Spotlight on Science

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Molecular form of copper in root cells of a non-hyperaccumulating plant grown in an urban setting

Nano X-ray fluorescence images of copper in the cortex (left) and stele (right) of a secondary root in field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense).
18-08-2014

Metal acquisition or detoxification in the roots of vascular plants occurs through biochemical mechanisms that involve specialised metal-complexing molecules. Current knowledge is largely based on hyperaccumulating species having high metal concentrations and may not...

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Fast diffraction imaging for nano- and micro- electronics and functional materials

2D map of the tilt magnitude (up to 0.0024°) of the Si {001} atomic planes with respect to the surface for a FIB etched image on a 40 nm Si0.8Ge0.2 layer grown on Si.
01-08-2014

An optimised quick mapping technique (K-Map) has been put into service at ID01, the ESRF’s beamline for diffraction imaging, during the current refurbishment of this beamline. This enhancement of the beamline makes it capable of rapidly accessing structural properties...

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Oxygen doping level tuning in the Bi-2212 superconductor by X-ray nano-beam irradiation

SEM micrograph of a typical chip used for experiments on the Bi-2212 microcrystals.
26-06-2014

Hard X-rays could be used as a novel direct-writing, photoresist-free lithographic process with potential nanometric resolution and 3D capability, thus overcoming the current limitations in the fabrication of miniaturised devices. A team of researchers from Turin used...

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Spontaneous glass-glass transition in soft matter

Static structure factor and relative arrangement of clay platelets for the two observed glasses.
24-06-2014

Soft matter systems offer the possibility to study new phase and/or state transitions as they are characterised by unconventional phase diagrams encompassing fluid, gel and glassy states. Researchers from the Italian CNR, in collaboration with staff at the ESRF, have...

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Structure of membrane lipid modifying protein provides starting point for development of drugs to fight RNA viruses and malaria

Crystal structure of the ternary complex between PI4KIIIβ, Rab11a and FIP3-RBD (Rab-binding domain).
18-06-2014

The crystal structure of the tertiary complex of a phosphatidylinositol 4-kinase with a small guanosine triphosphatase and its effector provides insight into processes that require the remodelling and expansion of phosphatidylinositol 4-phosphate containing membranes...

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Revealing the fast atomic motion of network glasses with coherent X-rays

3D representation of the weak speckle pattern arising from coherent X-ray illumination of network glasses at the atomic scale.  The temporal evolution of the speckle intensity provides information on the atomic motion in the material (curve).
05-06-2014

The remarkable properties of glasses are due to their dynamical arrested state in which relaxations occur on time scales too large to be observed, or so it was believed. Now researchers have discovered the existence of unexpected fast atomic rearrangements occurring...

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High-Tc superconductors: key similarities and differences between electron- and hole-doped cuprates unveiled by X-rays

The new ID32 beamline is currently under construction. Pictured here is the RIXS end station's spectrometer support which glides along a 25 metre path around the sample.
22-05-2014

The evolution of spin and charge excitations upon carrier doping is crucially important for understanding high-temperature superconductivity in copper oxides. High resolution resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS) measurements at the Cu L3-edge revealed that spin...

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Europium nitride: a novel diluted magnetic semiconductor

The XMCD end station at beamline ID12 used in this study of europium nitride features a 17 Tesla magnet.
15-05-2014

A research team from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, working with scientists from the ESRF and an expert in magnetism from CNRS Grenoble, have recently discovered an entirely new diluted magnetic semiconductor. The discovery was made in a material...

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Phase separation in single InGaN nanowires revealed by a hard X-ray synchrotron nanoprobe

Fluorescence maps indicating indium and gallium distribution within tiny 500 nm-wide nanowires.
25-04-2014

The composition and the short- and long-range structural order of single InxGa1−xN nanowires were investigated using a hard X-ray synchrotron nanoprobe. Various spectroscopic techniques including nano-XRF, polarisation dependent nano-XANES, and nano-XRD were combined...

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Muscle as a shock absorber

Strong binding between myosin (red and purple) and actin (cyan) occurs when muscle acts as a shock absorber.
31-03-2014

Muscle is the organ that generates force and movement in vertebrates and invertebrates. It also works as a sophisticated shock absorber that helps to absorb the energy of an impact, such as when landing from a jump or running. These so-called “eccentric contractions”,...

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Non-equilibrium collective dynamics in photo-excited lipid membranes

Membrane undulations were studied on a timescale from picoseconds to microseconds in response to excitation by a picosecond laser pulse.
04-03-2014

Pump-probe experiments at beamline ID09 were used by researchers from the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen to study energy dissipation in lipid bilayers.

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A promiscuous intermediate underlies the evolution of single copy transcription factors

Structure of the moss LEAFY dimer bound to a type II DNA sequence.
04-03-2014

As organisms evolve and branch out into new species, the complexity of the underlying gene regulation network expands. A multidisciplinary team used cutting edge techniques, including X-ray crystallography at beamline ID23-EH2 to elucidate a mechanism for this expansion.

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Probing wave functions in complex oxides with X-rays

The jeff = ½ ground state wave function of an Ir4+ ion in an undistorted IrO6 octahedron (blue) and the 2px, 2py and 2pz orbitals of ligand oxygens (red).
11-02-2014

The ground and excited state wave functions of iridium oxides can be interrogated using resonant X-ray scattering techniques. For the first time, the dependence of the scattering cross-sections on the direction of the local magnetic moment has been examined. This led...

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Room-temperature ferromagnetism of nickel at multimegabar pressure

Nuclear forward scattering for nickel at multi-megabar pressure.
28-01-2014

The extension of nuclear resonance scattering techniques to high energies has made it possible to follow the magnetic properties of nickel metal at pressures up to 260 GPa. This is the highest pressure at which magnetism has been observed in any material. Nickel plays...

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Assembling molecular wedges: the route towards new nano-structured functional materials

Complex materials from self-assembled molecular wedges.
20-12-2013

Self-assembly of designer monomers in the liquid phase can be used as the first step in the creation of supramolecular systems. Polymerisation of these assemblies creates a permanent structure, leading to novel functional materials. Scientists working at beamline BM26B...

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Iron phase distribution analysis reveals the firing protocol of ancient ceramics

Full-field XANES imaging was used to identify the mineral species present and their distribution within ancient ceramics.
17-12-2013

Although fragments of ancient ceramics remain, details of the technologies used in their production have been almost entirely lost. By studying two black gloss sherds from the Roman period with full-field XANES microscopy, we have shown that these lost technologies...

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Self-organised dynamics of nanodot patterns on a surface

Atomic force microscopy image of a nanodot pattern created on GaSb(001) by normal incidence sputtering with Ar+ ions.
03-12-2013

The evolution of nanodot patterns on a semiconductor surface was investigated during their formation through ion beam sputtering. These nanoscale patterns are known to evolve and reach a steady state in which the average morphology no longer changes. Scientists working...

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Iron electronic state and the electrical conductivity of the Earth’s lower mantle

Synchrotron Mössbauer source spectra provided electron configurations for (Mg,Fe)(Si,Al)O3 perovskite under extreme conditions.
19-11-2013

Electrical conductivity profiles of the Earth’s mantle provide an important complement to seismic profiles for deducing the nature of the Earth’s interior through comparison with electrical conductivity measurements carried out in the laboratory at extreme pressures...

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Perfect crystals evolving from highly-mismatched epitaxial structures

Germanium crystals grown epitaxially on deeply patterned silicon substrates.
05-11-2013

Highly-perfect epitaxial semiconductor layer stacks are quintessential for many low-dimensional quantum structures such as ultrafast transistors, solid state lasers and detectors. When semiconductor materials significantly differ in lattice parameters and thermal properties,...

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Organic photovoltaic device local structure revealed by combined X-ray diffraction and fluorescence

In situ spatially-resolved X-ray study of an integrated organic photovoltaic device at beamline ID11
25-09-2013

The detailed structure of post-fabricated multilayered organic electronic devices has been revealed by an in situ spatially-resolved study, using vertical scanning X-ray diffraction combined with fluorescence spectroscopy. The mechanisms leading to the structural properties...

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Reactivity of xenon with ice under planetary conditions

Xenon and water react under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure.
23-09-2013

The field of noble gas chemistry has witnessed amazing advances in the last decade. Experiments essentially involved UV photolysis, whereas high pressure has rarely been used despite the extreme conditions that exist naturally inside planets. Here, the reactivity of...

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Cellular water transport: atomic level insight provided by the first sub-angstrom resolution crystal structure of a membrane protein

A region within the aquaporin structure acts as a selectivity filter, aiding the passage of water (red spheres) while preventing the transport of other molecules and ions.
17-09-2013

Membrane proteins involved in homeostasis must be extremely selective for the molecule they transport. Aquaporins facilitate water transport in living cells while excluding ions and other molecules. The first sub-angstrom resolution crystal structure analysis of a membrane...

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Does nuclear resonant scattering violate reciprocity?

