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ALS in the News
Roman Seawater Concrete Holds the Secret to Cutting Carbon Emissions Print
Tuesday, 04 June 2013 00:00

An international team led by Paulo Monteiro of the Advanced Light Source and UC Berkeley has analyzed samples of Roman concrete from harbor installations that have survived 2,000 years of chemical attack and wave action, “one of the most durable construction materials on the planet,” says UC Berkeley’s Marie Jackson, a leading member of the team. Says Monteiro, “It’s not that modern concrete isn’t good, but manufacturing Portland cement accounts for seven percent of the carbon dioxide that industry puts into the air.” The carbon footprint of Roman concrete, made from lime, volcanic ash, and seawater, is much smaller.

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Drill core of volcanic ash-hydrated lime mortar from the ancient port of Baiae in Pozzuloi Bay. Yellowish inclusions are pumice, dark stony fragments are lava, gray areas consist of other volcanic crystalline materials, and white spots are lime. Inset is a scanning electron microscope image of the special Al-tobermorite crystals that are key to the superior quality of Roman seawater concrete.

 
Models from Big Molecules Captured in a Flash Print
Sunday, 26 May 2013 00:00

The structures of most of the two million proteins in the human body are unknown because they can’t be crystallized. Peter Zwart of the Physical Biosciences Division and his colleagues have come up with a new algorithm for efficiently solving the structures of proteins and other big molecules in their more natural fluid states, using the “diffract before destroy” capability of free-electron laser light sources like SLAC’s LCLS. Called fluctuation x-ray scattering, the technique uses the average diffraction patterns of numerous particles in solution, all captured simultaneously.

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Fluctuation x-ray scattering is the basis of a new technique for rapidly modeling the shapes of large biological molecules, here demonstrated (gray envelopes) using existing diffraction data superposed on known high-resolution structures. Top left, lysine-arginine-ornithine (LAO) binding protein; top right, lysozome; bottom left, peroxiredoxin; and, bottom right, Satellite Tobacco Mosaic Virus (STMV).

 
Chemical Scientist Hendrik Bluhm Receives Bessel Research Award Print
Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00

Hendrik Bluhm of the Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division is the recipient of the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research award, bestowed by Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Award winners are honored for their outstanding research record and invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany. Bluhm works on beamline 11.0.2 at the Advanced Light Source, investigating solid/vapor and liquid/vapor interfaces under realistic conditions of pressure and temperature, using photoelectron spectroscopy and scanning probe microscopy.

 
Whirlpools on the Nanoscale Could Multiply Magnetic Memory Print
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 00:00

Research at the Advanced Light Source may lead to four-bit magnetic cells housed on nanoscale metal disks, instead of the two-bit magnetic domains of standard magnetic memories. In magnetic vortices, parallel electron spins point either clockwise or counterclockwise, while in their crowded centers the spins point either down or up. “From the scientist’s point of view, magnetism is about controlling electron spin,” says Peter Fischer of the Materials Sciences Division, who leads the work at beamline 6.1.2. Four orientations could provide multibits in a new kind of memory. The next step is to control the states independently and simultaneously.

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Magnetic transmission soft x-ray microscopy shows the reverse of spin circularity in magnetic vortices in a row of nanodisks, after applying a 1.5 nanosecond pulse of magnetic field. The change from left to right is not a change in lighting, as it may appear, but is instead due to changing magnetic contrast.

 
Surprising Control over Photoelectrons from a Topological Insulator Print
Tuesday, 12 March 2013 00:00

Topological insulators are insulators in the bulk but metals on the surface, and the electrons that flow swiftly across their surfaces are “spin polarized.” Surface-electron spin and momentum are locked, offering new ways to control electron flow and distribution in spintronic devices. A Nature Physics paper by first author Chris Jozwiak of the Advanced Light Source and a large team led by Alessandra Lanzara and Zahid Hussain describes surprising results counter to previous assumptions: the spin polarization of photoemitted electrons from the surface of a topological insulator is wholly determined in three dimensions by the polarization of the incident light beam.

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The diagram at right shows the electronic states of bismuth selenide in momentum space. ARPES, at left, can directly create such maps with photoelectrons. A slice through the conduction cone at the Fermi energy maps the topological insulator’s surface as a circle (upper left); here electron spins and momenta are locked together. Initial ARPES measurements in this experiment were made with p-polarized incident light in the regions indicated by the green circle and line, where the spin polarization of the photoelectrons is consistent with the intrinsic spin polarization of the surface.

