PHELIX beamline is ready to research

Synchrotron light has finally been observed for the first time on a sample at the end station of the experimental beamline PHELIX. This success is the crowning achievement of three years of hard work designing, constructing, fitting, and tuning its components to the synchrotron beam.   

The installation of this new beamline began in mid-2018. In March of 2020, the final elements were delivered. Then on 18th September 2020, the scientific supervisors of beamline, Dr. Magdalena Szczepanik – Ciba and Tomasz Sobol, announced readiness for test experiments using the synchrotron beam.  

The first results testing the capabilities with the active beam of the analyser at the PHELIX end station were performed using the sample of gold in the presence of a specialist from the SPECS company, Dr. Robert Reichelt. As  a result of testing this calibration material, among others, the XPS Au4f spectrum was acquired (see pic.1). Additionally, an angle – resolved and spin – resolved measurements were performed .

During the latest open call for the beamtime the applications on the PHELIX beamline where included for the first time. This line will use soft X-ray radiation. The end-station will enable a wide range of spectroscopic and absorption researches, characterised by different surface sensitivity. Besides acquiring standard, high-resolution spectra, it will allow e.g. for the mapping of band structure in three dimensions and for the detection of spin in three dimensions.  

Users will thus be able to conduct research on new materials, thin films, and multi-layer systems, catalysers and biomaterials, as well as research on solids, on spin-polarised surface states, and on chemical reactions taking place on the surface.

Read more on the SOLARIS website

Image:  From left Tomasz Sobol, Dr. Robert Reichelt, Dr. Magdalena Szczepanik – Ciba. Credit – Solaris

Who stole the light?

Self-induced ultrafast demagnetization limits the amount of light diffracted from magnetic samples at soft x-ray energies.

Free electron X-ray lasers deliver intense ultrashort pulses of x-rays, which can be used to image nanometer-scale objects in a single shot. When the x-ray wavelength is tuned to an electronic resonance, magnetization patterns can be made visible. However, using increasingly intense pulses, the magnetization image fades away. The mechanism responsible for this loss in resonant magnetic scattering intensity has now been clarified.

A team of researchers from Max Born Institute Berlin (Germany), Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (Germany), Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste (Italy) and Sorbonne Université (France), has now precisely recorded the dependence of the resonant magnetic scattering intensity as a function of the x-ray intensity incident per unit area (the “fluence”) on a ferromagnetic domain sample. Via integration of a device to detect the intensity of every single shot hitting the actual sample area, they were able record the scattering intensity over three orders of magnitude in fluence with unprecedented precision, in spite of the intrinsic shot-to-shot variations of the x-ray beam hitting the tiny samples. The experiments with soft x-rays were carried out at the FERMI free-electron x-ray laser in Trieste, Italy.

In the results presented in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers show that while the loss in magnetic scattering in resonance with the Co 2p core levels has been attributed to stimulated emission in the past, for scattering in resonance with the shallower Co 3p core levels this process is not significant. The experimental data over the entire fluence range are well described by simply considering the actual demagnetization occurring within each magnetic domain, which the experimental team had previously characterized with laser-based experiments. Given the short lifetime of the Co 3p core, dominated by Auger decay, it is likely that the hot electrons generated by the Auger cascade, in concert with subsequent electron scattering events, lead to a reshuffling of spin up and spin down electrons transiently quenching the magnetization.

Read more on the ELETTRA website

Image:  Schematic sketch of the scattering experiment with two competing processes. The soft x-ray beam (blue line) hits the magnetic sample where it scatters from the microscopic, labyrinth-like magnetization pattern. In this process, an x-ray photon is first absorbed by a Co 3p core level (1). The resulting excited state can then relax either spontaneously (2), emitting a photon in a new direction (purple arrow), or by means the interaction with a second photon via stimulated emission (3). In this last case, the photons are emitted in the direction of the incident beam (blue arrow towards right). 