Reciprocity in scattering experiments: the observed signal should not change when reversing the position of source and detector.
03-09-2013

Newton's third law has stated the equality of action and reaction. In the second half of the nineteenth century, famous scientists, like H. von Helmholtz and B. Rayleigh, formulated an analogy for sound waves by relating the term 'action' to a source of sound and 'reaction'...

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Persistent magnetic excitations in superconducting and non-superconducting La2-xSrxCuO4

Magnetic excitations ripple through a high-temperature superconductor. X-ray scattering experiments show that these excitations persist throughout the doping phase diagram of La2-xSrxCuO4 - even in the metallic state, providing important clues for which magnetic excitations might be most important for superconductivity.
20-08-2013

The phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity (HTS) in the copper-oxygen-based or cuprate materials has been puzzling researchers for over a quarter of a century. A key question relates to the cause of the disappearance of superconductivity in the highly doped...

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Magnetoelectronics, developing next generation device technology

This image presents a model of the simple perovskite structure. The red, white, purple, balls represent the oxygen, titanium, and europium atoms. The central Ti atom is displaced from its central position. This effect determines the resulting magnetic spin ordering of the Eu indicated by arrows illustrating the antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic order. Courtesy of Renee Carlson, Argonne National Laboratory.
06-08-2013

More efficient data storage may come from the study of magneto-electric materials. An international team of researchers at the beamline BM28 (XMaS CRG) is investigating the highly prized properties of magneto-electric materials that could underpin the next generation...

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High pressure synthesis of high oxidation state metal nitrides using a pre-structured nanocrystalline chemical precursor

Novel pathways to new materials using a pre-structured nanocrystalline precursor under extreme synthesis conditions.
16-07-2013

Transition metal nitrides containing metal ions in high oxidation states are a promising arena for the discovery of new semiconducting materials. Most metal nitride compounds prepared at high temperature and high pressure from the elements show metallic bonding. However,...

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Unexpected tolerance of the spinal cord to X-ray microbeams

Microbeams are used to deliver a high radiation dose to a target while mimimising damage to surrounding normal tissues.
02-07-2013

Microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) could one day be used to treat tumours in or around the spinal cord. Studies at the ESRF’s biomedical beamline demonstrate that this technique can be used to deliver a higher radiation dose than a conventional X-ray beam before damage...

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Room temperature magnetic semiconductor for spintronics

Using polarised X-rays to study spintronic materials.
18-06-2013

Materials for spintronic applications need to have both magnetic and semiconducting properties. But an intrinsic semiconductor that is magnetic at room temperature has yet to be found. The europium chalcogenides (EuO, EuS, EuSe, EuTe) are promising wide band-gap semiconducto...

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Direct observation of the self-assembly of surfactant micelles

Watching micelle formation with time-resolved SAXS.
23-05-2013

Surface active agents or surfactants are ubiquitous in consumer products as important ingredients performing as detergents, solubilisers, emulsifiers, etc. Their self-assembly into micelles occurs on very short time scales of typically some milliseconds and therefore...

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Phonon anomalies and the Verwey transition in magnetite

Magnetite crystals (Credit: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0).
15-05-2013

The Verwey transition in magnetite is one of the longest unsolved problems of solid state physics, where the otherwise excellent theories fail to capture the collective nature of the first-order phase transition. A recent inelastic X-ray scattering (IXS) study revealed...

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A new class of signalling molecules revealed by structure solution exploiting the anomalous scattering of sulphur

Cartoon representation of the long wavelength S-SAD structure of FAM3B PANDER.
18-04-2013

FAM3B PANDER is involved in the regulation of glucose homeostasis and β cell function and FAM3C ILEI is implicated in cancer. They had both been predicted to be classical cytokines with three dimensional structures based on a 4-helix bundle. The crystal structure of...

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Particle and liquid motion in semi-solid aluminium alloys

Quantitative optical flow analysis of high-speed micro-radioscopy of semi-solid metal injection processes (colour encodes direction, brightness equals speed).
12-04-2013

Semi-solid casting is a promising process for the production of light-weight metallic components. However, a semi-solid melt exhibits unpredictable flow and filling dynamics when it is injected into thin-walled components. The former were studied by injecting a semi-solid...

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Structural and electronic reconstruction at the interface between LaAlO3 and SrTiO3 band insulators revealed by X-rays

When two-band insulating oxides form a 2D-metal at their interface: X-rays reveal the nature of the electronic and structural reconstruction at the LaAlO3/SrTiO3 interface.
27-03-2013

The interface between two of the most popular band insulating oxides, LaAlO3 and SrTiO3, is conducting under certain conditions due to the formation of a high mobility 2D-electron gas, a discovery made in 2004 by Ohtomo and Hwang [1]. Here, by using a combination of...

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A path to new manganites with perovskite structure

Crystal structure of the perovskite-type Mn2O3.
15-03-2013

Two new phases of Mn2O3, corundum-type and perovskite-type Mn2O3, were obtained by high-pressure high-temperature synthesis. The observation of the perovskite structure in simple Mn2O3 challenges the main conjecture of perovskite science and technology which so far...

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Sub-angstrom resolution protein crystallography reveals how living organisms discriminate in favour of phosphate in arsenate-rich environments

Discrimination is provided by the geometry of a hydrogen bond formed between an oxygen of phosphate or arsenate and a carboxyl group of the protein.
05-03-2013

Arsenate and phosphate are both common on Earth and have very similar chemical properties. However, phosphate is vital to life while arsenate is toxic. Discrimination by proteins between arsenate and phosphate is thus essential to the survival of living organisms, particular...

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New structures of carbonates at high pressures and their relevance for the deep Earth carbon cycle

The dolomite sample after high-pressure and high-temperature experiments up to melting point.
19-02-2013

Calcite and dolomite, two of the most common minerals on the Earth’s surface, undergo phase transitions at high pressure. Their structures have be identified by single-crystal diffraction experiments under extreme conditions. Dolomite-III, in particular, was found to...

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Record paramagnetic response of gold nanoparticles deposited on an archaeal cell wall surface layer

Gold nanoparticle grown on a Sulfolobus acidocaldarius S-layer imaged by high-angle annular dark-field scanning transmission electron microscopy (HAADF-STEM).
31-01-2013

Gold nanoparticles were grown on the surface layer (S-layer) of the outer cell wall of the thermoacidophilic archaeon Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. Cysteine residues in the cell wall provide sulphur atoms that render the Au paramagnetic by increasing the number of holes...

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Blue blood: a challenge for structural biologists

Hemocyanin is a giant decamer. By changing the solvent conditions it dissociates into the monomers formed from seven rigid units connected by six flexible linkers. SAXS curves for hemocyanin and a monomer mixture are shown in blue and red.
23-01-2013

Some of the animals living in the sea have blue blood. The origin of this blue colour is a protein called hemocyanin that contains copper bound to molecular oxygen: an essential interaction allowing these animals to live. Scientists at the ESRF have unravelled the structure...

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The dark side of KillerRed

Light-induced killing of HeLa cells using KillerRed, visualised by fluorescence microscopy, before illumination on the left, after on the right (courtesy of J-P. Kleman, M4D Cell-imaging platform, IBS [5]).
19-12-2012

KillerRed, a red fluorescent protein, generates highly-cytotoxic reactive oxygen species when illuminated with strong light. The molecular mechanism of the laser-induced photo-conversion that results in a photobleached state of the molecule has been elucidated for a...

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XMCD reveals the magnetism of Rh clusters

XMCD signal at the Rh L2 edge.
11-12-2012

The type of magnetism exhibited by a material can be dependent on the size of the particle, with nanoscale clusters behaving differently to the bulk material. Rhodium clusters of around 150 atoms have been investigated using XMCD to examine the magnetic behaviour of...

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Uptake of titanium dioxide nanoparticles by cucumber plants probed by submicrometre X-ray microspectroscopy

Distribution of titanium dioxide nanopartices (red) in the transport vessels of the root of a cucumber plant.
26-11-2012

Nanoparticular titanium dioxide is one of the most commonly used nanomaterials. In this study, the speciation and distribution of titanium in cucumber plants exposed to titanium dioxide nanoparticles were investigated to determine whether the nanoparticles could enter...

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Atomic dynamics and physical ageing in metallic glasses

Sample of metallic glass (Credit: E. Pineda and P. Bruna, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)
13-11-2012

Glasses are often considered as archetypes for systems far from thermodynamical equilibrium. Understanding their physical ageing is essential for technological applications as well as for fundamental research. For the first time, researchers have investigated the ageing...

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X-ray excited optical imaging of nanosized light emitting diodes

Quantum confinement effects probed by XEOL on a single core-multishell nanowire.
24-10-2012

Direct observation of geometrical carrier localisation in single hexagonal core-multishell nanowires was used by researchers at the ESRF to demonstrate that size-dependent phenomena at the nanoscale can be imaged by X-ray excited optical luminescence. This research...

