Beamtime at the Advanced Light Source | COG3 Consortium

In November, Laura Newsome, a Research Associate, and Sul Mulroy, a PhD student at the University of Manchester Geomicrobiology group, travelled to California for beamtime at the Advanced Light Source synchrotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.


At the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, California

Laura and Sul travelled to analyse samples generated from their work on the COG3 project. Sul reports from the visit.

We were met in Berkeley by Adriana Figueroa-Garcia, a beamline scientist from Diamond, who was kind enough to give us a generous portion of time on beamline 6.3.1 to perform L-edge spectroscopy and X-ray magnetic circular dichroism (XMCD) on a range of samples containing half of the top row of transition metals (Mn, Fe, Co, Ni and Cu).


At work at the Advanced Light Source

Also present at the lab were groups of wild turkeys and deer that hadn’t realised, or didn’t care, that there was a particle accelerator and numerous physical sciences labs in their habitat. There were rumours of mountain lions prowling the hills around the lab too, probably looking for some turkey to snack on.

A cancellation on beamline 4.0.2 due to technical issues – an occurrence that hasn’t happened in 16 years, we were told – meant Laura and I had time to get the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) to San Francisco and spent the whole day wandering around after a brunch of burgers, Mexican food and beer. We caught some good views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge and got our feet wet in the Bay – one of us with our shoes still on, which was a bit uncomfortable for the rest of the day.

The shifts on the beam were relatively benign, as both early and late risers were accommodated for and the majority of the data was sound. A few left-field analyses were thrown our way – who’d have thought barium could be so easily confused for cobalt? But with Adriana’s help we went through all the samples in good time, giving us a chance to visit some pretty awesome restaurants in downtown Berkeley each evening and, on the last night, a bar that served some aggressively strong beer.