Transition-metal dichalcogenide NiTe2: an ambient-stable material for catalysis and nanoelectronics

Recently, transition-metal dichalcogenides hosting topological states have attracted considerable attention for their potential implications for catalysis and nanoelectronics. The investigation of their chemical reactivity and ambient stability of these materials is crucial in order to assess the suitability of technology transfer. With this aim, an international team of researchers from Italy, Russia, China, USA, India, and Taiwan has studied physicochemical properties of NiTe2 by means of several experimental techniques and density functional theory. Surface chemical reactivity and ambient stability were followed by x-ray photoemission spectroscopy (XPS) and x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) experiments at the BACH beamline, while the electronic band structure was probed by spin- and angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (spin-ARPES) at the APE-LE beamline

Read more on the Elettra website

Image:  a) Ni-3p and b) Te-4d XPS core-level spectra collected from as-cleaved NiTe2 (black curves) and from the same surface exposed to 2·10L of CO (red curves), H2O (green curves) and O2 (blue curves). Adapted from “S. Nappini et al., Adv. Funct. Mater. 30, 2000915 (2020); DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202000915” with permission from Wiley (Copyright 2020) with license 4873681106527

How cellular proteins control cancer spread

New finding may help focus the search for anti-cancer drugs

A new insight into cell signals that control cancer growth and migration could help in the search for effective anti-cancer drugs. A team of researchers has revealed key biochemical processes that advance our understanding of colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer among Canadians.

Using the CMCF beamline at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan, scientists from McGill University and Osaka University in Japan were able to unlock the behavior of an enzyme involved in the spread of cancer cells. The team found that there is a delicate interaction between the enzyme, PRL3, and another protein that moves magnesium in and out of cells. This interaction is crucial to colorectal cancer growth.

A new insight into cell signals that control cancer growth and migration could help in the search for effective anti-cancer drugs. A team of researchers has revealed key biochemical processes that advance our understanding of colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer among Canadians.

Using the CMCF beamline at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan, scientists from McGill University and Osaka University in Japan were able to unlock the behavior of an enzyme involved in the spread of cancer cells. The team found that there is a delicate interaction between the enzyme, PRL3, and another protein that moves magnesium in and out of cells. This interaction is crucial to colorectal cancer growth.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Members of the Gehring research laboratory discussing the results of a protein purification.

Diamond is set to help develop the first fully electric Bentley and contribute to sustainable luxury mobility

A three-year research project aims to deliver a break-through in e-axle electric powertrains. Led by Bentley Motors, the project will be delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and nine-partners, including Diamond.  

Diamond scientists will be working with Bentley Motors on a three-year research study that promises to transform electric vehicle powertrains.

The project will utilise a fully integrated, free from rare-earth magnet e-axle that supports electric vehicle architectures. This reinforces Bentley’s ambition to lead sustainable luxury mobility and introduce the first fully electric Bentley by 2026.

Diamond will be contributing to this ground-breaking project by performing imaging using the unique Joint Engineering, Environment and Processing (JEEP) beamline (I12). I12 will image the motor at full speed to measure the temperature changes using diffraction in the rotor and stator parts of the motor, as the performance is pushed the temperature in the motor increases.

Read more on the Diamond website

Image:  OCTOPUS e-axle  Image: Bentley Motors

Conserving Rita Letendre’s famous artworks

Research undertaken at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan was key to understanding how to conserve experimental oil paintings by Rita Letendre, one of Canada’s most respected living abstract artists.

The work done at the CLS was part of a collaborative research project between the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) that came out of a recent retrospective Rita Letendre: Fire & Light at the AGO. During close examination, Meaghan Monaghan, paintings conservator from the Michael and Sonja Koerner Centre for Conservation, observed that several of Letendre’s oil paintings from the fifties and sixties had suffered significant degradation, most prominently, uneven gloss and patchiness, snowy crystalline structures coating the surface known as efflorescence, and cracking and lifting of the paint in several areas.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Rita Letendre. Victoire [Victory], 1961. Oil on canvas, Overall: 202.6 × 268 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Jessie and Percy Waxer, 1974, donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1988. © Rita Letendre L74.8.