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Adding new dimensions to the self-assembly of nanomagnets

Assemblies of magnetic core-shell nanoparticles of different dimensionality uncovered by microradian X-ray diffraction.
16-10-2012

Dipolar interactions between colloidal particles generate unusual self-organised architectures that could pave the way to novel applications. Magnetic core-shell nanoparticles in suspension were recently studied at the ESRF. Their self-assembly was shown to proceed...

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Bone ultrastructure resolved in 3D by phase nanotomography

Osteocyte lacunae and canaliculi rendered in 3D.
09-10-2012

Bone tissue was imaged at the subcellular level with synchrotron X-ray phase nanotomography. Images at the ultrastructural level have previously only been available with electron imaging techniques, such as scanning or transmission electron microscopy, thus in 2D. In...

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Hydrated minerals from the early solar system probed by Fe-XANES spectroscopy

Full-field X-ray transmission image of a fragment of the Murchison meteorite (CM), at an energy of 7.10 keV.
26-09-2012

Meteors occasionally survive impact with the Earth's atmosphere and fall down to Earth as meteorites. These extra-terrestrial rocks let us sample the composition of distant bodies in the Solar System including asteroids, Mars and the Moon. In this study, X-ray spectroscopy,...

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Looking inside a working chemical reactor with time and space resolved X-ray diffraction

Schematic setup of the method used for time- and space-resolved X-ray data collection at beamline ID15B.
30-08-2012

High-energy X-ray diffraction was used for time and space resolved in operando studies on the zeolite catalyst inside a working catalytic reactor for the methanol-to-olefin process. Scientists were able to correlate growth in size of the unit cell of the zeolite catalyst...

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Ionic spatial distribution at polarised mercury surfaces probed by X-ray reflectivity

The X-ray reflecting mercury surface is visible near the bottom of the transparent cylindrical sample cell containing the electrolyte solution. Here the cell is mounted in the high-energy microdiffraction instrument of beamline ID15A.
22-08-2012

The interface between mercury and an electrolyte solution has been used for more than 50 years as a model system to test the applicability of theories for the electric double layer in order to quantitatively interpret ion-dependent macroscopic surface tension data for...

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An exotic form of ice: superionic ammonia

Neptune’s main constituents are water, ammonia and methane ices. The core may be composed of rocks and ice and the outer layer is mainly helium, hydrogen and methane (inspired by Hubbard et al., Triton and Neptune, Univ. Arizona Press, 1995).
06-08-2012

The ices of water, ammonia and methane, present inside Neptune and Uranus, have very different properties to ice existing on Earth: they are hot and have a higher density than their melt.

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Stellar representation of quantum dynamics

Part of a spherical representation of Majorana stars for a quantum state with spin J=25.
22-06-2012

A novel geometric description of quantum dynamics is given by Majorana’s stellar representation of quantum spin as points on a sphere.

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Brain tumour localisation and destruction facilitated by gadolinium-based nanoparticles in microbeam radiation therapy

MRI scan shows the location of a tumour following intravenous injection of gadolinium nanoparticles.
21-06-2012

Gadolinium oxide nanoparticles improve contrast for tumour visualisation in magnetic resonance imaging and enhance their destruction by X-rays in microbeam radiation therapy. In laboratory tests, treatment by image-guided microbeam radiation therapy using gadolinium-based...

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Charged colloidal platelets self organise into layers

TEM image of gibbsite platelets.
18-06-2012

Entropy-driven self-organisation of anisometric colloids is generally determined by their shape. Rod-like particles follow an isotropic-nematic-smectic phase sequence while plate-like particles develop along the isotropic-nematic-columnar route. A novel smectic B phase...

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X-ray speckle tracking: a new phase-sensitive imaging technique

Speckle-modulated X-ray wavefront.
14-06-2012

A new phase-sensitive technique has been developed at the ESRF to quantitatively map the phase shift induced by a low absorbing sample within a coherent X-ray beam. It permits imaging the interior of a sample with micrometre scale or better resolution and offers many...

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Nanofilm molecular structures at the mica-water interface

X-ray reflectometry using a “bending mica” method yields interfacial structural details of soft nanofilms in aqueous media.
30-05-2012

The interfacial structure of a number of surfactant and polymer/surfactant systems has been unravelled through synchrotron X-ray reflectometry measurements at the solid-liquid interface. Understanding the intricate structural details of soft matter nanofilms is important...

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Anisotropic conductance at interfacial domain walls in multiferroics

c-AFM image of ErMnO3 on a surface with in-plane electric polarisations indicated by arrows.
16-05-2012

The electrical conductance at the interfacial ferroelectric domain walls in hexagonal ErMnO3 is a continuous function of the domain wall orientation. A combination of experiments and theoretical studies reveal this phenomenon and its connection to the unexpected stability...

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Dynamical anisotropy and heterogeneity in a bidimensional gel

The observed dynamics is anisotropic: the relaxation times depend only on the parallel component, the momentum transfer is perpendicular to the water surface. In this q-map the solid lines are isochrones.
25-04-2012

The anisotropic dynamics of a 2D gel formed by a Langmuir monolayer were studied in a recent X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS) experiment. Researchers determined for the first time, through higher order temporal correlation functions, how the gel loses its...

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Phase contrast imaging of lipid membranes in solution

Phase contrast imaging of a lipid membrane.
13-04-2012

A lipid membrane in solution at its native thickness of less than 5 nm has been imaged for the first time using coherent X-rays. Researchers witnessed the formation of a bilayer from two lipid monolayers. Lipid bilayers are important in nature as they are the basis...

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Submicrometre diffraction in dense arrays of three-dimensional germanium crystals

Germanium crystals epitaxially grown on silicon pillars.
10-04-2012

Germanium grown epitaxially on micrometre-sized silicon pillars forms perfect crystals free of defects. The resulting Ge/Si “virtual substrate” is lighter and tougher than a free-standing Ge substrate and clears a path towards high-resolution CMOS X-ray detectors and...

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Cardiovascular regulatory nitric oxide binding to heme proteins investigated using nuclear resonance scattering

Nuclear inelastic scattering captures iron movement in heme proteins.
26-03-2012

Nitric oxide, NO, plays an essential role as a signal molecule for cardiovascular regulation. A transatlantic cooperation between German, American and ESRF scientists has investigated the binding mechanism of NO to the transporter heme protein nitrophorin, which occurs...

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The role of electron-phonon coupling in understanding the phase diagram of uranium

Cross section of the Fermi-surface topology for the alpha-U structure calculated at a) ambient pressure and b) 20 GPa. The different colours correspond to different sheets of the Fermi surface.
06-03-2012

Scientists have investigated the mechanisms that governs the interplay between the charge density wave and superconductivity in uranium using inelastic X-ray scattering (IXS) at the ESRF as well as ab initio calculations.

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How an oxygen-tolerant hydrogenase protects itself from oxygen

cellular localisation of MBH.
09-02-2012

In the future, biocatalysts will become ever more important in processes aimed at providing alternative, and greener, fuel sources. However, the production of enzymatic fuel cells involving hydrogenases is currently hampered because the activity of these enzymes is...

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Nanochemical imaging of antimalarial drugs in Plasmodium falciparum infected red blood cells

X-ray fluorescence microscopy reveals the location of iron in a red blood cell infected with a malaria parasite.
06-02-2012

Few strategies are available for label-free imaging in biological systems with high spatial resolution and high sensitivity. Researchers at the Université Lille 1 in collaboration with colleagues from INSERM and the ESRF report for the first time the in vitro localisation...

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Coupling of single molecule magnets to ferromagnetic metals

Scheme of a TbPc2 single molecule magnet deposited on a Ni film, with relative orientation of the magnetic moments (arrows).
25-01-2012

With dimensions close to a nanometre and the ability to store one bit of information, molecules that possess bistable magnetic states could represent the ultimate evolution of digital memory. Experiments at the ESRF have unravelled how such tiny metal-organic complexes...

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The compliant behaviour of germanium nanocluster arrays on free-standing silicon nanostructures

Germanium nanoclusters on free-standing silicon nanopillars.
09-01-2012

“Don’t change a winning team” is a widely known sport paradigm on short-term success. However, it is also evident that success on the long-term is no longer guaranteed when teams do not further develop. In this respect, a coach must sooner or later answer the question...

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Aharonov-Bohm interferences from local deformations in graphene

An Aharonov-Bohm oscillation pattern.
20-12-2011

Since graphene was first isolated in a controlled way, it has been an optimal playground to test the most exciting ideas in condensed matter. Its curvature and elastic deformations can be modelled by means of fictitious gauge fields as if the system were in the presence...

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Seeing inside a working catalyst

X-ray diffraction computed tomography of a metal/metal oxide catalyst during its preparation.
19-12-2011

Metal/metal oxides supported on porous catalyst bodies represent the cornerstone of the heterogeneous catalysis industry. However, little is known about the process by which an active phase forms from an impregnation precursor and how this influences the final properties...

