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

Formation of a 2D meta-stable oxide in reactive environments

The chemical behaviour of solid material surfaces is an important physical characteristic for applications of catalysis, chemical sensors, fuel cells and electrodes. A research team from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion has now described an important phenomenon that can occur when metal alloys are exposed to reactive environments at the synchrotron source BESSY II.

In a recent work published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, a researchers’ team led by Dr. Mark Greiner (Surface Structure Analysis, Department of Heterogeneous Reactions) demonstrates an important phenomenon that can occur when metal alloys face reactive environments. They can form meta-stable 2D oxides on their surfaces. Such oxides exhibit chemical and electronic properties that are different from their bulk counterparts. Due to their meta-stability, their existence is also difficult to predict.

Read more on the BESSY II (at HZB) website

Image : Illustration of a CuxOy structure formed on a AgCu alloy in oxidizing environments described in this work. (c) ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Credit: © (2020) ACS Publishing

Insights into the visual perception of plants

Plants use light not only for photosynthesis. Although the plant cell does not have eyes, it can still perceive light and thus its environment. Phytochromes, certain turquoise proteins, play the central role in this process. How exactly they function is still unclear. Now a team led by plant physiologist Jon Hughes (Justus Liebig University Gießen) has been able to decipher the three-dimensional architecture of various plant phytochrome molecules at BESSY II. Their results demonstrate how light alters the structure of the phytochrome so that the cell transmits a signal to control the development of the plant accordingly.

Plants use light to live, via a process called photosynthesis. Yet, they do use light also by so called phytochromes – special molecules that give plants a kind of sight and can thus control the biochemistry of the cell and the development of the plant. It is now known that phytochromes regulate almost a quarter of the plant genome.

Read more on the BESSY II (at HZB) website

Image : Inside the 3D-structure of a phytochrome a bilin pigment absorbs the photon and rotates, which triggers a signal

Credit: Jon Hughes

How new materials increase the efficiency of direct ethanol fuel cells

A group from Brazil and an HZB team have investigated a novel composite membrane for ethanol fuel cells. It consists of the polymer Nafion, in which nanoparticles of a titanium compound are embedded by the rarely explored melt extrusion process. At BESSY II they were able to observe in detail, how the nanoparticles in the Nafion matrix are distributed and how they contribute to increase proton conductivity.

Ethanol has five times higher volumetric energy density (6.7 kWh/L) than hydrogen (1.3 kWh/L) and can be used safely in fuel cells for power generation. In Brazil in particular there is great interest in better fuel cells for ethanol as all the country distributes low-cost ethanol produced in a renewable way from sugar cane. Theoretically, the efficiency of an ethanol fuel cell should be 96 percent, but in practice at the highest power density it is only 30 percent, due to a variety of reasons. So there is great room for improvements.

Nafion with nanoparticles

A team led by Dr. Bruno Matos from the Brazilian research institute IPEN is therefore investigating novel composite membranes for direct ethanol fuel cells. A promising solution is tailoring new polymer-based composite electrolyte materials to replace the state-of-the-art polymer electrolyte such as Nafion. Matos and his team use melt extrusion process to produce composite membranes based on Nafion with additional titanate nanoparticles, which have been functionalized with sulfonic acid groups.

Read more on BESSY II (at HZB) website

Image: The material consists of Nafion with embedded nanoparticles.

Credit: © B.Matos/IPEN