Surviving the deep freeze

Key proteins protect wildlife when the temperature drops

It is hard to imagine what some fish, carrots and tiny snow fleas might have in common, but it turns out it is something key to their survival when the temperature drops below freezing.

The common trait, also shared by insects, bacteria and other microorganisms, is antifreeze proteins (AFP). As the name suggests, AFPs work “to prevent organisms from freezing or to help them survive in a frozen state,” explained Dr. Peter Davies, a professor at Queen’s University and Canada Research Chair in Protein Engineering.

Davies has been studying these unique proteins for about 40 years. His latest research, aided by X-ray diffraction techniques at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan was recently published in The FEBS Journal. This study continues to build knowledge about AFP structures, their function and evolution.

Read more on the CLS website

Image: A snow flea (Granisotoma rainieri) that was collected in Japan by coauthor Dr Sakae Tsuda

Credit: Canadian Light Source (CLS)

First glimpse of intricate details of Little Foot’s life

In June 2019, an international team brought the complete skull of the 3.67-million-year-old ‘Little Foot’ Australopithecus skeleton, from South Africa to the UK and achieved unprecedented imaging resolution of its bony structures and dentition in an X-ray synchrotron-based investigation at Diamond. The X-ray work is highlighted in a new paper in e-Life, published today focusing on the inner craniodental features of ‘Little Foot’. The remarkable completeness and great age of the ‘Little Foot’ skeleton makes it a crucially important specimen in human origins research and a prime candidate for exploring human evolution through high-resolution virtual analysis.

To recover the smallest possible details from a fairly large and very fragile fossil, the team decided to image the skull using synchrotron X-ray micro computed tomography at the I12 beamline at Diamond, revealing new information about human evolution and origins. This paper outlines preliminary results of the X-ray synchrotron-based investigation of the dentition and bones of the skull (i.e., cranial vault and mandible).

Read more on the Diamond website

Image: Fossil skull in Diamond’s beamline I12

Credit: Diamond Light Source

Experiment reveals new options for synchrotron light sources

An international team has shown through a sensational experiment how diverse the possibilities for employing synchrotron light sources are. Accelerator experts from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), the German federal metrology institute Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), and Tsinghua University in Beijing have used a laser to manipulate electron bunches at PTB’s Metrology Light Source so that they emitted intense light pulses having a laser-like character. Using this method, specialised synchrotron radiation sources would potentially be able to fill a gap in the arsenal of available light sources and offer a prototype for industrial applications. The work was published on 24 February 2021 in the leading scientific publication Nature.

The most modern light sources for research are based on particle accelerators. These are large facilities in which electrons are accelerated to almost the speed of light, and then emit light pulses of a special character. In storage-ring-based synchrotron radiation sources, the electron bunches travel in the ring for billions of revolutions, then generate a rapid succession of very bright light pulses in the deflecting magnets. In contrast, the electron bunches in free-electron lasers (FELs) are accelerated linearly and then emit a single super-bright flash of laser-like light. Storage ring sources as well as FEL sources have facilitated advances in many fields in recent years, from deep insights into biological and medical questions to materials research, technology development, and quantum physics.

Combining the virtues of both systems

Now a Sino-German team has shown that a pattern of pulses can be generated in a synchrotron radiation source that combines the advantages of both systems. The synchrotron source delivers short, intense microbunches of electrons that produce radiation pulses having a laser-like character (as with FELs), but which can also follow each other closely in sequence (as with synchrotron light sources).

Read more on the HZB website

Image credit: © Tsinghua University

Understanding what makes COVID-19 more infectious than SARS

Australian and International researchers continue to have rapid access to the macromolecular and microfocus beamlines at the Australian Synchrotron to solve protein structures in the fight against COVID-19.

“Since coming out of a hard lockdown, we are now accepting proposals for other research,” said Principal Scientist Dr Alan Riboldi-Tunnicliffe.

“Because scientists can access the beamline remotely, they do not have to worry about changes to borders and travel restrictions.”

There have been a number of COVID-19 publications, which included structural information about key proteins in the virus, from the beamlines.

