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.”
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.
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
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.
The ALS MAESTRO project has just reached a significant milestone with the installation of a new elliptically polarizing undulator (EPU), representing the return of light to Beamline 7.0. MAESTRO is a new beamline facility comprising two photoemission branchlines and a dedicated custom EPU insertion device. The micro Angle-Resolved Photoemission Spectroscopy (ARPES) branchline is a continuation of the current Electronic Structure Facility and a new nanoARPES branchline will provide angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy with sub-micron imaging capability. EPUs are magnetic devices that provide synchrotron radiation of tunable, i.e., linear or circular polarization, enabling controlled beamline experiments in the soft x-ray spectrum.
The new EPU will provide photons from 20-1000 eV to the MAESTRO beamline. With endstations for high-resolution ARPES, nanoARPES with an illuminated beam spot of 50 nm, Photoemission Electron Microscopy (PEEM), and a suite of networked sample preparation facilities, MAESTRO will provide an ideal probe of mesoscale electronic structures.
A team of ten ALS technicians and riggers positioned the 4.5-ton MAESTRO EPU in sector 7.0 of the main ring during the February maintenance shutdown. The device was moved into the ALS from Building 15, where the EPU’s magnetic field structure was shimmed. EPU commissioning is planned for March 2014.
The LBNL Engineering Division designed and oversaw production of the MAESTRO EPU. Work developing beamlines represents a lab-wide interdivision collaboration with notable support from Accelerator Fusion and Research Division (AFRD) Accelerator Physics team, the ALS scientific and technical staff. The design and production of an EPU represents technical contributions from roughly 20 scientists and engineers in addition to industrial manufacturing support.
In January, Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), at right in photo at the ALS, unveiled a bill in the Senate designed to modernize national labs and spur innovation:
“In this century of rapid change, America's best competitive advantage remains our capacity to innovate… What we are doing is modernizing the labs for the 21st Century, so that ideas developed in the lab can most effectively become innovations in the marketplace.”
Read the full text of his speech below, with references to the ALS, or watch the video where the ALS is called out at 8.34.
As delivered on the Senate Floor on January 29, 2014
Mr. President, I rise today to speak about a bill introduced today, a bipartisan bill, a bill that will strengthen America's innovation economy.
Over the last 60 years, our national laboratories have served as leading centers of research and discovery in America.
Today, in fact, we have 17 DOE labs charged with three broad research missions – science, energy, and national security. And although they've grown and changed since their founding to encompass much broader ranges of work and are successful in carrying out their primary missions, the labs are not fully optimized to take part in today's innovation culture.
That's a problem; because in this century of rapid change America's best competitive advantage remains our capacity to innovate.
So over the coming months I'll be talking about a few things that Congress can do in a bipartisan way to streamline and jump-start our nation's hubs of discovery so that we can thrive as a 21st Century innovation economy.
At the top level, it will mean working together to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which would reaffirm our commitment to the robust national strategy for science and technology programs that will continue to be a critical underpinning of America's prosperity.
One part of how that can be achieved is how our national labs operate, and a bill that will make our national labs operate more effectively has been introduced today by Senator Rubio of Florida and myself, and it's the America INNOVATES Act.
Already, our labs have incubated many groundbreaking innovations over their long and storied history. Their research has led to breakthroughs from, for example in the health care field, new Melanoma and HIV/AIDS treatments, to in the national security field, special I.E.D. detonators that have saved the lives of our troops in combat.
That research is critical because although the private sector will continue to be a key source of investment and innovation, the federal government has and will continue to play a central role in advancing basic science, research, and innovation as well.
Why is that? Private markets historically speaking tend to underinvest in R&D relative to the potential benefits to society, and this is especially true where basic science is most relevant and it's particularly true in the energy sector.
But if there's a problem I've heard about since coming to Congress, in this field, it's that too often the great work of scientists at our national laboratories just doesn’t get translated to the marketplace – that we as a nation, as a people don't benefit from the remarkable discoveries and inventions being made in our 17 national labs.
Right now too much groundbreaking science and too many innovative ideas never leave the walls of our national labs, squandering enormous potential for our people, our country, and the commercial marketplace.
