Accurate temperature snapshots

The first high energy density experiments pave way for future research

What does it take to accurately measure the temperature of a material which remains in a stable condition for just a fleeting nanosecond (one millionth of a second)? Consider using the high energy density (HED) instrument at European XFEL. And this is what an international team of researchers, with lead researchers from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, US, Oxford University, UK, and European XFEL, have done. Establishing methods to accurately measure temperatures in rapidly-evolving, transient systems is important for diverse purposes such as developing materials for spacecraft thermal shields, which face extreme changes in temperature and pressure when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, or in the study of the interior of giant planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. 

Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: Ulf Zastrau, Group Leader HED at the Experiment Station. Copyright: Jan Scholzel

Exploring the scale of meteorite impact from minerals

Laboratory-based shock experiments on minerals

Key Points
– Shock experiments were performed on baddeleyite (a zirconia mineral) in a laboratory, during which time its crystal structure dynamics were observed directly using a synchrotron X-ray.
– The crystal structure changed upon compression before returning to its original state when released.
– Geologists can use this information to estimate the scale of a past impact event using baddeleyite present in rocks.

Collisions of celestial bodies have formed and affected the evolution of planets. One well-known hypothesis is that an asteroid impact caused the mass extinction of dinosaurs on Earth ~65 million years ago. Understanding the scale of an impact event is essential to studying the evolution of a similar planet. Impact events cause shock metamorphism in rocks and minerals in the crust of a planet (see Fig. 1), and shock metamorphosed minerals can be used to identify and date impact events and as barometric indicators. Baddeleyite (ZrO2) is one mineral that can be used as a shock-pressure barometer. The mineral is widespread on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and meteorites; it is also known to show traits of shock
metamorphism.

Read more on the KEK (Photon Factory) website

Image: Meteorite impact produces shock compressions in rocks. Source: KEK (Photon Factory)

Captured in the act: Free Electron Laser sheds light on ultrafast relaxation of superfluid helium nanodroplets

Superfluid He nanodroplets are ideal model systems for studying the photodynamics of weakly-bound nanostructures, both experimentally and theoretically; in most cases, superfluidity results in slow relaxation of energy and angular momentum. Using ultrashort tunable XUV pulses, it is now possible to follow the relaxation dynamics of excited helium nanodroplets in great detail.

The relaxation of photoexcited nanosystems is a fundamental process of light-matter interaction. Depending on the couplings of the internal degrees of freedom, relaxation can be ultrafast, converting electronic energy into atomic motion within a few fs, or slow, if the energy is trapped in a metastable state that decouples from its environment. An international research team from Germany, Spain, Italy, the USA, and the local team at the FERMI free-electron laser (FEL), studied helium nanodroplets resonantly excited by femtosecond extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) pulses from FERMI. The researchers found that, despite their superfluid nature, helium nanodroplets in their lower electronically excited states undergo ultrafast relaxation by forming a void bubble, which eventually bursts at the droplet surface thereby ejecting a single metastable helium atom. These results help understanding how nanoparticles interact with energetic radiation, as happens when single nanoparticles are directly imaged at hard-x-ray FEL facilities.

Read more on the Elettra website

Image: Figure left: Simulated density distribution of a helium nanodroplet shorty after it is excited by an XUV laser pulse (Courtesy by M. Barranco). Figure right: Measured photoelectron spectra showing ultrafast energy relaxation within less than a picosecond.

High-pressure study advances understanding of promising battery materials

X-ray investigation shows systematic distortion of the crystal lattice of high-entropy oxides

In a high-pressure X-ray study, scientists have gained new insights into the characteristics of a promising new class of materials for batteries and other applications. The team led by Qiaoshi Zeng from the Center for High Pressure Science in China used the brilliant X-rays from DESY’s research light source PETRA III to analyse a so-called high-entropy oxide (HEO) under increasing pressure. The study, published in the journal Materials Today Advances is a first, but very important step paving a way for a broader picture and solid understanding of HEO materials.

