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ALSNews Features
Student UEC Member Goes Above and Beyond Print

As a student representative to the ALS Users Executive Committee (UEC) for the past two years, Mahati Chintapalli has gained a better understanding of how the ALS functions as an organization, while the UEC has gained a devoted and outgoing member. This year, Chintapalli led the fundraising drive for the annual User Meeting awards along with UEC member Micky Holcomb, and they raised the monies in record time. She’s currently a PhD student in Materials Science at UC Berkeley and has been conducting research at the ALS since she began her PhD program in 2011.

“Being on the UEC has been really positive,” says Chintapalli. “I’ve had a chance to meet a lot of people and learn about how the organization plans for the future of the synchrotron.”

Two years ago, Chintapalli won the student poster competition at the ALS User Meeting for her poster about carbon monoxide dissociation on cobalt nanoparticles, based on her research into how the size of nanoparticles affected the CO dissociation. These days, her research is focused on block copolymer electrolytes and how they conduct ions for lithium batteries; she’s using the small-angle scattering capabilities at BL 7.3.3 for this work. In the future, she hopes to be able to use spectroscopy to look at how ions are solvated and conducted in polymer electrolytes with the hope of learning how to design polymer electrolyte systems with improved ionic conductivity.

“I am very grateful that I’ve gotten a chance to do different types of research in my time at the ALS,” she says. “With my current work at 7.3.3, I’ve been able to see the correlation between the structure of the polymer and how well or how poorly it conducts ions because of its structure.”

Chintapalli says her involvement in the UEC has given her a broader view of the ALS user community, as she’s gotten to know scientists outside of her own field. She says that these informal connections have opened up wider opportunities for her at the ALS.

September 2014 Call for General User Proposals Print

The User Office is accepting new General User Proposals (GUPs) from scientists who wish to conduct research at the ALS in the January – June 2015 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 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, 9.3.1 and 11.3.1)
  • Industry proposals on most ALS-run beamlines
  • Director's Discretionary beam time on most ALS-run beamlines

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. Please make sure your publications are entered into our database and be sure to select your group’s publication when submitting your proposal.

ALS Data Visualization Lab Serves Up Computing Power Print


Even though the ALS has been in shutdown mode for almost two months, there’s one area of the facility where users have been busy. The new ALS Visualization and Analysis Lab, which opened to users in November 2013, hosts an impressive amount of computing power that’s helping scientists work through data-heavy beamline results much more quickly and efficiently.

Located on the second floor of the ALS (building 6, room 2244), the data visualization lab (or “viz lab,” as ALS folks refer to it) includes two Windows workstations with 64 GB of RAM,high-end graphics cards, and large displays; three top-of-the-line iMacs; a teleconferencing television; and a 55” 3D television. The room that houses all of this was previously a library, available to users and mostly used as a place to work on laptops or make phone calls. The computing capabilities were not previously available to users; they had limited access to computers at the beamline, but once their beamtime was over they had to find other means of accessing and analyzing data.

The viz lab was a dream come to fruition for ALS Beamline Scientists Dula Parkinson and Alex Hexemer. Their effort to create the lab was directed by ALS Deputy for Experimental Systems Howard Padmore and ALS Deputy Division Director for Operations Michael Banda.

“Users at my beamline collect a lot of data, and to be able to do anything with that data they need a lot of computational horsepower,” says Parkinson. “Every data set is about 50 GB, which isn’t going to load too well on a user’s laptop.”

Parkinson says many users don’t even have the software needed to view data on their own computers. Users sometimes weren’t able to finish what they needed to do, because of limited access to computers at the beamline. Parkinson estimates that more than 50 percent of his users are from the Bay Area, so a lot of them can actually drive over and use the viz lab even after they’ve finished with their beamtime. In addition to computing power and software, the viz lab gives users a place to collaborate and trouble-shoot; ALS staff are frequently available to assist users in the viz lab and other users working there often share tips.

“It brings collaboration,” says ALS user Katherine Harry, a graduate student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley who has been doing beamline research on lithium batteries at the ALS for almost three years. “It’s also nice because you’ll often run into other researchers in the lab and they can help you decipher things.”