So in this bill today, introduced with Senator Rubio of Florida, we continue to support our labs' core missions. We're not proposing anything drastic. What we are doing instead is modernizing the labs for the 21st Century, so that ideas developed in the lab can most effectively become innovations in the marketplace.
Fortunately, we need only look to the labs themselves for inspiration on how to do this.
So we make two broad proposals.
First, we're integrating the management of the Department of Energy's science and energy programs to improve linkages between basic and applied science. This will allow the early stages of research and development to be translated more efficiently and it's something that Department of Energy Secretary Moniz has signaled he supports and is going to move forward with.
Second, we're giving the national labs more power to work with the private sector, to ensure that more scientific discoveries turn into commercial breakthroughs.
Together these two steps would allow us to streamline the labs' work so it can more quickly and effectively translate into the transformative innovations that can create jobs and grow our economy.
Now to explain what our proposals actually might achieve, let me walk through what is broadly known as the innovation pipeline, which shows how basic science research ultimately becomes a deployed world-changing innovation.
First I'll use the example of the great work scientists at the National Renewable Energy Lab, or NREL, in Golden, Colorado, are doing to advance cellulosic ethanol technologies.
One of our country's big challenges today is reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and to do that we need new fuel options that we can create or grow here in America. Cellulosic ethanol is an advanced biofuel with a great deal of promise because it's produced from abundant and renewable materials like grasses and wood chips, other types of biomass and waste. And because these materials are abundant, cellulosic ethanol has the potential to replace a significant portion of our nation's petroleum consumption.
The challenge comes, however, because unlike corn, these cellulosic materials are made of much more complex starches that are much harder to break down into ethanol. To make the promise of cellulosic ethanol a reality, we need to develop the enzymes and the micro-organisms that could break them down and ferment these more complex starches, and that's where this innovation pipeline comes in.
At the NREL in Colorado, scientists started at this most basic science step here.
Basic science is very fundamental. It's the study of the elementary principles of the universe, really discovery level science.
So, for example, in this application, enzymes are large biological molecules, they are nature's catalysts. They accelerate the metabolic processes that sustain life. And to develop new customized enzymes and micro-organisms capable of converting starchy biomass into cellulosic ethanol, you have to start at the very fundamentals of biochemistry and of biology. This includes studying intricate details of the relevant processes, the biochemical processes, as well as probing the proteins and amino acids that form the building blocks of these enzymes down to the sub-molecular level.
At this point, scientists, having made a series of discoveries, can then move to the applied science stage.
Applied science concerns translating these fundamental discoveries into an application. In this example, scientists apply the insights gained from fundamental basic science research to develop new enzymes with desired performance traits such as high selectivity, specificity, and stability to enable effective and efficient conversion of these complex starches into ethanol
Applied research can also involve controlled lab-scale demonstrations to test and to demonstrate how effectively these newly developed enzymes and micro-organisms can turn wood chips into ethanol.
Still in the lab and very far from commercial scale, the kinds of small discoveries that happen at the applied science level act as an early demonstration that something new, the application of a new discovery, can possibly move further down this pipeline.
At the applied research stage, we are still far away from creating something ready for the market, but between these two stages our scientists have gone from the basic science of how an idea might work to actually demonstrating it could work in practice.
At this point now, the private sector is much more likely to see the potential value of this discovery. Scientists have shown it's possible and next we move to the commercialization and then the scaling and deployment phases, where private investors and private companies take the technology of our national lab scientists and make it into a product that can succeed in the market.
During the applied research stage at NREL, scientists were hard at work showing they really could produce cellulosic ethanol efficiently and cheaply, eventually meeting their goal to make it price competitive with conventional fuels in the commercial marketplace.
That's where we are right now with cellulosic ethanol. Companies across the country, such as DuPont from my own home state of Delaware, Poet from other places in the country, and many others are currently actually building plants, they are doing the scaling and deployment, they're building plants to produce cellulosic ethanol at commercial scale and competitive prices.
So this example is just one model of public-private partnership for innovation and how it works all along this innovation pipeline, where the basic and applied science research begin in a national lab and then are transferred either by the licensing or sale of intellectual property to private-sector companies who then do the very hard work of commercialization and scaling before ultimate delivery to the marketplace, where it can be bought and consumed by Americans and others around the world.
