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ALSNews Vol. 294 Print
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 00:00

In This Issue

Director's Update: A New Year and a New Era

Reaction-Driven Restructuring of Bimetallic Nanoparticle Catalysts

Nanoscale Chemical Imaging of a Working Catalyst

Reminder: Experimental Safety Sheet Procedure

UEC Corner: Introducing the 2009 Committee

Honors and Awards: Eli Rotenberg and Richard Saykally

A Successful SES IV in San Francisco


News Links

Interview with Paul Adams in PDB Newsletter

Finding better materials for solar cells

Obama picks Berkeley Lab Director Steve Chu for Energy Secretary

Structural study backs new model for the nuclear pore complex

Senate Energy & Natural Resources Cmte. Hearing on Energy Secretary Nomination (video)

Iowa State University researchers discover structure of key Ebola protein

E. coli persists against antibiotics through HipA-induced dormancy

University of California appoints Paul Alivisatos Interim Director of Berkeley Lab

More Information

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Director's Update: A New Year and a New Era

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FalconeThis month, on January 20, we took a moment to watch the inauguration of President Obama on screens in several conference rooms. It was wonderful to share in the optimism of the event with other members of the ALS community and hear messages of change, hope, and new personal responsibility. It was also encouraging to hear, on the same day, that the Senate confirmed our (former) Lab Director, Steve Chu, as the new Secretary of Energy.

I looked for themes in the inauguration speech that will affect our work, and they were there: "We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do." I felt some pride in knowing that we will contribute in these areas.

Another theme in the speech, international cooperation and collaboration, we often take for granted in operating a "user facility." I also note that we are inherently democratic in our structure, in the open way we provide service to a broad range of users.

As President Obama noted, it was a wonderful moment, but we cannot be blind to the challenges we face, economically and technologically. In the last few weeks we have heard about potential new funding for science, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a part of the broader stimulus package being considered by Congress. What role we will play in the economic recovery, how we can best utilize existing and possible additional resources, and what the funding outlook is long-term, all are yet to be determined.

We have been working to clarify the role that the ALS does and can play in the future of science and technology, in a variety of ways. Specifically, we are developing a better understanding of the ways that ALS scientists contribute to energy research. We have worked with other labs (SLAC, ANL, and BNL) to develop a white paper on the science and technology of future light sources. Also, we completed a report on a recent workshop on science with coherent soft x-rays. Finally, we are bringing our Strategic Plan to the Department of Energy (DOE) and will work with it on the renewal of the ALS. In the next few months we hope to have a greater understanding of the overall budget situation for light sources, but at this moment, the situation is uncertain, and our immediate goal is to complete our planning processes.

As most of our users and all our staff know, over the last few weeks, we have been focusing our attention on the upcoming audit by the DOE of our safety practices and culture. The preparation for this audit has made us a better and safer facility, and I want to thank Jim Floyd, our users, and the entire ALS staff for all of their efforts in preparation for this review, which will occur in major part at the end of January.

Finally, on your way to lunch at the cafeteria, I encourage you to take a look at the new user guesthouse. Its construction has gone remarkably rapidly, it looks very impressive, and I look forward its opening later this year.

Guest House construction

Roger Falcone, Guest House project manager Steve Rossi, and UC Project Manager Kirk Haley tour the Guest House construction site.

Reaction-Driven Restructuring of Bimetallic Nanoparticle Catalysts

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Catalytic systems based on bimetallic particles with controlled size, composition, and structure dispersed on a high-surface-area support are widely used for catalytic reforming, pollution control, alcohol oxidation, and electrocatalysis in fuel cells. Owing to the nanoscale size of the particles, the modification of the surface structure and composition that may occur when reaction conditions change can have dramatic effects on catalyst activity and selectivity. Working at the ALS, a University of California, Berkeley–Berkeley Lab group has used an ambient-pressure x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (APXPS) apparatus to demonstrate that bimetallic nanoparticle catalysts can undergo profound structural and chemical changes in response to reactive environments at ambient pressures, thereby opening the way for engineering catalysts with enhanced activity and selectivity. Read more...