Synthetic fibre triumphs steel

Industrial high-strength fibre has been extensively used in daily lives. In addition to the well-known carbon fibre, “aramid fibre” has become the most comprehensive application and the largest production for the high-strength, flame retardant, and corrosion resistant fibre. Thus strong fibre is considered irreplaceable in fields such as national defense, aerospace, automotive, and energy materials. For flourishing market demand, an annual output of aramid fibre is nearly 100K tons in the word. Only several countries, including the US, Japan, Russia, and South Korean, however, are capable of mass production. Among them, the US and Japan occupy 90% market share.

Developing by DuPont company, “Kevlar” is an aramid fibre with currently the world’s leading high-strength fibre. Their strength is 5 times stronger than steel, with merely 1/5 the density of steel. In fact, the light-weight bullet proof clothing is mostly made by Kevlar.

Read more on the National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center website

Image: Customized “mini wet-spinning machine”. Credit NSRRC

Searching for the chemistry of life

Study shows possible new way to create DNA base pairs

In the search for the chemical origins of life, researchers have found a possible alternative path for the emergence of the characteristic DNA pattern: According to the experiments, the characteristic DNA base pairs can form by dry heating, without water or other solvents. The team led by Ivan Halasz from the Ruđer Bošković Institute and Ernest Meštrović from the pharmaceutical company Xellia presents its observations from DESY’s X-ray source PETRA III in the journal Chemical Communications.

“One of the most intriguing questions in the search for the origin of life is how the chemical selection occurred and how the first biomolecules formed,” says Tomislav Stolar from the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb, the first author on the paper. While living cells control the production of biomolecules with their sophisticated machinery, the first molecular and supramolecular building blocks of life were likely created by pure chemistry and without enzyme catalysis. For their study, the scientists investigated the formation of nucleobase pairs that act as molecular recognition units in the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).

Read more on the PETRA III (DESY) website

Image: From the mixture of all four nucleobases, A:T pairs emerged at about 100 degrees Celsius and G:C pairs formed at 200 degrees Celsius. Credit: Ruđer Bošković Institute, Ivan Halasz

A kappa diffractometer for intermediate X-ray energies at APS beamline 29-ID

An ultra-high vacuum, non-magnetic kappa geometry diffractometer has been designed and commissioned for the resonant soft x-ray scattering (RSXS) branch of the X-ray Science Division (XSD) Intermediate Energy X-ray (IEX) beamline 29-ID at the Advanced Photon Source (APS). Beamline 29-ID is managed by the XSD Magnetic Materials Group; the APS is an Office of Science user facility at Argonne National Laboratory. There were three main design goals for this diffractometer: kappa geometry, non-magnetic, and high-precision. The kappa geometry was chosen to allow for a large q-range and space for a sample environment (electric or magnetic fields). Non-magnetic components were used for all the components above and including the κ-arm to avoid disturbing magnetic or electric fields during experiments. Lastly, the diffractometer precision requirement of a sphere of confusion (SOC) of less than 50 µm was a key driving factor for this instrument in terms of rotation stages and machining precision.

The complete diffractometer can be seen in Fig. 1(a), shown installed into the RSXS UHV vacuum chamber at 29-ID. The precise SOC (< 50 µm) requirement drove the design method. In order to reach this goal, it was decided that a combination of precision machining, Finite element analysis, and stage precision would be used instead of calibrating an error-correction table. This has the advantage that the upper bound of the SOC requirement can be achieved without any control hardware, making the device more robust.

Read more on the Advanced Photon Source Website

Image: Fig1. (a) Image of the commissioned kappa diffractometer inside the RSXS vacuum chamber on the APS 29-ID beamline with the main components identified. (b) A close up model of the components above the f axis. The model also shows the new thermal break and thermal strap.

Focused X-ray beam allows high-resolution nanowire strain mapping

A team of researchers from Lund University and Northwestern University in the United States have used the nano focused beam at the NanoMAX beamline to construct a 2D map of the distribution of material strain in individual InP-GaInP heterostructure nanowires. Understanding the strain that forms in heterostructure nanowires is essential for tailoring their electronic properties to applications in electronics and for energy materials.

Semiconductor materials are essential for everything from electronics such as computers and mobile phones to LED-lights and solar cells. Different types of semiconductor materials often need to be combined in a so-called heterostructure to realise the advanced functions required for these devices.