I had the opportunity last year to witness another model of public-private partnership for innovation at a different national lab, at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, which is home to a unique national asset, the Advanced Light Source, or ALS
The ALS is a very complex, very expensive piece of machinery that serves thousands of researchers – from private sector scientists to university researchers – who use the light sources such as ultraviolet rays, soft x-rays, and infrared light that all come off of the ALS to conduct a wide range of scientific experiments.
Experiments at the ALS are performed at nearly 40 different beam lines that come off the Synchotron and can operate simultaneously around-the-clock and year-round. This facility's remarkable resources would be far too expensive for any one company or university to invest in alone, but by building a national level publicly-owned facility, it's then possible for it to function and to be partly sustained by fees and targeted infrastructure investments by users. And as a result, the ALS has become a place where many different partners from around our country and the world test new ideas and new approaches.
In terms of this innovation pipeline, what the Berkeley Lab and ALS do is allow a very wide range of researchers to engage in different stages of research under one roof. The unique capabilities offered by the ALS attract many industry partners and encourages productive public-private collaboration.
A good example of how this is actually applied into the marketplace is in the semiconductor industry. Semiconductor technology is one of the most transformative scientific breakthroughs of the last century. Semiconductors are at the heart of what makes a modern computer work. Their constant advancement is what allows us to today hold the computing power of last generation's supercomputer in iPhones in our pockets.
However, the manufacturing techniques previously used to produce new, smaller, more powerful semiconductor products just aren't adequate to build the next generation of nano-electronic devices. So what’s happened is a consortium of companies – Intel, IBM, HP, Dow – formed a consortium called SEMATECH to leverage the unique capabilities of the ALS at the Berkeley Lab to advance semiconductor manufacturing for next-generation electronics
As the lab reports, “By tapping into the center's long-term expertise in short wavelength optics and the unique properties of the ALS Synchotron facility, SEMATECH funded the development of the world’s highest resolution projection lithography tool and highest performance extreme-ultraviolet microscope” – developments only possible because of the facilities and the expertise at this unique national lab.
Having then developed these new tools capable of manufacturing the next generation of semiconductor devices, a company like Intel can take that new technology and scale it up at their own plants.
Of course, there are many different variations like these two I've suggested of public-private partnerships that our labs can and have utilized to take ideas from basic science all the way out to the marketplace. These two examples – cellulosic ethanol and semiconductor manufacturing – show us what's really possible when the private sector is able to work in full partnership with our national labs.
In the bill we've introduced here today, Senator Rubio and I are trying to expand the flexibility and freedom of all our national labs to innovate and to build productive partnerships so that every research project has the potential and opportunity to travel this entire pipeline and be deployed to the world markets.
As we see here on the innovation pipeline, the payoff for all this work doesn't come until the very end, so one of the best things we can do together is to focus our policies to make the movement of ideas through this – from the national labs to private-sector partners to the marketplace – as efficient and predictable as possible.
Mr. President, while there are many ideas, many areas, many political subjects on which Senator Rubio and I disagree, I'm pleased that we've been able to work hard and to come together on the America INNOVATES Act today. Because we both agree that government has a role to play investing in fundamental scientific research that can lead to innovations that change our world.
In this bill we're not talking about expanding government or calling for any new spending or new regulation. We're talking about the early science work that only government can fund because there isn't a clear payoff for the private sector, and figuring out how to connect the national labs and the private sector along this innovation pipeline in a better and stronger way to deliver more products to the American marketplace and the world markets.
Once again, I want to thank my Republican colleague, Senator Marco Rubio, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in supporting this bipartisan innovation jobs bill. Thank you.
|Director Roger Falcone (center) celebrates the 20th anniversary of the ALS along with four current and former Berkeley Lab directors (from left) David Shirley, Charles (Chuck) Shank, current LBNL director Paul Alivisatos, and Andy Sessler.
While reflecting on the coming year at the ALS, Director Roger Falcone noted two important themes. First, we just had our most productive year ever, with 2200 users and 800 publications in 2013. These record performances are a result of the dedication and skills of ALS staff, strong support from the Department of Energy, and the interest and successes of our users. A second theme is the challenging federal budget environment, which has resulted in science funding cuts nationally and locally at the ALS.