Expansion of SOLARIS experimental hall

The SOLARIS Centre has been awarded by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education a grant for the expansion of the experimental hall. This long-awaited decision opens up new perspectives for the development of the Centre.

The area of ​​the synchrotron hall will be increased by over two thousand square meters. This space will enable the construction of four new beamlines, which require a long distance of the sample from the synchrotron radiation source. These new facilities include the SOLCRYS beamline for the structural research. The beamline end stations will enable analyses of the structure of proteins, viruses, nucleic acids, and polymers. These studies provide knowledge on the molecular structure of the basic building blocks of living organisms, including the architecture of macromolecules. Research carried out on the beamline will be used, among others, in biological sciences, medicine (drug design and discovery), chemistry, and materials science. SOLCRYS will be the only research infrastructure of this type not only in Poland, but also in the entire Central and Eastern Europe.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image: Visualisation of the new building.

Research could lead to better herbicides and infection treatments

Researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) have used the Australian Synchrotron and cryo-electron microscopy in China to determine the three-dimensional structure of a complex enzyme found in plants microbes that could be used to develop advanced herbicides and treatments for infection.

A large international team led by Prof Luke Guddat of UQ published the structure of the enzyme acetohydroxyacid synthase (AHAS) in the journal Nature and also explained the first step in how the enzyme regulates the biosynthesis of three essential amino acids, leucine, valine and isoleucine.

“The way that the complex regulates this pathway had been unknown until now. We were finally able to explain it by understanding how the entire structure was assembled,” said Prof Guddat, who has been researching this enzyme for twenty years.

Read more on the Australian Synchrotron website

Image: The 3D structure resembles a ‘Maltese Cross’.

Nanocrystals arrange themselves to form new lattices

Tiny structure that conducts electricity anisotropically offers foundation for new electronic components

Electronic components such as light-emitting diodes or solar cells can never be too minute. The smaller they are, the less power they consume and the wider the range of possible applications. In order to explore smaller and smaller worlds, scientists are constantly on the lookout for new materials with interesting properties. A research team from the University of Tübingen, working with colleagues at DESY and from Russia, has now made such a discovery.

Three-dimensional lattice of nanocrystals and semiconducting molecules. The precise arrangement of the nanocrystals allows current in the form of electrons (e-) to flow in certain directions. Illustration: University of Tübingen, Andre Maier.The scientists attached semiconducting organic molecules to inorganic nanocrystals to form ordered, three-dimensional lattices that have a uniform superstructure and are electrical conductors. “For the first time ever, we were able to determine a correlation between the conductivity and the direction of electrical transport in such lattices made up of nanocrystals,” said Marcus Scheele from the University of Tübingen, one of the team’s two leaders, adding that this is hugely significant in terms of their use in electronic components.

Read more on the DESY website

Image: Three-dimensional lattice of nanocrystals and semiconduction molecules. The prcise arrangement of the nanocrystals allows current in the form of electrons (e-) to flow in certain directions. Illustration: University of Tübingen, Andre Maier.

Hope for better batteries – researchers follow the charging and discharging of silicon electrodes live

Using silicon as a material for electrodes in lithium-ion batteries promises a significant increase in battery amp-hour capacity.The shortcoming of this material is that it is easily damaged by the stress caused by charging and discharging.Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie (HZB) have now succeeded for the first time in observing this process directly on crystalline silicon electrodes in detail.Operando experiments using the BESSY II synchrotronprovided new insights into how fractures occur in silicon – and also how the material can nevertheless be utilised advantageously.

Whether in smartphones or electric cars – wherever mobile electric power needs to be available, it usually comes from rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. One of the two electrodes inside these batteries consists of graphite in which lithium ions are lodged, thereby storing electrical energy. The disadvantage of this carbon material is that its energy storage capacity is quite small – which makes frequent recharging of the battery necessary. For this reason, researchers worldwide are searching for alternative electrode materials to lengthen the battery charge/discharge cycles.