 
Do We Owe Our Sense of Smell to Epigenetics? Print
Monday, 04 March 2013 00:00

Since mammals typically have thousands of types of olfactory receptor genes, biologists have long wondered how it’s possible that each olfactory sensory neuron is equipped with only one kind. A team of researchers led by Stavros Lamvardas of the University of California, San Francisco used the Advanced Light Source’s National Center for X-ray Tomography, led by Carolyn Larabell and Mark LeGros, to help understand the unique epigenetic mechanism by which each olfactory nerve cell sequesters all but a single receptor gene.

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At left, the nucleus of a mouse olfactory sensory neuron (white outline) shows concentrations of dense heterochromatin surrounded by a handful of loci where silent olfactory receptor (OR) genes are sequestered. At right, the cell’s single active OR gene resides near the silent gene loci, but in euchromatin, not heterochromatin. (Different colors indicate different staining techniques.) (Images by Lomvardas lab)

 
Searching for the Solar System’s Chemical Recipe Print
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 00:00

The ratio of isotopes in elements like oxygen, sulfur, and nitrogen were once thought to be much the same everywhere, determined only by their different masses. Then isotope ratios in meteorites, interplanetary dust and gas, and the sun itself were found to differ from those on Earth. Planetary researchers like UC San Diego’s Mark Thiemens and his colleagues, working with Musa Ahmed of the Chemical Sciences Division, are now using the Chemical Dynamics Beamline at the Advanced Light Source to study these “mass-independent” effects and their origins in the chemical processes of the early solar system.

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The protosun evolved in a hot nebula of infalling gas and dust that formed an accretion disk (green) of surrounding matter. Visible and ultraviolet light poured from the sun, irradiating abundant clouds of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and other chemicals. Temperatures near the sun were hot enough to melt silicates and other minerals, forming the chondrules found in early meteoroids (dashed black circles). Beyond the “snowline” (dashed white curves), water, methane, and other compounds condensed to ice. Numerous chemical reactions contributed to the isotopic ratios seen in relics of the early solar system today.

 
Secrets of the Motor That Drives Archaea Revealed Print
Thursday, 14 February 2013 00:00

An international team led by John Tainer of the Life Sciences Division and Sonja-Verena Albers of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology has solved the protein structure of the archaellum, the motor that propels motile species of Archaea (microorganisms), life’s third domain. The Albers lab zeroed in on the crucial protein with genetics, and Sophia Reindl of Tainer’s lab led the characterization using Beamline 8.3.1 and the SIBYLS beamline (Beamline 12.3.1) at the Advanced Light Source. A ring made of proteins hydrolyzes ATP and uses the energy to assemble and rotate the archaellum’s whiplike propeller.

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A wild-type S. acidocaldarius cell has only one to three archaella, so to see the results of deleting the FlaI gene the researchers created mutant strains with many archaella.

 
Synchrotrons Explore Water's Molecular Mysteries Print
Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

In experiments at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Advanced Light Source, scientists observed a surprisingly dense form of water that remained liquid well beyond its typical freezing point. Researchers applied a superthin coating of water—no deeper than a few molecules—to the surface of a barium fluoride crystal. This surface was expected to stimulate ice formation, but even when chilled to a temperature of about 6.5 F—well below water’s normal freezing point—the water remained liquid. The research, published in Nature Scientific Reports, spanned more than three years and represents a milestone in understanding some of the many exotic properties water exhibits under a range of conditions.

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Illustration of the first layer of a thin film of water on a barium fluoride crystal surface, showing that the water sample exists in an unexpected, high-density liquid form, with chain-like molecular formations resembling low-density crystalline ice. Fluoride ions are represented by purple, barium ions with green, and the red and white rods represent oxygen and hydrogen atoms (respectively) in water molecules. (Credit: Nature Scientific Reports)

 
Synchrotron Infrared Unveils a Mysterious Microbial Community Print
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 00:00

A cold sulfur spring in Germany is the only place where archaea are known to dominate bacteria in a microbial community. How this unique community thrives and the lessons it may hold for understanding global carbon and sulfur cycles are beginning to emerge from research by the University of Regensburg’s Christine Moissl-Eichinger and her colleagues, including Advanced Light Source guest Alex Probst. Crucial microbial biochemistry was done at Berkeley Lab by Hoi-Ying Holman, director of the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology facility, and her staff at the ALS, and by Phylochip inventors Todd DeSantis and Gary Anderson.

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Strings of pearls (arrow and upper inset), whose "pearls" are up to three millimeters in diameter, were found where SM1 Euryarchaea live in close association with bacteria in the cold sulfidic streams of Germany’s Sippenauer Moor. Part of a pearl (lower inset) reveals colonies of microscopic spherical SM1 surrounded by filamentous bacteria.