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Local structure of Co-implanted ZnO nanowires

Location of Co atoms within a Co-implanted ZnO nanowire: elemental map for Co overlaid on SEM image (atomic fraction estimated from the XRF quantification).
25-11-2011

Co-implanted ZnO nanowires were explored by nano-X-ray absorption spectroscopy using a 100 nm monochromatic X-ray beam. This permitted discovery of the chemical state of the implanted ions, the short-range order in various regions of individual wires and the local order...

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The molecular details of receptor-drug interactions in the treatment of asthma and heart conditions

Structure of the beta1-adrenergic receptor.
14-11-2011

Researchers from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology have unravelled how drugs such as sabutamol (Ventolin) interact with adrenergic receptors in the human body. These studies will aid future rational drug design to create more effective medicines and treatments...

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Strong inside, weak outside: Graphene on Ir(111)

Graphene grown on top of a metal surface shows strong internal bonding, but only weak interaction with the substrate.
28-10-2011

Graphene, a single monolayer of carbon, features a set of fascinating properties. In particular, it has the largest tensile strength ever measured. Experiments at the ESRF now show that this large internal strength is in stark contrast to its weak bonding to the outside...

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Piezoelectric properties in non-polar block copolymers

Anisotropic deformation of block-copolymer lamellae in an electric field.
17-10-2011

Scientists working at the ESRF have discovered piezoelectric properties in non-polar block copolymers. The researchers, a team from RWTH Aachen University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, used home-built capacitors and small-angle X-ray scattering at beamline ID02...

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Snapshot of a bacterial transporter in the act of secreting a protein

Secretion of a protein by the chaperone/usher pathway, first step provided by crystal structure.
23-09-2011

The human urinary tract is one of the most common sites for bacterial infection and most of the diagnosed urinary tract infections are caused by the uropathogenic Escherichia coli. During the infection process, the bacteria recognise and adhere to host epithelial cells...

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Structural and spectroscopic observation of an enzyme at work

16-09-2011

Observing enzymes at work is a difficult task. Yet, scientists at the University of Pavia in Italy, in collaboration with colleagues from the ESRF, the IBS and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands have succeeded in generating and characterising several biologically...

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Towards full polarisation control in resonant inelastic soft X-ray scattering

Polarimetric soft X-ray RIXS of cuprates.
18-08-2011

High-resolution RIXS spectra in the soft X-ray range can now be measured with linear polarisation analysis of the scattered radiation using the AXES spectrometer at beamline ID08. In June 2011, a first experiment on layered cuprates successfully demonstrated that this...

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Complex patterns in liquid crystals

Complex patterns in liquid crystals.
16-08-2011

A new way of making small molecules self-assemble into highly-complex nanopatterns has been discovered by researchers at University of Sheffield (UK) and Martin Luther University in Halle (Germany). It will help expand the capabilities of ‘bottom-up’ methods of nanopatternin...

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Silicon carbonate phase formed from carbon dioxide and silica under pressure

Are compounds between carbon dioxide and silicon dioxide possible?
02-08-2011

The recent discovery of non-molecular silica-like carbon dioxide motivated a team of scientists from Italy and France to attempt to react carbon dioxide with silicon dioxide under high pressure. They created a new silicon carbonate phase by reacting a micro-porous SiO2...

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Shedding light on the heart of a transistor

Shedding light on the heart of a transistor.
26-07-2011

X-ray nanobeam diffraction was used to explore the heart of a fully processed field-effect transistor. The structural and strain properties of a single SiGe island and the overlying strained Si channel, which represents the active area of the device, were investigated...

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Bio-SAXS at ID14-3: looking at proteins in their native state – a valuable complement to protein crystallography studies

Robot handling proteins in solution.
24-06-2011

The complete automation of data collection is maximising the potential of bio-SAXS at the ESRF. Never before have SAXS studies of protein in solution been so easy. Academics and industrialists are getting excellent results and some are even using the beamline by remote...

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Untangling the chemical bonding in high-pressure γ-B28 boron

A topological analysis of the electron density distribution in γ-B28 boron helps us to understand the unusual physical properties of this quasimolecular solid.
17-06-2011

An icosahedral, quasimolecular cluster of 12 boron atoms (B12) is the building block of all allotropes of boron as well as many boron-rich solids. However, the properties of boron polymorphs and boron-rich compounds that make them interesting for materials science and...

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Determining the state of Pt in SnO2-based sensors under working conditions

The local structure of the platinum dopant within a working SnO2-based sensor was revealed with high-energy-resolution fluorescence-detected X-ray absorption spectroscopy and EXAFS.
09-06-2011

The role of Pt-dopants in real SnO2-based gas sensors is unknown, especially their beneficial effect on the sensors’ intrinsically poor selectivity. A combination of innovative sample design and high-energy-resolution fluorescence-detected X-ray absorption spectroscopy...

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Tracking the protein motions that harvest energy

Tracking the protein motions that harvest energy (Image credit: M. W. Bowler).
18-05-2011

Energy conversion is one of the most fundamental processes in all organisms. Glycolysis is the metabolic pathway that breaks down sugars, in the absence of oxygen, to release energy. The pathway is common to all organisms and is very ancient. Indeed, as the pathway...

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Organic photovoltaics in situ annealing studied by grazing-incidence diffraction

Energy levels and charge separation in an organic photovoltaic.
09-05-2011

Organic photovoltaic materials have long-term promise for large area devices on flexible substrates produced by low-cost processes such as inkjet printing. Control of order and morphology at the nanometre scale during processing steps such as thermal annealing is crucial...

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When oil and water do mix: the nanoscale structure of a surfactant-modified hydrophobic interface

At low temperatures, surfactant and oil molecules form a frozen, solid, 2-dimensional interfacial monolayer.
29-04-2011

Scientists have succeeded in measuring the molecular-scale structure and thermodynamics of deeply buried oil/water interfaces decorated by ionic surfactants. They found evidence of the interfacial layer becoming more dense, more ordered, than the oil layer as temperatures...

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Sub-meV sapphire crystal X-ray monochromator

Checking the quality of a sapphire crystal in the X-ray beam. Its visible light fluorescence originates from impurities in the crystal.
14-04-2011

High efficiency nuclear inelastic scattering measurements above 30 keV with sub-meV resolution are now possible through the use of a sapphire backscattering monochromator in combination with improvement of the upstream X-ray optics at beamline ID18. This development...

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High-pressure synthesis of polymeric silicon hydride and amorphisation and re-crystallisation of silane

17-03-2011

Polymeric silicon tetrahydride is synthesised under high-pressure from pure elements, silicon and hydrogen, that do not react with each other at ambient conditions. High-pressure studies on silane (SiH4) revealed that it does not metalise at 50 GPa as previously suggested,...

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The molecular mechanism of pain relief

The molecular mechanism of pain relief (Image credit: M.W. Bowler).
08-03-2011

General anaesthetics are one of the most ancient classes of medicine and have reduced human suffering more than any other drug. Despite widespread use, their exact mode of action is not well understood, but a growing body of evidence suggests that they bind specifically...

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Mapping disorder with X-rays

Representation of the outermost skin of a-Se surface from a fully-optimised 96-atom Se structural model. Colour of Se atom indicates branching, red: four-fold; blue: 3-fold; light green, two-fold; dark green: Se atom terminated by H-bond; grey: H atom.
07-03-2011

The structure of disordered surfaces at the atomic level has remained elusive. Now, using a combination of inelastic X-ray scattering in grazing-angle geometry and simulations, a team of European researchers has gained – for the first time – insight into the arrangement...

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Elasticity of ferropericlase across the spin crossover: A seismologically transparent transition?

An iron spin transition occurs in minerals at the pressure and temperature conditions of the lower mantle.
21-02-2011

Large-scale structures or discontinuities in the Earth’s interior are typically caused by changes in the physical or chemical properties of minerals that occur when pressure increases with depth. In this study scientists report high-pressure measurements of the elasticity...

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How the "green light" is given for protein translation

Giving the green light for protein synthesis (Image credit: R. Voorhees and M. Schmeing).
31-01-2011

The production of proteins is performed in all organisms by ribosomes, nanomachines that translate the genetic code inscribed in a sequence of RNA (messenger or mRNA) and then synthesise a protein from that sequence. Many mechanisms exist to make sure that the genetic...

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Coherent high-resolution transmission X-ray microscopy: a new tool for mesoscopic materials

26-01-2011

A new high-resolution transmission X-ray microscopy technique using parabolic compound refractive lenses facilitates the volume-specific studies of mesoscopic photonic crystals. High-resolution diffraction patterns and real-space images are retrieved simultaneously...

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New X-ray insight into the human brain

05-01-2011

Three-dimensional images of the human cerebellum in unprecedented detail can be obtained using a new X-ray imaging technique, as scientists from Switzerland, Germany and France have now demonstrated. Using X-ray grating interferometry, they could even visualise individual...

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X-ray Bragg holography: A 3D look inside nanostructures

10-12-2010

The 3D crystal structure of nanoscale materials can be determined using a novel technique involving X-ray Fourier transform holography in Bragg geometry. This method is based on encoding the phase of the scattered wavefield, which bears the information on the internal...

