Chemistry

Synchrotron light has a wide range of applications in chemical research. In the investigation of new materials, the finely tuned X-ray beams are able to accurately determine the structure of single-molecule crystals. This is a crucial factor not only in the characterisation of a new compound but it is also for our understanding of the properties of a material.

Solid state chemistry is beginning to be explored under extreme conditions at synchrotron facilities, helping to predict new materials and their properties.

Synchrotrons also allow the study of the microstructural changes that occur on deformation of polymers. By studying the behaviour of the material at different stages of degradation we are able to map the relationships between microstructure, degradation and ultimate mechanical response. This enables rational design of microstructure for desired properties.

Scientists Take First Dip into Water’s Mysterious ‘No Man’s Land’

An X-ray laser pulse at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source probes a supercooled water droplet (center, left). The speed and brightness of the X-ray pulses allowed researchers to study water molecules in the instant before freezing.
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An X-ray laser pulse at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source probes a supercooled water droplet (center, left). The speed and brightness of the X-ray pulses allowed researchers to study water molecules in the instant before freezing.

Linac Coherent Light Source, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, USA

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit, within an elusive “no man’s land” where water’s strange properties are super-amplified.

The research, made possible by SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and reported June 18 in Nature, opens a new window for exploring liquid water in these exotic conditions, and promises to improve our understanding of its unique properties at the more natural temperatures and states that are relevant to global ocean currents, climate and biology.

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Salty surprise - ordinary table salt turns into "forbidden" forms

The electron localization function in the cubic NaCl3 structure.
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The electron localization function in the cubic NaCl3 structure.

PETRA III, DESY, Hamburg, Germany

High-pressure experiments with ordinary table salt have produced new chemical compounds that should not exist according to the textbook rules of chemistry. The study at DESY's X-ray source PETRA III and at other research centres could pave the way to a more universal understanding of chemistry and to novel applications.

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