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ALSNews Features
ALS Engineers Resolve Power Supply Failure, Bring ALS Back Online Print


It was late the night of Thursday, July 28, and ALS Electronics Engineer Chris Pappas was getting ready for bed when he got the call from the ALS Electronics Maintenance shop. The power supply to the ALS’s booster bend magnets had tripped, was reset, and tripped again. “I’ll come up there,” Pappas said.

The power supply contains hundreds of capacitors that act as an intermediate filter between the electricity grid input and rectifiers and the booster bend magnets. Without it, the ALS can’t accelerate the electrons to the energy necessary to produce x-ray light.

Pappas and electronics maintenance technicians worked well into the night but couldn’t find an obvious solution, so they decided to try again the next morning.

By happenstance, the morning before the failure, retired engineer Mike Fahmie, who originally specified, installed, and commissioned the power supply, had been at the ALS to discuss the electrical safety training he needed to continue to support the supply's functioning. On Friday morning, ALS staff called him, and he agreed to come in.

View of the capacitor banks with some of the panels removed.

The ALS engineering crews worked throughout the day Friday but went into the weekend with no solutions. The fuses continued to blow consistently on two capacitor banks. Disabling the two banks hadn’t helped, nor had running the booster below its typical 1.9 GeV energy, injecting into the storage ring, then ramping up the storage ring to full energy—the mode in which the ALS operated before the power supply was put in place.

On Saturday, Fahmie developed a new idea. Maybe the capacitor modules blowing the fuse weren’t the problem. Instead, other capacitor modules in the circuit might be degraded, transferring an overabundance of current into the good modules, causing them to blow the fuses.

The team equipped themselves with flashlights and mirrors and went into the banks to visually inspect the capacitors for signs of degradation. Again, they reached a dead end.

“There was no smoking gun,” said Ken Baptiste, Electrical and Controls Engineering leader. “We saw some cans that showed some burns and physical damage, but in hindsight they were probably damaged during manufacturing or when the power supply was being commissioned,” added Pappas.

Next, over a period of two shifts, the team directly measured the ESR—the equivalent series resistance—of all 600 capacitors to try to pinpoint the culprits. For this measurement, test equipment first needed to be designed, fabricated, and tested. During the measurement process, Electronics Maintenance Technicians (EMs) Curtis Gomez and Eric Kawakami found and corrected a safety issue related to the capacitor wiring. But unfortunately, the ESR measurements yielded nothing conclusive.

By the end of the weekend, the team was no closer to a solution, and the pressure was mounting. More than two days of user operations had been lost. Monday and Tuesday were scheduled maintenance days, but user operations were scheduled to restart on Wednesday at 8 a.m.

One of the 600 electrolytic capacitors in the ALS booster bend magnet power supply.

On Monday morning, Accelerator Operations Deputy Christoph Steier, freshly returned from backpacking in Yosemite, revisited the weekend's results with Pappas and Baptiste and helped retrieve an additional piece of information from the digital power supply controller: the waveform charts from the last power supply trip. The charts suggested the problem might lie, not in the large banks where the fuses were blown, but instead in another set of capacitors in two different locations that act as a filter to prevent high-frequency ringing.

The 600 electrolytic capacitors that had already been inspected were cylindrical and the size of large cans. The high-frequency capacitors used in the power supply's final and IGBT filters were a different beast entirely, made of mylar film with metallization on both sides, wound up and put in series and in parallel in a large case the size of a truck battery. Reaching the final filter was straightforward, and the team quickly determined that all eight capacitors were bad. But getting access to the IGBT filters was no easy task.

“A bunch of things had to come out. [The capacitors] were surrounded by a set of rectifiers and by IGBTs [insulated-gate bipolar transistors]. Then there was bus work in the front,” explained Ken Berg, electronics coordinator for the engineering division. According to Baptiste, Berg saved nearly a shift’s worth of work by realizing that only the upper half of the bus work needed to come out to access the capacitors.

EM Doug Bashaw measured the capacitance and found that four of the 4000 μF capacitors read low—two below 2000 μF and two between 2000–3500 μF. Once they were removed, it was clear their cases were cracked. At last, on Tuesday, less than 24 hours before user operations were scheduled to begin, the smoking guns had been found.

One of the two cracked high-frequency capacitors that resulted in the failure of the booster bend magnet power supply.

