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ALSNews Vol. 305 Print
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In This Issue
Director's Update
Structures of Three Membrane Transport Proteins Yield Functional Insights
Using Light to Control How X Rays Interact with Matter
Proton Channel Orientation in Block-Copolymer Electrolyte Membranes
Solving Structures with Collaborative Crystallography
A User Support Building Tour
This Month's Polls

Science Café
Join us this Friday, January 29th, at noon in Perseverance Hall. Coffee, tea, and light refreshments will be provided. Bring your lunch and listen to Musa Ahmed (BL 9.0), Zhi Liu (BL 9.3.2) and Ferenc Berondics (BL 7.0.1, 9.3.2, 11.0.2) discuss their energy-related research at the ALS.
Guest House Special
Visiting Berkeley Lab? Book your accommodations at the new Berkeley Lab Guest House, located onsite. Through March 2010 there will be discounted rates, no occupancy tax, and free parking; get more information about this special on the Web site.
Who's in the News
ALS Visitors
This links to a new page listing ALS visitors. See who visited the ALS this month!

See awards and honors received this month!

News Links
Brain protein critical to movement, memory and learning deciphered at ALS

Iowa State University researcher discovers Ebola's deadly secret

Sulphur-eating bacteria limit acid run-off and CO2

$85 Million for Early Career Scientists; Includes Four Lab Researchers

Accelerators and Light Sources of Tomorrow (Part 1: From Linacs to Lasers)

Accelerators and Light Sources of Tomorrow (Part 2: Accelerating with Light)

7th International Conference on Synchrotron Radiation in Materials Science July 2010

A Speedy CAT Scan for Cells

LDRD: FY2010 Allocations Announced

Special Event: Workshop on Ultrafast Soft X-ray Science

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ALSNews Archive

Director's Update: Happy New Year

Roger FalconeI welcome our ALS family back to the Lab, and hope that the holidays were an enriching time for you and your family and friends. For me, it was a nice time to catch up on reading, and to cook for and talk with my children and wife, since my family came home from work and school for the break.

We enter 2010 with a fine budget for ALS. It appears that this year we will receive the level of funds requested by the President. We also have a large number of big projects. These include new equipment funded through stimulus dollars,  the MAESTRO beamline, continued upgrades of the accelerator, infrastructure projects including HVAC and the User Support Building, new microscopes... the list is almost overwhelming... but I know we can accomplish it all. Read the Full Article
Structures of Three Membrane Transport Proteins Yield Functional Insights

Cells depend on contact with their outside environment in order to thrive. Two examples illustrate why: In one, information needed to guide cellular processes is constantly transmitted across cell membranes by specialized proteins, and in the other, maintaining the right gradient of ions across the membrane is a process critical to the life and death of a cell. Membrane transport proteins-functioning either as channels or transporters-are the gatekeepers that control contact with the world outside the cell by catalyzing the flow of ions and molecules across cell membranes. Malfunctioning transport proteins can lead to cancer, inflammatory, and neurological diseases. Despite their importance in cell function and in a multitude of physiological processes such as sensing pain, there are still many unknowns about how they function. Recently, in an impressive series of three papers in Nature and Science, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University delineated the structures of three transporter proteins, one of which had never before been characterized structurally in such detail.  Read Full Highlight

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Using Light to Control How X Rays Interact with Matter
Schemes that use one light pulse to manipulate interactions of another with matter are well developed in the visible-light regime where an optical control pulse influences how an optical probe pulse interacts with a medium. This approach has opened new research directions in fields like quantum computing and nonlinear optics, while also spawning entirely new research areas, such as electromagnetically induced transparency and slow light. However, it has been unclear whether similar optical control schemes could be used to modify how x rays interact with matter. In a dramatic breakthrough demonstration at the ALS, a Berkeley Lab-Argonne National Laboratory group has now used powerful visible-light lasers to render a nominally opaque material transparent to x rays. While x-ray transparency will have immediate applications at x-ray light sources, the important result is that the findings lay a foundation for a broader spectrum of applications.  Read Full Highlight

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Proton Channel Orientation in Block-Copolymer Electrolyte Membranes

Fuel cells have the potential to provide power for a wide variety of applications ranging from electronic devices to transportation vehicles. Cells operating with H2 and air as inputs and electric power and water as the only outputs are of particular interest because of their ability to produce power without degrading the environment. Polymer electrolyte membranes (PEMs), with hydrophilic, proton-conducting channels embedded in a structurally sound hydrophobic matrix, play a central role in the operation of polymer electrolyte fuel cells. PEMs are humidified by contact with air (the presence of water in PEMs is essential for proton transport). In addition, PEMs must transport protons to catalyst sites, which are typically crystalline solids such as platinum. The arrangement of the hydrophilic domains in the vicinity of both air and solid substrates is thus crucial. A University of California, Berkeley, and Berkeley Lab group has now provided the first set of data on morphology of PEMs at interfaces by a combination of x-ray scattering and microscopy.  Read Full Highlight

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Solving Structures with Collaborative Crystallography
The BCSB helps remote users solve protein structures at lightning speed

The Berkeley Center for Structural Biology's Collaborative Crystallography program is making major advancements in solving protein structures, especially for remote users. The Collaborative Crystallography (CC) program is an NIH funded, peer-reviewed service that allows external users to apply for both beam time and a crystallographer to perform experiments.