Typically the combination is done by growing layers of one semiconductor material on top of another. However, since the distances between the atoms, the lattice spacing, is different in the different materials, it often leads to mismatch and strain in the materials when they are combined in this way. The mismatch puts a limit on what materials are possible to mix and how thick the layers can be.

Read more on the MAX IV website

Image: NanoMAX at Max IV

Tracking attosecond wave packets with extreme ultraviolet pulses

The fastest dynamical process in atoms, molecules and complexes is the electronic motion. It occurs on time scales reaching down to the attosecond regime (1 as = 10-18 s).  The advent of novel light sources, providing extreme ultraviolet (XUV) or even X-ray pulses with as pulse duration paves the way to study these dynamics in real-time. Therefore, researchers around the world are currently developing new spectroscopic techniques using pulses of XUV or X-ray radiation.

An international research collaboration from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the local team at the FERMI free-electron laser, has succeeded in observing the ultrafast electronic wave-packet evolution induced by the coherent excitation of an electron out of an inner shell in argon atoms. The measured quantum interference pattern exhibits oscillations that have a period of only ≈ 150 as. In order to achieve this, the collaboration extended a spectroscopy technique known from the visible spectral range – coherent wave-packet interferometry – to the XUV regime. This required a so far unprecedented level of control over the phase and timing properties of free-electron laser pulse pairs, which was achieved by exploiting the coherence of the high-gain harmonic generation process at FERMI. This novel spectroscopy technique will provide substantial insights and real-time information about intra and inter particle decay mechanisms in the XUV range.

Read more on the Elettra website

Image: Artistic rendering of the electronic motion in the electronic shell of an atom, induced and probed by a double pulse sequence.

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)

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

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.

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)

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

SLAC’s upgraded X-ray laser facility produces first light

Marking the beginning of the LCLS-II era, the first phase of the major upgrade comes online.

Menlo Park, Calif. — Just over a decade ago in April 2009, the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) produced its first light at the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) generated X-ray pulses a billion times brighter than anything that had come before. Since then, its performance has enabled fundamental new insights in a number of scientific fields, from creating “molecular movies” of chemistry in action to studying the structure and motion of proteins for new generations of pharmaceuticals and replicating the processes that create “diamond rain” within giant planets in our solar system.

The next major step in this field was set in motion in 2013, launching the LCLS-II upgrade project to increase the X-ray laser’s power by thousands of times, producing a million pulses per second compared to 120 per second today. This upgrade is due to be completed within the next two years.

Today the first phase of the upgrade came into operation, producing an X-ray beam for the first time using one critical element of the newly installed equipment.

Read more on the SLAC website

Image: Over the past 18 months, the original LCLS undulator system was removed and replaced with two totally new systems that offer dramatic new capabilities .

Credit: (Andy Freeberg/Alberto Gamazo/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Looping X-rays to produce higher quality laser pulses

A proposed device could expand the reach of X-ray lasers, opening new experimental avenues in biology, chemistry, materials science and physics.BY ALI SUNDERMIER

Ever since 1960, when Theodore Maiman built the world’s first infrared laser, physicists dreamed of producing X-ray laser pulses that are capable of probing the ultrashort and ultrafast scales of atoms and molecules.

This dream was finally realized in 2009, when the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL), the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, produced its first light. One limitation of LCLS and other XFELs in their normal mode of operation is that each pulse has a slightly different wavelength distribution, and there can be variability in the pulse length and intensity. Various methods exist to address this limitation, including ‘seeding’ the laser at a particular wavelength, but these still fall short of the wavelength purity of conventional lasers.

Read more on the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory website

Image: Schematic arrangement of the experiment. The researchers send an X-ray pulse from LCLS through a liquid jet, where it creates excited atoms that emit a pulse of radiation at one distinct color moving in the same direction. This pulse is reflected through a series of mirrors arranged in a crossed loop. The size of this loop is carefully set so that the pulse arrives back at the liquid jet at the same time as a second X-ray pulse from LCLS. This produces an even brighter laser pulse, which then takes the same loop. The process is repeated several times, and with each loop the laser pulse intensifies and becomes more coherent. During the last loop, one of the mirrors is quickly switched allowing this laser pulse to exit.

Credit: (Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)