“At this point we had some degree of confidence we’d found the problem, although everything we’d thought up to this point had been wrong,” said Pappas. “Things started to add up,” Baptiste elaborated. “The fact that all 600 capacitors checked out rudimentarily okay. The fact that these high-frequency filter capacitors and snubber capacitors were found to be bad and correlated with the high-frequency noise on Christoph’s plots from the night of the failure.”

Fortunately, the ALS had eight spare final filter capacitors of this type and two spare IGBT filter capacitors. The team formed a plan to replace the bad capacitors. Some staff had been working for eight to ten hours by this point, and they knew the work would take at least six to eight more, including testing, so they decided to do the assembly that night, then come in at 7 a.m. the next morning to do the initial testing of the power supply. Quickly, however, they discovered a problem. The new capacitor cases were wider, and space inside the bank was tight.

“Electrically, they were the same exact capacitor,” said Berg, “But physically, the cases were larger. The screw holes lined up on the first one, but when you went to put the others in, the cases were a quarter inch wider, so now you’re a half inch off.”

The team had to redrill the holes, develop a new way to hang the capacitors, and mill the bus bars that bolt onto the capacitors. Electronics Installation Technician Bob Gassaway came up with some of the creative solutions and provided access to the machine shop. Once the capacitors were in place, it was 9 p.m., and one of the final steps was for Mechanical Technician Jason Borsos to reconnect the water hose that cools the rectifier units. The bottom hose fit, but the top one was half an inch off. “It was one of those things where we just looked at each other and went, okay, what else can go wrong?” said Berg. After some adjustments, Borsos reconnected the water, and Gassaway, Berg, and Gomez finished getting the power supply ready for the morning’s test.

View of the IGBT switching circuit inside the power supply. The IGBTs and the high-frequency capacitors are mounted behind the red insulated bus work.

On Wednesday morning, the team prepared to turn on the machine. “By mid-morning we had all our ducks in a row,” said Baptiste. “There were eight to ten people in the booster pit. We had the instrumentation on, we had scopes, we had people, we had the safety officer’s okay to proceed with the initial turn on. And it turned on without event.” By lunchtime, the machine was up to full energy, and everything was running nominally.

After a successful test, the final step was to turn off the power supply, take out all the instrumentation that was plugged in, put the supply covers back on, and turn it on one more time. By 3:15 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, after nearly six days of almost continuous work, user operations resumed.

Despite the long hours and the complexity in finding a solution, the team reflected positively on the experience. “There wasn’t any huge special thing that happened… It’s what we do here,” said Borsos. “We have to problem solve and we have to make it happen.” According to Berg, “This was one of the better examples of teamwork. Everybody’s comments and ideas were considered.”

The engineering staff are currently looking into measures to mitigate this type of failure in the future. “This was a failure that had been approaching for years,” said Baptiste. “Those capacitors degraded, degraded, degraded, then finally the ripple in the high frequency was enough to start blowing fuses. Had those fuses not been there, we would have had something much more significant happen.” More specific calculations are being done to estimate the lifetime of the remaining capacitors, some degraded capacitors are being replaced, and more spare parts are being ordered.

Full team credits: Ken Baptiste, Doug Bashaw, Jacque Bell, Ken Berg, Jason Borsos, Ronny Colston, Mike Decool, Mike Fahmie, Bob Gassaway, Dennis Gibson, Curtis Gomez, Eric Kawakami, Tim Kuneli, Octavian Matei, Chris Pappas, Ed Rim, Dave Robin, Sergio Rogoff, Fernando Sannibale, Christoph Steier, Scott Taylor, Marcos Turqueti, Max Vinco, Will Waldron.

ALS Brightness Improvement Team Wins DOE Achievement Award Print


Members of the ALS Brightness Improvement Team have been recognized by the Department of Energy with a prestigious Secretary of Energy Achievement Award. This distinction follows the team's receipt last December of a Berkeley Lab Director's Award for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

The brightness improvement project primarily involved replacing about 50 corrector magnets with an equal number of combined-function magnets (sextupoles that serve as corrector dipoles, skew quadrupoles, and sextupoles), amounting to major surgery on the storage ring. The four-year, $5.8M project was the largest upgrade of the ALS storage ring in its more than 20-year history, eclipsing superbends in 2001 and top-off injection in 2009. The brightness upgrade was completed under budget and months ahead of schedule, with no "teething period."