“While the major metrics by which we are judged—users and publications—are our best ever, our funding challenges may also be at their greatest,” says Falcone.
Reviewing our recent successes can help us look forward—Falcone points to projects such as the MAESTRO and COSMIC beamlines, the brightness upgrade of our storage ring, and our precision optical metrology lab, all of which reflect DOE investments and the importance of the ALS. These new capabilities are allowing us to continue to provide cutting-edge capabilities and are responsive to critical needs.
“When we look back over the last few years, we see that the DOE has given us considerable resources for facility upgrades and new instruments in addition to strong funding for daily operations.” says Falcone. “The success of these important projects is a credit to the skills of the ALS and broader LBNL staff, as well as a sign of the commitment to ALS that DOE is making.”
The question for the future, as Falcone sees it, is: “How do we continue to respond to emerging needs with reduced funding today and on the horizon?” The short answer is that we need to optimize and prioritize. “It is likely we will not be able to support everything we have been doing in the past while simultaneously building the new capabilities we envision for the future,” says Falcone. “What we will do is identify the most successful activities at the ALS and continue to support them.” He adds that we will have to also identify the most important future needs as defined by the ALS user community and then optimize how we spend resources to enhance capabilities for users.
Falcone sees demands from scientists, DOE mission priorities, and collaboration with industry as key factors in how the ALS needs to prioritize programs going forward. He points to sustainable energy research and our response—the proposed AMBER beamline—which will serve mission-oriented programs at Berkeley and other Labs, including the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies (BATT) program, several Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), and research activities at other labs, such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, that use the ALS. Additionally, building a new inelastic x-ray scattering beamline will position our facility to serve the increasingly important area of quantum materials. Further, a modern structural biology beamline with micro-focus capability, funded largely by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, will keep us on the frontier of biology and pharmaceutical research and allow us to continue to provide both industry and individual users with world-leading x-ray protein crystallography capability. More broadly, Deputy Director for Science Steve Kevan, together with the user community, has developed a new and comprehensive ALS Strategic Plan in which these projects emerged as leading opportunities.
Additionally, development of a scientific and technical case for a potential upgrade of the ALS to diffraction-limited x-rays from our storage ring continues to be encouraged by our users and staff, says Falcone. This upgrade, which would allow ALS to stay on a path of facility upgrades that has characterized 20 years of operation, would make the light source 100 times brighter and more coherent than at present, and would allow ALS users to excel in the understanding of modern, heterogeneous materials using chemical and 3D spatial resolution. These materials have properties that often vary on the nanoscale, and are important for basic energy science research and advanced technologies. Early technical and scientific ideas around this major ALS upgrade concept are being developed with resources from the LBNL Directorate Office.
In summary, a major theme this year will be prioritization, says Falcone. Together with determining how to optimize operations and become more efficient, we will focus on serving the increasing demand from users and producing even more science.
“In many ways, ALS has been prioritizing for the past 20 years, as our staff and users have always had more great ideas than the funding available to realize those ideas,” says Falcone. “This constraint is a natural part of a competitive scientific community; it’s perhaps just more intense right now.”
A group of seventh graders from Black Pine Circle (BPC) school in Berkeley recently had a rare opportunity to experience the ALS as “users” via a scientific research proposal project and field trip. The students were led by science and technology teacher Christine Mytko, who spent the past summer at the ALS through the Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education (IISME) program. Mytko’s time at the ALS was focused on 3D imaging and printing techniques.
An integral part of the ISME program is educators taking their experiences back to the classroom through new curriculum development. As such, Mytko put together a program that would engage her students in collaborative proposal process similar to a typical ALS user proposal. Students worked in groups to craft proposals for scanning items of interest at the tomography beamline, a selection of which were chosen through a peer-review process and then scanned at Beamline 8.3.2. ALS beamline scientist Dula Parkinson worked with Mytko to develop the program and gave feedback on the kids’ proposal, which Mytko says was thrilling for her students.
