Kiishi and Hannah have spent five days within the Diamond Communications team as part of their work experience week. They’ve shared their experience, with a special focus on engineering, in this article.
2018 is the Year of Engineering. A national campaign to celebrate the world and wonder of engineering and increase awareness and understanding of what engineers do among young people. Engineering is a vital part of everyday life, from coffee machines and smartphones, to Mars rovers and artificial intelligence.
Some ways in which Diamond encourages young people to get into engineering include through open days; the facility hosts five every year as well as workshops for prospective students who are interested in the field of science and engineering. Recently Diamond ran Project M which involved collecting 1000 samples of calcium carbonate from 100 schools across the country. These samples were analysed by Diamond and the results were sent back to the schools to process. They were interested in finding out how different additives affect the forms of calcium carbonate produced. This project was the first ‘citizen science’ project at Diamond and allowed schools to really get involved in a genuine scientific experiment. This is just one example of how Diamond is very much community based and strives to involve local residents and really get people excited about engineering.
Using synchrotron light, researchers from CIC bioGUNE have solved the structure of RavN, a protein that Legionella pneumophila uses for stealing functions and resources of the host cell.
Mimicry is the ability of some animals to resemble others in their environment to ensure their survival. A classic example is the stick bug whose shape and colour make him unnoticed to possible predators. Many intracellular pathogens also use molecular mimicry to ensure their survival. A part of a protein of the pathogen resembles another protein totally different from the host and many intracellular microorganisms use this capability to interfere in cellular processes that enable their survival and replication.
The Membrane Trafficking laboratory of the CIC bioGUNE in the Basque Country, led by Aitor Hierro, in collaboration with other groups from the National Institutes of Health in the United States, have been working for several years in understanding how the infectious bacterium Legionella pneumhopila interacts with human cells. During this research, experiments have been carried out at the XALOC beamline of the ALBA Synchrotron and I04 beamline of Diamond Light Source (UK). The results enabled scientists to solve the structure of RavN, a protein of L. pneumophila that uses this molecular mimicry to trick the infected cell.
Figure: (extract) Schematic representation of the structure of RavN1-123 as ribbon diagram displayed in two orientations (rotated by 90° along the x axis). Secondary elements are indicated as spirals (helices) or arrows (beta strands), with the RING/U-box motif colored in orange and the C-terminal structure colored in slate. (Full image here)
A big milestone was reached for the MAX IV linear accelerator end of May 2018.
The electron bunches accelerated in the linac was compressed to a time duration below 100 femtoseconds (fs). That means that they were shorter than 1*10^-13s. In fact, we could measure a pulse duration as low as 65 fs FWHM.
The RMS bunch length was then recorded at 32 fs. These results were achieved using only the first of the 2 electron bunch compressors in the MAX IV linac and shows not only that we can deliver short electron bunches, but also that the novel concept adopted in the compressors is working according to theory and simulations.
The ultra-short electron pulses are used to create X-ray pulses with the same short time duration in the linac based light source SPF (Short Pulse Facility). These bursts of X-rays can then be used to make time resolved measurements on materials, meaning you can make a movie of how reactions happen between parts of a molecule.
Picture: Linac team at MAX IV.
A paper in PNAS by an international scientific collaboration from the UK, Germany and Switzerland is the 7000th to be published as a result of innovative research conducted at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s Synchrotron.
This new paper reveals details of the 3D spin structure of magnetic skyrmions, and will be of key importance for storing digital information in the development of next-generation devices based on spintronics.
Laurent Chapon, Diamond’s Physical Sciences Director, explains the significance of these new findings: “A skyrmion is similar to a nanoscale magnetic vortex, made from twisted magnetic spins, but with a non-trivial topology that is ‘protecting them’. They are therefore stable, able to move, deform and interact with their environment without breaking up, which makes them very promising candidates for digital information storage in next-generation devices. For years, scientists have been trying to understand the underlying physical mechanisms that stabilise magnetic skyrmions, usually treating them as 2D objects. However, with its unique facilities and ultra-bright light, Diamond has provided researchers the tools to study skyrmions in 3D revealing significant new data.”
As spintronic devices rely on effects that occur in the surface layers of materials, the team was investigating the influence of surfaces on the twisted spin structure. It is commonly assumed that surface effects only modify the properties of stable materials within the top few atomic layers, and investigating 3D magnetic structures is a challenging task. However, using the powerful circularly polarised light produced at Diamond, the researchers were able to use resonant elastic X-ray scattering (REXS) to reconstruct the full 3D spin structure of a skyrmion below the surface of Cu2OSeO3.
Image: (extract) Illustration of a ‘Skyrmion tornado’. The skyrmion order changes from Néel-type at the surface to Bloch-type deeper in the sample. On the right hand side, the corresponding stereographic projections of these two boundary skyrmion patterns are shown. Full image and detailed article here.
BioMAX has successfully performed the first serial crystallography experiments at the beamline. This new method is performed at room temperature which allows structural biologists to study their molecules at more biologically relevant conditions. The technique can also be used on smaller crystals which will alleviate some of the restrictions for molecules such as membrane proteins, that do not typically form large crystals. Eventually, it is hoped that this technique will allow users at the BioMAX and MicroMAX beamlines to take snapshots of the dynamic states of proteins in rapid succession giving a dynamic view of protein movement and activity.
The serial crystallography technique promises to be very useful to users of both synchrotrons and XFELs. Over the course of one experiment, users were able to measure between 20 and 50 crystals every second, resulting in 20 TB of data from just 3 proteins. BioMAX hopes to quickly master this complex technique in order to offer it to users as soon as possible. It also gives us a glimpse of what will be possible at the newly funded MicroMAX beamline.
