All SQS experiment stations up and running

Three new experiment stations expand the scientific possibilities in the field of soft X-ray science.

The soft X-ray instrument for Small Quantum Systems (SQS) welcomed its first users at the end of 2018. Now, almost a year later, the SQS team and collaborators have completed their ambitious plan to install and commission all three experiment stations, each specifically designed for different types of experiments and samples, ranging from atoms and small molecules to large clusters, nanoparticles and biomolecules. We look at how the instrument has developed during the past year, how important collaboration has been for the success of SQS so far, and what lies ahead.

>Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: SQS scientist Rebecca Boll makes final adjustments on the AQS experiment station before the first users arrive at the end of 2018.
Credit: European XFEL

CLS celebrates 20th anniversary of its launch

From the discovery of an enzyme able to turn any blood into a universal donor type, to a process that creates plastic from sunshine and pollution, to identifying heat-tolerance traits in pea varieties, scientific advances achieved at the Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) are being celebrated asv the institution marks the 20th anniversary of its launch. “This unique-in-Canada research centre arose from an unprecedented level of collaboration among governments, universities, and industry in Canada, and represents the single largest investment in Canadian science,” said USask President Peter Stoicheff.  “Strongly endorsed two decades ago by many other universities across Canada and by an international scientific panel, the CLS has made possible cutting-edge research that benefits human and animal health, agriculture, advanced materials, and the environment. For USask’s research community, it has helped us be the university the world needs.”

Construction of the synchrotron facility on the USask campus began in 1999 and its official opening was held Oct. 22, 2004. Since then, thousands of scientists from across Canada and around the world have come to the CLS to run experiments that could not be done elsewhere in Canada.

>Read more on the Canadian Light Source website

Q&A with Sakura Pascarelli, new scientific director at European XFEL

European XFEL’s new scientific director talks about her career, her new role and her love for swimming.

On 1 September Sakura Pascarelli joined the European XFEL from the ESRF. In her role as scientific director she is responsible for the development of the four hard X-ray instruments. She spoke to Rosemary Wilson about her career, her new role and her love for swimming.

How did you get into science?

I spent part of my childhood in Burma and Indonesia. The American school system there enabled you to do lessons at your level, meaning you stayed interested and engaged. I really liked maths which I did with kids a few years older than me. I remember also doing experiments. I liked seeing things explode and break and try to understand why. Later on in Italy, I studied physics – not because I was particularly talented, but because I enjoyed it.

You joined ESRF at a time when the facility was still being built. What parallels can you see between that time, and now here at European XFEL?

I went to the ESRF to build one of the first beamlines there. We didn’t know what we would be able to discover or measure with this new machine. Here at European XFEL I see some of that same excitement. That opportunity taught me so much about instrumentation, and coordinating the construction of a beamline. But it is a different world now. Back then a good scientist with a solid background in physics, X-ray optics or instrumentation, could build a group and build a beamline. That is not possible here. This is so much more complicated. Here you need experts in X-rays, lasers, electronics, detectors. We don’t really know how to measure a femtosecond pulse let alone synchronise it with another laser! To run these instruments we need group leaders who are really good managers. This is so important. It is no longer enough for someone to be just a good scientist. At European XFEL we need to make sure the groups are well structured, well managed and that the people are happy. That might be difficult in the beginning when things don’t work, but when people see that their work is recognized, satisfaction and productivity increases.

>Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: European XFEL

Two years of user operation in numbers

1200 users, 60 experiments and 6 petabytes of data since operation began.

September 1 marks two years since the official opening and start of user operation at European XFEL. With the scheduled expansion from two to six operational instruments, the facility has expanded its experimental capacity and possibilities significantly during the past two years. At the same time, both the performance of the X-ray free-electron laser and instruments was continually improved. The scientific community shows strong interest in experiments at the new facility, with a total of 363 submitted proposals during this period, of which 98 were awarded beamtime. In total, 1200 users from across the world came to Schenefeld for their research. As the facility continues to be developed, even more time will be available for user experiments in the future.

>Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: Laser installation on the European XFEL campus in 2017 highlighting the five underground tunnels.
Credit: The European XFEL (Germany)

Research and tinkering – SwissFEL in 2019

The newest large research facility at the Paul Scherrer Institute, SwissFEL, has been completed. Regular operation began in January 2019.

Henrik Lemke, head of the SwissFEL Bernina research group in the Photon Science Division, gives a first interm report.

Mr. Lemke, you have just published a technical article in which you report on the experience so far with SwissFEL. How would you sum it up?

With SwissFEL, we are entering new territory at PSI. It is one of only five comparable facilities on this scale worldwide. This means we still need to gain experience, because we are doing a lot of things for the first time. On January 1 this year we began regular operation. Research groups from other institutions have already been here, and they have successfully conducted experiments with us, just like PSI researchers themselves. These were already a big success. In parallel to this operation, we are also further optimising the facility and the experimental setup. This will enable us to join ranks with the comparable facilities and, in addition, develop particular methods into specialities of SwissFEL.