As noted in the team's nomination: "The truly exceptional aspect of this achievement is the way it worked right out of the box. Synchrotrons are sophisticated devices and it was expected that there would be significant time lapse of many months to transition to the higher brightness. However, everything worked immediately, outperforming all expectations."

The improvement solidified the ALS's place as one of the world's brightest sources of soft x-rays. It reduced the horizontal emittance of the electron beam from 6.3 nm to 2.0 nm (Small Spot, Brighter Beam), delivering to users a three-fold improvement in photon-beam brightness in bend-magnet beamlines and a two-fold improvement in insertion-device beamlines (with existing undulators; greater improvement will be achieved with future insertion devices).

Congratulations to the team members!

Christoph Steier with one of the new sextupole magnets that were key to the brightness upgrade.

  • Barry J. Bailey
  • H. Ken Berg
  • Alan K. Biocca
  • Alan Black
  • Patrick W. Casey
  • Dan H. Colomb
  • Robert F. Gunion
  • Nanyang Li
  • J. Steve Marks
  • Arnaud Madur
  • Hiroshi Nishimura
  • G. Chris Pappas
  • Karl V. Petermann
  • Gregory J. Portmann
  • Soren O. Prestemon
  • Albert W. Rawlins
  • David S. Robin
  • Steven L. Rossi
  • Tom Scarvie
  • Ross D. Schlueter
  • Christoph A. Steier
  • Changchun Sun
  • Hamed Tarawneh
  • Weishi Wan
  • Eric C. Williams
ALS Users' Executive Committee Update Print

by David Shuh, ALS UEC Chair

The ALS UEC met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, September 8. The agenda included final preparations for the upcoming ALS User Meeting, to be held October 3–5, plans for the solicitation of new UEC members from the ALS user community, and the pending update of the ALS UEC website. ALS Beamline Scientist Elke Arrenholz presented to the UEC on plans for enhancing user engagement for ALS-U. Michael Banda and Roger Falcone discussed current and future ALS operational, scientific, and infrastructural developments that might affect user science at the ALS.

A new development was a User Forum, which followed the regular UEC meeting during the ALS Thursday "cookie time." The forum allowed the UEC to engage with and garner direct input from users present at the ALS. The UEC would like to thank the ALS users for attending and providing input. Following on this forum’s success, the UEC will hold a similar event following every regularly scheduled UEC meeting in the upcoming year.

As a result of the UEC meeting and User Forum, the ALS UEC will forward several suggestions and recommendations on behalf of ALS users to ALS management.

We look forward to seeing you at the User Meeting!

ALS users and staff gathered in the User Support Building’s conference room (15-253) for the ALS UEC User Forum on September 8 at 3pm following the UEC meeting. Note that many of the users participating were clustered around the cookies and coffee rather than at the back of the room!

ALS users and staff gathered in the User Support Building’s conference room (15-253) for the ALS UEC User Forum on September 8 at 3pm following the UEC meeting. Note that many of the users participating were clustered around the cookies and coffee rather than at the back of the room!

SHARP: A "Killer App" for Ptychography Print



SHARP is the result of a collaboration between the ALS and CAMERA (Center for Advanced Mathematics for Energy Research Applications).

Ptychography, a revolutionary x-ray imaging technique that combines diffraction and microscopy, has now been coupled with applied mathematics and high-performance computing to quickly turn high-throughput "imaging by diffraction" datasets into the sharpest three-dimensional images ever produced. A joint collaboration between the Advanced Light Source (ALS), Uppsala University, and researchers at the Center for Advanced Mathematics for Energy Research Applications (CAMERA) has led to SHARP (Scalable Heterogeneous Adaptive Real-time Ptychography), which is an algorithmic framework and computer software for the fast reconstruction of images from ptychographic data used at the ALS. With the image-processing tools provided by SHARP, every scanning microscope can now add a parallel detector, and every diffraction imaging instrument can add a scanning stage to take advantage of this groundbreaking technique.

In a typical scanning microscope, a small beam is focused onto the sample via a lens, and the transmission is measured in a single-element detector. The image is built up by plotting the transmission as a function of the sample position as it is rastered across the beam. In such a microscope, the resolution of the image is given by the beam size. In ptychography, one replaces the single-element detector with a two-dimensional-array detector such as a CCD and measures the intensity distribution at many scattering angles.

