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. 

Ramon Pascual’s #My1stLight on International Day of Light!

Memory of synchrotron light

The first time I learnt about synchrotron light was around 1968 at a seminar by Manuel Cardona at the University of Madrid about an experiment he developed at DESY. As a particle physicist theoretician, at that time I did not had any idea that many years later I would be involved in a synchrotron light source as ALBA.

At the beginning of the ‘90s, with the idea of constructing a particle accelerator in Spain I realized the interest and the importance of a third-generation light source and I proposed to the Catalan Government the construction of a light source in Spain. After a bit more of a decade of efforts of several people, ALBA was finally approved and their beam lines have been operating for users since 2012.

The success of these ten years of reliable operation is that, ALBA is now preparing its upgrade to a fourth-generation source, ALBA II.

Ramon Pascual

Honorary president of ALBA

Find out more about ALBA here

Image: Aerial view of ALBA

Credit: ALBA

Yonghua Du recognized as a highly cited researcher 2021

Du was cited by Web of Science in its Cross-Field category, which identifies researchers who have contributed to highly cited papers across several different fields

Brookhaven Lab scientist Yonghua Du has been named a highly cited researcher in Web of Science’s 2021 report. Each year, the Web of Science publishes a list of researchers who have demonstrated significant and broad influence in a chosen field or fields over the past decade through highly cited papers. The list includes the top 1 percent of researchers by citation for a chosen field or fields. Du was recognized in the cross-field category.

“I have spent my career at synchrotron facilities, collaborating with as many researchers all over the world to uncover the secrets of their samples using our unique tools. Many excellent papers were published,” said Du. “So, I am proud of this achievement.”

In his position as a beamline scientist at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), Du balances his time between developing more research capabilities for his beamline and building strong collaborations with researchers from across the globe. These researchers—called users—work together with NSLS-II experts to solve the biggest scientific challenges of today using the facility’s unique research tools.

Read more on the Brookhaven National Lab website

Image: Brookhaven Lab scientist Yonghua Du standing in front of the Tender Energy X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (TES) beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source II

International research continued at BESSY II despite the pandemic

2021 was not an easy year for international research: owing to lockdowns and travel bans, science was hit hard by the pandemic situation. Nevertheless, experiments continued at a high level at the BESSY II light source in Berlin Adlershof – thanks in part to new remote service offers. Here are the figures at a glance.

“It makes us happy that BESSY II was dependably available to researchers for around 6000 hours despite the difficult conditions,” says Dr. Antje Vollmer, Head of User Coordination at HZB. The light generated at BESSY II is directed through 25 beamlines to 37 experimental stations. Thus, altogether, light was available for nearly 150,000 hours of research at all the beamlines. This light is used for experiments in many fields, including physics, chemistry and the life sciences. 

47 percent of user groups from abroad

As was to be expected, given that travel had to be limited, COVID-19 left a dip in user visits in 2021. “We counted just under 1400 visits from users last year. What surprised us, in view of the tense situation, was that 30 percent of the user groups came from other European countries and 17 percent were from non-European countries,” reports Antje Vollmer. “In total, we had user groups from 34 countries, which is an astonishing number.”

The fact that researchers from abroad conducted their experiments at BESSY II even in the corona year 2021 underlines the attractiveness of the photon source and the experimental stations, some of which are unique worldwide. “It also shows that the users here are very well looked after by dedicated scientists at the experimental stations and are happy to come back.”

Read more on the HZB website

Image: In 2021, our users at BESSY II came from 34 countries

Credit: © HZB

Many languages make up one voice for the brightest science

#LightSourceSelfies was made possible thanks to the help of our contributors from synchrotrons and free electron lasers around the global community. We come together as one voice for the brightest science but with many different languages spoken. Today’s Monday Montage celebrates the wonderfully rich, international culture that exists within science. Greetings from the light sources family around the world!

Collaboration: a watchword for the light source community

Scientists Nina Perry and Nina Vyas, from Diamond Light Source ( – the UK’s synchrotron), along with SaeHwan Chun, scientist at the PAL-XFEL ( – the Free Electron Laser in South Korea) talk about a theme that is common to all light sources around the world, and indeed to science and all its associated disciplines. Cooperation and collaboration, and their benefits for scientists’ wellbeing as well as the science, are highlighted in this #LightSourceSelfie video.