Instrument scientist Dr Eleanor Campbell reports that an international team of researchers led by the University of Bristol (UK) have identified a possible cause of SARS-CoV-2’s increased infectivity compared to SARS-CoV (the virus which emerged in China in 2003) , which could provide a target for developing COVID-19 therapies.

Australian collaborators included researchers from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, who sent the samples to the Australian Synchrotron.

Read more on the Australian Synchrotron website

New Data sheds light on genesis of our body’s powerhouses

The mitochondria and its protein making “plants” – mitoribosomes

Scientists uncover for the first time how the body’s energy makers are made using Cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) at eBIC within Diamond.

A new paper, published in Science on the 19th February, by an international team of researchers reports an insight into ‘the molecular mechanism of membrane-tethered protein synthesis in mitochondria’. This is a fundamental understanding of how the human mitoribosome functions and could explain how it is affected by mutations and deregulation that lead to disorders such as deafness and diseases including cancer development. 

Mitochondria are intracellular organelles which serve as tiny but potent powerhouses in our body. They use oxygen which we inhale and derivatives from food we eat to produce more than 90% of our energy, and therefore effectively support our life. Mitochondria are particularly important in high-energy demanding organs such as heart, liver, muscles and brain. For example, almost 40% of each heart muscle cell is made up of mitochondria.

Read more on the Diamond website

Image: The mitoribosome is attached to its membrane adaptor as it synthesises a bioenergetic protein (glow yellow).

Credit: Dan W. Nowakowski and Alexey Amunts

New X-ray laser data system will process a million images a second

When upgrades to the X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are complete, the powerful new machine will capture up to 1 terabyte of data per second; that’s a data rate equivalent to streaming about one thousand full-length movies in just a single second, and analyzing every frame of each movie as they zoom past in this super-fast-forward mode.

Data experts at the lab are finding ways to handle this massive amount of information as the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) upgrades come on line over the next several years.

LCLS accelerates electrons to nearly the speed of light to generate extremely bright beams of X-rays. Those X-rays probe a sample such as a protein or a quantum material, and a detector captures a series of images that reveal the atomic motion of the sample in real time. By stringing together these images, chemists, biologists, and materials scientists can create molecular movies of events like how plants absorb sunlight, or how our drugs help fight disease.

Read more on the SLAC website

Image: Data rate comparisons

Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Lightsource research on SARS-CoV-2

Coronaviruses are a family which includes the common cold, SARS, MERS and the current outbreak of the disease COVID-19, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Several facilities of our collaboration have started research about SARS-CoV-2 virus or launched open calls for rapid access. This post will be updated regularly.

Publications on SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Access




Publications

The Canadian Light Source (Canada) has created a specific page highlighting their COVID-19 research: COVID-19 research at the Canadian Light Source

BESSY II at HZB (Germany) has set up a page where it shows their contributions to the research on SARS-CoV-2 , see here

DESY (Germany) has launched a new page dedicated to Corona Research: https://www.desy.de/news/corona_research/index_eng.html

Diamond Light Source (UK) has created a specific website “Coronavirus Science” with platforms for various audiences: scientific community, general public and the media: https://www.diamond.ac.uk/covid-19.html

ELETTRA (Italy) has launched a new page dedicated to COVID-19 research: https://www.elettra.eu/science/covid-19-research-at-elettra.html

The Photon Division of PSI (Switzerland) have collated many information linked to their institute on coronavirus-relevant research (recent publications, rapid access…): https://www.psi.ch/en/psd/covid-19

Published articles

2021.02.23 Australian Light Source (ANSTO) Australia, article on their website: Progress on understanding what makes COVID-19 more infectious than SARS

2020.11.10 Diamond Light Source (UK), article and video on their website: From nought to sixty in six months… the unmasking of the virus behind COVID-19

2020.10.29 Canadian Light Source (Canada) video on their website: Studying how to damage the COVID-19 virus

2020.10.07 National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab (NY / USA) article on their website: Steady Progress in the Battle Against COVID-19