In ptychography, the x-ray beam scans through the sample, creating diffraction data (a frame) for each point. SHARP distributes the large dataset and workload onto many parallel GPU (graphics processing unit) cores to produce very high resolution images in less then a second.

Each recorded diffraction pattern contains information about features that are smaller than the beam size, enabling higher resolution. At short wavelengths, however, it is only possible to measure the intensity of the diffracted light. To reconstruct an image of the object, one also needs to retrieve the phase. The phase-retrieval problem is made tractable in ptychography by recording multiple diffraction patterns from the same region of the object, compensating for phaseless information with a redundant set of measurements.

The reconstruction of ptychographic data is a nonlinear problem, and until recently, there were no theoretical guarantees that popular algorithms would produce faithful representations of the specimen. Moreover, earlier algorithms did not work well on large datasets. Common iterative methods operate by interchanging information between nearest-neighbor frames (diffraction patterns) at each step, so it might take many iterations for far-apart frames to communicate.

SHARP developers approached the problem by connecting the pixels of each frame in the dataset to one another in a "relationship network" that can be represented mathematically by a high-dimensional matrix. Finding the largest eigenvector of the matrix, containing the most aligned phases, quickly results in an accurate initial guess for an alternating projection algorithm. The approach achieves accelerated convergence for large-scale phase-retrieval problems spanning multiple length scales and it can also recover experimental fluctuations over a large range of time scales, enabling nanoscale resolution over macroscopic objects.

Among other innovations, SHARP uses a "relationship network"
relating each frame to its neighbors to build and accelerate a better starting guess.

As new instruments come online with ptycho-tomographic hyperspectral capabilities, polarization control, larger datasets, and new unexpected sources of bias, the work described here will have a lasting impact. The imaging revolution unleashed by high-throughput, high-resolution ptychography will have profound effects on our understanding of nature, whenever observing the whole picture is as important as recovering the local atomic arrangement of the components with chemical-state specificity.



Publication about this work: S. Marchesini, H. Krishnan, B.J. Daurer, D.A. Shapiro, T. Perciano, J.A. Sethian, and F.R.N.C. Maia, "SHARP: a distributed GPU-based ptychographic solver," J. Appl. Crystallogr. 49, doi:10.1107/S1600576716008074 (2016).

Call for General User Proposals - Sept. 7 Deadline Print


The User Office is accepting new General User Proposals (GUPs) from scientists who wish to conduct research at the ALS during the 2017-1 Jan–Jun cycle.


Please log in to ALSHub to submit a new GUP or to make a beam time request (BTR) on an existing active proposal.

Users are reminded that they need to have an ALSHub account to submit proposals and that creating an account may take 1–2 business days. We encourage all users to check their account well before the proposal deadline.


New Proposals

For more information about how to apply for beam time and proposal writing guidelines, follow the link to Apply for Beamtime in the User Guide.

Each user is now required to input his or her ORCID ID when submitting a new GUP. The ORCID ID is a unique digital identifier for researchers, analogous to DOIs for publications. Go to the ORCID website for more information and to get a free ORCID ID.


Maintaining an Active Proposal

Proposals for general sciences beamlines are considered active for two years, or until the total shifts requested in the proposal have been used. Users may decide whether to submit a new proposal or make a BTR on an active proposal based on the cutoff score for that beamline. Users are reminded that their proposal score may be improved if they fell below the cutoff in the first cycle, as described on GUP web pages.


RAPIDD Proposals

Users requiring limited but rapid access to ALS beam time, may prefer to submit a RAPIDD proposal rather than a GUP. RAPIDD proposals may be submitted at any time and the system includes:

  • Rapid access to structural biology beamlines
  • Rapid access to some general user beamlines (7.3.3, 8.3.2, and 11.3.1)
  • Industry proposals on most ALS-run beamlines
  • Director's Discretionary beam time on most ALS-run beamlines


Productivity and Past Publications

All proposal forms include a productivity section with publications from previous ALS work. The publications will be pre-filled automatically from the ALS publication database by searching for the Principal Investigator's name. Submission of publications is via the LBNL reporting system and is quick and easy, based on entering the DOI.

