the Cassini mission in spectacular fashion, crashing the spacecraft into Saturn. For twenty years, Cassini brought us closer to our gas giant neighbour and its moons. The probe made astonishing discoveries about one of them: Enceladus. This small moon has plumes of gas erupting from its surface, it has a rocky core covered in a thick layer of ice, and in between lies a deep, salty ocean. It is one of the most promising places to look for extraterrestrial life. Enceladus is one of the few places in the Solar System where liquid water is known to exist.
Spacecraft aren’t our only way of exploring the solar system, and Stephen leads a team of experimental astrophysicists based at Diamond and Keele University (UK), who have been recreating the conditions in Enceladus’s salty ocean right here in Harwell. They have been using Diamond’s astoundingly bright light to investigate one of the more mysterious properties of water – its ability to form clathrates when water is cooled under pressure. Clathrates are ice-like structures that behave like tiny cages, and can trap molecules such as carbon dioxide and methane.


>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image Credit: LPG-CNRS-U. Nantes/Charles U., Prague.

Finnish universities expanding their cooperation with MAX IV

The longstanding collaboration, dating back more than 20 years, of Finnish universities and users to MAX IV laboratory has taken a new phase. Through an agreement signed in the very last days of November, a Finnish university consortium – FIMAX – will expand and deepen this collaboration.

rofessor Marko Huttula from Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit at the University of Oulu acts as a coordinator of the Finnish participation.

Huttula made his first experiment in MAX-lab on 1998 during the birth of Finnish-Swedish I411 beamline, and now he sees a lot of benefits with the new agreement.

– The engaged long-term relationship between Finland and Sweden in MAX IV synchrotron radiation facility will boost the knowledge of the availability of the possibilities offered for the research. I do believe increasing interests will arise from the traditionally technical fields of R&D as well as from bio and medical research. The need on understanding the structure and functions of materials and processes on the finest detail will definitely make the synchrotron radiation more and more attracting.

Read more on the MAX-IV website

Image: The Finnish cooperation with MAX IV brings new potential users to the synchrotron. Here a photo from the visit in December by Genome of Steel from Oulu University. In the picture, from left to right: Rainer Pärna, beamline manager FinEstBeAMS, Samuli Urpelainen, beamline manager SPECIES, Timo Fabritius, Prof. Process Metallurgy Unit, Head of Unit, Christoph Quitmann, Director MAX IV Laboratory, Mahesh Somani, Adj Prof. Physical Metallurgy Group, Marko Huttula, Prof. Nano and Molecular systems Research Unit, Head of Unit, Antti Kivimäki, beamline scientist FinEstBeAMS, Wei Cao, Adj.Prof. Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit, Jukka Kömi, Prof. Materials and Production Engineering Unit, Head of Unit, Ville-Valtteri Visuri, PhD student Process Metallurgy.