From University of Chicago: “Argonne receives go-ahead for $815 million upgrade to X-ray facility”

U Chicago bloc

From University of Chicago

Aug 8, 2019

A multimillion-dollar upgrade to the Advanced Photon Source, a kilometer-long X-ray science facility at Argonne National Laboratory, will allow scientists to observe atoms moving in real time. Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

Accelerator at UChicago-affiliated lab will boost discovery across scientific fields.

For the past quarter-century, the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory has helped scientists and engineers make groundbreaking discoveries—providing extremely bright X-rays to investigate everything from dinosaur bones and lunar rocks to materials for new solar panels and new pharmaceutical drugs.

By accelerating particles to nearly the speed of light, the APS creates X-rays that researchers can use to peer through dense materials and illuminate the structure and chemistry of matter at the molecular and atomic level. Now Argonne, which is operated by the University of Chicago, been cleared to begin building a massive, $815 million upgrade to its kilometer-long X-ray facility.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that the design report for the upgrade has been finalized and that the laboratory could begin moving forward with procurement and construction. Upon completion, the upgrade will equip scientists with a vastly more powerful tool for extending their research into new realms, accelerating impactful discoveries in science and technology.

The Advanced Photon Source Upgrade transforms today’s APS into a world-leading, storage-ring-based, hard X-ray light source.

“This project will be a scientific game-changer,” said Argonne scientist Robert Hettel, director of the APS Upgrade project. “The APS upgrade will allow researchers to see things at a scale they have never seen before with storage-ring X-rays. We’ll be able to look deep inside real samples, such as biological organisms, and observe atoms moving in real time. Such extreme levels of detail will open new frontiers and discoveries in basic science and help solve pressing problems across a wide range of industries.”

Among potential discoveries are revolutionary systems to convert sunlight into energy and ways to store that energy; new drugs to treat infections resistant to today’s antibiotics; a better understanding of the way the brain processes and stores information with neurons; detailed mechanisms by which pollutants move through soil; transformational understanding of the structure of the Earth’s inner core; and cleaner, more efficient biofuels.

“Virtually every department in the sciences and engineering here at the University of Chicago has multiple faculty members whose research relies on the Advanced Photon Source, from molecular engineers, to geoscientists to astronomers,” said Juan de Pablo, vice president for national laboratories and the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at UChicago. “It’s an extraordinary resource for the nation, and we are thrilled to see it go forward and to contribute towards its development.”

The upgrade will increase the brightness of the already super-bright X-rays another 100 to 1,000 times over the present facility, and depending on the technique used, will allow scientists to map the position, identity and dynamics of the key atoms in a sample.

Science at an even bigger scale

Every year, more than 5,500 researchers from every U.S. state and countries across the world conduct experiments at the APS. That research has led to two Nobel Prizes (and contributed to a third), supported the development of numerous pharmaceuticals (including one of the most successful drugs to stop the progression of the HIV virus), and improved products including more efficient vehicles and more powerful electronics.

Scientists at the APS have also uncovered secrets of history and archaeology by studying the composition of an ancient Egyptian mummy and the arms of SUE, the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen at The Field Museum of Chicago.

In addition, APS research has increased our understanding of our solar system and the Earth itself through studies of meteorites, space dust and geological rocks and minerals.

“The upgraded APS will enable science at a completely new scale, enabling discoveries across a wide range of research—from microelectronics to polymers to quantum,” said Paul Kearns, director of Argonne National Laboratory.

The upgrade comes as Argonne also prepares to host what will be the most powerful supercomputer ever built in the U.S. Called “Aurora,” it will be capable of a quintillion—or one billion billion—calculations per second.

Depiction of ANL ALCF Cray Inetl SC18 Shasta Aurora exascale supercomputer

“It’s an exciting time as Argonne is building two powerful facilities for the world’s scientific community,” said Kearns. “Together, the upgraded APS and our Aurora exascale computing system will provide powerful new capabilities to accelerate science and technology for U.S. prosperity and security.”

Removal of the old storage ring and installation of the new one is planned to begin in June 2022. This installation and subsequent ring commissioning period will last for about one year, after which the APS-U X-ray beamlines will be brought online for researchers.

See the full article here .


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U Chicago Campus

An intellectual destination

One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

The University of Chicago is an urban research university that has driven new ways of thinking since 1890. Our commitment to free and open inquiry draws inspired scholars to our global campuses, where ideas are born that challenge and change the world.

We empower individuals to challenge conventional thinking in pursuit of original ideas. Students in the College develop critical, analytic, and writing skills in our rigorous, interdisciplinary core curriculum. Through graduate programs, students test their ideas with UChicago scholars, and become the next generation of leaders in academia, industry, nonprofits, and government.