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Snapshots of a photosynthetic reaction centre

Time-resolved Laue diffraction snapshots can show movement of atoms and changes in electron density on a millisecond time scale.
23-11-2010

Nature harvests the energy content of light, the major source of energy for the biosphere, primarily via photosynthetic reaction centres. These integral membrane protein complexes are found in plants and photosynthetic bacteria and function by driving the transport...

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How a new class of antibiotic inhibits bacterial type IIA toposiomerases

15-11-2010

Quinolone antibacterials have been used to treat bacterial infections for over 40 years. However, bacterial resistance motivates the search for new drugs such as the novel bacterial topoisomerase inhibitor (NBTI) studied here by a team of researchers from GlaxoSmithKline....

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Cell guidance mechanisms revealed at atomic-level resolution

To be active, the semaphorin-plexin complex must contain two semaphorin dimers independently bound to two plexin molecules. A Cos-7 cell collapse assay shows a) non-collapsed cells and b) a typical collapse seen on media addition of semaphorin dimers.
28-10-2010

The mechanism underlying the interaction between two proteins that act to position cells, for example in the growth and guidance of developing nerve fibres in the brain, has been revealed by a new collaborative study between researchers at the University of Oxford and...

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Strong K-edge magnetic circular dichroism observed in photon-in/photon-out spectroscopy

Magnetic circular dichroism (MCD) combined with resonant inelastic X-ray scattering (RIXS).
19-10-2010

X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) is a powerful tool for the element-specific study of the magnetic structure of complex systems. The magnetic moments of 3d transition metals are generally studied at the L absorption edge using circularly polarised soft X-rays...

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Fusion reactor pebble bed studied by X-ray tomography

Tomography shows the pores within a beryllium pebble
24-09-2010

The thermo-mechanical behaviour of pebble beds in the blanket of a fusion reactor depends on pebble arrangement in the beds, the number of pebble-pebble and pebble-blanket wall contacts, as well as the respective contact surfaces. The safe operation of the blanket requires...

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New phases in supercritical fluids: the Widom line as crossover between liquid-like and gas-like behaviour

Where is the distinction between liquid and gas in a supercritical fluid?
15-09-2010

According to textbooks, there is no observable physical characteristic beyond the critical point allowing a liquid to be distinguished from a gas, hence only a single fluid phase is defined. Using inelastic X-ray scattering and molecular dynamics simulations, a team...

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Record brilliance at the ESRF achieved thanks to ultra small vertical emittance

Electron beam distribution in a bending magnet of the storage ring in the transverse plane during User Service Mode following reduction of the vertical emittance. Representative image taken by the X-ray pinhole camera system.
06-09-2010

Within the ESRF Upgrade Programmme, the Accelerator Division has increased the brilliance and coherence of the undulator-generated photon beams through a reduction of the electron beam vertical emittance by a factor of six. A value of 5 picometres is now available in...

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Better cartilage imaging by phase-contrast computed tomography

One slice from a tomogram of a normal cartilage sample showing the surface (top layer), cartilage (middle) and subchondral bone (bottom).
16-08-2010

Phase-contrast X-ray imaging provides substantially enhanced contrast resolution for soft-tissues compared to conventional absorption radiography. Here, researchers demonstrate that phase contrast computed tomography can depict structural properties of cartilage matrix...

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Exploring the pores in a heavy metal: the 3D microstructure of coatings for nuclear fusion reactors is revealed by high-resolution synchrotron microtomography

The 3D microstructure of a vacuum plasma-sprayed tungsten coating system. Composite image to show the distribution of the pores within the tungsten (bottom) and tungsten/steel interlayer (top).
06-08-2010

Three-dimensional images of the porous microstructure in plasma-sprayed tungsten are needed to assess whether the material is suitable as a coating for nuclear fusion reactors. High-resolution synchrotron-radiation microtomography (SRµCT) is the only method capable...

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Roughness as a motor for reaction oscillations

A palladium catalyst sample being heated in the UHV chamber of beamline ID03 (image courtesy R. van Rijn).
29-06-2010

Oscillatory chemical reactions are often called chemical ‘clocks’ due to their periodic nature. A well-known system that shows periodic oscillation of reaction rate is the catalytic oxidation of carbon monoxide over platinum and palladium surfaces. A team of researchers...

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Time-resolved Hard X-ray diffraction (HXRD) with integral infrared spectroscopy: a new experiment to illuminate fundamental properties of reactive nanoparticulate materials

Periodic structural change in ~3 nm diameter Pd nanoparticles during model catalysis for emission control observed in situ.
29-06-2010

A novel combination of infrared spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction, using very hard X-rays, illuminates the structural reactive behaviour of working catalysts. It reveals previously hidden aspects of the fundamental interactions occurring between small molecules and...

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An original Cu(I)-coordination shell in a small bacterial metalloprotein identified by XAS and NMR spectroscopy

XAS and NMR studies of the CopK protein involved in bacterial copper resistance reveal a tetrathioether Cu(I)-site.
25-06-2010

The combined use of XAS and NMR spectroscopy enabled characterisation of the three-dimensional structure and the metal-binding site of a small Cu(I)/Cu(II)-binding protein involved in bacterial heavy-metal resistance. This protein features a binding cooperativity with...

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The deepest phase transition in the Earth's mantle

Experiments at extreme conditions provide insight into the composition of the D''-layer just above the core-mantle boundary at 2900 km below the surface of the Earth [4].
16-06-2010

The Earth’s mantle is layered because of successive phase transitions occurring with increasing pressure and temperature. These transitions are understood by comparison between the seismic reflectors and experimentally determined phase diagrams. Nonetheless, peculiar...

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Innovative resistive memories studied by hard X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HAXPES)

Sketch depicting a conductive filament within an OxRRAM.
31-05-2010

Resistive memories are candidates for future non volatile random access memories (RAMs). Their functioning is based on the ability to switch between high and low resistance states. However, the physical mechanism responsible for the low resistivity remains a mystery....

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Multi quantum well electroabsorption-modulated laser characterised by hard X-ray microprobe

Characterisation of a laser/modulator device using the ESRF hard X-ray microprobe.
12-05-2010

A multi quantum well electroabsorption-modulated laser is a semiconductor device employed in long-distance, high-frequency optical-fibre communication. The most advanced devices involve monolithic integration of two functions, electroabsorption modulator and distributed...

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The transition state of enzyme phosphoryl transfer revealed by magnesium triflouride

The transition state of phosphoryl transfer in human phosphoglycerate kinase revealed by magnesium triflouride (Image credit: M. Bowler)
23-04-2010

The transfer of phosphoryl groups is probably the most important enzyme-catalysed reaction in biology. All organisms use phosphate in the form of ATP to store and transmit energy but phosphoryl transfer is also used to control processes as diverse as cell signalling,...

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A snapshot of bacterial signalling

Detailed view of the active site of the bacterial signalling complex to highlight the involvement of the protein components; histidine kinase in pink and its response regulator in green.
06-04-2010

Bacteria sense external events and send signals to the cell interior via two-component systems formed by a membrane protein, histidine kinase, that has extracellular and intracytoplasmic domains and a soluble intracellular response regulator. The crystal structure of...

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Biaxial liquid crystals found in colloidal dispersions

X-ray scattering pattern of the biaxial nematic phase of goethite, with the corresponding structure.
30-03-2010

Biaxial liquid crystals in goethite dispersions were discovered using small-angle X-ray scattering. Uniaxial liquid crystals, with only one optical axis, are widely used in liquid crystal displays (LCDs). Biaxial liquid crystals, with full 3D optical anisotropy, can...

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Anomalous properties of the acoustic excitations in glasses on the mesoscopic length-scale

Local displacement field corresponding to a sound wave propagating in a glass. The cubic simulation box was cut along a vertical plane to emphasise the details of the 3-D structure; Colours indicate local field direction [4].
04-03-2010

Molecular dynamics computer simulation for a model glass permitted the exploration of a previously inaccessible region of wavelength for acoustic excitations in glasses. New characteristic properties of the acoustic excitations were found in this region that are anomalous...

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Soft X-ray holographic microscopy

04-03-2010

Magnetic imaging with nanoscale domain resolution is now possible thanks to a new way of carrying out soft X-ray holography. The key feature of this microscopy-like imaging technique is a movable field-of-view that can be freely positioned on the sample. The microscope...

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Bonding in high-pressure solid CO2 revealed by single-crystal diffraction

Dry ice - an industrially produced low temperature phase of solid CO2.
22-02-2010

Solid carbon dioxide undergoes a radical change from a molecular solid to a non-molecular “polymeric” state at elevated pressures and temperatures [1]. The polymeric state is characterised by the disappearance of the double bonds between the carbon and oxygen atoms...

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Ultrafast laser switching in a photochromic film visualised by time-resolved X-ray diffraction

09-02-2010

A [2+2] photo-cycloaddition reaction in an organic crystal film was triggered by a fast laser pulse and studied with X-ray diffraction. This reaction and its thermally-activated reverse reaction were followed on the picosecond timescale, and intricate details of the...