A Catalyst Up Close

Publication about this research: F. Tao, M.E. Grass, Y. Zhang, D.R. Butcher, J.R. Renzas, Z. Liu, J.Y. Chung, B.S. Mun, M. Salmeron, and G.A. Somorjai, "Reaction-driven restructuring of Rh-Pd and Pt-Pd core-shell nanoparticles," Science 322, 932 (2008).

Nanoscale Chemical Imaging of a Working Catalyst

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The heterogeneous catalysts used in most chemical processes typically consist of nanoscale metal or metal oxide particles dispersed on high-surface-area supports. While these particles are the active elements of the catalyst, the overall performance depends not only on their size and composition but also on their multiple interactions with the support, reactants, and products. Probing this chemical soup in real time under realistic reaction conditions is such a tall order that in some cases even the catalytically active chemical species is not known. A Dutch team working at the ALS has combined scanning transmission x-ray microscopy with a reaction chamber adapted from electron microscopy to identify the chemical species present for an iron-based Fischer–Tropsch synthesis catalyst and to image their distribution on the nanoscale. When developed further, this new tool may give chemists the ability to design and tailor catalysts for maximum selectivity and efficiency in a wide range of chemical processes. Read more...

A Catalyst at Work

Publication about this research: E. de Smit, I. Swart, J.F. Creemer, G.H. Hoveling, M.K. Gilles, T. Tyliszczak, P.J. Kooyman, H.W. Zandbergen, C. Morin, B.M. Weckhuysen, and F.M.F. de Groot, "Nanoscale chemical imaging of a working catalyst by scanning transmission x-ray microscopy," Nature 456, 222 (2008).

Reminder: Experimental Safety Sheet Procedure

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Safety FirstALS users are reminded that safety at the ALS is of paramount importance. To ensure that all experiments are run safely, als staff members need details of the experiments that will be run, including any hazards, well before the experiment time. We then assess the hazards, ensure that proper controls are established, and provide inspections for the experiment setup as appropriate. The mechanism for collecting and documenting this procedure is the Experimental Safety Sheet (ESS), which is generated when a proposal is submitted to do work at the ALS and is reviewed annually.

It is critical that ALS users ensure that the ESS is an accurate description of the experiment, and all users on site at the ALS are required to sign the ESS before the start of their experiment. Beamline staff and the Experiment Coordination Group (ext. 7222) are available to help you through the process.

In addition, a one-page form (User Experiment Form) is required for each visit, detailing the dates of the experiment and which users are actually present for the visit and summarizing the hazards. Both the ESS and the User Experiment Form need to be posted at the sector board on the outer wall of the ALS and close to the beamline.

Health, Safety, and Security auditors will be visiting the ALS this week. Users of the ALS during this time may be asked by an auditor for an interview about their work at the ALS and their understanding of the ESS process. If you are interested in learning more about the ESS procedure, the online course ALS1001 serves as a good introduction.

UEC Corner: Introducing the 2009 Committee

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Ken GoldbergI am very happy to introduce this year's ALS Users' Executive Committee (UEC) and to serve as your chairman in 2009. We represent 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 each fall. 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 one 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.

At the same time as we welcome our new UEC members Chris Jacobsen, David Osborn, and Yayoi Takamura, I would like to thank our outgoing members for their service and their involvement: Elke Arenholz, Tony van Buuren (past chair), Alessandra Lanzara, and Simon Morton. Simon, however, will be continuing on in two roles: as user representative on the User Support Building and Guest House committees and as a representative/consultant for macromolecular crystallography users. A special thank you is also due to our outgoing UEC chair, Hendrik Ohldag, whose involvement continues through 2009.

I have been working at the ALS since 1993, serving as a beamline scientist for over 10 years. I am especially sensitive to quality-of-life issues at the ALS and am aware of the essential roles that beamline scientists play in every experiment. Among other issues, I'd like to help make beamline scientists' lives easier, by working with the ALS to simplify and improve how we report new publications and beamline usage.