UChicago research has led to such breakthroughs as discovering the link between cancer and genetics, establishing revolutionary theories of economics, and developing tools to produce reliably excellent urban schooling. We generate new insights for the benefit of present and future generations with our national and affiliated laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The University of Chicago is enriched by the city we call home. In partnership with our neighbors, we invest in Chicago’s mid-South Side across such areas as health, education, economic growth, and the arts. Together with our medical center, we are the largest private employer on the South Side.

In all we do, we are driven to dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions—and to leverage our knowledge to enrich all human life. Our diverse and creative students and alumni drive innovation, lead international conversations, and make masterpieces. Alumni and faculty, lecturers and postdocs go on to become Nobel laureates, CEOs, university presidents, attorneys general, literary giants, and astronauts.

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From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: “Study reveals new structure of gold at extremes”

From Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

July 30, 2019
Breanna Bishop

Three of the images collected at Argonne National Laboratory’s Dynamic Compression Sector, highlighting diffracted signals recorded on the X-ray detector.

Section 1 shows the starting face-centered cubic structure; Section 2 shows the new body-centered cubic structure at 220 GPa; and Section 3 shows the liquid gold at 330 GPa.

Gold is an extremely important material for high-pressure experiments and is considered the “gold standard” for calculating pressure in static diamond anvil cell experiments. When compressed slowly at room temperature (on the order of seconds to minutes), gold prefers to be the face-centered cubic (fcc) structure at pressures up to three times the center of the Earth.

However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Carnegie Institution for Science have found that when gold is compressed rapidly over nanoseconds (1 billionth of a second), the increase in pressure and temperature changes the crystalline structure to a new phase of gold.

This well-known body-centered cubic (bcc) structure morphs to a more open crystal structure than the fcc structure. These results were published recently in Physical Review Letters.

“We discovered a new structure in gold that exists at extreme states — two thirds of the pressure found at the center of Earth,” said lead author Richard Briggs, a postdoctoral researcher at LLNL. “The new structure actually has less efficient packing at higher pressures than the starting structure, which was surprising considering the vast amount of theoretical predictions that pointed to more tightlypacked structures that should exist.”

The experiments were carried out at the Dynamic Compression Sector (DCS) at the Advanced Photon Source, Argonne National Laboratory.

ANL Advanced Photon Source

DCS is the first synchrotron X-ray facility dedicated to dynamic compression science. These user experiments were some of the first conducted on hutch-C, the dedicated high energy laser station of DCS. Gold was the ideal subject to study due to its high-Z (providing a strong X-ray scattering signal) and relatively unexplored phase diagram at high temperatures.

The team found that that the structure of gold began to change at a pressure of 220 GPa (2.2 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure) and started to melt when compressed beyond 250 GPa.

“The observation of liquid gold at 330 GPa is astonishing,” Briggs said. “This is the pressure at the center of the Earth and is more than 300 GPa higher than previous measurements of liquid gold at high pressure.”

The transition from fcc to bcc structure is perhaps one of the most studied phase transitions due to its importance in the manufacturing of steel, where high temperatures or stress causes a change in structure between the two fcc/bcc structures. However, it is not known what phase transition mechanism is responsible. The research team’s results show that gold undergoes the same phase transition before it melts, as a consequence of both pressure and temperature, and future experiments focusing on the mechanism of the transition can help clarify key details of this important transition for manufacturing strong steels.

“Many of the theoretical models of gold that are used to understand the high-pressure/high-temperature behavior did not predict the formation of a body-centered structure – only two out of more than 10 published works,” Briggs said. “Our results can help theorists improve their models of elements under extreme compression and look toward using those new models to examine the effects of chemical bonding to aid the development of new materials that can be formed at extreme states.”

Briggs was joined on the publication by co-authors Federica Coppari, Martin Gorman, Ray Smith, Amy Coleman, Amalia Fernandez-Panella, Marius Millot, Jon Eggert and Dane Fratanduono from LLNL, and Sally Tracy from the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory.

See the full article here .


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LLNL Campus

Operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is an American federal research facility in Livermore, California, United States, founded by the University of California, Berkeley in 1952. A Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), it is primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and managed and operated by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS), a partnership of the University of California, Bechtel, BWX Technologies, AECOM, and Battelle Memorial Institute in affiliation with the Texas A&M University System. In 2012, the laboratory had the synthetic chemical element livermorium named after it.
LLNL is self-described as “a premier research and development institution for science and technology applied to national security.” Its principal responsibility is ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons through the application of advanced science, engineering and technology. The Laboratory also applies its special expertise and multidisciplinary capabilities to preventing the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, bolstering homeland security and solving other nationally important problems, including energy and environmental security, basic science and economic competitiveness.