Read more on the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin website

Image: The design of the experimental set-up shows how the structure of the silicon electrode periodically changes during charging and discharging on the basis of voltage measurements. © HZB

ARIEs as key resources for the five Horizon Europe Missions

Moon-shot missions, such as those of Horizon Europe, require exceptional solutions, and the world-leading Analytical Research Infrastructures of Europe (ARIEs) are one of the key places those solutions can be sought. The ARIE Joint Position Paper highlighting how the common, complementary approach will help address the societal challenges of the Horizon Europe Missions framework programme was presented today.

“The Analytical Research Infrastructures of Europe (ARIEs) provide unique windows into the workings of the world around us”, says Caterina Biscari, Chair of LEAPS and Director of the ALBA Synchrotron in Spain. “The cross-border cooperation within Europe allows for harnessing the power of its analytical research infrastructures collectively, to fuel the cutting-edge R&D required by the five Horizon Europe Missions. Nowhere else in the world is this readily possible.”

The ARIEs are centres of scientific and technological excellence, delivering services, data and know-how to a growing and diverse user community of more than 40,000 researchers in academia and industry, across a range of domains: the physical sciences, energy, engineering, the environment and the earth sciences, as well as medicine, health, food and cultural heritage. They include powerful photon sources, such as synchrotrons, laser systems and free-electron lasers; sources of neutrons, ions and other particle beams; and facilities dedicated to advanced electron-microscopy and high magnetic fields.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Determination of interatomic coupling between two-dimensional crystals

Following the isolation of graphene, many other atomically thin two-dimensional crystals have been produced and can even be stacked on top of each other in a desired order to form so called van der Waals heterostructures.

Subtle changes in the stacking, especially the angle between the crystallographic axes of two adjacent layers, can have big impact on the properties of the whole heterostructure. We use angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy measurements carried out at the Spectromicroscopy beamline at Elettra to obtain interatomic coupling for carbon atoms by studying a three-layer stack of graphene. The coupling between atoms in two two-dimensional crystals, knowledge of which is necessary to describe the properties of the stack, can be determined by studying a structure made of three layers with two similar interfaces but one with crystallographic axes aligned and one twisted. This is because each of the interfaces provides complementary information and together they enable self-consistent determination of the coupling.

Read more on the Elettra website

Image: Angle resolved photoemission spectrum revealing the electronic bands of a microscopic three layer device having aligned and twisted graphene-graphene interfaces. Measurable band gaps are used to self-consistently determine fundamental parameters of interatomic coupling.

First photons on the first mirror of LOREA

LOREA beamline has seen its first photons.

The photograph, taken in the control hutch of the beamline, shows in the computer screens the footprint of the very first photon beam on the fluorescence screen located outside the optical hutch, taken with only 2 mA of electron beam in the storage ring. Although masked, the satisfaction expressed by the three beamline scientists Massimo Tallarida (beamline responsible), Federico Bisti and Debora Pierucci is evident. This is an important milestone for the beamline, reached with very demanding operating conditions due to the pandemic situation. Congratulations to everybody that contributed to this result!

Read more on the ALBA website

Image: Three beamline scientists Massimo Tallarida (beamline responsible), Federico Bisti and Debora Pierucci.

PHELIX beamline – delivery of analyzer and spin detector

On July 22, 2020, the last components of the PHELIX end station were delivered to SOLARIS. The delivery included a high-resolution hemispherical photoelectron energy analyzer and a VLEED spin detector.

The PHELIX end station will be exceptional: it will allow scientists to perform circular dichroism measurements (CD-ARPES) and provide direct insights into the spin texture of electron states (SP-ARPES) in the same UHV system and for the same sample. Both of these methods give information about the electron spin, but the interpretation of the CD-ARPES results alone can be challenging. However, the combination of these two methods has a number of advantages allowing for the better understanding of the systems, as it excludes differences in quality between samples and the risk of surface contamination when transferring the sample between experimental systems. Both of these factors significantly affect the obtained results, and the limited control over them reduces the reliability of the research. To our knowledge, the PHELIX beamline will be one of the very few facilities in the world where such combined measurements can be performed.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Converting emissions into valuable fuel

Researchers used the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan to improve their technique to convert CO2 into ethanol, a valuable chemical that can be used in a variety of industrial applications. Ethanol is also an attractive alternative fuel.