2020.10.07 Diamond Light Source (UK), article on their website: Structural Biology identifies new information to accelerate structure-based drug design against COVID-19

2020.10.06 MAX IV (Sweden), article on their website: Tackling SARS CoV-2 viral genome replication machinery using X-rays

2020.08.31 SLAC (CA / USA), article also with news about research at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL): SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Targeted for Vaccine

2020.08.27 Diamond Light Source (UK), article on their website: Structural Biology reveals new target to neutralise COVID-19

2020.08.27 Canadian Light Source (Canada) video on their website: Developing more effective drugs

2020.08.25 Australian Synchrotron (ANSTO) (Australia) article on their website: More progress on understanding COVID-19

2020.08.24 DESY (Germany) article on their website: PETRA III provides new insights into COVID-19 lung tissue

2020.08.11 Australian Synchrotron (ANSTO) (Australia) article on their website: Unique immune system of the alpaca being used in COVID-19 research

2020.07.30 Swiss Light Source at PSI (Switzerland) article on their website: COVID-19 research: Anti-viral strategy with double effect

2020.07.29 National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab (NY / USA) article on their website: Ready to join the fight against COVID-19.

2020.07.20 ALBA (Spain) article on their website: A research team from Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas Margarita Salas (CIB-CSIC) uses synchrotron light to study the possible effect of an antitumoral drug of clinical use over the viral cycle of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. 

2020.07.15 ALS (USA) article on their website: Antibody from SARS Survivor Neutralizes SARS-CoV-2

2020.07.14 Diamond Light Source (UK), article on their website: Engineered llama antibodies neutralise Covid-19 virus

2020.06.17 European XFEL (Germany) article on their website: Pulling Together: A collaborative research approach to study COVID-19

2020.06.15 European XFEL (Germany) article on their website: Open Science COVID19 analysis platform online

2020.06.09 APS at Argonne National Laboratory (USA) article on their website: Novel Coronavirus Research at the Advanced Photon Source

2020.05. Società Italiana di Fisica publishes an article about research done at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste (Italy) and the Advanced Light Source (CA / USA): Accelerator facilities support COVID-19-related research

2020.05.27 Diamond Light Source (UK), new animation video demonstrating the work that has been done at Diamond’s XChem facilities.

2020.05.19 Advanced Light Source (CA / USA), article about their latest results: X-ray Experiments Zero in on COVID-19 Antibodies

2020.05.15 Swiss Light Source (Switzerland), article about their first MX results: First MX results of the priority COVID-19 call

2020.05.14 MAX VI (Sweden), article about their research: Tackling SARS CoV-2 viral genome replication machinery using X-rays

2020.05.14 CHESS (NY/USA), article: CHESS to restart in June for COVID-19 research

2020.05.14 the LEAPS initiative brings together many of our European members. The initative published this brochure: Research at LEAPS facilities fighting COVID-19

2020.05.12 Diamond Light Source (UK), article about their collaboration in a consortium: UK consortium launches COVID-19 Protein Portal to provide essential reagents for SARS-CoV-2 research

2020.05.11 Advanced Photon Source (IL/USA), article: Studying Elements from the SARS-CoV-2 Virus at the Bio-CAT Beamline

2020.05.07 European XFEL (Germany), article: European XFEL open for COVID-19 related research

2020.05.06 ESRF (France), article: World X-ray science facilities are contributing to overcoming COVID-19

2020.04.29. BESSY II at HZB (Germany), article: Corona research: Consortium of Berlin research and industry seeks active ingredients

2020.04.29. Swiss Light Source and SwissFEL at PSI (Switzerland), interview series on the PSI website: Research on Covid-19

2020.04.23. PETRA III at DESY (Germany), article: X-ray screening identifies potential candidates for corona drugs

2020.04.21. MAX IV (Sweden), article: BioMAX switches to remote operations in times of COVID-19

2020.04.16. SLAC (CA / USA), article also with news about research at Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL): SLAC joins the global fight against COVID-19