The Laboratory is located on a one-square-mile (2.6 km2) site at the eastern edge of Livermore. It also operates a 7,000 acres (28 km2) remote experimental test site, called Site 300, situated about 15 miles (24 km) southeast of the main lab site. LLNL has an annual budget of about $1.5 billion and a staff of roughly 5,800 employees.

LLNL was established in 1952 as the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Livermore, an offshoot of the existing UC Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley. It was intended to spur innovation and provide competition to the nuclear weapon design laboratory at Los Alamos in New Mexico, home of the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic weapons. Edward Teller and Ernest Lawrence,[2] director of the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley, are regarded as the co-founders of the Livermore facility.

The new laboratory was sited at a former naval air station of World War II. It was already home to several UC Radiation Laboratory projects that were too large for its location in the Berkeley Hills above the UC campus, including one of the first experiments in the magnetic approach to confined thermonuclear reactions (i.e. fusion). About half an hour southeast of Berkeley, the Livermore site provided much greater security for classified projects than an urban university campus.

Lawrence tapped 32-year-old Herbert York, a former graduate student of his, to run Livermore. Under York, the Lab had four main programs: Project Sherwood (the magnetic-fusion program), Project Whitney (the weapons-design program), diagnostic weapon experiments (both for the Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories), and a basic physics program. York and the new lab embraced the Lawrence “big science” approach, tackling challenging projects with physicists, chemists, engineers, and computational scientists working together in multidisciplinary teams. Lawrence died in August 1958 and shortly after, the university’s board of regents named both laboratories for him, as the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.

Historically, the Berkeley and Livermore laboratories have had very close relationships on research projects, business operations, and staff. The Livermore Lab was established initially as a branch of the Berkeley laboratory. The Livermore lab was not officially severed administratively from the Berkeley lab until 1971. To this day, in official planning documents and records, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is designated as Site 100, Lawrence Livermore National Lab as Site 200, and LLNL’s remote test location as Site 300.[3]

The laboratory was renamed Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (LLL) in 1971. On October 1, 2007 LLNS assumed management of LLNL from the University of California, which had exclusively managed and operated the Laboratory since its inception 55 years before. The laboratory was honored in 2012 by having the synthetic chemical element livermorium named after it. The LLNS takeover of the laboratory has been controversial. In May 2013, an Alameda County jury awarded over $2.7 million to five former laboratory employees who were among 430 employees LLNS laid off during 2008.[4] The jury found that LLNS breached a contractual obligation to terminate the employees only for “reasonable cause.”[5] The five plaintiffs also have pending age discrimination claims against LLNS, which will be heard by a different jury in a separate trial.[6] There are 125 co-plaintiffs awaiting trial on similar claims against LLNS.[7] The May 2008 layoff was the first layoff at the laboratory in nearly 40 years.[6]

On March 14, 2011, the City of Livermore officially expanded the city’s boundaries to annex LLNL and move it within the city limits. The unanimous vote by the Livermore city council expanded Livermore’s southeastern boundaries to cover 15 land parcels covering 1,057 acres (4.28 km2) that comprise the LLNL site. The site was formerly an unincorporated area of Alameda County. The LLNL campus continues to be owned by the federal government.


DOE Seal

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From Argonne National Laboratory: “DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D”

Argonne Lab
News from From Argonne National Laboratory

December 14, 2018

Upgrade to Advanced Photon Source will open new frontiers in science and help solve pressing problems across industries.

APS employees work to adjust a magnet that will be used in the APS Upgrade. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a major storage-ring X-ray source at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne announced on December 14, 2018.

The resulting facility will allow researchers to view matter at the atomic scale, in three dimensions, opening new frontiers in discovery science, from advances in pharmaceuticals to new materials for better rechargeable batteries.

The APS, a DOE Office of Science User Facility, produces extremely bright, extremely focused X-rays that can peer through dense materials and illuminate matter at the molecular level. By way of comparison, the X-rays produced at today’s APS are up to one billion times brighter than the X-rays produced in a typical dentist’s office.

The APS Upgrade project (APS-U) will increase the brightness of these super-bright X-rays another 100 to 1,000 times, depending on the technique used, which will allow scientists to map any atom’s position, identity and dynamics.

“The APS-U will lead to game-changing research across scientific disciplines,” said Robert Hettel, Director of the APS Upgrade project. ​“The scientific advances from the APS have already made life better for countless Americans and have benefited businesses with new techniques and products. The APS-U will build on this foundation and drive even greater advances.”