Modern society requires industry to manufacture efficiently sustainable products for everyday life, for example batteries for smart phones. About five years ago, a new class of materials emerged that appears to be very promising for the design of new applications, especially batteries. These high-entropy oxides consist of at least five metals that are distributed randomly in a common simple crystal lattice, while their crystal structure can be different from each metal’s generic lattice. A popular example of a HEO material consists of 20 per cent each of cobalt, copper, magnesium, nickel and zinc for every oxygen atom, or (Co0.2Cu0.2Mg0.2Ni0.2Zn0.2)O.

Read more on the DESY website

Image: Example of a high-entropy oxide between the anvils of a diamond anvil cell used to exert increasing pressure on the sample. Credit: Center of High Pressure Science, Qiaoshi Zeng

Scientists probe the chemistry of a single battery electrode particle both inside and out

The results show how a particle’s surface and interior influence each other, an important thing to know when developing more robust batteries.

The particles that make up lithium-ion battery electrodes are microscopic but mighty: They determine how much charge the battery can store, how fast it charges and discharges and how it holds up over time – all crucial for high performance in an electric vehicle or electronic device.

Cracks and chemical reactions on a particle’s surface can degrade performance, and the whole particle’s ability to absorb and release lithium ions also changes over time. Scientists have studied both, but until now they had never looked at both the surface and the interior of an individual particle to see how what happens in one affects the other.

Read more on the SSRL (SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) website

Image: Images made with an X-ray microscope show particles within a nickel-rich layered oxide battery electrode (left). In a SLAC study, scientists welded a single charged particle to the tip of a tungsten needle (right) so they could probe its surface and interior with two X-ray instruments. The particle is about the size of a red blood cell. (S. Li et al., Nature Communications, 2020)

NSRRC Users Prof. Yuh-Ju Sun and Dr. Chwan-Deng Hsiao Solved the Mystery of Brain Calcification

A research team led by the NSRRC user, Prof. Yuh-Ju Sun (Institute of Bioinformatics and Structural Biology at National Tsing Hua University) has identified the molecular mechanism of phosphate transporter, which offers a glimmer of hope for dementia treatments. Prof. Sun collaborated with another NSRRC user, Dr. Chwan-Deng Hsiao (Academia Sinica), and revealed the structure of the sodium dependent phosphate transporter. This discovery marked a significant milestone for the studies on membrane proteins, and the research result was published in the prestigious journal Science Advances in August 2020.

Read more on the NSRRC website

Image: Prof. Yuh-Ju Sun and her collaborator Dr. Chwan-Deng Hsiao solved the structure of membrane proteins, paving the way for a better treatment of dementia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How surface acoustic waves can enhance catalytic activity

An international team of researchers have studied the mechanism by which surface acoustic waves (SAW) enhance catalytic activity. They were able for the first time to measure the effect of SAW on the electronic structure of a Pt model catalyst and achieved a remarkable precision with the new experimental setup at the CIRCE beamline in the ALBA Synchrotron.

The enhancement of catalytic activity (i.e. how certain materials help interesting chemical reactions to take place easier, faster, more directed or under more desirable conditions like lower temperature) by surface acoustic waves (SAW) is an established phenomenon, but its mechanism is still not well understood. Previous experiments showed that the electronic work function of model catalyst (e.g. Platinum, Pt) change within seconds to minutes when SAW are applied. This work function change was thought responsible for the SAW induced catalytic enhancement.

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Figure: Work function oscillation in a thin Pt film imaged by stroboscopic X-ray photoemission electron microscopy (XPEEM). It is caused by the elastic deformation of the surface region by a Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) in an underlying LiNbO3 substrate, The strong oscillation in the lower area is in the bare substrate and shows a large piezoelectric ampltiude. The periodicity serves as reference for the much smaller effect in the metallic Pt film. In the inset, a line profile extracted from the white box in the upper part of the image, indicates a work function oscillation of 455 µeV amplitude in Pt.

Bone breakages and hip fracture risk is linked to nanoscale bone inflexibility

Experiments carried out at Diamond using high energy intense beams of X-rays examined bone flexibility at the nanoscale. This allowed scientists to assess how collagen and minerals within bone flex and then break apart under load – in the nanostructure of hip bone samples.  

The report’s findings suggest that doctors should look not only at bone density, but also bone flexibility, when deciding how to prevent bone breakages. 