To enter publications or to search the ALS publications database, go to the Publication Menu and click on the appropriate link. Please make sure your publications are entered into our database and be sure to select your group’s publications when submitting your proposal.

MAESTRO Beamline Set to Open to Users Print

It was 10 years ago that ALS Senior Staff Scientist Eli Rotenberg devised the name Microscopic and Electronic STRucture Observatory, or MAESTRO, for his long-envisioned beamline dedicated to the determination of the electronic structure of materials at the mesoscopic length scale. This September, the beamline, 7.0.2, will accept general user proposals for the first time, offering researchers unparalleled opportunities for studying the correlation between structure and electronic properties.

MAESTRO’s unique attributes combine strong sample preparation capabilities with cutting-edge spectromicroscopy tools. Sample preparation is done at the beamline itself in one of three sample preparation chambers. The first is molecular beam epitaxy (MBE), with capabilities that rival those of dedicated laboratories not connected to a synchrotron. The second is pulsed laser deposition (PLD), typically used for oxides like high-Tc superconductors. The third sample preparation area is simple, but essential—an atmosphere-controlled glovebox. All of the chambers offer the critical ability to prepare clean, highly crystalline samples in a non-reactive environment, then move them into a beamline endstation for analysis without them ever leaving the beamline enclosure.

MAESTRO beamline scientists and visiting fellows watch intently as they receive the first images from the PEEM endstation. Pictured (L to R): Roland Koch, Eli Rotenberg, Daniel Schwarz, Chris Joswiak, and Aaron Bostwick.

The beamline provides three ARPES (angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy) endstations, each with different strengths. MicroARPES allows the best energy resolution and lowest sample temperatures (down to 12 K) among them, but at the expense of spatial resolution, which is limited to ~10 μm. The second endstation offers photoemission electron microscopy, or PEEM, which illuminates a large region of the sample to perform full-field electron microscopy on it. Although PEEM is relatively easy and quick and offers a spatial resolution of 30 nm, a sample grain has to be at least 3 μm to perform a spatially selected ARPES measurement.

The third endstation, featuring nanoARPES, is still undergoing testing but will eventually offer the best spatial resolution of the endstations at 50 nm. In the future, Rotenberg says the resolution may get better, particularly if the proposed ALS upgrade (ALS-U) comes to fruition. “With ALS-U we could probably get to 25 nm easily, and with other tricks we could eventually get down to 5 nm.” The drawbacks of nanoARPES are a low count rate (at least 100 times worse than with microARPES) and the potential for sample damage from high energy densities.

The endstation complex, designed by Geoff Gaines, Aaron Bostwick, Chris Jozwiak, and Rotenberg, is linked by an elaborate, automated sample transfer highway called MART—MAESTRO Area Rapid Transit. MART is a sample "railway" with custom robotics for automated transfer of samples in an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) environment. Like commuter train systems, traffic congestion is reduced by providing dual tracks and plenty of in-vacuum storage slots—nearly 300 samples can be stored in UHV and directed to where they are needed. The commissioning of MART and the endstations began last fall and has been carried out with visiting postdoctoral fellows Daniel Schwartz, Soren Ulstrum, Roland Koch, Hyang Keun Yoo, Luca Moreschini, and Simon Moser.

Schematic layout of Beamline 7.0.2, MAESTRO.

The unique capability of automated transfer among multiple sample preparation chambers and multiple synchrotron endstations opens up a wide range of possible experiments. “We’ll have the ability to prepare a surface that’s atomically precise in the MBE chamber, then you could bring that sample to the glovebox and exfoliate a sensitive material onto it. You could even imagine depositing atoms on top of that and coming back to the glovebox to lay something else down on it,” described Rotenberg. “There are bits and pieces [of the beamline] that have similar qualities to other instruments around the world, but there’s no other beamline that has everything in one place,” said Rotenberg. “It allows us to tackle harder problems.” Among those could be synthesizing and measuring sandwiches and heterostructures with high atomic precision or exotic materials like high-Tc cuprates made of a single superconducting layer.