Dr. Banumathi Sankaran has been helping external users solve structures since she was named research scientist in charge of the CC program in October 2008. Under the oversight of Paul Adams, Acting Director of the Physical Biosciences Division and Head of the BCSB, and Corie Ralston, Beamline scientist in the BCSB, the CC program has grown immensely. It started in May 2008 with 4 research groups; now eleven are actively participating, and Sankaran is hoping this might increase. Read Full Feature

A User Support Building Tour
We toured the new USB to give you a preview

The ALS Communications group recently took a tour of the User Support Building (USB) to survey the progress and give you a sneak preview. Scheduled to open in August, the USB (B15) will be both functional and welcoming, fulfilling users' desires for an attractive, comfortable configuration of needed facilities.

This bright, modern building will have two patios overlooking the bay. There will be biology and chemistry laboratories, a server room, and a semi-clean precision assembly room that holds a one-ton jib crane. The staging area has a two-ton bridge crane with a 17 foot hook height in the high bay area.

The second and third floor conference areas will feature floor to ceiling windows, patios, and lounges. The largest conference room, hopeful new home for ALS Science Cafés, holds over 80 people, has a dazzling view of the bay, and overlooks the staging area. On the third floor, a large open-office space with skylights has room for nearly 50 people, and will include flexible work stations for part-time users, who may utilize lockers on the first floor. Surrounding this space, as well as on the second floor, are traditional offices for more than 30 people.

The USB will be at minimum a LEED certified silver building. To meet the LEED criteria many innovative and creative things have been incorporated into the building’s design such as utilizing cooling and heating water from existing plants that serve the ALS, high-reflectivity roofing, water-cooled server racks, and the harvesting of natural light. The building is also earthquake safe, utilizing a moment frame design for the structural steel.

Operations Update
For the user runs from November 19, 2009 to January 17, 2010, the beam reliability [(time scheduled - time lost)/time scheduled)] was 95.3%. For this period, the mean time between failures (MTBF) was 32.7 hours, and the mean time to recovery (MTTR) was 96 minutes. On December 12, the failure of a 12 KV switch in Building 75 caused a drop in low-conductivity water flow to ALS.  This caused multiple power supplies to trip off.  As a result, over 14 hours of user beam time were lost as ALS recovered.

More detailed information on reliability is available on the ALS reliability bulletin board, which is located in the hallway between the ALS and the control room in Building 80. Questions about beam reliability should be directed to Dave Richardson ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , x4376).

Long-term and weekly operations schedules are available on the Web at Requests for special operations use of the "scrubbing" shift should be sent to Rick Bloemhard ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , x4738) by 1:00 p.m. Friday. A Web page showing the ring status in real time can be found at

UEC Corner

Introducing the 2010 Committee

I am happy to introduce this year's ALS Users' Executive Committee (UEC) and to serve as your chairman in 2010. The UEC represents you, the ALS user community, to the ALS management and funding agencies. With the support of the ALS staff, the UEC also runs the annual ALS Users' Meeting. While this year's UEC spans a broad range of research interests, we rely on your input, concerns, and suggestions to give direction to our work. Please do not hesitate to contact any of us with issues that concern our community or your work at the ALS. We will do our best to listen and to elevate your concerns to the ALS management.

The UEC will be active in a number of issues this year. The new User Support Building is nearing completion, and the Berkeley Lab Guest House is operating. We will be involved with both projects, encouraging user feedback to make these new facilities as valuable to the users as possible. Safety continues to be a central focus. We will continue to advocate for safety solutions that are both practical and effective in the unique environment of the ALS. Finally, we will continue to provide users' perspectives to a division management faced with another challenging budget climate.

We welcome our new UEC members, Holly Barth (UC Berkeley), Hendrik Bluhm (LBNL), David Kilcoyne (LBNL), and Brandy Toner (University of Minnesota), and thank our outgoing members for their service and involvement: Peter Fischer, Hendrik Ohldag (Past chair), Franz Himpsel, and Anne Sakdinawat. Simon Morton has accepted my invitation to continue as a representative for Protein Crystallography users. A special thank you is also due to our outgoing UEC Chairman, Ken Goldberg, who will remain a member of the UEC for 2010.

I have worked at the Combustion Research Facility of Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, CA since 1999, and have been doing experiments at the ALS since 2005 on an apparatus I constructed at Beamline 9.0.2 (The Chemical Dynamics Beamline).

I am at the ALS frequently, including all of January and June. Regardless of my location, I encourage you to contact me or my colleagues on the UEC to let us know how we can be of service to you. We are looking forward to working with you and for you in 2010.

You will find more information, and a list of the 2010 ALS UEC Members, at the ALS UEC Web site,

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