New research undertaken at Diamond’s Small Angle X-ray Scattering beamline (I22) has highlighted a gap in preventative treatment in patients prone to bone fractures.  The study, published in Scientific Reports and led by Imperial College London, found that flexibility as well as density in the bone nanostructure is an important factor in assessing how likely someone is to suffer fractures. 

Read more on the Diamond website

Image: Nanostructure: Collagen and mineral strain under load. Image: Shaocheng Ma, Imperial College London.

Opening of ESRF-Extremely Brilliant Source (EBS), a new generation of synchrotron

25 August 2020 – A brilliant new light shines in Grenoble, France, with the opening of the ESRF-Extremely Brilliant Source (ESRF-EBS), the first-of-a-kind fourth-generation high-energy synchrotron. After a 20-month shutdown, scientific users are back at the ESRF to carry out experiments with the new EBS source.

The ring-shaped machine, 844 metres in circumference, generates X-ray beams 100 times brighter than its predecessor’s, and 10 trillion times brighter than medical X-rays. This intense X-ray beam hails a new era for science to understand the complexity of materials and living matter at the nanometric level. ESRF-EBS will contribute to tackling global challenges in key areas such as health, environment, energy and new industrial materials, and to unveiling hidden secrets of our natural and cultural heritage through the non-destructive investigation of precious artefacts and palaeontological treasures. A shining example of international cooperation, EBS has been funded by 22 countries joining forces to construct this innovative and world-unique research infrastructure with an investment of 150 million euros over 2015-2022, lighting the way for more than a dozen projects worldwide, including in the United States and Japan.

“The opening of the first high-energy fourth-generation synchrotron to users is a landmark for the whole X-ray science community. We are all thrilled to envisage the revolutionary science to be carried out and  the new applications that will start to emerge. All ESRF staff should be commended for such an achievement, attained on time and on budget in spite of the current circumstances,” says Miguel Ángel García Aranda, chair of the ESRF council.

Read more on the ESRF website

Image: Panoramic view of the ESRF. Credit: S. Candé.

Laser, camera, action: Ultrafast ring opening of thiophenone tracked by time-resolved XUV photoelectron spectroscopy

Light-induced ring opening reactions form the basis of important biological processes such as vitamin D synthesis, and are also touted as promising candidates for the development of molecular switches. In recent years, new time-resolved techniques have emerged to investigate these processes with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution.

An international research team from the USA, UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia, and the local team at the FERMI free-electron laser, combined time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy with high-level electronic structure and molecular dynamics calculations to unravel the dynamics of a prototypical reaction along the full photochemical cycle of a ring molecule (thiophenone) – from photoexcitation, ring opening, all the way through to the subsequent ground state dynamics, and spanning a range of tens of femtoseconds  to hundreds of picoseconds. “These processes have intrigued the photochemistry community for decades” says Prof. Daniel Rolles from Kansas State University “and it is now routinely possible to visualize electronic changes and the movement of atoms in the molecule at each step of a chemical reaction”.

Read more on the ELETTRA website

Image: Artistic rendering of the photo-induced ring opening of thiophenone (left) into several open-ring products (right). The thin white lines show smoothed paths of actual trajectories. Illustration: KSU, Daniel Roles.

A new X-ray detector snaps 1,000 atomic-level pictures per second of nature’s ultrafast processes

The ePix10k detector is ready to advance science at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source X-ray laser and at facilities around the world.

Scientists around the world use synchrotrons and X-ray lasers to study some of nature’s fastest processes. These machines generate very bright and short X-ray flashes that, like giant strobe lights, “freeze” rapid motions and allow researchers to take sharp snapshots and make movies of atoms buzzing around in a sample.

A new generation of X-ray detectors developed at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, called ePix10k, can take up to 1,000 of these snapshots per second – almost 10 times more than previous generations – to make more efficient use of light sources that fire thousands of X-ray flashes per second. Compared to previous ePix and other detectors, this X-ray “camera” can also handle more X-ray intensity, is three times more sensitive and is available with higher resolution – up to 2 megapixels.