The goal of the $815 million project is to replace the APS accelerator and develop or update X-ray beamlines and other equipment to create a much more powerful X-ray facility. The APS-U will have a new design, a ​“multi-bend achromat” lattice, with many more bending magnets and magnet-focusing cells than the present machine, resulting in much brighter X-ray production.

“The APS is already one of the crown jewels at Argonne, and the APS Upgrade ensures that this resource will keep its important place in the national laboratory system,” said Paul Kearns, Argonne Laboratory Director. ​“The APS-U is a tremendous example of how cross-disciplinary teams, from Argonne and across the scientific community, come together to solve problems and drive future opportunities.”

X-rays at the APS are produced by electrons that are accelerated to very high energies, moving at nearly the speed of light as they pass though magnet arrays around a 1.1-kilometer circular storage ring. X-rays are extracted from the storage ring into beamlines, which are equipped with experimental endstations. There, researchers use varying instrumentation to investigate the structure and chemistry of matter in a wide variety of systems across a broad spectrum of time and energy scales.

Every year, more than 5,500 researchers from across the world conduct experiments at the APS. Studies at the APS have led to two Nobel Prizes, numerous pharmaceutical drugs (including the first drug to treat HIV), improved processes for oil extraction from shale and new insights into additive manufacturing. Scientists at the APS have also studied the composition of an ancient Egyptian mummy and the arms of SUE, the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen at The Field Museum of Chicago.

The Advanced Photon Source is one of the most powerful X-ray facilities in the world, and the APS-U will ensure that the U.S. keeps this leadership position. New or upgraded facilities similar to the APS are being planned or are under construction in France, Brazil, China, Japan and other countries.

The APS was commissioned in 1996, at Argonne’s campus, and the APS-U builds on the $1.5 billion of infrastructure that is already in place.

“We’re grateful to the Department of Energy for moving this important project forward,” said Stephen Streiffer, Director of the APS and Associate Laboratory Director for Photon Sciences at Argonne. ​“This ambitious effort will ensure that the U.S. remains at the forefront of hard X-ray sciences for decades to come.”

The approval from DOE is formally called Critical Decision 2, or CD-2, and indicates that the project has received baseline approval for its design and implementation. Another critical decision, CD-3, is needed in the future in order for the project to receive full spending authority for the baseline funding approved by CD-2.

Depending on the Congressional appropriation process, removal of the old storage ring and installation of the new one could begin in 2022. This installation ​“dark time” and subsequent ring commissioning period will last for about one year, after which the APS-U X-ray beamlines will be brought online for researchers.

See the full article here .


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Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more visit

The Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory is one of five national synchrotron radiation light sources supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to carry out applied and basic research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels, provide the foundations for new energy technologies, and support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. To learn more about the Office of Science X-ray user facilities, visit

Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science

Argonne Lab Campus

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From The Conversation: “Scientist at work: To take atomic-scale pictures of tiny crystals, use a huge, kilometer-long synchrotron”

From The Conversation

ANL Advanced Photon Source

December 3, 2018
Kerry Rippy

It’s 4 a.m., and I’ve been up for about 20 hours straight. A loud alarm is blaring, accompanied by red strobe lights flashing. A stern voice announces, “Searching station B. Exit immediately.” It feels like an emergency, but it’s not. In fact, the alarm has already gone off 60 or 70 times today. It is a warning, letting everyone in the vicinity know I’m about to blast a high-powered X-ray beam into a small room full of electronic equipment and plumes of vaporizing liquid nitrogen.

In the center of this room, which is called station B, I have placed a crystal no thicker than a human hair on the tip of a tiny glass fiber. I have prepared dozens of these crystals, and am attempting to analyze all of them.

These crystals are made of organic semiconducting materials, which are used to make computer chips, LED lights, smartphone screens and solar panels. I want to find out precisely where each atom inside the crystals is located, how densely packed they are and how they interact with each other. This information will help me predict how well electricity will flow through them.

To see these atoms and determine their structure, I need the help of a synchrotron, which is a massive scientific instrument containing a kilometer-long loop of electrons zooming around at near the speed of light. I also need a microscope, a gyroscope, liquid nitrogen, a bit of luck, a gifted colleague and a tricycle.

Getting the crystal in place

The first step of this experiment involves placing the super-tiny crystals on the tip of the glass fiber. I use a needle to scrape a pile of them together onto a glass slide and put them under a microscope. The crystals are beautiful – colorful and faceted like little gemstones. I often find myself transfixed, staring with sleep-deprived eyes into the microscope, and refocusing my gaze before painstakingly coaxing one onto the tip of a glass fiber.