Nina Perry & Ninya Vyas, on Beamline B24 at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s synchrotron science facility

Uniting science to address climate change

Key leaders and researchers from major US and European big science laboratories, namely EIROforum (Europe’s eight largest intergovernmental scientific research organisations, including CERN, EMBL, ESA, ESO, ESRF, EUROfusion, European XFEL and ILL) and the US Department of Energy’s seventeen National Laboratories (Ames, Argonne, Brookhaven, Fermi, Idaho, Jefferson, Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, NETL, NREL, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest, PPPL, SLAC, Sandia and Savannah River), met by videoconference ahead of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26).

Sharing the same values, and convinced that science performs best through collaboration, the EIROforum’s directors and NLDC (comprised of directors from the US National Laboratories) affirmed their common commitment to unite science towards a sustainable and resilient global society and economy:

  • By stepping up their scientific collaboration on carbon-neutral energy and climate change
  • By sharing best practices to improve the climate sustainability and carbon footprint of Europe’s and US’s big science facilities
  • By sharing knowledge and fostering public engagement on clean energy and climate change research

Read more on the ESRF website

Image: COP26

Credit: ESRF

World Science Day spotlight: Collaborating to tackle SARS-CoV-2

Science facilities worldwide have been working around the clock to drive forward SARS-CoV-2 research to alleviate the suffering that the COVID-19 pandemic is currently causing.

Today (November 10), in recognition of World Science Day for Peace and Development, the collective efforts of thousands of scientists and technical experts is being marked through this year’s focus – “Science for and with Society in dealing with the global pandemic.”

At the start of the pandemic, the facilities that make up the collaboration were swift to ensure that rapid access was available for researchers working on SARS-CoV-2. This has led to a large body of research being undertaken at synchrotrons and free electron lasers.  The aims have been varied and include mapping the structure of the virus; finding binding sites for drugs to lock into; screening existing drugs to establish if they have a role to play in treating patients; understanding the impact of the virus on the lungs; and understanding the immune response so vaccines can be designed to illicit an immune response in the body.

A dedicated, regularly updated, web page – Lightsource research for SARS-CoV-2 – draws together all this research, along with other publications and resources.  It also includes links for researchers wishing to gain rapid access for their SARS-CoV-2 experiments.

The World Science Day for Peace and Development was created as a follow-up to the World Conference on Science, organised jointly by UNESCO and the International Council for Science in Budapest (Hungary) in 1999.

By linking science more closely with society, World Science Day for Peace and Development aims to ensure that citizens are kept informed of developments in science. It also underscores the role scientists play in broadening our understanding of the remarkable, fragile planet we call home and in making our societies more sustainable.

Learn more about World Science Day for Peace and Development on the UNESCO website

Image: World Science Day for Peace and Development 2020 poster

Credit: UNESCO

Understanding more about the ExPaNDS project

Diamond is a key collaborator in this European project, which will be mapping the data behind the thousands of published scientific papers

ExPaNDS is the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) Photon and Neutron Data Service, which is a collaboration project between ten national Photon and Neutron Research Infrastructures (PAN RIs). This ambitious project will create opportunities for facilities’ users to access the data behind the thousands of successful published scientific papers generated by Europe’s PaN RIs – which every year create petabytes of data.
ExPaNDS will link all relevant data catalogues to ensure that any scientific research communities have access to both the raw data collected that is linked to their session(s) at these facilities, and the relevant peer review articles produced as a direct result of their usage.

The project brings together a network of ten national PaN RIs from across Europe as well as EGI, a federated e-Infrastructure set up to provide advanced computing services for research. In order to do this, ExPaNDS will develop a common ontology for all the elements of these catalogues, a roadmap for the back-end architecture, functionalities and a powerful taxonomy strategy in line with the requirement of the EOSC user community.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website
>Find more news on the ExPaNDS website

ExPaNDS presentation video

Helping to grow more food in Africa

University of Saskatchewan scientists help farmers in West Africa improve crops.