The UEC will be active in a number of issues this year. Safety is front and center, and finding ways to live and work within the new requirements is paramount for each of us. UEC members are also helping to improve the proposal process at the ALS and providing users' perspectives to a division management faced with a difficult budget climate.

You can usually find me at Beamline 11.3.2, so please don't hesitate to introduce yourselves and to let me know if I or the broader UEC group can be of service. We are looking forward to working with you and for you in 2009. For more info about the UEC, go to the UEC Web page.

2009 ALS UEC Members:

Kenneth Goldberg (chair), LBNL (2007-09)
Yves Acremann, SLAC (2008-10)
Peter Fischer, LBNL (2007-09)
Phil Heimann, ALS (2008-10)
Franz Himpsel, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison (2007-09)
Chris Jacobsen, Stony Brook University (2009-11)
Hendrik Ohldag (past chair), SSRL (2006-08)
David Osborn, Sandia National Laboratories (2009-11)
Anne Sakdinawat (student), UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, LBNL (2008-10)
Wayne Stolte, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas (2008-10)
Yayoi Takamura, UC Davis (2009-11)
Simon Morton, LBNL (2006-08, 2009 special assignee)

Honors and Awards: Eli Rotenberg and Rich Saykally

Eli RotenbergEli Rotenberg, Deputy Leader of the ALS Scientific Support Group, has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) "For outstanding contributions to the understanding of quantum electronic properties of nanophase and reduced dimensionality systems by creative applications of angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy." Election to Fellowship in the APS is limited to no more than one half of one percent of the membership, and is recognition by peers of outstanding contributions to physics.

Richard SaykallyLong-time ALS user and Berkeley Lab chemical scientist Richard Saykally has received the Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry, bestowed by the American Chemical Society. Laser spectroscopy of liquids, surfaces, and clusters, synchrotron x-ray spectroscopy of liquids and liquid surfaces, and femtosecond nonlinear optical spectroscopy of liquid surfaces are among the areas in which Saykally conducts research. Peter Debye, the award's namesake, was a Dutch physicist and physical chemist, and Nobel laureate who died in 1966.

A Successful SES IV in San Francisco

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SES IV logoThe Fourth Synchrotron Environmental Science conference (SES IV), held December 11-13, 2008, in San Francisco was co-hosted by ALS/Berkeley Lab and SSRL/SLAC and included over 80 registered attendees. The two hands-on sessions, one at ALS and one at SSRL, were both filled to capacity and introduced nearly 30 new users to some of the amazing capabilities synchrotrons have to offer for environmental science. At the ALS, four beamlines participated in the hands-on session, 1.4.3, 8.3.2, 10.3.2, and 11.0.2. The main session in San Francisco included introductory talks on EXAFS, microprobes, x-ray scattering, APPES, and STXM, while the keynote speakers presented their vision for how synchrotron science can contribute to some of the most pressing questions in environmental science including CO2 sequestration, environmental remediation, climate change, marine science, and atmospheric science. The conference also highlighted new synchrotron methods and facility developments at all the North American synchrotron sources. Thanks to all who contributed to making the SES IV such a success!


The ALS was shut down at 12:00 A.M. on Wednesday, December 24, 2008, for the winter holidays. Operations resumed at 8:00 A.M. on January 2, 2009, for planned maintenance and installations—mainly of modified top-off apertures in the storage ring. Also, permanent-magnet assemblies were added to the front ends of Beamlines 12.3.1 and 8.3.1. User operations resumed at 8:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

For the user runs from November 19 to December 23, 2008, and January 13 to 18, 2009: Beam reliability*: 94.3%; Completion**: 88.5%.

On December 6, 2008, an ALS-wide ac-power variation resulted in the loss of over 16 hours of scheduled beam time.

Questions about beam reliability should be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 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).

Long-term and weekly operations schedules are available here. View the ring status in real time here.

*Time delivered/time scheduled
**Percent of scheduled beam delivered without interruption