Once I’ve gotten the crystal attached to the fiber, I begin the often frustrating task of centering the crystal on the tip of a gyroscope inside station B. This device will spin the crystal around, slowly and continuously, allowing me to get X-ray images of it from all sides.

On the left is the gyroscope, designed to rotate the crystal through a series of different angles as the X-ray beam hits it. Behind it is the detector panel which records the diffraction spots. On the right is a zoomed in picture of a single crystal, mounted on a glass fiber attached to the tip of the gyroscope. Kerry Rippy, CC BY-ND

As it spins, liquid nitrogen vapor is used to cool it down: Even at room temperature, atoms vibrate back and forth, making it hard to get clear images of them. Cooling the crystal to minus 196 degrees Celsius, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, makes the atoms stop moving so much.

X-ray photography

Once I have the crystal centered and cooled, I close off station B, and from a computer control hub outside of it, blast the sample with X-rays. The resulting image, called a diffraction pattern, is displayed as bright spots on an orange background.

This is a diffraction pattern that results when you shoot an X-ray beam at a single crystal. Kerry Rippy, CC BY-ND

What I am doing is not very different from taking photographs with a camera and a flash. I’m about to send light rays at an object and record how the light bounces off it. But I can’t use visible light to photograph atoms – they’re too small, and the wavelengths of light in the visible part of the spectrum are too big. X-rays have shorter wavelengths, so they will diffract, or bounce off atoms.

However, unlike with a camera, diffracted X-rays can’t be focused with a simple lens. Instead of a photograph-like image, the data I collect are an unfocused pattern of where the X-rays went after they bounced off the atoms in my crystal. A full set of data about one crystal is made up of these images taken from every angle all around the crystal as the gyroscope spins it.

Advanced math

My colleague, Nicholas DeWeerd, sits nearby, analyzing data sets I’ve already collected. He has managed to ignore the blaring alarms and flashing lights for hours, staring at diffraction images on his screen to, in effect, turn the X-ray images from all sides of the crystal into a picture of the atoms inside the crystal itself.

In years past, this process might have taken years of careful calculations done by hand, but now he uses computer modeling to put all the pieces together. He is our research group’s unofficial expert at this part of the puzzle, and he loves it. “It’s like Christmas!” I hear him mutter, as he flips through twinkling images of diffraction patterns.

Solving a set of diffraction patterns produces an atomic-level picture of a crystal, showing individual molecules (left) and how they pack together to form a crystalline structure. Kerry Rippy, CC BY-ND

I smile at the enthusiasm he’s managed to maintain so late into the night, as I fire up the synchotron to get my pictures of the crystal perched in station B. I hold my breath as diffraction patterns from the first few angles pop up on the screen. Not all crystals diffract, even if I’ve set everything up perfectly. Often that’s because each crystal is made up of lots of even smaller crystals stuck together, or crystals containing too many impurities to form a repeating crystalline pattern that we can mathematically solve.

If this one doesn’t deliver clear images, I’ll have to start over and set up another. Luckily, in this case, the first few images that pop up show bright, clear diffraction spots. I smile and sit back to collect the rest of the data set. Now as the gyroscope whirls and the X-ray beam blasts the sample, I have a few minutes to relax.

I would drink some coffee to stay alert, but my hands are already shaking from caffeine overload. Instead, I call over to Nick: “I’m gonna take a lap.” I walk over to a group of tricycles sitting nearby. Normally used just to get around the large building containing the synchrotron, I find them equally helpful for a desperate attempt to wake up with some exercise.

As I ride, I think about the crystal mounted on the gyroscope. I’ve spent months synthesizing it, and soon I’ll have a picture of it. With the picture, I’ll gain understanding of whether the modifications that I have made to it, which make it slightly different than other materials I have made in the past, have improved it at all. If I see evidence of better packing or increased intermolecular interactions, that could mean the molecule is a good candidate for testing in electronic devices.

Exhausted, but happy because I’m collecting useful data, I slowly pedal around the loop, noting that the synchrotron is in high demand. When the beamline is running, it is used 24/7, which is why I’m working through the night. I was lucky to get a time slot at all. At other stations, other researchers like me are working late into the night.

See the full article here .


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The Conversation US launched as a pilot project in October 2014. It is an independent source of news and views from the academic and research community, delivered direct to the public.
Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.
Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to promote better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversation.

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From Brookhaven Lab: “New Magnetic Materials Overcome Key Barrier to Spintronic Devices”

From Brookhaven National Lab

August 1, 2018
Justin Eure

Custom-engineered structure enables unprecedented control and efficiency in otherwise impervious antiferromagnetic materials.