 
Scientists at ALS Find New Path to More Efficient Organic Solar Cells Print
Monday, 07 January 2013 00:00

Harald Ade, a physicist at North Carolina State University, led a study at the Advanced Light Source that revealed a second pathway to improved performances of polymer/organic solar cells. Whereas the first pathway demands crystals of ultrapure domains, the new pathway shows that impure domains if sufficiently small can also lead to improved photovoltaic performances. Also working on this project were Brian Collins, Zhe Li, John Tumbleston, Eliot Gann and Christopher McNeill.

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Molecular view of polymer/fullerene solar film showing an interface between acceptor and donor domains. Red dots are PC71BM molecules and blue lines represent PTB7 chains. Excitons are shown as yellow dots, purple dots are electrons and green dots represent holes.

 
Can We Accurately Model Fluid Flow in Shale? Print
Thursday, 03 January 2013 00:00

Over 20 trillion cubic meters of natural gas are trapped in shale, but many shale oil and gas producers still use models of underground fluid flow that date back to the heyday of easy-to-tap gas and liquid crude. The source of shale oil and gas is kerogen, an organic material in the shale, but until now kerogen hasn’t been incorporated in mathematical models of shale gas reservoirs. Paulo Monteiro, Chris Rycroft, and Grigory Isaakovich Barenblatt, with the Computational Research Division and the Advanced Light Source, recently modeled how pressure gradients in the boundary layer between kerogen inclusions and shale matrices affect productivity and can model reservoir longevity.

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The model developed by Monteiro, Rycroft, and Barenblatt posits a porous, fissurized matrix (I) with enough permeability to be treated by standard fluid mechanics, as well as a kerogen inclusion (II) with very low permeability. During mining, a boundary layer of flow forms in the kerogen, as shown by the textured brown strip. Fluid moves out of the inclusion, indicated by the red arrows. The evolution of the boundary layer, analyzed along the coordinate labeled X, is key to the rate and longevity of the formation’s productivity.

 
Not Even Nanocrystals Can Avoid Defects Print
Thursday, 13 December 2012 15:56

Contrary to computer simulations, the tiny size of nanocrystals is no safeguard from defects. Studies at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source show that dislocations can form in the finest of nanocrystals when stress is applied.

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Stress-induced deformation of nanocrystalline nickel reflects the dislocation activity observed by researchers using a radial diamond-anvil-cell x-ray diffraction experimental station at ALS Beamline 12.2.2 . (Image courtesy of NDT Education Resource Center)

 
Space-Age Ceramics Get Their Toughest Test Print
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 14:54

Advanced ceramic composites can withstand the ultrahigh operational temperatures projected for hypersonic jet and next generation gas turbine engines, but real-time analysis of the mechanical properties of these space-age materials at ultrahigh temperatures has been a challenge – until now. Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley researchers have developed the first testing facility at ALS Beamline 8.3.2 that enables CT-scanning of ceramic composites under controlled loads at ultrahigh temperatures and in real-time.

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Read the Industry@ALS story:  ALS Ceramics Materials Research Advances Engine Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Left) Schematic illustration of the in situ ultrahigh temperature tensile test rig for synchrotron x-ray computed microtomography now being used at ALS Beamline 8.3.2. (Right) CT scans showing the formation of microcracks in ceramic composites under applied tensile loads at 1,750 degrees Celsius.

 
Six Berkeley Lab (Three ALS) Scientists Are 2012 APS Fellows Print
Friday, 07 December 2012 00:00

This year’s American Physical Society (APS) Fellows include six scientists from Berkeley Lab, three of whom are currently or have previously been at the ALS. Only half of one percent of APS members are elected by their peers to be Fellows in any given year for exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise, including outstanding research, important applications, leadership or service to physics, and significant contributions to physics education. Berkeley Lab’s six Fellows (out of 250 announced for 2012) represent a high count for a single institution. See the announcement on the APS home page, or see the Berkeley Lab News Release for information on all six LBNL Fellows.

  • John Byrd, program head for the Center for Beam Physics in AFRD, has had a long involvement with the ALS, contributing to controlling beam stability and becoming a member of the Accelerator Physics Group. He is cited for “seminal contributions to accelerator science in the areas of collective beam behavior, coherent synchrotron radiation in storage rings, and femtosecond timing and synchronization of accelerator systems.”
  • Howard Padmore, ALS Division Deputy for Experimental Systems, has published more than 200 papers and serves on synchrotron advisory committees around the world. He is cited for “seminal contributions to x-ray optics, instrumentation, and research with synchrotron radiation.”
  • David Robin of AFRD is the ALS Division Deputy for Operations and Accelerator Development and the Accelerator Physics Group Leader. He is cited for “fundamental advances to the understanding and control of the nonlinear beam dynamic behavior of electrons in particle storage rings, including the development of frequency map analysis and quasi-isochronous storage rings.”
 
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