2020.04.15 Berkeley National Lab (CA/ USA), article with a focus on the research at the Advanced Light Source (ALS):
Staff at Berkeley Lab’s X-Ray Facility Mobilize to Support COVID-19-Related Research

2020.04.07 Diamond Light Source (UK), article: Call for Chemists to contribute to the fight against COVID-19
Crowdfunding: COVID-19 Moonshot

2020.04.07. ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron (Victoria), article: Aiding the global research effort on COVID-19

2020.04.06. National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at Brookhaven Lab (NY / USA), article: Brookhaven Lab Mobilizes Resources in Fight Against COVID-19

2020.04.02. BESSY II at HZB (Germany), article: Corona research: Two days of measuring operation to find the right key

2020.03.31 Diamond Light Source (UK), article: Jointly with Exscientia and Scripps Research, Diamond aims to accelerate the search for drugs to treat COVID-19

2020.03.27 Argonne National Laboratory with the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and other facilities on-site (IL / USA), article: Argonne’s researchers and facilities playing a key role in the fight against COVID-19

2020.03.27 ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron (Victoria), article and video: Helping in the fight against COVID-19

2020.03.25 PETRA III at DESY (Germany), article: Research team will X-ray coronavirus proteins

2020.03.23 Diamond Light Source (UK) releases its first animation explaining: SARS-CoV-2 Mpro Single Crystal Crystallography

2020.03.25 CERN Courrier (Switzerland) article about synchrotron research on SARS-CoV-2, written by Tessa Charles (accelerator physicist at the University of Melbourne currently based at CERN, completed her PhD at the Australian Synchrotron): Synchrotrons on the coronavirus frontline

2020.03.19 BESSY II at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (Germany), research publication: Coronavirus SARS-CoV2: BESSY II data accelerate drug development

2020.03.19 BESSY II at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (Germany), technique explanation webpage: Protein crystallography at BESSY II: A mighty tool for the search of anti-viral agents

2020.03.16 Diamond Light Source (UK), article on their “Coronavirus Science” website: Main protease structure and XChem fragment screen

2020.03.12. Elettra Sincrotrone (Italy), article on their website: New project to fight the spread of Coronavirus has been approved

2020.03.05. Advanced Photon Source (IL / USA), article on their website: APS Coronavirus Research in the Media Spotlight

2020.03.05. Advanced Photon Source (IL / USA), research publication: “Crystal structure of Nsp15 endoribonuclease NendoU from SARS-CoV-2,” bioRXiv preprint  DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.02.968388, Article on their website (source: Northwestern University): New Coronavirus Protein Reveals Drug Target




Rapid access

Scientists can apply for rapid access at following facilities (only member facilities of Lightsources.org are referenced, the most recent published (or updated) call is mentioned first).

  • The National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) in NY / USA is offering a streamlined and expedited rapid access proposal process for groups that require beam time for structural biology projects directly related to COVID-19. The Center for Biomolecular Structure team is supporting remote macromolecular crystallography experiments at Beamlines 17-ID-1 (AMX) and 17-ID-2 (FMX) in this research area. To submit a macromolecular crystallography proposal for COVID-19 related research, use the following form:
    https://surveys.external.bnl.gov/n/RapidAccessProposal.aspx
  • The Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory in IL / USA  user program is operational to support:

·         Research on SARS-CoV-2 or other COVID-19-related research that addresses the current pandemic.

·         Critical, proprietary pharmaceutical research.

·         Mail-in/remote access work for any research involving low-risk samples and most medium-risk samples (as defined on the APS ESAF form).