In terms of user access, there are opportunities and challenges to the beamline’s many offerings. On one hand, there are multiple chambers for sample growth, all of which could be occupied by different groups at once. Preparing a sample in the MBE chamber might take a group two weeks, but with PLD, more than one sample could be grown in a day. The glovebox offers even more flexibility. With so many variables in play, it can be difficult to determine well in advance when a sample might be ready for beam time. That's a primary advantage of the sample storage system—the samples can staged for analysis without ever exposing them to the atmosphere.

Although the beamline will accept proposals from general users beginning with the upcoming September 7 deadline, a significant fraction of beam time will be reserved for rapid access (RAPIDD) proposals and continued beamline optimization. General user applicants for beam time and those interested in using the sample preparation chambers should This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it before submitting a proposal.

ALS Holds Annual Safety Day Print

by Scott Taylor, ALS Safety Manager

Andrew Doran cleans equipment housing at Beamline 12.2.2.

The ALS held its annual safety day on Monday, June 13 for all ALS and associated staff. The day started with an all-hands meeting, beginning with presentations by ALS Director Roger Falcone and LBNL Environmental Health and Safety Division Director (and former ALS Safety Manager) Jim Floyd. Both discussed the importance of the incorporation of Integrated Safety Management (ISM) into daily planning, and the responsibility of the individual for their safety and the safety of their co-workers.

Ingrid Hallsteinsen red-tags electronics at Beamline 4.0.2.

The theme of the day centered on electrical safety. In addition to comments by Falcone and Floyd, Operations Manager Jerry Kekos emphasized safety in the office space. The scientific staff remained at the meeting to discuss safety on the beamlines, with talks by Doug Taube (chemical safety), Bob Mueller (electrical safety), Bruce Rude (bake-out procedures), and Scott Taylor (work authorizations).

After lunch, the scientists returned to the ALS floor, where they conducted electrical inspections of their own beamlines, followed by inspections of their colleagues’ beamlines. Questionable items were tagged by the beamline staff for further inspection by the ALS electrical technicians and electricians.

ALS-U Update: BESAC Announces Results of Facility Upgrade Prioritization Print

by Dave Robin, on behalf of the ALS-U Project Development Team

On Thursday, June 9, DOE’s Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) released the recommendations of the BES Facility Upgrade Prioritization Subcommittee. I’m pleased to announce that the subcommittee (whose full report can be found here) considers the proposed ALS-U project “absolutely central” to contribute to world leading science and “ready to initiate construction”—the highest possible ratings.

In a December 21, 2015 letter, Director of the DOE Office of Science (SC) Cherry Murray asked BESAC to provide an update of its assessment of the proposed upgrades to x-ray scattering facilities and to the Spallation Neutron Source using the same criteria that were used in prior studies—“the ability of a proposed upgrade or construction project to contribute to world leading science and the readiness of the upgrade or construction project to proceed to construction.”

The five proposed facility upgrade projects included in the assessment were: the Advanced Photon Source Upgrade (APS-U); the Advanced Light Source Upgrade (ALS-U); the Linac Coherent Light Source II High Energy Upgrade (LCLS-II-HE); the Proton Power Upgrade (PPU) at the Spallation Neutron Source; and the Second Target Station (STS) at the Spallation Neutron Source.

The report acknowledges that “the Office of Basic Energy Sciences’ (BES) x-ray and neutron user facilities play an ever increasingly critical role for fundamental discovery science and innovation,” and that, due to international investments in new facilities that will compete with US science and technology, “Without the planned upgrades the APS and the ALS will soon be relegated as second tier facilities.”

Comparison of the ALS accelerator complex as it exists today (left) with the upgraded ALS (right). (A) Plan views of the tunnel and rings. (B) A sector inside the tunnel. The bottom right-hand image shows the accumulator ring to the left (inside) of the storage ring.

Under the ALS-U proposal, the existing ALS storage ring would be replaced with powerful new compact magnets arranged in a multibend achromat (MBA) lattice. This new lattice, in combination with other improvements to the electron accelerator, would reduce the electron beam emittance and dramatically increase the transverse x-ray coherence, producing up to 1000 times more soft x-ray coherent flux than today’s ALS—well beyond that of any ring-based light source in operation, under construction, or planned. The resulting stable, nearly continuous-wave, highly coherent, soft x-ray beams would enable important new types of scientific inquiry by allowing us to resolve nanometer-scale features and interactions, and follow real-time kinetics, revealing the nature of chemical transformations and the origin of the functional behavior of complex materials.