The project culminated with a field trip to the ALS for all seventh graders, which included a visit to the ALS data visualization room, a diffraction demonstration, a beamline tour, and informative sessions about x-rays and tomography presented by ALS scientists. Students also got the chance to scan their winning proposals—which included the bone structure of a bird beak, a pop rock, duct tape, an eggshell, a butterfly wing, and agar—at Beamline 8.3.2 with Parkinson’s help. The data will go back to the classroom for the students to study and potentially use with their 3D printer.
“This is the first time we’ve done a trip like this at BPC, and actually in my whole teaching career,” says Mytko. “My experience here at the ALS has really transformed what I teach in 7th grade.”
See more photos from the students' trip to the ALS here.
Watch an ALS video about the project here.
Read teacher Christine Mytko's blog about her students' science and technology adventures.
The Synchrotron Education Collaboration held its first meeting October 20-22 at Synchrotron Soleil, in St Aubain, France. The symposium, "Student Science at Synchrotrons: Educating the Next Generation of Scientists," was attended by scientists, educators, as well as representatives from eight synchrotrons. Participants listened to several presentations about current practices in engaging middle- and high-school students in science through hands-on activities including beamline experiments, visits to synchrotrons, and discussions with scientists. From the presentations, and input from other synchrotron facilities, a survey has been created to send to all light source facilities in order to assess the which best practices in education
This collaboration, funded by a grant from the France-Berkeley Fund, comprises representatives from the ALS, Soleil, and ESRF with the goal of developing an engaging and effective educational program for high-school students that will introduce them to the opportunities and challenges of scientific research with the intention of attracting and developing the next generation of young scientists. In particular, there is a focus on strategies to engage students that are underrepresented in science by gender, race, and economic status.
Participants in this first symposium included representatives from light sources in France, Canada, Australia, Japan, the United States, and Italy; the next meeting will be the day preceding the AAAS in Chicago. Anyone interested in participating in the project should contact Elizabeth Moxon (ALS) or Claus Habfast (ESRF).
The 20th anniversary of the ALS was celebrated on Friday, October 4, with style, good humor, lots of stories, and a very large cake. More important, however, was the large number of current and former colleagues and users, who were delighted to have the opportunity to visit and catch up with former workmates. When not chatting with colleagues or listening to the high-shool chamber trio, attendees were entertained by a video montage, old photos featuring ALS staff and users through the years, and a four-paneled timeline.
Left: A memorable moment occurred when four Berkeley Lab directors (from left—Dave Shirley, Charles Shank, Paul Alivisatos, and Andrew Sessler) joined ALS division director Roger Falcone (center) in cutting a ceremonial cake.
Here are some of the photos of the event; more will be posted on the ALS Facebook and Flickr pages.
ALS users are invited to check out our web pages detailing our new RAPIDD proposal process. This combined process for Rapid Access Proposals, Industry, and Director's Discretion beam time accommodates users who require limited but rapid access to the ALS. Proposals may be submitted at any time.
RAPIDD complements the existing six-month General User Proposal process, which remains the access mechanism of choice for users who require significant beam time for an extended program of research, or for those wanting to perform complex experiments involving setup or reorganization of equipment at a beamline.
The ALS structural biology community has been using RAPIDD for a year, with 160 proposals receiving beam time in that period. As of July 2013, RAPIDD access was extended to beamlines 7.3.3 (SAXS/WAXS), 8.3.2 (microtomography) and 11.3.1 (small molecule crystallography) and to users from industrial groups.
Turnaround for rapid access requests, from proposal submission to beam time, is expected to be just a few weeks. Proposals are peer-reviewed by at least two reviewers. Proposals are added to a waiting list for the relevant beamline. Proposals are scheduled for beam time by beamline staff according to score and proposal submission date. Users should be prepared for beam time scheduling at short notice. Please note that allocation of beam time will depend on the number of proposals submitted, and so rapid access cannot be guaranteed. Currently, 5 to 10 percent of beam time is reserved for rapid access on relevant beamlines, and this will be monitored and adjusted to ensure a balance between the needs of users applying through RAPIDD and the six-month process.
A very limited amount of beam time is reserved on some beamlines to accommodate urgent requests, exciting new ideas, or special circumstances. This time is designated as "Director Discretionary time" and is allocated by the ALS Division Director for Science. Potential users who want to request Director’s Discretionary beam time are now expected to submit their request using RAPIDD, and advised to contact the appropriate beamline scientist or the ALS division deputy for science, Steve Kevan, directly. It is expected that the same user group will not submit repeated Director’s Discretionary proposals.