Derek Peak and Abimfoluwa Olaleye are using Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan (Usask) to help farmers in Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to grow vegetables less expensively and more sustainably. The USask researchers and their team recently published a paper in Soil Systems that explores the effects of an innovative farming practice, fertilizer microdosing, on two vegetable systems in both countries.

“The overall idea was to scale up good, innovative ideas to solve food security problems in the regions,” says Peak. “We combine agricultural studies out in the field with socio-economic studies and development work.” Olaleye’s interest in the project is both scientific and personal. “Anything agriculture always gets my interest, it’s something I’m passionate about. And helping people is a big bonus. My dad was a farmer back in Nigeria, so I picked up on that,” he says.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Abimfoluwa Olaleye (right) and Taylor Procyshen, a graduate student who helped with the project, working in the laboratory together.

SESAME: the doors are closed, but open for science

Quarantine and curfew are affecting many activities in Jordan and abroad, but although SESAME’s doors have been closed since March 18th, the staff have been anything but inactive, devoting a great deal of their time at home to science and work.

With two new papers just published in the past few weeks, Messaoud Harfouche, the XAFS/XRF Beamline Scientist, keeps himself busy helping more users obtain results from the data taken at the beamline. “During these weeks, I am dealing with six projects at the same time, two from Egypt, two from Pakistan, one from Iran, and one from Jordan” he says. Given the difficulty of XAFS analysis and the complexity of some software packages, the degree of involvement in each project may vary from suggesting the best path in data analysis to full collaboration, implying result interpretation and participation in drafting a scientific paper. “Moreover”, continues Messaoud, “my own research projects were also in my drawer, waiting to be worked out. With willpower and a little perseverance, curfew may turn out to be very beneficial”.

On another front, scientists from synchrotron radiation laboratories in different points in Europe (ELETTRA in Italy, ESRF in France and SOLARIS in Poland) and SESAME in Jordan are collaborating at a distance on raytracing simulations for the Technical Design Report (TDR) of SESAME’s BEATS (BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME) beamline which is approaching finalization, and from their respective homes Matteo Altissimo (ELETTRA), Alexander Rack (ESRF), Tomasz Kolodziaj (SOLARIS), and Gianluca Iori (SESAME) are constantly in touch with each other. In parallel, from their homes, too, team members of SESAME’s technical sector have been collaborating in the final design of the front end and experimental station of the beamline. BEATS is SESAME’s hard X-ray tomography beamline that is expected to come on stream in 2022.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Picture: As in the case of thousands of researchers worldwide, computer screens and notebooks are currently the main tools for the work of SESAME’s staff.

Accoustic spin waves: towards a new paradigm of on-chip communication

For the first time researchers have observed directly sound-driven spin waves (magnetoacoustic waves) and have revealed its nature.

Results show that these magnetization waves can go up to longer distances (up to centimeters) and have larger amplitudes than the commonly known spin waves. The study, published in Phys. Rev. Lett., is carried out by researchers from the University of Barcelona (UB), the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC), and the ALBA Synchrotron, in collaboration with the Paul-Drude-Institut in Berlin.

Researchers have observed directly and for the first time magnetoacoustic waves (sound-driven spin waves), which are considered as potential information carriers for novel computation schemes. These waves have been generated and observed on hybrid magnetic/piezoelectric devices. The experiments were designed by a collaboration between the University of Barcelona (UB), the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) and the ALBA Synchrotron. The results show that magnetoacoustic waves can travel over long distances -up to centimeters- and have larger amplitudes than expected.

>Read more on the ALBA website

Image: TOP: A propagating and a standing magnetization wave in ferromagnetic Nickel, driven by magnetoelastic coupling to a surface acoustic wave in a piezoelectric LiNbO3substrate. The images combine line profiles (color indicating the local magnetization direction) at different delay times between the probing X-ray pulse and the electrical SAW excitation.
BOTTOM: Scheme of the strain caused by the surface acoustic waves (SAWs) in the piezoelectric (in green color scale) and magnetic modulation in the ferromagnetic material (in orange-cyan color scale).

How a new electrocatalyst enables ultrafast reactions

The work provides rational guidance for the development of better electrocatalysts for applications such as hydrogen-fuel production and long-range batteries for electric vehicles.