With regards to ALS-U, the report specifically highlighted the ability of an MBA lattice upgrade (now successfully demonstrated by MAX IV) to result in a truly coherent soft x-ray source that will allow the ALS to remain the world leading facility in this area of science for the foreseeable future. In addition, the subcommittee commented on the novel “swap-out” injection that will be employed by both APS-U and ALS-U and will enable a leap in performance over other international MBA designs.

The report also noted the “historically strong coupling between the experiments at the ALS and the computational and theoretical science community” and encouraged ALS management to “enhance their outreach efforts to engage the user community in the design and planning for the ALS-U project and the associated beam line upgrades.” Actively involving our user community in the project as it develops is critical, and we look forward to valuable input.

The outcome of the BESAC prioritization is the direct result of our expert staff and engaged user community. Through support from Berkeley Lab and more recently from BES, staff members in the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics (ATAP), Engineering, and ALS Divisions have invested more than three years of R&D to develop the ALS-U concept. The ALS-U initiative has received tremendous support across the lab, and Berkeley Lab Director Mike Witherell has stated that ALS-U is the laboratory’s highest priority project. I could not imagine a stronger or more enthusiastic team. I’m hopeful that the subcommittee’s recommendation will bring us one step closer to a mission need approval (CD-0) for this proposed project and put us on the path towards upgrading the ALS, providing revolutionary light source capabilities to our user community and ensuring continued US leadership in soft x-ray science.

Synchrotron Science at the AAAS Annual Meeting Print


Light sources took center stage at several sessions at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2016 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. The meeting's theme of Global Science Engagement lent itself well to the inherently collaborative nature of synchrotron science, which was featured in the following sessions.


SESAME: A Scientific Source of Light in the Middle East

SESAME light source.

The third-generation, 2.5-GeV SESAME light source, under construction in Amman, Jordan, is slated to begin commissioning later this year. Introductory remarks by Chris Llewellyn Smith (University of Cambridge), president of the SESAME Council, highlighted the opportunities the project presents for international collaboration and peace building, particularly among its nine Middle Eastern member countries, as well as ongoing challenges SESAME will have to overcome to be successful, including access to solar power to combat rising energy costs. Earlier this month SESAME celebrated the installation of the first of sixteen cells in its storage ring. The session also included talks by SESAME Council Vice President Eliezer Rabinovici (Hebrew University), who discussed the peace-building prospects in more detail; SESAME Scientific Advisory Committee Chair Zehra Sayers (Sabanci University), who detailed the current status of planning for up to 30 beamlines; and SESAME Beamline Scientist Gihan Kamel, who discussed SESAME’s infrared spectroscopy and microspectroscopy beamline, EMIRA.


Cleaner Energy Solutions: What Can 21st Century Large-Scale Physics Deliver?

Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla (Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin) provided an overview of the importance of synchrotron radiation for driving advances in new energy-relevant materials. After highlighting key capabilities synchrotron radiation provides, including identification of elements and chemical states, electronic and magnetic state selectivity, structural selectivity, and temporal sensitivity, she gave specific examples of how synchrotron science is informing organic electronics, perovskite solar cells, gas storage, and battery research. Claire Corkhill (University of Sheffield) discussed the world’s first long-duration x-ray synchrotron experiment, being performed at the UK’s Diamond Light Source. Corkhill’s research investigates changes in cement chemistry and microstructure for nuclear waste immobilization applications. By taking diffraction patterns of the cement every two weeks for two years, she hopes to inform the design of a new cement that will improve the option for geological disposal of the world’s hundreds of thousands of tons (and growing) of radioactive waste material.

Iran: Science Cooperation in a Post-Sanctions Era

Javad Rahighi, director of the Iranian Light Source Facility, provided an update on the plans for Iran’s largest-ever basic science project. The 3-GeV synchrotron is due to start construction in the coming months in Qazvin, just west of Tehran, and is projected to be operational by 2025. Rahighi highlighted the opportunities provided by the July 2015 nuclear agreement between the world powers and Iran. In the post-sanctions era, Iranian scientists have an easier time traveling abroad and sending their students to learn abroad, and the sophisticated scientific equipment necessary to build a light source facility is easier to obtain. In addition, Rahighi is hopeful that better scientific opportunities at home will help combat “brain drain,” keeping Iranian scientists in Iran.