·         Limited in situ research (set-up with one person, and ability to carry out majority of experiment safely remotely)
https://www.aps.anl.gov/Users-Information/About-Proposals/Apply-for-Time

PETRA III at DESY in Germany offers also Fast Track Access for Corona-related research:
https://photon-science.desy.de/users_area/fast_track_access_for_covid_19/index_eng.html

Australian Synchrotron at ANSTO makes its macromolecular crystallography beamlines available to structural biologists in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.ansto.gov.au/user-access

North American DOE lightsource facilities have created a platform to enable COVID-19 research. There you can find ressources and points of contact to request priority access:
Structural Biology Resources at DOE Light Sources

Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste in Italy opens to remote acces following beamlines: XRD1, XRD2, SISSI-BIO and MCX thanks to an CERIC-ERIC initiative:
https://www.ceric-eric.eu/2020/03/10/covid-19-fast-track-access/
http://www.elettra.eu/userarea/user-area.html

The Advanced Light Source (ALS) at LBNL in California / USA has capabilities relevant to COVID-19 and researchers can apply through their RAPIDD mechanism:
https://als.lbl.gov/apply-for-beamtime/

ALBA Synchrotron in Spain offers a COVID-19 RAPID ACCESS on all beamlines:
https://www.albasynchrotron.es/en/en/users/call-information

SOLARIS Synchrotron in Poland gives acces to its Cryo Electron Microscope thanks to an CERIC-ERIC initiative: https://www.ceric-eric.eu/2020/03/10/covid-19-fast-track-access/

Swiss Light Source and Swiss FEL at PSI in Switzerland offer priority access to combating COVID-19:
https://www.psi.ch/en/sls/scientific-highlights/priority-access-call-for-work-on-combating-covid-19

Diamond Light Source in the United Kingdom opened also a call for rapid access:
https://www.diamond.ac.uk/Users.html

Image: Electron density at the active site of the SARS-CoV-2 protease, revealing a fragment bound
Credit: Diamond Light Source

World’s first video recording of a space-time crystal

A German-Polish research team has succeeded in creating a micrometer-sized space-time crystal consisting of magnons at room temperature. With the help of the scanning transmission X-ray microscope MAXYMUS at Bessy II at Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin, they were able to film the recurring periodic magnetization structure in a crystal. The research project was a collaboration between scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) in Stuttgart, Germany, the Adam Mickiewicz University and the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań in Poland.

A crystal is a solid whose atoms or molecules are regularly arranged in a particular structure. If one looks at the arrangement with a microscope, one discovers an atom or a molecule always at the same intervals. It is similar with space-time crystals: however, the recurring structure exists not only in space, but also in time. The smallest components are constantly in motion until, after a certain period, they arrange again into the original pattern.

In 2012, the Nobel Prize winner in physics Frank Wilczek discovered the symmetry of matter in time. He is considered the discoverer of these so-called time crystals, although as a theorist he predicted them only hypothetically. Since then, several scientists have searched for materials in which the phenomenon is observed. The fact that space-time crystals actually exist was first confirmed in 2017. However, the structures were only a few nanometers in size and formed only at very cold temperatures below -250 degrees Celsius. The fact that the German-Polish scientists have now succeeded in imaging relatively large space-time crystals of a few micrometers in a video at room temperature is therefore considered groundbreaking. But also because they were able to show that their space-time crystal, which consists of magnons, can interact with other magnons that encounter it.

Read more on the HZB website

Image credit: © MPI-IS

Fe Cations Control the Plasmon Evolution in CuFeS2 Nanocrystals

Research on the synthesis of CuFeS2, an exciting semiconductor, outlines a method to verify its phase purity and investigate its properties.

Plasmonic semiconductor nanocrystals have become an appealing avenue for researching nanoscale plasmonic effects due to their wide spectral range (visible to infrared) and great tunability compared to traditional precious metal nanocrystals. CuFeS2 is an exciting semiconductor that has a prominent plasmon absorption band in the visible range (∼498 nm). In this work, the researchers determined the origin of the plasmonic behaviour in CuFeS2 by characterizing the nucleation and growth stages of the reaction through a series of ex situ and in situ probes (e.g., X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray emission spectroscopy). They showed that the plasmon formation is driven by band structure modification from Fe(II) incorporation into the nanocrystals. Mixed oxidation state of Cu(I)/Cu(II) and Fe(II)/Fe(III) was observed.  Using these results, the researchers proposed a reaction mechanism for synthesis of CuFeS2 and outlined a method to verify the phase purity of the material.