Before she had access to the viz lab, Harry says she would remotely access beamline computers at off-hours and hope a computer was available. “The data sets we’re collecting are enormous,” she says. “I personally don’t have the computing power to even open a single dataset on my laptop.”

The viz lab is available to anyone at the ALS, and the space has been getting busier and busier since it opened. Parkinson says he’s had a lot of requests from staff and post-docs from other beamlines.

“The great thing about the ALS is that it produces a lot of x-rays,” says Parkinson. “That allows you to collect high-resolution images very quickly, and all those pixels turn into a lot of data.”

2014 Shutdown: Final Update Print

Steve Rossi reports on nearing the end of this year's shutdown:

We're in the final days of our extended shutdown here at the ALS. Our technical staff has accomplished over 7000 hours of scheduled work along with the myriad of small tasks requested of them on an ad hoc basis. Each shutdown I find myself in awe of the overall effort it requires to organize and execute the work, as well as the amazing professionalism and dedication of our staff.

This is the tense, nail-biting portion of the shutdown as we begin to power up and test the various systems that we have modified and installed. So far. things are proceeding very well with the new storage ring radio frequency system high-voltage switch, which was our "critical path" project. All the new water-flow monitoring equipment, for the entire booster and storage ring, has been installed.

The linear accelerator klystron modulator has been replaced and tested, which is dramatically increasing our injection efficiency. The damaged QFA magnet power supply that caused an unexpected outage just prior to this shutdown, has been fully repaired and tested.

Youngest ALS Users Go to the White House Print


Christine Mytko, Patricia Falcone (White House Office of Science and
Technology Policy), Sam Schickler, and Jane Yarnell.

Two seventh graders from Black Pine Circle (BPC) School in Berkeley, who came to the ALS last November on a field trip that included actual beam time earned through peer-reviewed proposals, have now made it all the way to the White House.

Samuel Schickler and Jane Yarnell, along with their science teacher Christine Mytko, were invited to attend the first-ever White House "Maker Faire." The event featured "Makers, innovators, and entrepreneurs of all ages who are using cutting-edge tools to bring their ideas to life."

The White House Maker Faire website describes how the BPC students "used a powerful x-ray beam at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science's Advanced Light Source to get high-resolution scans of samples they selected, then used open source visualization software and 3D printing to make enlarged physical models, revealing the samples' internal microstructures."

The first-ever White House Maker Faire was held on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

The students' presentation of their work had earned them high honors at a regional Maker Faire held May 17–18 in San Mateo, where they won Editor's Choice and Best in Class awards for demonstrating "great creativity, ingenuity and innovation."

At the White House, the students rubbed shoulders with fellow innovators from across the country, whose do-it-yourself projects ranged from a robotic giraffe to a low-cost, non-electric infant warmer that can help save premature babies in rural villages. They were present in the East Room where President Obama, in his remarks, said that the "democratization of manufacturing" exemplified by the Maker Faire "gives you a sense that we are at the dawn of something big," noting that comparisons have been made to where we were with the Internet 25 to 30 years ago.

The President also highlighted the importance of learning by doing and asked how we might redesign high schools so that young people can do more than just sit and listen to a lecture. "So math, science all gets incorporated into the task of actually making something, which the students tell me makes the subject matter that much more interesting."

Left: Microtomographic image of an eggshell. Right: Several 3D prints of the eggshell data.

The journey from BPC to D.C. began last fall with lessons that had been developed by Mytko during a summer internship at ALS Beamline 8.3.2, with Beamline Scientist Dula Parkinson. The lessons culminated last November in a class visit to the ALS, and those whose proposals were scored highest by fellow classmates used Beamline 8.3.2 to scan their samples, including things such as egg shells, snake skin, and duct tape. The students then used the microtomography data to 3D-print blown-up versions of their samples, some of which Jane and Sam carried in their pockets with them to the White House.

A New Cleanroom for a Next-Generation Semiconductor Research Tool Print
The new Sector 12 cleanroom under construction.