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X-ray beam transverse coherence analysis using near-field scattering

Transverse coherence of an undulator X-ray beam. 
26-01-2010

A new method to map the two-dimensional transverse coherence function of an undulator X-ray beam is proposed. It is based on near-field speckles generated by the interference between perfectly spherical scattered waves from a colloidal suspension and the partially coherent...

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A different kind of memory in Ge-Sb-Te memory alloys

13-01-2010

Phase-change materials such as Ge-Sb-Te (GST) memory alloys are used in rewritable optical memory devices such as CDs and DVDs. In such applications, changes due to temperature are used to store data. But these materials also undergo structural transformation under...

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Electronic structure of ligand orbitals revealed by valence-to-core X-ray emission

A spectral signature for ligand orbitals
18-12-2009

The electron orbitals of ligands in 3d transition metal complexes can be studied by means of X-ray emission spectroscopy (XES). A comprehensive experimental and theoretical study of the X-ray emission from the valence band of Mn coordination complexes was carried...

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Studying atomic dynamics with coherent X-rays

08-12-2009

Solids may not be as stationary at the atomic level as they appear to be when viewed at the macroscopic scale. At only slightly elevated temperatures, the atoms already begin to exchange their places. Recently, this diffusion of a solid's atoms was measured for...

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Stacking faults in colloidal photonic crystals revealed by microradian X-ray diffraction

Microradian X-ray diffractogram (inset) of a faulted face-centred cubic colloidal photonic crystal.
23-11-2009

The presence of a network of intersecting stacking faults in self-assembled colloidal crystals was demonstrated with X-ray diffraction with microradian resolution. These defects can seriously affect the optical properties of photonic materials fabricated using colloid...

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How the genetic code is accurately translated into protein

How the genetic code is accurately translated into protein (Image credit: Larissa Ulisko, Rebecca Voorhees, Martin Schmeing)
09-11-2009

The production of proteins is performed in all organisms by ribosomes, nanomachines that carry out the translation of an mRNA sequence and the subsequent synthesis of a protein from that sequence. Ensuring that the genetic code is correctly translated into a functional...

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3D Ordered gold strings by coating nanoparticles with mesogens

Gold string structures consisting of gold nanoparticles, mesogens and alkylthiol co-ligands
28-09-2009

Gold nanoparticles associate into highly-ordered structures when coated with ligands formed from mesogens, the rigid part of a liquid-crystal molecule. The nanoparticles no longer follow the usual packing of spheres and form columnar structures, strings, with interparticle...

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Local symmetries in disordered matter uncovered by coherent X-ray scattering

Icosahedral symmetry in glasses.
25-09-2009

Local symmetries in colloidal glasses were investigated by coherent X-ray scattering. The speckle patterns were analysed by a novel angular cross correlation technique to unravel the hidden local symmetries within the glassy disorder. Four-, 6-, 10- and most prevalently...

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Circularly polarised X-rays as a probe of non-collinear magnetic order in multiferroic TbMnO3

04-09-2009

A circularly polarised incident beam for non-resonant X-ray magnetic scattering together with full polarisation analysis of the diffracted beam has allowed ESRF scientists to shed light on the complex non-collinear magnetic structure of multiferroic TbMnO3, a challenging...

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An X-ray bilens nanointerferometer

19-08-2009

A novel type of hard X-ray interferometer employing a bilens system with two parallel arrays of compound refractive lenses has been developed by scientists from France and Russia. Under coherent illumination, the bilens generates two diffraction limited mutually coherent...

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Structure of metallic oxygen

18-08-2009

Solid oxygen undergoes an insulator to metal transition at 96 GPa. Scientists investigated the structural changes that accompany metallisation using single crystal X-ray diffraction.

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Core-shell nanowires reveal their inner structure

Strain distribution in core-shell nanowires deduced from reciprocal space measurements.
07-08-2009

Nature creates the most complex structures by assembling single atoms or molecules into functional building blocks. Semiconductor physics has been exploring this “self-assembly” phenomenon for several decades. An interesting example is self-assembled core-shell nanowires,...

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Molecular mechanism of bacterial survival against antimicrobial peptides revealed by X-ray studies

04-08-2009

Lipopolysaccharides form the outer-most surface of Gram-negative bacteria, acting as the protector against chemical attack. Scientists have designed a model of bacterial surfaces at the air/water interface and solid/liquid interface, and then studied the impacts of...

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A novel nematic liquid crystal phase with ferroelectric response

Simulation snapshot with arrows representing the electric dipoles of cybotactic groups. The inset shows the X-ray diffraction pattern of the nematic phase of 9BPO oriented by a static magnetic field.
03-08-2009

Ferroelectric switching was observed for a nematic liquid crystal consisting of bent-core polar molecules. X-ray diffraction shows that this originates from the cooperative alignment of nanometric size polar and biaxial cybotactic groups present in the nematic phase....

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A transfocator for X-ray focusing

30-06-2009

A tunable X-ray focusing apparatus based on compound refractive lenses, referred to as a transfocator, has been installed in the first optics hutch of beamline ID11. By varying the number of lenses in the beam, the energy focused and the focal length can be varied continuous...

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Giant Kohn anomaly in the low-dimensional chain compound ZrTe3

12-06-2009

A team of researchers from the ESRF has performed a careful combined diffuse and inelastic X-ray scattering study of a prototypical charge density wave material and found for the first time significant deviations from mean field theory in the lattice dynamics, reflecting...

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The birth of micelles revealed by synchrotron light

20-05-2009

Spontaneous micellisation of block copolymers in selective solvents was investigated by time-resolved SAXS experiments at the ESRF. The kinetic pathway of the micellisation was observed for the first time and could be modelled by a nucleation and growth process.

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Meningitis bacteria stealth tactics revealed

06-05-2009

Meningitis bacteria mimic human cells to avoid detection by our immune system. The crystal structure of a Neisseria meningitidis surface protein in complex with human factor H shows us how this happens and may pave the way for a new vaccine against the disease.

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Spin-wave dispersion in antiferromagnetic cuprates mapped with soft X-rays

Magnons studied with RIXS
27-04-2009

In magnetically-ordered systems the inversion of one atomic spin leads to a collective excited state called a magnon or spin-wave that travels along the magnetic lattice. The relation between energy and momentum (dispersion) of spin waves has been measured for the first...

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Individual GaAs nanorods imaged by coherent diffraction

03-04-2009

Visualising nanoscale objects can be a challenge. Scientists have succeeded in using coherent X-ray diffraction to examine in detail nanorods grown in an array using a pre-patterned substrate. Their results shed light on local effects in the growth of such nanorods.

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Breakdown of the continuum elasticity theory in glasses on the nanometric length-scale

26-03-2009

A connection between thermal properties and low-frequency vibrations in glasses is still sought after since the latter are not well understood. Scientists at the ESRF have managed to directly probe the acoustic excitations on the 1 to 6 nanometre mesoscopic length-scale...

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A new inverse micellar lyotropic liquid crystal phase

13-03-2009

A novel lyotropic liquid crystal phase with a structure based upon a hexagonal close packing of identical quasi-spherical inverse micelles has been discovered during the course of pressure-jump experiments at the ESRF.

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Cubic BC5: a diamond-like material with unique properties

25-02-2009

A diamond-like material with high boron content could be expected to combine the best properties from its constituent elements, boron and carbon. In a recent study, a superhard diamond-like BC5 phase with extremely high boron content was synthesised under high pressure/high...

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Photosynthetic production of oxygen at elevated oxygen gas pressure

09-02-2009

Photosynthetic water oxidation at the manganese complex bound to photosystem II (PSII) from plants and bacteria is the source of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Oxidation state changes of the manganese atoms in the photosystem II protein during oxygen formation were studied...

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Silk fibre formation: using a microfluidic chip to mimic biospinning

26-01-2009

Silk is a biopolymer produced by silkworms and spiders. Its biosynthesis is interesting because of silks remarkable mechanical properties and potential medical applications. In this study, a microfluidic chip was built to mimic the silkworm’s biospinning process. Silk...

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Molecular layering of ionic liquids

06-01-2009

Room-temperature ionic liquids are promising candidates for a broad range of "green" applications, for which their interaction with solid surfaces plays a crucial role. In this study, the temperature-dependent structures of three ionic liquids in contact with a charged...

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Improving the lifetime of auto exhaust catalysts

16-12-2008

Today there is great motivation to improve vehicle exhaust catalysts because of our increasing appreciation of the damage that toxic gas emissions are doing to the environment in tandem with the finite availability of noble metals. The catalyst lifetime is drastically...

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Hydration dynamics of a Nafion membrane in a running fuel cell

04-12-2008

Proton exchange membrane fuel cells produce electricity via an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen mediated by a proton exchange membrane. Such a fuel cell was studied at the ESRF using very high energy X-ray diffraction. This study permitted the hydration...