Development of RAPIDD is an ongoing process and ALS is actively seeking user feedback. The aim is to provide a flexible mechanism for users to formally request access to ALS, ensuring simple and urgent experiments are scheduled in a timely manner.
This year’s ALS User Meeting launched with a welcome from Users’ Executive Committee Chair Corie Ralston and LBNL Director Paul Alivisatos. ALS Director Roger Falcone followed with a “state of the ALS” presentation that began with a reminder of the ALS mission, which he noted remains true even in the midst of a government shutdown: “Supporting users in doing outstanding science in a safe environment.” Falcone gave the 414 meeting attendees an update on the ALS beamlines, which included good news about increased user numbers thanks to the new RAPIDD access system, enhanced robotics, and remote capabilities. Falcone reflected that ALS metrics continue to represent our highly productive users—the number of journal articles and papers per user that come from ALS research have continued to grow in the past year. Looking forward, Falcone touched on how a proposed ALS upgrade to a diffraction-limited light source would increase scientific capabilities.
With DOE travel cancelled due to shutdown, the meeting’s scheduled DOE update was filled with a presentation by the Lab’s own government relations representative, Don Medley, on how to talk about science with elected representatives. Medley spoke about framing discussions with politicians in terms of the “value of our country’s science ecosystem.”
The keynote speaker series began with the director of Argonne National Lab’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) George Crabtree—via video conference—speaking about the challenges and opportunities in energy storage science. Crabtree encouraged his audience of scientists to look beyond lithium ion batteries to the next generation of battery capabilities and presented numerous ways that synchrotron science can move that process forward. Next up was UC Berkeley’s Michael Eisen, who gave an engaging presentation on the transformation of scientific research communication. Eisen, a biologist and an associate professor of genetics, genomics, and development, is also the founder of the Public Library of Science (PLOS), which is a nonprofit publisher that seeks to make research publication more open and immediately available. Jim Krupnick, recently retired Berkleley Lab COO, then took the stage to reflect on the early days of the ALS and its construction history, especially appropriate in this 20th anniversary year. Krupnick regaled the audience with entertaining vignettes and rarely seen historical photos. UC Berkeley’s Jamie Cate gave the final keynote, which was focused on high-resolution structures of the ribosome, many of which were determined at the ALS.
ALS staff updates included User Services group lead Sue Bailey, who introduced the new ALS user portal and RAPIDD access system. Christoph Steier, deputy group leader of the ALS Accelerator Physics Group, gave an ALS accelerator update. Recent upgrades have improved brightness at the ALS by a factor of three, while storage ring RF upgrades and low-conductivity water upgrades have also been implemented this year. Looking to the future, Steier spoke about the dramatic improvements in brightness and coherence that would be possible with a diffraction-limited upgrade. The proposed ALS upgrade, termed ALS-II, would follow the trend of international user facility activity toward brighter storage rings. Steve Kevan, deputy division director for science at the ALS, went on to elaborate on how the ALS-II would benefit user science in general and various beamlines in particular.
Next up was the ever-popular student poster competition, followed by a reception that gave the 23 students a chance to field questions about their work and 34 exhibitors an opportunity to introduce their wares to users. First prize went to Royce Lam of UC Berkeley’s Saykally Group, for his research using x-ray absorption spectroscopy to probe ions in solution.
Tuesday morning featured this year’s David Shirley Award winner, North Carolina University’s Harold Ade, speaking about his achievements in polymer science. This year’s student poster award winner also had a chance to present and field questions about his research. The morning progressed with science highlight presentations by ALS users working in a variety of research areas.
Tuesday’s awards dinner was a celebratory gathering of ALS users recognizing exceptional synchrotron science. The Klaus Halbach Award for Innovative Instrumentation went to Chris Jozwiak of the Lab’s Materials Science Division and the Tim Renner User Services Award for Outstanding Support to the ALS User Community went to John Pepper of the ALS Mechanical Technology Division. Descriptions of the awards and more photos of the recipients will be posted soon.