>Read more on the SwissFEL website

Image: Lemke at the experiment station Bernina of SwissFEL
Credit: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic

Particle accelerators drive decades of discoveries at Berkeley Lab and beyond

Berkeley Lab’s expertise in accelerator technologies has spiraled out from Ernest Lawrence’s earliest cyclotron to advanced compact accelerators.

Accelerators have been at the heart of the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) since its inception in 1931, and are still a driving force in the Laboratory’s mission and its R&D program. Ernest O. Lawrence’s invention of the cyclotron, the first circular particle accelerator – and the development of progressively larger versions – led him to build on the hillside overlooking the UC Berkeley campus that is now Berkeley Lab’s home. A variety of large cyclotrons are in use today around the world, and new accelerator technologies continue to drive progress.
“Our work in accelerators and related technologies has shaped the growth and diversification of Berkeley Lab over its long history, and remains a vital core competency today,” said James Symons, associate laboratory director for Berkeley Lab’s Physical Sciences Area.

>Read more on the ALS at Berkeley Lab website

Enjoy this video:

World record in tomography: watching how metal foam forms

An international research team at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) has set a new tomography world record using a rotary sample table developed at the HZB.

With 208 three-dimensional tomographic X-ray images per second, they were able to document the dynamic processes involved in the foaming of liquid aluminium. The method is presented in the journal Nature Communications.
The precision rotary sample table designed at the HZB rotates around its axis at several hundred revolutions per second with extreme precision. The HZB team headed Dr. Francisco García-Moreno combined the rotary sample table with high-resolution optics and achieved a world record of over 25 tomographic images per second using the BESSY II EDDI beamline in 2018.

>Read more on the Bessy II at HZB wesbite

Image: The precision rotary sample table designed at the HZB turns around its axis at several hundred revolutions per second with extreme precision.
Credit: © HZB

Diamond’s 8000th publication: The future of solar cells

A collaboration between researchers in the UK and China recently led to the publication of the 8000th research article describing cutting edge science carried out at Diamond Light Source. Professor David Lidzey from the University of Sheffield and his collaborator Professor Tao Wang from Wuhan University of Technology published their findings in Nano Energy with implications for the future of solar cells.
Fullerene molecules known as “Bucky balls” have been used as charge acceptors in solar cells for a long time. Researchers used Diamond Light Source to investigate new acceptor molecules that would be cheaper to manufacture. They discovered that depending on the molecule and the way that it was blended with polymers, they were able to see a significant efficiency increase over traditional compositions. The added efficiency came from the fact that the new compositions could absorb light over a broader wavelength range. This means that if used in solar cells, they will be able to use more of the sun’s light than is possible using current materials.
The added efficiency comes from the molecules themselves as well as the way they are blended and cast. Using the GWAXS technique at Diamond, the researchers found that flat acceptor molecules were able to stack very efficiently and that the production method allowed them to self-organise on nanometre length scales allowing aggregates to form that extend the wavelengths that can be absorbed.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image: A representation of a “bucky ball” or fullerene molecule, commonly used as charge acceptors in solar panels.

50 years later, Wilson Lab stays cutting edge

October 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory.

Initially built for $11million and promising to deliver cutting-edge research in elementary particle physics, it was the NSF’s largest project at that time. Fifty years later, the lab is going through its biggest upgrade in decades.
Chris Conolly looks at the concrete floor of Wilson Lab, eyeing up the numerous holes drilled by one of the contractors for the upgrade project. These one-inch holes pockmark the 10,000sf experimental hall of the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory. In a way, these holes represent the numerous experiments conducted over the past 50 years.

There are a lot of holes. 652 to be exact, as the CHESS X-ray Technical Director and CHESS-U beamline project manager easily points out.
“It’s almost like being an archaeologist”, says Conolly, as he walks through the maze of newly constructed hutches in the experimental hall. He stops near the sector II hutches, “especially this spot here,” he says, presenting a repeating pattern of drilled holes arcing across the floor. The pattern spans a total of about 25 feet, and Chris, who has been with CHESS for the past 18 years, has no idea what was held down by the bolts marked in the floor.

>Read more on the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source website

Image: Robert Wilson, right, was the architect behind Wilson Lab, as well as many of the subsequent experiments. Wilson later went over to Fermilab to design their famed building. 