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Layer-by-layer films at the solid/liquid interface studied by X-ray reflectivity

12-11-2008

Decoration of layer-by-layer films with heavy metal ions permits their study by X-ray reflectivity and interpretation of their structure for the first time.

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Observing a target enzyme of Alzheimer’s disease drugs in action

03-11-2008

Acetylcholinesterase is one of the main targets for drugs treating Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists at the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble have carried out experiments at the ESRF to observe acetylcholinesterase in action with the aim to understand its...

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Simple alkali metal no longer simple

17-10-2008

Sodium is unique for its melting temperature, which is lower at very high pressures than at ambient pressure. In a recent experiment at ESRF beamline ID27, the highest-pressure single-crystal structure discovered to date has revealed that the low melting temperature...

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Gold nanoparticle imaged with 5 nm spatial resolution

03-10-2008

A gold nanoparticle was imaged with the record spatial resolution of 5 nanometres by using coherent X-ray diffraction imaging or so-called lensless imaging with a focused beam. Conventional X-ray microscopy is limited by the performance of X-ray optics. Lensless imaging...

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Hydrogen-induced Ostwald ripening

11-09-2008

The cluster size of an ensemble of palladium nanoclusters was found to increase on hydrogenation. This phenomenon is attributed to hydrogen-induced Ostwald ripening and originates from the higher mobility of palladium atoms resulting from the low sublimation energy...

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Stress corrosion cracking studied with grain mapping by diffraction contrast tomography

08-09-2008

A new grain mapping technique developed by researchers at the ESRF has been used to study stress corrosion cracking in stainless steels.

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Atomic vibrations in nanocrystalline materials: does size really matter?

20-08-2008

The atomic dynamics in nanocrystalline solids are remarkably different from their bulk counterparts. The anomalous features are usually attributed to small nanograins with enhanced surface-to-volume ratio. An experiment performed at the ESRF unexpectedly shows that...

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Scanning X-ray diffraction with 200 nm spatial resolution

11-08-2008

Strongly-collimated monochromatic X-rays enable nanodiffraction with both a very high, sub-micrometre resolution in real space and high angular resolution in reciprocal space. Individual and clearly distinguishable shape features of a single object could be examined...

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Probing the mechanical properties of nano-sized objects by a combined in situ AFM and micro-XRD technique

16-07-2008

Investigation of the elastic response of nano-sized objects under external mechanical stress has been made possible thanks to a novel atomic force microscope (AFM), recently developed at the ESRF. When mounted on the diffractometer of beamline ID01, the AFM permits...

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Pencil-beam diffraction microtomography

03-07-2008

A new technique has been developed for the three-dimensional study of microcrystalline samples. It bridges the gap between global quantitative and local compositional techniques.

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First results for synchrotron X-ray powder diffraction study in pulsed high magnetic fields

10-06-2008

Research at the ESRF provides the first direct evidence for the modification of the cooperative Jahn-Teller effect in terbium ortho-vanadate by an external magnetic field.

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Hexapod quantum dot molecules probed by grazing-incidence diffraction

26-05-2008

Quantum dot molecules are formed by the self assembly of individual quantum dots. The electronic properties of these semiconductor nanostructures depends on the shape and strain of the structure. In this study the elastic strain within (In,Ga)As/GaAs(001) quantum dot...

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Working out the fundamental processes at metal-organic interfaces

23-05-2008

Electronic and optoelectronic devices based on organic semiconductors are currently entering the consumer electronics market. Nevertheless, many fundamental properties of their components have yet to be discovered. In particular, the development of an in-depth understanding...

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Morphological clues to the stability of wet granular piles

02-05-2008

When dry sand is mixed with water, it acquires a visco-plastic texture, stiff enough for sculpting sand castles. The well-known experience at the beach that the mechanical properties of this material do not depend critically on its liquid content is of great potential...

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Static and dynamic scattering with near-field speckles

08-04-2008

A team of scientists working at beamline BM05 at the ESRF has recently opened the way to a novel family of X-ray scattering techniques based on the statistical analysis of speckle images collected in the immediate vicinity (near field) of the scattering sample.

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Snapshot of a synaptic complex formed during DNA double-strand break repair

01-04-2008

The mechanisms by which DNA damage occurs and how this damage is repaired is fundamentally important in the field of cancer biology and has wide implications in many other fields.

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Nanoparticles in ball-lightning-like fireballs

29-03-2008

The enigma of the natural ball-lightning phenomenon, reported by eyewitnesses as glowing luminescent objects floating in the air on rare occasions, has attracted scientists for more than a century. A model proposed by Abrahamson and Dinniss [1], explains the formation...

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Towards biological imaging by coherent X-ray diffraction at the ESRF

03-03-2008

Three dimensional imaging of whole cells and other biological material will deepen our understanding of cellular biology. High-resolution imaging is needed for samples in their natural state or as close as possible to it without introducing structural artifacts by staining,...

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Three-dimensional Si/Ge quantum dot crystals

24-01-2008

Semiconductor quantum dots are already being used for optoelectronic applications, exploiting the increased density of states and tuneable energy levels due to quantum confinement. So far, only the properties of single dots have been used. Here we show that for closely...

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Exploring magnetism within extreme magnetic fields

04-01-2008

The feasibility of measuring X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) within very high magnetic fields has been investigated using an energy-dispersive X-ray absorption spectrometer at the ESRF's energy-dispersive XAS beamline ID24.

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Metallic glass foam: a macroscopic glass model?

08-11-2007

The intriguing nature and unique physical characteristics of the glassy (amorphous) state has captivated condensed matter physicists for several decades. Over the years, several hypotheses have been conceived by theorists seeking to identify the fundamental structural...

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Nanoparticle behaviour in changing environments: dynamic structural reorganisation in supported Pd nanoparticles during redox cycling

18-10-2007

The size and shape of supported Pd nanoparticles has been found to change rapidly with the environment they experience. Somewhat unexpectedly, even in the presence of large amounts of oxygen, significant oxidation of the Pd does not appear to be the principal reactive...

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Losing crystallinity under pressure: structural description of the pressure-induced amorphisation in zirconium tungstate

04-10-2007

The crystalline structure of zirconium tungstate (ZrW2O8) is highly flexible and this gives rise to its unusual behaviour including negative thermal expansion, where the crystalline lattice contracts even though the bonds lengthen with increasing temperature, and pressure-in...

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Kinky copper: In situ X-ray characterisation of electrodeposited Cu on GaAs(001) reveals strange epitaxy

13-08-2007

A surface can be created with a unique morphology and structure on the mesoscopic and atomic scale by controlling the electrochemical potential via the voltage applied to the sample during the deposition of a metal from an electrolyte. This is important in electrochemical...

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Nuclear forward scattering in pulsed magnetic fields

09-07-2007

Nuclear forward scattering of synchrotron radiation from Mössbauer transitions provides a unique tool for the study of magnetism, structure, and dynamics with a local probe. This spotlight presents the demonstration of nuclear forward scattering from 57Fe in high pulsed...

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Filming a catalyst in action

08-06-2007

Synchrotron light can be used to follow a catalyst under working conditions. X-ray absorption spectroscopy that reveals the oxidation and reduction processes of the catalyst is conventionally performed in steady-state conditions or either temporally or spatially resolved....

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Towards atomic resolution of the plant photosystem I supercomplex

14-05-2007

Thanks to diffraction data collected at the ESRF, the structure of the intact plant photosystem I supercomplex from pea plants, containing 17 protein subunits and 178 cofactors, has been revealed at 3.4 Å resolution thus providing near atomic details of this extremely...

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Locating atoms in a quasicrystal

22-03-2007

Where are the atoms? This question has been puzzling scientists since the discovery of quasicrystals 25 years ago by Shechtman and co-workers [1]. The structure of one of these fascinating materials has just been solved by a team of researchers from Japan and France...

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Reentrant behaviour of a solution undergoing inverse melting

29-01-2007

Using X-ray diffraction and differential scanning calorimetry methods, the phase diagram of a solution undergoing inverse melting has been determined. Two different disordered fluid phases separated by a solid region have been observed in the "high concentration" range....

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The structure of Wza reveals a new class of membrane protein

10-12-2006

Wza, a carbohydrate exporter that is part of a much larger molecular machine, was the first lipoprotein shown to traverse the outer membrane. The crystal structure of Wza, finally solved after 6 years effort and numerous data collection trips to the ESRF, shows the...

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News from ID03, the Surface X-ray Diffraction Beamline

27-11-2006

For twelve years ID03 has been the centre of gravity for the European Surface X-ray Diffraction Community. An upgrade of the beamline appeared necessary to continue to fulfill this role and to satisfy future needs of the surface science research groups. After a year...

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Looking inside fossilised embryos

13-11-2006

Microtomography was used to study fossilised embryos from China. The results suggest that complex embryonic development existed thousands of years earlier than previously believed.

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Multi-speckle XPCS using a pixelated 2d detector

12-10-2006

By using the medipix-2 pixel detector, multi-speckle X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy (XPCS) was carried out on suspensions of silica nano-particles in a glass forming solvent. The pixel detector was indispensable for the experiment which indicates a crossover...