Read more on the SLAC website

Image: Four units of the ePix10k camera, ready to further X-ray science at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and facilities worldwide. The camera can capture up to 1,000 X-ray images per second, almost 10 times more than previous detector generations. (Christopher Kenney/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Creating the best TV screen yet

Breakthrough in blue quantum dot technology

There are many things quantum dots could do, but the most obvious place they could change our lives is to make the colours on our TVs and screens more pristine. Research using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan is helping to bring this technology closer to our living rooms.

Quantum dots are nanocrystals that glow, a property that scientists have been working with to develop next-generation LEDs. When a quantum dot glows, it creates very pure light in a precise wavelength of red, blue or green. Conventional LEDs, found in our TV screens today, produce white light that is filtered to achieve desired colours, a process that leads to less bright and muddier colours.

Until now, blue-glowing quantum dots, which are crucial for creating a full range of colour, have proved particularly challenging for researchers to develop. However, University of Toronto (U of T) researcher Dr. Yitong Dong and collaborators have made a huge leap in blue quantum dot fluorescence, results they recently published in Nature Nanotechnology.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: The blue quantum dot solution glows in a vial in a laboratory.

Study at FLASH: XUV lasing from exploding noble-gas nanoclusters

New mechanism of XUV light amplification

An international team of scientists, headed by Nina Rohringer from DESY and Unversität Hamburg, has succeeded in getting bursts of laser-like extreme ultraviolet (XUV) emission from noble-gas clusters in the transient warm dense matter state. Xenon clusters were irradiated by DESY’s free-electron laser FLASH, and the resulting strongly amplified fluorescence signal was analysed by a high-resolution spectrometer. Theoretical modeling of the process indicates that the clusters, transformed to a nanometer-sized plasma (‘nanoplasma’), enable the creation of population inversion by means of electron-ion collisions. The transient but sizeable population inversion of the ensemble of clusters enables amplification of spontaneous emission in a single pass of the emitted XUV radiation. This study, performed at the CAMP station of the FLASH beamline BL1 at DESY, is published in Physical Review A and is highlighted as an Editors’ Suggestion.

>Read more on the FLASH website

Image: Excited noble-gas clusters stimulate lasting emission in the forward direction. (Credit: Original publication in Phys. Reb. A (2020))

Longer-lasting cell phone batteries

Studies demonstrate the promise of phosphorene in electronics

Phosphorene is attracting a lot of attention lately in the energy and electronics industries, and for good reason. The theoretical capacity of the two-dimensional material—which consists of a single layer of black phosphorus—is almost seven times that of anode materials currently used in lithium-ion batteries. That could translate into real-world benefits such as significantly greater range for electric vehicles and longer battery life for cell phones.

There are a couple of strikes against phosphorene though. Commercially available black phosphorus is costly, at roughly $1000 per gram, and it breaks down quickly when it’s exposed to air. Researchers from Western University teamed up with scientists from the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan on a pair of studies to determine if they could address both issues.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Dr. Andy Sun at the Canadian Light Source.

Milling towards Green Chemistry

Real-time X-ray investigations reveal strong influence of milling equipment on mechanochemical reactions

The result of mechanochemical synthesis can be altered simply by selecting different milling jars and balls. Using the bright X-ray light from PETRA III (shown in green), the team was able to follow the formation of different polymorphs live. (Credit: McGill University, Luzia Germann)

The physical properties of milling jars and balls used in mechanically driven chemical reactions have a considerable influence on the reaction mechanism and outcome. Achieved at PETRA III, this is the result of a time-resolved X-ray study of mechanochemical syntheses. It shows that the material of milling jars, as well as the size and material of the milling balls can be specifically used to control the results of mechanochemical co-crystallisations, as Luzia S. Germann from McGill University (Canada) and co-workers report in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Chemical Science.

Mechanochemistry has recently gained a lot of attention as a cornerstone of green and environmentally-friendly solvent-free synthetic methods. The results of the synchrotron X-ray powder diffraction experiments will contribute to a better understanding of mechanochemical processes and how they can be used in the future to explore the synthesis of new materials.

Read more on the DESY website

Image: The result of mechanochemical synthesis can be altered simply by selecting different milling jars and balls. Using the bright X-ray light from PETRA III (shown in green), the team was able to follow the formation of different polymorphs live. (Credit: McGill University, Luzia Germann)