Read more on the CHESS website

Cadmium contamination in rice crops

Cadmium is a harmful element due to its toxicity and long half-life time in human bodies. It is an extremely toxic industrial and environmental pollutant classified as a human carcinogen. Cereals are indeed the major sources of cadmium for humans and, in particular, rice, a staple food in several Asian countries, is a particularly high source of this heavy metal.

To reduce cadmium concentrations in rice, the mechanisms that determine its availability from soil to plants, its plant uptake and its transport processes need to be well understood. The present study, resulting from a scientific collaboration involving young researchers among international institutions and large scale facilities between France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Japan (the University of Grenoble Alpes, the ETH Zurich institute, the Okayama University, the Ente italiano Nazionale Risi and the ALBA and Soleil synchrotrons), aims to enlighten these mechanisms.

Cadmium usually binds to sulfur, getting immobilized, and the bindings with sulfur is the major driving force for cadmium isotope fractionation (when the isotopic composition of an element of a given compound changes by the transition of that compound from one physical state or chemical composition to another).

The results of this research show how soil flooding in the rice crops not only changed the cadmium speciation in the solid soils but also in soil-aqueous solutions, while vacuolar transport includes the dissociation of heavy cadmium isotopes from a sulfur donor atoms prior to membrane transport and storage in the vacuole. All these findings allow a better tracing of contaminant elements in the complex soil-plant system and permit to asset about final product toxicity when those plants are source of human food.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: rice crops

Unusual reversibility of molecular break-up of PAHs

By combining the high-resolution x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy at the SuperESCA beamline of Elettra with density functional theory a group of scientists from Italy, UK, Denmark and Germany has shown that the process of hydrogen removal from pentacene molecules adsorbed on Ir(111) follows a reversible chemical route, which allows hydrogen re-attachment to the carbon nanoribbon formed after the thermally induced C–H bond break-up. The thermal dissociation taking place upon controlled annealing can be reversed by cooling the system at room temperature and in a hydrogen atmosphere.


Besides the novelty of the chemical process, this phenomenon could have interesting implications for molecular electronics and for the manipulation of graphene nanoribbons which are known to present higher electron/hole mobilities and better thermal transport when dehydrogenated. 

Read more on the Elettra website

SESAME announces the arrival of its new Administrative Director

On 1 February, Atef Abdelhamed Elkadime took up the position of Administrative Director of SESAME and despite COVID-19 he has already joined the Organization in Jordan.

Dr Elkadime has a PhD in Radiation Chemistry from Monoufia University (Egypt). For the last eight years he was Chairman of the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA).

He has extensive experience in the administration of large research facilities, as well as in research and teaching. In his position as Chairman of the EAEA, he managed an organization that has 4,000 employees and a very large annual budget. Having also held various other high-level positions at the EAEA he acquired managerial skills in all sections of this large facility.

As an AFRA (African Regional Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology) National Coordinator, and Egypt’s National Liaison Officer (NLO) to the IAEA and representative at the Arab Atomic Energy Agency, as well as through a two-year position in Saudi Arabia and several fellowships and visits to scientifically-advanced countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Russia, the UK, the USA…..), Dr Elkadime has developed very extensive, well-established relations with intergovernmental organizations, the Gulf countries and countries of the North.

Read more on the SESAME website

Image: Atef Abdelhamed Elkadime

Credit: © SESAME 2020

Quantum beats for zeptosecond timing

A team of scientists is developing high-precision timing for quantum technologies

Quantum systems will be crucial to future technologies. However, in order to use such systems in practical applications, it is necessary to control and manipulate them with great precision. A Hamburg research team has now succeeded in controlling and measuring a quantum system with hitherto unattainable temporal precision on the PETRA III beamline P01. They managed to control and detect oscillations inside an atomic nucleus, as well as the gamma radiation emitted, to within 1.3 zeptoseconds. A zeptosecond is 0.000 000 000 000 001 seconds; the thousandth part of a billionth of a billionth of a second. The new method developed by the team makes use of the fundamental excitations that occur within a solid. Precise adjustments of this kind are important when building quantum sensors, for example, to establish extremely precise time standards or to detect minute changes. The newly developed method may also have potential applications in quantum computers or quantum communication, as a way of making specific adjustments to such systems.