The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is the electrochemical mechanism at the heart of many processes relevant to energy storage and conversion, including the splitting of water to generate hydrogen fuel and the operation of proposed long-range batteries for electric vehicles. Because the OER rate is a limiting factor in such processes, highly active OER electrocatalysts with long-term stability are being sought to increase reaction rates, reduce energy losses, and improve cycling stability. Catalysts incorporating rare and expensive materials such as iridium and ruthenium exhibit good performance, but an easily prepared, efficient, and durable OER catalyst based on earth-abundant elements is still needed for large-scale applications.

Key insight: shorter O-O bonds
In an earlier study, a group led by John Goodenough (2019 Nobel laureate in chemistry) measured the OER activities of two compounds with similar structures: CaCoO3 and SrCoO3. They found that the CaCoO3 exhibited higher OER activity, which they attributed to its shorter oxygen–oxygen (O-O) bonds. Inspired by this, members of the Goodenough group have now analyzed a metallic layered oxide, Na0.67CoO2, which has an even more compact structure than CaCoO3. X-ray diffraction (XRD) experiments performed at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) confirmed that the shortest O-O separation in Na0.67CoO2 is 2.30 Å, compared to 2.64 Å for CaCoO3. The researchers then compared the OER performance of Na0.67CoO2 with IrO2, Co3O4, and Co(OH)2. They found that Na0.67CoO2 exhibited the highest current density, the lowest overpotential (a measure of thermodynamic energy loss), and the most favorable Tafel slope (sensitivity of the electric current to applied potential). The Na0.67CoO2 also showed excellent stability under typical operating conditions.

>Read more on the Advanced Light Source website

Image: (extract, full image here) A new electrocatalyst prepared for this study, Na0.67CoO2, consists of two-dimensional CoO2 layers separated by Na layers (not shown). The Co ions (blue spheres) have four different positions (Co1-Co4), and the distorted Co–O octahedra have varying oxygen–oxygen (O-O) separations (thick red lines connecting red spheres). All of the O-O bonds are shorter than 2.64 Å (the length of the corresponding bonds in a comparable material), and the shortest bonds are less than 2.40 Å. It turns out that O-O separation has a strong effect on the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in this material.

Growing an international community for agricultural synchrotron research

Dr. Chithra Karunakaran’s passion for agriculture has taken her around the world and helped her to grow an international agricultural imaging research community from Saskatoon. 

Given that the Canadian Light Source (CLS) is situated on the University of Saskatchewan (USask) campus, renowned for agriculture, and surrounded by some of the finest farm land in the country, it’s little wonder it has developed a reputation for outstanding agriculture-related research. Location is only part of the story though; some credit has to go to an engineer determined to apply advanced synchrotron techniques to the study of what we grow and what we eat.

The view from Agriculture Science Manager Dr. Chithra Karunakaran’s office window is dominated by the USask College of Agriculture and Bioresources, which also owns the research greenhouse located across the street from the CLS. Both are part of what she termed “the right ecosystem” needed to expand ag research at the facility, a project she has devoted herself to since she arrived in Saskatoon. The key has been adapting beamline techniques to serve the needs of plant, soil and food scientists.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Karunakaran working with synchrotron science equipment. 

Scientists observe ultrafast birth of free radicals in water

What they learned could lead to a better understanding of how ionizing radiation can damage material systems, including cells.

Understanding how ionizing radiation interacts with water—like in water-cooled nuclear reactors and other water-containing systems—requires glimpsing some of the fastest chemical reactions ever observed.

In a new study conducted at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, researchers have witnessed for the first time the ultrafast proton transfer reaction following ionization of liquid water. The findings, published today in Science, are the result of a world-wide collaboration led by scientists at the DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the German research center DESY.

The proton transfer reaction is a process of great significance to a wide range of fields, including nuclear engineering, space travel and environmental remediation. This observation was made possible by the availability of ultrafast X-ray free electron laser pulses, and is basically unobservable by other ultrafast methods. While studying the fastest chemical reactions is interesting in its own right, this observation of water also has important practical implications.

>Read more on the LCLS at SLAC website

Image: X-rays capture the ultrafast proton transfer reaction in ionized liquid water, forming the hydroxyl radical (OH) and the hydronium (H3O+) ion. Credit: Argonne National Laboratory