The ALS shutdown represents the fruition of many long-range projects, and for SEMATECH, a consortium of semiconductor manufacturing companies that funds research and engineering projects at Beamlines 12.0.1 and 11.3.2, this year’s shutdown includes the construction of a new cleanroom that will house an exciting, cutting-edge extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography tool. The new micro-exposure tool (MET) will include what’s arguably the highest-quality optic ever built, which will enable precompetitive research for SEMATECH’s semiconductor manufacturing member companies.

“Right now the industry is facing a transition; basically they’ve come to the end of what they can do with conventional optics and light and need to jump to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) light,” says Patrick Naulleau, director of the Center for X-Ray Optics (CXRO). “Having this tool available at the ALS five to ten years before this resolution capability is widely available to industry allows them to learn about the materials, process, and chemistry in parallel to all the other development they’re doing.”

The new MET (MET5) that will go into the Sector 12 cleanroom was designed by CXRO scientists and engineers to replace the current MET, which was installed in 2003. “When we started using the old MET, materials could only pattern down to about 50 nanometers but the tool was capable of 14 nm,” says Naulleau.  “Now, that we have materials that can pattern 15 nanometers we were tasked by industry to develop a new EUV tool that could support 8-nm patterning.”

The new MET, which will be up and running by Q1 2015, will allow industry and academic researchers to gain the critical nanopatterning information required to develop the next generation of photoresist materials. These materials are key to pushing semiconductor manufacturing to the single digit nm regime. Naulleau likens the lithography tool to a Xerox copier for wafers; the key component being a high-end optic that projects an image of a circuit pattern onto a silicon wafer. Because the requirements for these materials are now much tighter than they were 10 years ago, an ultra-pure cleanroom environment and extremely reproducible robotic wafer and chemical handling was necessary.

The new MET is part of CXRO’s overall EUV lithography program at the ALS, which also includes  mask inspection at the SHARP microscope next door and EUV/soft-x-ray Calibrations and Standards facility at Beamline 6.

“We are very excited about our long stadnding partnership with the semiconductor industry and bringing this new world-class capability online,” says Naulleau.

Sector 12 cleanroom construction is underway; the new optics arrive in September; and the new micro-exposure tool (MET) will be available to users early next year.
2014 Shutdown: Week Three Print

We're in our third week of the shutdown at the ALS and are making very good progress on all the prioritized tasks that we need to accomplish by early July. The old storage ring radio frequency crowbar system has been removed, and the new high-voltage switch is being built in-situ. At the current pace, high-voltage testing of the new system will begin in early June.

In other work, the replacement of the  beam position monitor buttons is nearly complete, and the installation of the new vortex-based water flow sensors is 50% complete. The storage ring realignment is just finishing, though much survey and alignment work remains on checking and aligning top-off Injection safety apertures and moving beamline front-ends into optimal positions as many photon source points have been moved during the process..

The transformer in the QFA power supply that caused the unexpected downtime prior to the shutdown is currently being repaired and is on track to be here and installed by the end of the shutdown. There are many ongoing accelerator improvement activities as well as at least six beamlines that are undergoing optical system upgrades and maintenance. We will update these activities next month.

Our Youngest Users Win Big at Maker Faire Print

christine mytkoOver the last couple of months we have been telling the story of Black Pine Circle teacher Chris Mytko (left) and her intrepid group of grade-seven students who came to the ALS to conduct experiments and then recreated their results using 3D printing. Their story continues this month with the happy news that while showing the results of their work and the techniques that they used at the Maker Faire held in San Mateo, May 17-18, they were awarded both the "Editor's Choice" and "Best in Class" awards. The awards are described as follows

Editor's Choice (Blue ribbon)
"The staff of MAKE and Maker Faire award Maker Faire Editor’s Choice Ribbons to the Makers that have demonstrated great creativity, ingenuity and innovation for their Maker Faire project. These ribbons are handed out at each event and signify the highlights of Maker Faire."

Best in Class (Red ribbon)
A best in education ribbon

The Maker Faire attracts more than 120,000 attendees annually, and this year had more than 900 "Makers" or participants.