Citizen Science and Information Technology: Engaging People for a Better Planet

Carla Gomes, professor of computer science and director of the Institute for Computational Sustainability at Cornell University, reported on the integration of citizen science data (crowdsourced information) with advanced computational techniques to accelerate the interpretation of synchrotron-derived x-ray diffraction data. Gomes used the superior pattern recognition capabilities of citizen scientists to inform computational algorithms programmed to solve the crystal structures of hundreds of points along a ternary thin film composition spread. The data collected from the UDiscoverIt graphical user interface for providing human input to the solving algorithm enabled a significant reduction in the amount of time to solve the crystal structures compared with humans or computers alone. Gomes believes human computation will dramatically speed up the performance of combinatorial optimization methods, accelerating sustainable energy materials discovery.

ALS Biosciences Crosscutting Review Print

by Steve Kevan and Corie Ralston


The ALS organized and recently held a two-day crosscutting review of its bioscience programs. The ALS Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) sponsors these reviews, which are intended to evaluate the performance of entire research subdisciplines served by the facility and to motivate strategic thinking about capabilities and research directions that are ripe for future development. SAC member Janet Smith from the University of Michigan chaired the review, and other committee members were Mark Tobin from the Australian Synchrotron, Scott Fraser from University of Southern California, Wayne Hendrickson from Columbia University, and Thomas Weiss from SLAC.

Biosciences beamlines at the ALS.

Research areas covered by the review included macromolecular crystallography and solution scattering, cellular nano-tomography, and infrared microscopy. Talks by staff and 1-2 users of all beamlines in these areas were followed by ample time for discussion. There was also a poster session, at which additional current and planned research and capabilities were presented. An important underlying topic of discussion throughout the review was the planned ALS upgrade for ultrahigh brightness and how it will impact biosciences at the ALS. Overall, the review committee was very pleased by what they saw and provided valuable advice concerning the current ALS bioscience programs and how they might evolve in the future. The committee emphasized the importance of the GEMINI protein micro-crystallography beamline, scheduled for commissioning in 2018 and funded by both the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and industry, and suggested ongoing communication and planning for the ALS bioscience program on ALS-U.

The ALS aims to conduct two programmatic reviews each year and always seeks active user engagement in the planning and execution of these reviews.

Call for General User Proposals - Upcoming Deadline Print


The User Office is accepting new General User Proposals (GUPs) from scientists who wish to conduct research at the ALS in the 2016-2 July-Dec cycle.



Please log in to ALSHub to submit a new GUP or to make a Beam Time Request (BTR) on an existing active proposal.

Users are reminded that they need to have an ALSHub account to submit proposals, and that creating an account may take 1-2 business days. We encourage all users to check their account well before the proposal deadline.


New Proposals

For more information about how to apply for beam time and proposal writing guidelines, follow the link to Apply for Beamtime in the User Guide.


Maintaining an Active Proposal

Proposals for general sciences beamlines are considered active for two years or until the total shifts requested in the proposal have been used. Users may decide whether to submit a new proposal or make a BTR on an active proposal based on the cutoff score for that beamline. Users are reminded that their proposal score may be improved if it fell below the cutoff in the first cycle, as described on GUP web pages.


RAPIDD Proposals

Users requiring limited but rapid access to ALS beam time may prefer to submit a RAPIDD proposal rather than a GUP. RAPIDD proposals may be submitted at any time. The system includes:

  • Rapid access to structural biology beamlines
  • Rapid access to some general user beamlines (7.3.3, 8.3.2, and 11.3.1 currently; 7.0.2 Maestro is coming soon)
  • Industry proposals on most ALS-run beamlines
  • Director's discretionary beam time on most ALS-run beamlines


Productivity and Past Publications

All proposal forms include a productivity section with publications from previous ALS work. The publications will be pre-filled automatically from the ALS publication database by searching for the principal investigator's name. Submission of publications is via the LBNL reporting system and is now much quicker and easier, based on entering the publication’s DOI. ALS users need to choose the correct entry on the right-hand side list to input publications:

  • LBNL staff should login with their Berkeley Lab Identity
  • ALS users who are not staff should use the ALS User input

A full description of the new system may be found here. Please make sure your publications are entered into our database, and be sure to select your group’s publication when submitting your proposal.

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