Read more on the DESY website

Image: View of the experiment at the PETRA III beamline P01 (in X-ray beam direction): The sample on the round table in the centre of the picture is connected to microwave measuring tips. The X-rays emitted by the sample are analysed at the end with a detector. Electromagnets with iron yokes around the sample table generate a magnetic field at the sample location to align the magnetisation in the sample

Credit: L. Bocklage/DESY

The power of surfaces: getting meta-polyaniline from para-aminophenol

Within the relatively young research field of the on-surface Chemistry the catalytic properties of surfaces are used to synthesize new materials that are not accessible with other techniques; in particular, by wet chemistry conventional routes. Following this bottom-up strategy, surfaces can be used as suitable platforms for enabling the emergence of novel low-dimensional molecular networks. In synergistic contribution,para-aminophenol (p-AP) molecules are taken as precursors (building block) for the surface reaction. Within a multi-technique approach that includes STM, nc-AFM, STS, XPS, and DFT calculations, we have found that these molecules, when adsorbed on Pt(111) and upon a thermal stimulus, covalently react each other forming oligomers coupled in an unprecedented metaconfiguration.

STM and nc-AFM microscopies showed that starting from individual molecules and by annealing the surface, results in the formation of oligomer chains , while monitoring the thermal behavior of the p-AP/Pt(111) system by means of high-resolution XPS at the SuperESCA beamline of Elettra shed light on the chemical nature of the species present on the crystal surface in the steps which lead to the synthesis of meta-polyaniline oligomers.

Read more on the Elettra website

New material with reversible pressure-induced cooling effect properties

The study of materials with giant caloric effect (reversible thermal changes induced by an external stimulus), is currently a hot topic in Materials Science since they are the best-placed candidates to develop new efficient and environmentally friendly refrigerators that must replace current devices, which feature low efficiency and use hazardous fluids.

Extensive research has shown that the caloric effects in solid-state materials can be triggered by various external stimuli: magnetic field (magnetocaloric effect), electric field (electrocaloric effect), uniaxial stress (elastocaloric effect), hydrostatic pressure (barocaloric effect) or a combination of different stresses.

While magnetocaloric and electrocaloric effects require magnetically or electrically polarized materials, barocaloric effects can be found in any compressible material, which make them more interesting.

There is therefore a need to find out caloric materials exhibiting both large isothermal entropy and adiabatic temperature changes, for which these changes are reproducible upon cyclic application and removal of hydrostatic pressure.

A research, recently published in Advanced Materials, studies the barocaloric properties of Fe3(bntrz)6(tcnset)6, a molecular material that contains a metal complex that undergoes an abrupt spin-state switching (spin-crossover transition) close to room temperature. The work was carried out by a team from the Universitat de Barcelona (Spain), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (Spain), the Florida State University (USA), the University of Science and Technology Beijing (China) and the Ankara University (Turkey), in collaboration with the ALBA Synchrotron.

Read more on the ALBA website

Disclosing the time evolution of magnetic chirality after an optical excitation

Chiral magnetic structures, such as spin spirals, chiral domain walls and skyrmions, are intensively investigated due to their fascinating properties such as potentially enhanced stability and efficient spin-orbit torque driven dynamics. These structures are stabilized by the Dzyaloshinskii-Moriya interaction (DMI) that favours a chiral winding of the magnetisation.Cir

In a recent work, circularly polarized light pulses of the FERMI free-electron laser (FEL) has been used to disclose the dynamics of chiral order on ps time scale. After an optical excitation, the researchers observe a faster recovery of the chirality within the domain walls compared to the ferromagnetic order in the domains. The study paves the way for future investigations of fundamental aspects such as, e.g., the dependence of the timescales of the chiral order build-up on the absolute strength of the DMI. The control of the DMI can finally allow the manipulation at ultrafast timescale of chiral topological objects such as skyrmions and pave the path to applications in the field of ultrafast chiral spintronics.

Rad more on the Elettra website