Wednesday, 10 February 2016

It's not a pantomime, it's a family reunion!

Yes, just like buses, nothing for two months then two entries!

This morning I was reminded of York's panto star Berwick Kaler's regular line "it's not a pantomime, it's a family reunion". I'm here with Liane Benning, who is still kind of at Leeds but also now in Germany. On i18 (microfocus XAS, see previous posts) was Iain Burke from Leeds accompanied by Doug Stewart and a bearded Andy Bray looking at vanadium in steel slags (incidently I'm wondering whether Iain makes all his postdocs grow beards, it seems to be taking a "team look" a little too far).

Doug Stewart, Iain Burke and Andy Bray on i18 - the smiles are undoubtedly due to the quality of the flapjack being consumed

Next door on B18 (bulk XAS, never used this beamline) was Caroline Peacock, also from Leeds, working with Fred Mosselmans on molybdenum in aquatic sediments.

Caroline et al.
And then Paul Hallett (Aberdeen, I'm working with him on RedSoil, a NERC - NSFC funded project on the red soil critical zone in China) is on i13 which is an X-ray tomography beamline though he has gone home with a day to go, presumably because he's driving and it's a long way to Aberdeen.

I sometimes think that there ought to be an official circuit race of Diamond - it would make visits here more exciting if people were competing for the best time around the ring. However, if such a race did exist (and I guess I should stress strongly that it doesn't) then the management seem determined to up the ante - there are now three sets of pipes that block the straight route so that what would have been a simple sprint has now become more of a steeple chase.
Stair 1

Stair 2

And would you believe it, stair 3
There are excellent science reasons for these long pipes, tapping off various wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation for experiments (just don't ask me what they are!) but they have broken up the circuit. It also reminded me of the, possibly apocryphal, story that when Royalty visited Daresbury (Diamond's predecessor), the beam had to be turned off because a pipe that crossed the circuit around the synchrotron had to be cut out for the visit so that the Royals wouldn't have to duck underneath it. Perhaps that's why they've gone for bridges at Diamond!

Adventures at Diamond

Much to my surprise there's been no entry since December. As Head of Department my life has been taken up with budget setting and the like which is not such fun. However, I have escaped for a day or two to do some science back at Diamond.

I'm here with a remarkably relaxed Liane Benning to do some STXM - scanning X-ray microscopy on i08 helped by the beamline scientists Burkhard Kaulich, Tohru Araki and Majid Abyaneh.
A relaxed looking Liane, i08 clearly agrees with her

Avid readers will be familiar with Liane's and my adventures on B22 looking at amorphous calcium carbonate in earthworm secreted carbonate balls. It's much the same here only you get to wear silly clothes when you put a sample on.
Fashion conscious as ever here I am in the room with the STXM
i08 can look at things in far greater detail, i.e. smaller areas, higher resolution, than B22. We hope to identify areas of calcite, areas of amorphous calcium carbonate and then identify differences in the organic molecules present either in or between these areas. This is really a look see - spotting low concentrations of organic molecules on the basis of their C signature against a background of carbonate that containts, the clue is in the name, lots of carbon, is potentially challenging but you have to try these things.

The i08 control screens

So far things look fairly positive. By looking at calcium we've identified areas that appear to be different forms of calcium carbonate, now we are mapping out the carbon to see if there are any differences that match onto these. More later, fingers crossed.
Typical spectrum from one area of carbonate - looks rather amorphous calcium carbonate like

Whereas this spectrum looks far more calcite like