Read more about Christine and her students at Students Get a Taste of ALS User Experience, and watch a video of their experiences at the ALS.

bpc awards
The ALS Shutdown: Behind the Scenes Print

The $4.8 million, multi-year RF upgrade project continues this month with the replacement of the storage ring radio frequency crowbar system with a new high-voltage switch.

As we head into another ALS shutdown, it’s interesting to take a look “behind the scenes” of our facility to get a glimpse of what it takes to keep this amazing machine running. We recently sat down with Steve Rossi, ALS project and facility management group leader, to talk about the upcoming shutdown, May 5 through July 10.

“The general theme for this shutdown is operational reliability and improvements,” says Rossi. “It’s not necessarily stuff that’s ‘cool and fun’ for users, but the increased reliability we’ll gain will be a huge benefit for them.”

The big-ticket project that’s really setting the timing and duration of this shutdown is the replacement of the ALS storage ring radio frequency (SRRF) crowbar system with a new high-voltage switch. The new switch will provide the same over-voltage protection for the SRRF system that the crowbar system did, but with increased reliability.

Developed in-house by electrical engineering staff matrixed to the ALS, the high-voltage switch has required years of development and robust testing. It represents one of the final stages of the larger $4.8 million RF upgrade project—two years ago was the klystron replacement, last year the high-voltage power supply replacement, and next year will be the waveguide switch matrix.

Historically the ALS has had one klystron driving two RF cavities in the storage ring. After next year, there will be two klystrons driving two RF cavities and a new switch matrix will give the ALS the ability to quickly change configurations so that one klystron can drive either cavity or, at reduced beam power, could drive both cavities. The net benefit will be that the ALS will be able to get light back to users quickly in the event of a klystron failure. The switch matrix should require just an hour or two, whereas a klystron replacement is more like a day or two at best and is fraught with potential technical pitfalls.

“It will be a very flexible system that reduces our need for spares,” says Rossi. “Since spares for the klystron are about $500K apiece, that’s a very good thing.”

Other shutdown projects will focus on the low-conductivity water system, something the ALS has been working on for years. Corrosive by nature, the low-conductivity water system causes maintenance problems like water leaks and blockages. An anti-corrosive agent, Benzotriazole, was recently added to the ALS low-conductivity water supply and the effects are being closely monitored. This shutdown will include the replacement of a number of low-conductivity water flow meters in the storage ring with vortex-based meters that have no mechanical or moving parts, which should reduce corrosion issues that can cause the beam to trip, costing users valuable time. The water system will also get two new tower fans out at Building 37.

This shutdown will also include surveying and aligning the storage ring and replacing beam position monitor (BPM) buttons (part of the $7.6 million, multi-year controls upgrade project). The new BPM buttons will be connected to a new electronics system, which will give the ALS accelerator physics staff a much better tool for monitoring the beam. CXRO will be using shutdown time to complete their new cleanroom in Sector 12.

Rossi is often asked how shutdowns are scheduled, and the answer is that it’s not quite an exact science. “We look at our entire project portfolio and choose the start date based on the forecast readiness of the majority of the portfolio,” says Rossi. “The overall duration is set by the critical path of the longest project, along with the needed start up time to commission any new equipment.”

Crews Work Overtime to Restore Beamtime Print


Thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of ALS engineering and accelerator physics staff, a significant chunk of beamtime for user operations was saved this week after a transformer for a major power supply failed. The effort involved all ALS trades and electronic specialties, and the resulting fix required over 400 worker-hours in total to design, install, and test. As a result, nearly 50 users with scheduled beamtime this week will be able to run their experiments, with beam settings the same as those used by the ALS a year ago.

At 2 a.m. on Tuesday, April 22, a transformer supplying power to 18 of the ALS's QFA (quadrupole focusing) magnets failed. Prompt investigation suggested that there had been a short from one of the windings to ground, which eventually perforated a water-cooled winding, causing water to leak out onto the floor. The accelerator was shut down. The damaged transformer was removed and expeditiously shipped off to the manufacturer in Los Angeles. However, rebuilding would take a minimum of 2–3 weeks. A major shutdown was scheduled to begin in less than two weeks; if no replacement or fix could be found, there would be no more user shifts for two and a half months, until well into July.