Brookhaven scientists Derek Meyers (left) and Mark Dean (right) using their x-ray diffractometer to characterize the atomic structure of the samples for the experiment.

Consider the classic, permanent magnet: it both clings to the refrigerator and drives data storage in most devices. But another kind of impervious magnetism hides deep within many materials—a phenomenon called antiferromagnetism (AFM)—and is nearly imperceptible beyond the atomic scale.

Now, a team of scientists just developed an unprecedented material that cracks open this hermetic magnetism, confirming a decades-old theory and creating new engineering possibilities. The team, led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, designed AFM materials with spin—the quantum mechanism behind all magnetism—that can be easily controlled with minimal energy.

“Material synthesis finally caught up to theory, and we found a way around the most prohibitive quantum quirks of exploiting antiferromagnetism,” said Brookhaven Lab physicist and study corresponding author Mark Dean. “This work dives deeper into the underpinnings of magnetism and creates new possibilities for spin-based technologies.”

The results, published this summer in Nature Physics, could dramatically enhance the emerging field of spintronics, where information is coded into the directional spin of electrons.

“The real surprise was just how well this synthetic material functioned right out of the gate,” said coauthor and Brookhaven Lab scientist Derek Meyers. “Not only can we manipulate this remarkable spin, but we can do it with extreme efficiency.”

Twisting electron spins

The spin orientation of electrons within atoms and can be visualized as simple arrows pointing in well-defined directions.

“In ferromagnets, these spins are all aligned,” said University of Tennessee professor and corresponding author Jian Liu. “They all point up or down, creating an external magnetic effect—like refrigerator magnets—that can be flipped when an external field is applied.”

This flipping process powers the writing of digital information on most data storage devices, among other things.

“Antiferromagnets are much stranger,” Meyers said. “Every arrow points in the opposite direction of its nearest neighbor, alternating up-down-up-down across the material. And it stays synchronized, such that one flip reverses all the others. That means, essentially, they all cancel each other out.”

This perfect balance makes AFM spin notoriously impervious to manipulation, requiring too much energy to make the process useful. So the scientists introduced a little imperfection.

“If we tilt, or cant, the spins, we create asymmetry and make the material more susceptible to influence,” Dean said. “External magnets can couple with the spin. But prior to this work, there was a built-in compromise to this approach.”

While the canted spin can “feel” magnetic fields, the directional freedom is lost—the spins can no longer change direction.

Gears in a quantum clock

Imagine adjacent electrons as gears in a clock: the teeth all fit together to move in tandem and preserve precise relationships. Tilting the spin realigns those gears, almost as if they abruptly began to rotate in opposite directions and locked in place. How, then, to set those gears back in motion?

“We followed a long-standing theory to create an unprecedented material that both cants the spin and keeps it free to rotate, which we would call preserving isotropy,” said first author Lin Hao of the University of Tennessee. “To do this, we designed a structure that cancels out those competing anisotropies, or directional asymmetries.”

In a way, they built another gear into their antiferromagnetic clock. The extra gear slots in between the jammed electron spins, giving them a balance and space that would never naturally occur. The “gear” is actually a hidden symmetry called SU(2), a mathematical term describing the isotropic freedom.

Layered crystalline lattice

“The extreme sophistication of two-dimensional materials synthesis made this possible,” Liu said. “We grew a crystalline lattice with fully customized geometries to prevent the spins from locking—this is engineering with almost quantum precision.”

The team used pulsed laser deposition to create a lattice composed of strontium, iridium, titanium, and oxygen. In this way, atomically thin layers could be stacked in different configurations to induce artificial and much desired properties.

In this work, the team exploited special “gearing” properties of the iridium oxide layers in which the spins can be tilted, but remain free to respond to an applied magnetic field.

The collaboration turned to the Advanced Photon Source (APS)—a DOE Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory—to confirm the crystal structure of the material. Using advanced resonant x-ray diffraction, the scientists revealed details of both the lattice and the electron configuration.


“Because of the precision possible at the APS, we were able to see the fruits of the difficult synthesis process,” Meyers said. “We saw the precise layered structure we wanted, but the real test was in the magnetic function.”

Again turning to APS, the team used x-ray scattering to measure the antiferromagnetic order, the alignment of the spins within the material.

“We were pleased to see our canted spins retain the freedom of motion we expected,” Dean said. “It’s rare and thrilling to see things come together so seamlessly. And crucially, we proved that manipulating that AFM spin required very little energy—a must for spintronic applications.”