Image: BioMAX serial crystallography setup using a High Viscosity Extrusion (HVE) injector specially designed for the BioMAX endstation by Bruce Doak of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, and fabricated at that institute.
The future of chemistry is ‘electrifying’: With increasing availability of cheap electrical energy from renewables, it will soon become possible to drive many chemical processes by electrical power. In this way, chemical products and fuels can be produced via sustainable routes, replacing current processes which are based on fossil fuels.
In most cases, such electrically driven reactions make use of so-called electrocatalysts, complex materials which are assembled from a large number of chemical componentAs. The electrocatalyst plays an essential role: It helps to run the chemical reaction while keeping the loss of energy minimal, thereby saving as much renewable energy as possible. In most cases, electrocatalysts are developed empirically and the chemical reactions at their interfaces are poorly understood. A better understanding of these processes is essential, however, for fast development of new electrocatalysts and for a directed improvement of their lifetime, one of the most important factors that currently limit their applicability.
Figure: Introducing well-defined model electrocatalysts into the field of electrochemistry.
Research carried out recently at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) in Saskatoon has revealed promising information about how to build a better dental implant, one that integrates more readily with bone to reduce the risk of failure.
“There are millions of dental and orthopedic implants placed every year in North America and a certain number of them always fail, even in healthy people with healthy bone,” said Kathryn Grandfield, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton.
A dental implant restores function after a tooth is lost or removed. It is usually a screw shaped implant that is placed in the jaw bone and acts as the tooth roots, while an artificial tooth is placed on top. The implant portion is the artificial root that holds an artificial tooth in place.
Grandfield led a study that showed altering the surface of a titanium implant improved its connection to the surrounding bone. It is a finding that may well be applicable to other kinds of metal implants, including engineered knees and hips, and even plates used to secure bone fractures.
About three million people in North America receive dental implants annually. While the failure rate is only one to two percent, “one or two percent of three million is a lot,” she said. Orthopedic implants fail up to five per cent of the time within the first 10 years; the expected life of these devices is about 20 to 25 years, she added.
“What we’re trying to discover is why they fail, and why the implants that are successful work. Our goal is to understand the bone-implant interface in order to improve the design of implants.”
As of the 1 July 2018, Maria Faury is the new chair of the European XFEL council, the highest governing body of the company. Maria Faury has an engineering background and is Director of International Affairs and Large Research Infrastructures of the Fundamental Research Division at the Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique et aux Énergies Alternatives (CEA) in France. She has represented CEA, one of the two European XFEL partners in France, on the council since 2014. She will succeed Prof. Martin Meedom Nielsen from the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), who, having served two terms as chair, will continue to support the work of European XFEL as vice chair. The current vice chair, Prof. Lars Börjesson from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, will again become a member of the Swedish delegation on the council.
Maria Faury said: “It will be an honor, and a real pleasure for me to chair the European XFEL Council. Since 2014, I have had the chance to witness the progress in the construction of the facility and have been impressed by the unwavering involvement of the staff, the management and the stakeholders. European XFEL is now operating and attracting scientists from all over the world, starting to deliver excellent science. The coming years will be very exciting and all together we will ensure that European XFEL remains a world-leading facility. I fully trust Robert Feidenhans’l and his team and I am very happy to work more closely with them in the future. I would like to thank Martin Meedom Nielson who has chaired the council in such a nice, open and positive way. He has been very inspiring to us and I am happy he will continue as vice chair.”
Picture: Maria Faury, new chair of the European XFEL Council
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.
… determining arsenic sequestration by organic thiol groups of peat.
Arsenic (As) is a toxic metalloid which has attracted the attention of the general public because of its natural toxic concentrations in drinking water of millions of people around the world. The mobility and bioavailability of As thereby strongly depends on redox conditions, often linked to the redox cycles of sulfur (S), iron (Fe), and carbon (C). In reducing systems such as wetlands (swamps, peatlands, paddy fields etc.) As is thought to be mainly present in its reduced trivalent form as arsenite. Naturally, these systems are rich in natural organic matter (NOM) because mineralization of carbon is delayed under anoxic, reducing conditions. Furthermore sulfur, which acts as a main nutrient for plants, can also be present in its reduced forms as e.g. organic thiol groups in NOM-rich environments after anoxic decomposition of plant debris or reduction of released sulfate.
Figure: (extract) Proposed conceptual model for the As-S chemistry in the minerotrophic peatland Gola di Lago, Switzerland. Scenario 1: arsenate and arsenite prevail as long as no reduced inorganic sulfur is present. Scenario 2: monothioarsenate formation from arsenite and surface-bound zerovalent sulfur species. Scenario 3: formation of higher thiolated arsenates from monothioarsenate under conditions of available free sulfide. (…) Entire figure and information here
Credit: Besold et al. 2018, ES&T, DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b01542, Copyright 2018, American Chemical Society.
Researchers are using advanced imaging technologies similar to those used in hospitals, including micro-computed tomography on the Imaging and Medical beamline (IMBL) at the Australian Synchrotron, to determine how vulnerable our trees are to drought and heatwaves.
A new scientific review published In Nature outlines progress towards understanding the likely risks from droughts and heatwaves that combine to kill millions of trees around the world with spectacular effects on the environment.
Recent drought and heatwave conditions in northern Australia have killed more than 7000ha of mangrove forests, leaving these essential ecosystems stark, grey skeletons of trees. In California, the prolonged drought period has killed more than 100 million trees that increase the intensity of wildfires and impact on the region’s beauty, tourism and environmental health.
Dead trees, of course, cannot store carbon out of the air and the enormous numbers of dead trees release large quantities of stored carbon back into the air as they are burned or decay, further amplifying the effects of rising carbon dioxide.
Image: IMBL robot positions the tree for imaging.