As 2012 draws to a close, Diamond Light Source reflects back on its tenth anniversary year.
In November top scientists, industrial researchers and funding agencies gathered at the Royal Society in London to gain insights into the scientific achievements that have been driven by Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility.
The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, attended the science symposium, which was held on 27th November. During his speech he said:
The Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science, and Professor Gerd Materlik, Chief Executive of Diamond, with the glass artistic interpretation of the Hand-Foot-and-Mouth virus.
The symposium consisted of a day of talks from some of the top researchers in the UK working in the many fields that utilise synchrotron light. You can listen to the Diamond podcast recorded on the day.
Professor Tromp continued,
Professor Gerd Materlik, Diamond’s Chief Executive, said,
Looking back over the past 10 years, there have been many challenges and achievements. Throughout Diamond’s development, the team has remained focused on our vision to be a cutting-edge facility for scientific research, supporting a wide range of users from both academia and industry, thereby delivering benefits to the UK society and economy.
Professor Materlik added:
“Today is about showcasing the world-class research that amazingly talented scientists are delivering with the help of our machine and our in-house expertise. As new facilities become available at Diamond, we are able to attract researchers from an ever increasing number of scientific disciplines. Phase III’s 10 additional beamlines will further enhance Diamond’s ability to support UK science and industry and contribute to economic growth.”
I am delighted to be part of Diamond’s 10th Anniversary celebrations and to have the opportunity to meet the scientists for whom this world class facility is such an important research tool. Diamond is helping the UK get ahead in the global race by tackling challenges related to health, energy, the environment and manufacturing.
Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts
Sir Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, commented:
Prof Yvonne Jones is Joint Head of the Division of Structural Biology and Deputy Director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford. Her group’s research, which regularly brings them to the Macromolecular Crystallography (MX) beamlines at Diamond, addresses fundamental questions about cell-cell signalling systems of importance to human health. The work ties into an extensive network of interdisciplinary local and international collaborations with the ultimate aim of learning how to manipulate these signalling systems for the design of new clinical therapies.
The intricate wiring of the human brain means that a growing nerve cell has to be able to communicate with neighbouring cells to be guided to its correct location. Indeed, the development and well being of the entire human body is founded on a small number of major cell guidance systems working correctly. Semaphorin-plexin signalling is one of these systems and members of Prof Jones’ group are revealing how it works with the help of Diamond and the European synchrotron (the ESRF). The plexins are the signal receptors which sit on the growing tip (the growth cone) of the nerve cell, the semaphorins are the signal molecules from the neighbouring cells. The path steered by the growth cone depends on the ‘match making’ of plexins with semaphorins, sub microscopic level rules of engagement which Diamond MX beamlines can reveal. Improving our understanding of these fundamental biological interactions will feed into the search for better treatments for diseases ranging from cancer to osteoporosis
Structural basis of semaphorin–plexin signalling Nature Volume:467,Pages:1118–1122
Neuropilins lock secreted semaphorins onto plexins in a ternary signaling complex Nature Struct. Mol. Biol. AOP (28 October 2012)
Professor Moniek Tromp is the chair of Catalyst Characterisation at the Catalysis Research Centre of the Technische Universität München in Germany. Her main research focus is on the development of spectroscopic techniques and instrumentation as tools in catalysis, with X-ray spectroscopy techniques as speciality. She is involved in developing spectroscopic X-ray techniques that will lead to insights into the electronic-function as well as structure-function relationships in homogeneous, heterogeneous and electro-catalytic systems, at realistic catalytic conditions and timescales.
The efficient catalytic conversion of small molecules into more complex species in commercial demand continues to be a very important feature of the global chemical industry, and the ability to increase the specificity and selectivity of these processes is essential for clean, energy efficient processes. Using one of Diamond’s spectroscopy beamlines (B18), along with beamlines at the European synchrotron (ESRF) and the Swiss Light Source (SLS), the researchers have devised methods to probe transition metal catalytic systems in situ, to obtain insights into the structural and electronic changes of the catalysts as a function of time and thereby elucidate the reaction mechanism. This particular study focused on the transition metal catalysed synthesis of specific linear alpha-olefins, C6 and C8, co-polymers of which over 50% is used industrially for the production of Linear Low Density Polyethylene (LDDPE). Due to the high tensile and puncture strength of LDDPE, it is the desired material for applications in the field of thin films, e.g. packaging, foils, membranes and flexible tubing. The researchers’ novel freeze-quench approach, which can trap reaction solutions within a second of mixing, opens up a large field of homogeneous catalysis and liquid chemistry to be studied.
M Tromp et al, Journal of Catalysis 284, 247-258 (2011)
Dalton Trans. 2013, DOI:10.1039/c2dt31804k.
Professor Alexander Blake is a Professor of Chemical Crystallography at the University of Nottingham. The Crystal Structure Facility that he established at Nottingham is a world-class centre for structure determination, low temperature crystallography, high pressure crystallography, and supramolecular structure. Metal Organic Framework (MOF) materials have recently been identified as effective materials for capturing the carbon dioxide produced by coal-fired power plants and factories: the framework structure of MOFs contains pores that trap specific harmful gases. However, many of these MOFs can only store the gases efficiently under impractically high pressure, or they suffer structural degradation caused by the reaction of the trapped gas with water.
Professor Blake and his colleagues made a breakthrough on Diamond’s I11 High Resolution Powder Diffraction Beamline, which is a powerful instrument for determining the structure of microcrystalline materials – such as this new carbon capturer – that do not necessarily form suitable single crystals. Their MOF material (named NOTT-300) incorporates a large number of free hydroxyl groups which are able to selectively trap carbon dioxide at the molecular level. This research at Diamond has since enabled the scientists to identify a low-cost, high-efficiency carbon capture material, which is water-stable and possesses many advantages over the current technology, which involves solutions of toxic and corrosive organic amines.
Dr Ian Burke is an Associate Professor in Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Leeds School of Earth and Environment. His research interests are focused on the fundamental biogeochemical processes that affect the environmental behaviour of metals and radionuclides.
In 2010, a 1 million m³ red mud spill at Ajka in Western Hungary left 10 people dead and over 100 seriously injured. In the period that followed the incident, there was debate over whether or not the Hungarian authorities needed to remove the red mud deposits from affected land, which stretched 40km², because of possible risks to human and animal health, and to the environment. Dr Burke and collaborators from Hull, Newcastle and Hungary carried out X-ray absorption spectroscopy experiments on samples from the spill site on beamline I18 at Diamond to analyse the speciation of chromium, arsenic and vanadium.
Their results revealed that, while the conditions were such that chromium and arsenic environmental mobility would be restricted, the vanadium is inefficiently removed from solution by neutralization. The means that the red mud could act as a source of mobile vanadium, which is very toxic, where the red mud deposits are not removed from affected land. This research validated the decision to remove the red mud, instead of ploughing it into the soil.
Ian Burke et al, Environmental Science & Technology 2012, 46, 3085-3092
By capturing the EV71 virus in its different states and collecting a series of structures, scientists from the University of Oxford have created a detailed picture of the virus’s actions in sequence. They can now see that rather than being a rigid object, the virus can actually “breathe” and infect the cell. This achievement opens new opportunities for developing therapies for hand-foot-and-mouth disease and is an extremely successful example of Anglo Chinese collaboration.
Nature Structural Biology, 2012.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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