Toward superior storage

Traditional magnetic devices have an intrinsic limit: packed too closely together, ferromagnetic materials affect each other. This translates into a functional cap on data density beyond which the spins become corrupted. However, AFM materials—or discrete AFM crystals in this instance—exert no external influence.

“We can, in theory, pack much more information into devices by manipulating antiferromagnetic spin,” Dean said. “That’s part of the promise of spintronics.”

The combination of low energy input—think efficient writing of data—and density make the new material an ideal candidate for investment.

“The obstacle right now has to do with scale,” Liu said. “This is a first-of-its-kind material, so no industrial-scale process exists. But this is how it starts, and the demand for this kind of functionality might rapidly move this innovation into applications.”

Additional collaborating institutions include Charles University in Prague.

See the full article here .


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BNL/RHIC Star Detector


One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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From University of Chicago: “Scientists confirm water trapped inside diamonds deep below Earth’s surface”

U Chicago bloc

University of Chicago

March 30, 2018
Karen Mellen

Researchers working at Argonne National Laboratory have identified a form of water trapped within diamonds that crystallized deep in the Earth’s mantle. (Pictured: Rough diamond in kimberlite.) Copyright Getty Images.

Water occurs naturally as far as at least 250 miles below the Earth’s surface, according to a study published in Science last week by researchers from the University of Chicago and others. The discovery, which relies on extremely bright X-ray beams from the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, could change our understanding of how water circulates deep in the Earth’s mantle and how heat escapes from the lower regions of our planet.


The researchers identified a form of water known as Ice-VII, which was trapped within diamonds that crystallized deep in the Earth’s mantle. This is the first time Ice-VII has been discovered in a natural sample, making the compound a new mineral accepted by the International Mineralogical Association.

The study is the latest in a long line of research projects at the Advanced Photon Source, a massive X-ray facility used by thousands of researchers every year, which have shed light on the composition and makeup of the deep Earth. Humans cannot explore these regions directly, so the Advanced Photon Source lets them use high-powered X-ray beams to analyze inclusions in diamonds formed in the deep Earth.

UChicago researchers involved in the work at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source included (from left): Vitali Prakapenka, Tony Lanzirotti, Matt Newville, Eran Greenberg and Dongzhou Zhang. (Photo by Rick Fenner / Argonne National Laboratory).

“We are interested in those inclusions because they tell us about the chemical composition and conditions in the deep Earth when the diamond was formed,” said Antonio Lanzirotti, a UChicago research associate professor and co-author on the study.

In this case, researchers analyzed rough, uncut diamonds mined from regions in China and Africa. Using an optical microscope, mineralogists first identified inclusions, or impurities, which must have formed when the diamond crystallized. But to positively identify the composition of these inclusions, mineralogists needed a stronger instrument: the University of Chicago’s GeoSoilEnviroCARS’s beam lines at the Advanced Photon Source.

Thanks to the very high brightness of the X-rays, which are a billion times more intense than typical X-ray machines, scientists can determine the molecular or atomic makeup of specimens that are only micrometers across. When the beam of X-rays hits the molecules of the specimen, they scatter into unique patterns that reveal their molecular makeup.

What the team identified was surprising: water, in the form of ice.

The composition of the water is the same as the water that we drink and use every day, but in a cubic crystalline form—the result of the extremely high pressure of the diamond.

This form of water, Ice-VII, was created in the lab decades ago, but this study was the first to confirm that it also forms naturally. Because of the pressure required for diamonds to form, the scientists know that these specimens formed between 410 and 660 kilometers (250 to 410 miles) below the Earth’s surface.

The researchers said the significance of the study is profound because it shows that flowing water is present much deeper below the Earth’s surface than originally thought. Going forward, the results raise a number of important questions about how water is recycled in the Earth and how heat is circulated. Oliver Tschauner, the lead author on the study and a mineralogist at University of Nevada in Las Vegas, said the discovery can help scientists create new, more accurate models of what’s going on inside the Earth, specifically how and where heat is generated under the Earth’s crust. This may help scientists better understand one of the driving mechanisms for plate tectonics.

“[T]hanks to the amazing technical capabilities of the Advanced Photon Source, this team of researchers was able to pinpoint and study the exact area on the diamonds that trapped the water”
Stephen Streiffer, associate laboratory director for photon sciences

“This wasn’t easy to find,” said Vitali Prakapenka, a UChicago research professor and a co-author of the study. “People have been searching for this kind of inclusion for a long time.”