Front view of the storage-ring main QFA (quadrupole focusing) magnet power supply.
Ken Berg makes connections to the new spare transformer. Photo courtesy of Tim Kuneli.

Electrical engineers, led by Chris Pappas, began exploring the installation of a temporary solution for the failed QFA power supply. They looked at the large transformers that were immediately available in storage and came up with three from a recently replaced storage-ring gradient (bend-magnet) power supply. These transformers were not the same functionally, but the team came up with a configuration using all three to emulate the failed transformer. This involved tailoring the output phasing to match what the QFA power supply was expecting.

Ken Baptiste, who was brought in on Friday afternoon to help coordinate the work, ended up helping tremendously with understanding the phasing of the transformers. Mike Fahmie, who was away from the Lab until Thursday morning, was consulted about the plan and offered several critical observations by e-mail before arriving. Once here, he also found a workable connection of the three transformers to get the phasing correct, and with Ken they were successful in understanding the phase shifts used in the end.

It was tedious work of many hours, figuring out from just six outputs how one transformer was configured inside, with a false start caused by a faulty testing instrument. Once that was done, installation was no less tricky. Some of the wires had very close clearances, and moving the heavy cables around on the transformer was not easy. "In one case, to move the three primary wires took about two hours and some skinned knuckles," said Mike.

The old storage-ring gradient (bend-magnet) power supply is now located on top of the shielding. The two transformers in the bottom of this unit were used to achieve the proper output and phasing. The output of these transformers was routed back to the storage-ring main QFA so that the power supply could operate properly. Photo courtesy of Haris Mahic. The storage-ring main QFA power supply
is located in cramped surroundings, in cabinets in the pit at the center of the ALS. The very meticulous work was slow and tedious. Photo courtesy of Haris Mahic.

After extensive efforts, user operations resumed on Sunday, April 27, at 9:00 p.m., with a slightly "fat beam" (larger horizontal beam size) due to the voltage limitations of the replacement transformers. "We were pretty confident that it was going to work, we just didn't know how well it would work," said Chris.

In addition, to Chris, Mike, and Ken, many people were involved in making this happen, including Ken Berg, Pat Casey, Tim Kuneli, the electronics maintenance and electronics installation crews, electricians, and the riggers and plumbers from the mechanical group. "It was definitely a big, all-hands-on-deck effort," said Mike.

Roger Falcone thanked the team, on behalf of ALS users and himself, for their incredible efforts to get the ALS back online over the last week and weekend. "They were dedicated to making this work, and they were extremely creative in finding a safe and successful solution from the limited set of options available on a short timescale," he said.

Mike Fahmie, Chris Pappas, Ken Baptiste, and Pat Casey.

New User Portal "ALSHub" Now Live Print

On March 17, 2014, the User Services Office rolled out ALSHub, a new user portal designed to enhance the experience of working at the ALS. The new site will be the new focus for all user experiment and safety activities. In addition, it will allow staff and reviewers to quickly and efficiently process the large number of proposals they handle each year.


The ALSHub provides a secure single login where users, reviewers, and staff can access ALS administrative resources where they can

  • Update their profile with current information
  • Apply for ALS beam time
  • Submit a beam time request for an active proposal
  • View existing General Sciences, Approved Programs, and RAPIDD proposals (coming soon)
  • Notify ALS staff of their next expected visit
  • View their ALS training profile and complete required user training
  • Complete or update an Experiment Safety Sheet (ESS) for their next experiment
  • Report and search for publications based on work at ALS
  • Find out more about facilities available for ALS users
  • Submit a User Satisfaction Survey


Current users who have registered with the ALS in the past should use their current email to login, and will only need to create a new password to access their current profile, which they are now able to update. New users will need to create an account. For more information please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The design and development of the portal was a collaboration between developers Gary Kushner and Jessica Voytek from Computational Research Division(CRD) at LBNL and Mel Sibony from BioIntuition.

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