Ethanol has been proven to reduce emissions when compared to gasoline, but the renewable fuel is most often made of corn and wheat so there is a strong interest in non-food production methods. By capturing and converting carbon emissions to ethanol, the fuel’s environmental benefits could be multiplied.

The research team led by Prof. Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto focused on producing chemicals through CO2 conversion—such as ethanol, ethylene and methane—helping to transform harmful greenhouse gases into useful products. The group aims to produce the target chemicals, in this case ethanol, with high outputs and minimal energy inputs.

Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Image: Xue Wang installing a membrane electrode assembly MEA cell for testing the performance of the N-CCu catalyst in CO2RR.

X-ray beams help seeing inside future nanoscale electronics

The technological advancement of fourth-generation synchrotrons, pioneered by MAX IV Laboratory, opens research opportunities that were impossible just a few years ago. In a newly published research paper, we get proof of the revolutionary impact that MAX IV’s photons can have for the advancement of nanoelectronics, both in research and for industrial manufacturers.

Thanks to the innovative concept of the multi-band achromats, MAX IV Laboratory has paved the way for fourth-generation synchrotrons and as of now, it is the most brilliant source of X-ray for research. The high coherence and brilliance delivered at MAX IV are giving scientists the tools for performing research previously unachievable in the X-ray spectrum. This potential is highlighted in a new publication centred on investigating innovative non-destructive characterization of embedded nanostructures.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: Depiction of the process of nanofocused X-ray beams scattering from a single nanowire transistor. Positively charged particles (+) and negatively charged particles (-) represent charge carriers in a p–n junction (where p–n junction is an interface between p-type and n-type semiconductor materials). Outgoing beams, depicted as white rays, represent scattering from different segments of the device (InAs and GaSb). The bending with arrows represents the strain revealed in the experiment.

Credit: Illustration by Dmitry Dzhigaev, Lund University.

New state-of-the-art beamlines for the APS

The two new beamlines will be constructed as part of a comprehensive upgrade of the APS, enhancing its capabilities and maintaining its status as a world-leading facility for X-ray science.

In a socially distanced ceremony this morning at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, leaders from DOE, Argonne and the University of Chicago broke ground on the future of X-ray science in the United States.

Today’s small gathering marked the start of construction on the Long Beamline Building, a new experiment hall that will house two new beamlines that will transport the ultrabright X-rays generated by the Advanced Photon Source (APS) to advanced scientific instruments. It will be built as part of the $815 million upgrade of the APS, a DOE Office of Science User Facility and one of the most productive light sources in the world. The APS, which is in essence a stadium-sized X-ray microscope, attracts more than 5,000 scientists from around the globe to conduct research each year in many fields ranging from chemistry to life sciences to materials science to geology.

Read more on the Argonne National Laboratory website

Image : Artist’s rendition of the Long Beamline Building. The new facility will be built as part of a major upgrade of the APS and will house two new beamlines.

Credit: HDR Architects

Investigating 3D-printed structures in real time

Scientists used ultrabright x-rays to watch the developing structure of a 3D-printed part evolve during the printing process.

A team of scientists working at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Brookhaven National Laboratory has designed an apparatus that can take simultaneous temperature and x-ray scattering measurements of a 3D printing process in real time, and have used it to gather information that may improve finished 3D products made from a large variety of plastics. This study could broaden the scope of the printing process in the manufacturing industry and is also an important step forward for Brookhaven Lab and Stony Brook University’s collaborative advanced manufacturing program.

The researchers were studying a 3D printing method called fused filament fabrication, now better known as material extrusion. In material extrusion, filaments of a thermoplastic—a polymer that softens when heated and hardens when cooled—are melted and deposited in many thin layers to build a finished structure. This approach is often called “additive” manufacturing because the layers add up to produce the final product.

Read more on the NSLS-II website

Image: The photo shows the research team, (from front to back) Yu-Chung Lin, Miriam Rafailovich, Aniket Raut, Guillaume Freychet, Mikhail Zhernenkov, and Yuval Shmueli (not pictured), placing the 3D printer into the chamber of the Soft Matter Interfaces (SMI) beamline at Brookhaven Lab’s National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).

Note: this photo was taken in March 2020, prior to current COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.