For now, the team is wondering whether the mineral Ice-VII will be renamed, now that it is officially a mineral. This is not the first mineral to be identified thanks to research done at the Advanced Photon Source GSECARS beamlines: Bridgmanite, the Earth’s most abundant mineral and a high-density form of magnesium iron silicate, was researched extensively there before it was named. Tschauner was a lead author on that study, too.

“In this study, thanks to the amazing technical capabilities of the Advanced Photon Source, this team of researchers was able to pinpoint and study the exact area on the diamonds that trapped the water,” said Stephen Streiffer, Argonne associate laboratory director for photon sciences and director of the Advanced Photon Source. “That area was just a few microns wide. To put that in context, a human hair is about 75 microns wide.

“This research, enabled by partners from the University of Chicago and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, among other institutions, is just the latest example of how the APS is a vital tool for researchers across scientific disciplines,” he said.

Other GSECARS co-authors are Eran Greenberg, Dongzhou Zhang and Matt Newville.

In addition to the University of Chicago and UNLV, other institutions cited in the study include the California Institute of Technology, China University of Geosciences, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. Data also was collected at Carnegie Institute of Washington’s High Pressure Collaborative Access Team at the Advanced Photon Source and the Advanced Light Source at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.


LBNL Advanced Light Source storage ring

See the full article here .

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An intellectual destination

One of the world’s premier academic and research institutions, the University of Chicago has driven new ways of thinking since our 1890 founding. Today, UChicago is an intellectual destination that draws inspired scholars to our Hyde Park and international campuses, keeping UChicago at the nexus of ideas that challenge and change the world.

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From BNL- “National Synchrotron Light Source II User Profile: Stephan Hruszkewycz”

Brookhaven Lab

June 19, 2017
Laura Mgrdichian

Stephan Hruszkewycz. No image credit.

Stephan Hruskewycz is an assistant physicist in the Materials Science Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

While he regularly conducts research at Argonne’s own synchrotron user facility, the Advanced Photon Source (APS), his work on the nanoscale structure and behavior of materials has led him to book beamtime at the DOE’s newest synchrotron, the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II). Both NSLS-II and APS are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.





What are you studying at NSLS-II?

The focus of our NSLS-II experiments has been to image defects and imperfections in the crystal lattice of nanoscale materials using a new imaging technique known as Bragg Projection Ptychography. Specifically, we have been studying stacking faults in nanowires made of III-V semiconductors, a class of semiconductor that results from the combination of elements from column III on the periodic table (mainly aluminum, gallium, and indium) and column V (nitrogen, phosphorous, arsenic, and antimony). These materials have properties that make them excellent for certain applications; for example, solar cells made of III-V cells are very efficient.

During our next run, we will be imaging strain fields in complex oxide thin-film nanostructures. These classes of materials have potential uses for energy conversion in solar and fuel cell applications, and their nanoscale structure plays a large role in performance. By studying these structures in detail, we may be able to figure out how to make these materials perform better.

Why is NSLS-II is particularly suited to your work?

The Hard X-ray Nanoprobe (HXN) beamline at NSLS-II delivers a coherent hard x-ray beam focused to a few tens of nanometers and the ability to rotate the sample and detector to enable Bragg diffraction with a nanofocused beam. We are capitalizing on the coherence and stability of the focused beam to convert a series of Bragg diffraction patterns measured from different overlapping positions of the sample into an image of the lattice structure inside a specific region of the crystal. The result provides an image with a resolution down to just a few nanometers, as well as picometer-level sensitivity to lattice distortions.

Tell us about your background and how you arrived at this field of research.

I have been interested for some time in developing new methods to exploit coherent hard x-rays to reveal of the structure and dynamics of materials. Recently, I have focused on applying these methods to materials with inhomogeneous internal lattice structures that dictate their overall properties, such as nanostructured oxide thin films and semiconductors. To me, this is an exciting area of research, one where cutting-edge materials science questions can be answered with new x-ray imaging methods at state-of-the-art synchrotron sources that deliver highly coherent beams.

Who else is involved in this work?

So far, I have been joined at NSLS-II by Megan Hill, a graduate student in Northwestern University’s Materials Science and Engineering Department; Martin Holt, a staff scientist in Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials; and Brian Stephenson, a senior physicist in Argonne’s Materials Science Division.

See the full article here .

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Stem Education Coalition
BNL Campus

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. The Laboratory’s almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff are joined each year by more than 5,000 visiting researchers from around the world. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

#anl-aps, #applied-research-technology, #basic-research, #bnl-nsls-ii, #bragg-projection-ptychography, #crystal-lattice-of-nanoscale-materials, #hard-x-ray-nanoprobe-hxn-beamline-at-nsls-ii, #nanotechnology, #stephan-hruszkewycz, #x-ray-technology