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First Data on the Structure of Phase III of Hydrogen Above 150 GPa

Phase III of Hydrogen Above 150 GPa
25-09-2006

Knowing the structure of solid hydrogen at very high pressure is essential to progress towards the discovery of metal hydrogen. Using the combination of the new specialised high-pressure beamline and the compression of a single crystal of H2 in helium allow the first...

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Synchrotron-radiation Computed Laminography

10-08-2006

Synchrotron-radiation computed laminography is a new technique for the non-destructive 3D imaging of flat laterally-extended objects with spatial resolution reaching the micrometre scale.

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Pressure Dependence of Phonon Anomalies in Molybdenum

17-07-2006

A collaborative group of researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the ESRF have been able to pin down the high-pressure lattice dynamics of the transition metal molybdenum by mapping its phonon energies under extremely high pressure. Using the inelastic...

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Activation of Oxygen on Gold-Alumina Catalysts: In situ High-energy Resolution

14-06-2006

Gold catalysis has received considerable attention in recent years. Particles of gold that are unsupported or supported on oxidic carriers have been reported to be very active in various oxidation reactions. Examples are the oxidation of CO to CO2, water-gas shift reaction...

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Rapidly Changing Times at ESRF Beamlines

29-05-2006

Automation of ESRF experimental facilities has been the subject of intense activity over the last 5 years and a number of enhancements are now radically altering our perception of what is possible on X-ray beamlines at third generation synchrotron sources. Chief amongst...

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Getting smaller and smaller: Coherent microdiffraction imaging to retrieve shape and local strain of a single nanocrystal

10-05-2006

Nanoscience aims at understanding the properties of materials, which change when the sample size reaches the nanometre scale. For the physical properties of nanocrystals, an important role is played not only by the size, but also by the strain distribution, which is...

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Resonant X-ray Scattering under High Magnetic Fields

29-03-2006

Electronic degrees of freedom produce a wide range of fascinating ordering phenomena in materials which are both of fundamental and technological importance. Examples of everyday exploitation of these effects include magnetism used in the hard disks of our iPods, through...

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Photosystem II at 3.0 Å Resolution

09-03-2006

Photosynthesis is one of the most fundamental and important natural processes. Responsible for the maintenance of the oxygen level in the atmosphere and the reduction of CO2 to carbohydrates, a detailed understanding of photosynthesis has been developed following decades...

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X-ray Detected Magnetic Resonance: First evidence of forced precession of polarized orbital components

17-02-2006

X-ray Magnetic Circular Dichroism (XMCD) is inherently an element specific and orbital selective experimental technique that has greatly contributed to our understanding of magnetism. X-ray Detected Magnetic Resonance (XDMR) is a novel spectroscopy in which XMCD is...

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New MX Detectors: Data Collection "à Grande Vitesse"

27-01-2006

When screening large numbers of crystallographic samples it is important that the opportunity to actually collect data exists. Often the pressure to return with some data leads to an inappropriate, or sub-optimal, sample being used when further screening may have lead...

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Bacterial tubulin: a folding mystery

05-12-2005

Prosthecobacter, a bacterium isolated from raw sewage, may have acquired tubulin during its evolution. Tubulin is essential for higher organisms as it plays a pivotal role in the eukaryotic cytoskeleton and is not normally found in bacteria. The eukaryotic protein polymerise...

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Unravelling Multipole Order with RXS

15-11-2005

How electrons organise themselves to form the abundance of states of matter found in nature, such as magnets, superconductors, ferroelectrics, metals, insulators etc., is of fundamental importance in contemporary condensed matter physics. It also underpins advances...

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Aggregated Diamond Nanorods, the Densest and Least Compressible Form of Carbon

25-10-2005

The first synthesis of bulk samples of nanocrystalline diamond was reported recently (Figure 1) [1]. Through the use of electron microscopy and EELS (Electron Energy Loss Spectroscopy), the structure of the nanometric material was identified as randomly stacked nanorods...

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40 nm Focus Reached at the ESRF using Dynamically-bent Graded Multilayers

30-09-2005

Focusing hard X-rays efficiently down to spots below 100 nm is a real challenge for presently-available X-ray optics. Among various other techniques, curved and laterally graded multilayers are promising candidates to provide the required performance, thanks to their...

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Colloidal Discs Trade their Order

14-09-2005

Every child playing with blocks knows how difficult it is to build a wall or a tower using blocks that are slightly different. A similar problem is known in self-organisation of colloids. For example, colloidal hard spheres usually fail to crystallise if their size...

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Steps on Steps: The Nano-structure of a Vicinal Oxide Surface

11-07-2005

Grazing-incidence X-ray diffraction, combined with Low Energy Electron Diffraction (LEED) and Scanning Tunneling Microscopy (STM), shows that annealed SrTiO3 (103) surfaces exhibit regular nano-structures on two length-scales with shorter (~ 1.2 nm) ripples bunching...

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Enhancing the Energy Resolution in Inelastic X-ray Scattering Experiments

08-06-2005

Inelastic X-ray scattering experiments require the measurement of the number of photons scattered by a sample as a function of the photon energy, which needs to be determined with a precision of better than 10-6. Such precision cannot be achieved by means of an X-ray...

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Crucial Elements for Designing a Malaria Vaccine are Revealed by the Structure of Apical Membrane Antigen 1

07-06-2005

Malaria causes more than 2 million deaths each year and, along with AIDS and tuberculosis, is one of the three "diseases of poverty". With the growing problem of resistance to anti-malarial drugs, the search for alternative strategies for combating the disease has become...

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Measurement of Femtometre-scale Atomic Displacements by X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy

13-05-2005

A dispersive X-ray spectrometer was employed to make rapid measurements of the difference in EXAFS of a material undergoing periodic strain. This new technique uses X-rays to look at the movement of atoms with a resolution 100 times better than ever achieved before.

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Probing Vibrational Excitations in Molecular Crystals by Inelastic X-ray Scattering

31-03-2005

Benzoic acid is a model system for studying molecular vibrations and proton transfer in hydrogen-bonded dimers. An inelastic X-ray experiment was intended to complement neutron scattering and Raman measurements and ab initio phonon calculations in the high frequency...

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Direct Evidence of the Highly-organised Nature of Circular Surface Micelles of Surfactant at the Air-water Interface

08-03-2005

Semi-fluorinated alkanes (SFA, CnF2n+1CmHm+1, FnHm) exhibit a lipophobic-hydrophobic character that gives them interesting properties [1]. Despite the lack of polar head group, these molecules are able to form a stable Langmuir monolayer, i.e. a monomolecular-thick...

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Probing Surface Dynamics near the Glass Transition by Correlation Spectroscopy with Coherent X-rays

15-02-2005

Recently there has been much debate about confinement effects and the influence of the reduced dimensionality of the glass transition. There has even been speculation about a possible "surface glass transition". By photon correlation spectroscopy with coherent X-rays...

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A Molecular Machine for Processing DNA Breaks

28-01-2005

All living organisms are faced with the challenge of maintaining the integrity of their genetic information, the DNA genome. This is under constant assault from a wide variety of internal and external factors and cells have evolved sophisticated ways to repair damage...

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The Speed of Oxidation of Metal Surfaces

14-12-2004

Surface X-ray scattering study of the formation and reduction of oxide on Au(111) and Au(100)

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Mechanical Behaviour of Wood Cell Wall Studied by in situ WAXS

09-12-2004

In situ X-ray scattering combined with tensile tests opens the way for analyses of the mechanical behaviour of complex hierarchical nano composite tissues.

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Pulsed Laser Deposition Caught by Synchrotron X-rays

10-11-2004

With the rapid development of nano-science and nano-technology, it is increasingly important to control crystal growth at the atomic level. Pulsed Laser Deposition (PLD) is a technique that allows the growth of thin films with a controlled thickness down to the nanometre...

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Live Observation of the Growth of Quasicrystal Grains

04-10-2004

Soon after their discovery in 1984, it was realised that quasicrystals (QC) constitute a new class of solids as they were found to differ both from crystals, because they lack periodicity, and from glasses, because they exhibit long-range order. Their particularities...

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In situ Study of Nanomaterial Growth in Flames

13-09-2004

Flame synthesis is one of the most versatile and promising technologies for large-scale production of nano-scale materials. Nanomaterials have distinctly different properties from bulk materials and understanding the mechanism of growth is pivotal to their controlled...

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Synchronous in situ time-resolved XAFS, infra red, and mass spectrometric approach to heterogeneous catalysis

10-08-2004

Simultaneous interrogation of working catalysts using time-resolved X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAFS), diffuse reflectance infra red spectroscopy (DRIFTS), and mass spectrometry (MS), has been developed at the University of Southampton and tested on beamline ID24....

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3-Dimensional Coherent X-ray Diffraction on a single Au Crystal of Micrometre Size

20-07-2004

The use of coherence opens the way to 3D imaging of micrometric crystals with nanometric resolution.

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