2018 ALS User Meeting Highlights

Past, present, and future converged at the ALS User Meeting, held October 2–4, 2018. About 480 registrants helped celebrate the 25th anniversary of first light at the ALS and the announcement of CD-1 approval for the ALS Upgrade project (ALS-U), a major federal milestone. Users’ Executive Committee (UEC) Chair Will Chueh kicked things off by acknowledging the organizers—UEC members Jennifer Ciezak-Jenkins, Alex Frañó, and Michael Jacobs—and thanking the ALS for its support. He also explained the organizing principle behind the program: to engage student and young-scientist users and strengthen interactions between users in general. Jeff Neaton, Berkeley Lab’s Associate Laboratory Director for Energy Sciences, then extended an official welcome to attendees. He noted that it’s been an exciting year for the ALS, which gained a new director, Steve Kevan, in addition to CD-1 approval for ALS-U.

>Read more on the Advanced Light Source website

Image: Plenary session, Day 1.
Credit: Peter DaSilva/Berkeley Lab

Light at the end of the last tunnel

X-rays reach instruments HED and MID

During the afternoon and evening hours of Friday 5 October, the DESY accelerator team and the European XFEL photon commissioning team worked together to guide the first X-ray light through the last of the facility’s initial three X-ray beamlines, SASE2, and towards the last of the currently planned European XFEL instruments, the High Energy Density (HED) and Materials Imaging and Dynamics (MID) instruments.

At about midday on Friday, the X-ray light entered the photon tunnel leading to the SASE 2 instruments. To get there, the beam had to pass through a 12 mm horizontal aperture of the shutter collimator about 264 m from the source. In order to make this possible, alignment and vacuum system experts from the DESY accelerator group worked together during the last few months to precisely align the undulator section that generates X-ray laser light from accelerated electrons. This work was based on data obtained during the initial commissioning done in May 2018.

>Read more on the European XFEL website

Image: Screenshot of the first light.

First-year operational results of the MAX IV 3 GeV ring

If you fly over MAX IV right now and look down, you’ll see a large circular building. The reason for this size and shape is the 528-meter-long 3GeV storage ring which precisely guides bunches of electrons traveling at velocities approaching the speed of light. As the electrons pass through arrays of magnets called insertion devices, they produce bright X-rays which are then used by beamline scientists to do many different types of experiments.

In an article published this month in the Journal of Synchrotron Radiation, the 3 GeV ring team led by Pedro Tavares describe the results for the first year of operation. This important milestone in the MAX IV project provides validation for many of the brand-new concepts that were implemented in the MAX IV design in order to improve the performance of the machine and reduce downtime.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website


Linac team has reached major milestones

A big milestone was reached for the MAX IV linear accelerator end of May 2018.

The electron bunches accelerated in the linac was compressed to a time duration below 100 femtoseconds (fs). That means that they were shorter than 1*10^-13s. In fact, we could measure a pulse duration as low as 65 fs FWHM.

The RMS bunch length was then recorded at 32 fs. These results were achieved using only the first of the 2 electron bunch compressors in the MAX IV linac and shows not only that we can deliver short electron bunches, but also that the novel concept adopted in the compressors is working according to theory and simulations.

The ultra-short electron pulses are used to create X-ray pulses with the same short time duration in the linac based light source SPF (Short Pulse Facility). These bursts of X-rays can then be used to make time resolved measurements on materials, meaning you can make a movie of how reactions happen between parts of a molecule.

>Read more on the MAX IV Laboratory website

Picture: Linac team at MAX IV.

Diamond celebrates publication of its 7000th paper

A paper in PNAS by an international scientific collaboration from the UK, Germany and Switzerland is the 7000th to be published as a result of innovative research conducted at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s Synchrotron.

This new paper reveals details of the 3D spin structure of magnetic skyrmions, and will be of key importance for storing digital information in the development of next-generation devices based on spintronics.

Laurent Chapon, Diamond’s Physical Sciences Director, explains the significance of these new findings:  “A skyrmion is similar to a nanoscale magnetic vortex, made from twisted magnetic spins, but with a non-trivial topology that is ‘protecting them’. They are therefore stable, able to move, deform and interact with their environment without breaking up, which makes them very promising candidates for digital information storage in next-generation devices. For years, scientists have been trying to understand the underlying physical mechanisms that stabilise magnetic skyrmions, usually treating them as 2D objects. However, with its unique facilities and ultra-bright light, Diamond has provided researchers the tools to study skyrmions in 3D revealing significant new data.”

As spintronic devices rely on effects that occur in the surface layers of materials, the team was investigating the influence of surfaces on the twisted spin structure. It is commonly assumed that surface effects only modify the properties of stable materials within the top few atomic layers, and investigating 3D magnetic structures is a challenging task. However, using the powerful circularly polarised light produced at Diamond, the researchers were able to use resonant elastic X-ray scattering (REXS) to reconstruct the full 3D spin structure of a skyrmion below the surface of Cu2OSeO3.

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image: (extract) Illustration of a ‘Skyrmion tornado’. The skyrmion order changes from Néel-type at the surface to Bloch-type deeper in the sample. On the right hand side, the corresponding stereographic projections of these two boundary skyrmion patterns are shown. Full image and detailed article here.