Research Highlights

In this category especially chosen Research Highlights are presented in more detail, which have been published in a peer reviewed journal. Please recommend interesting papers, which are suitable for future highlights, to Wiebke Laasch.

07 December 2017

Novel lenses enable X-ray microscopy with record resolution


Scientists at DESY have developed novel lenses that enable X-ray microscopy with record resolution in the nanometre regime. Using new materials, the research team led by DESY scientist Saša Bajt from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) has perfected the design of specialised X-ray optics and achieved a focus spot size with a diameter of less than ten nanometres. A nanometre is a ...

28 November 2017

New method enables automated fast investigation of enzymatic processes


Scientists at DESY have developed a new method that enables automated and fast screening of promising drug candidates. This novel technique, called mix-and-diffuse serial synchrotron crystallography, can image the interaction of potential drug targets with drug candidates or other molecules. The concept has the potential to take structure and fragment based drug design to a new level, as the researchers ...

26 November 2017

Scientists watch diamond turn into graphite


In a surprising achievement, a team of scientists including scientists from DESY, has turned diamond into graphite, using an X-ray laser. What may seem undesirable at first glance, is a decisive step forward in understanding the fundamental behaviour of solids when they absorb energetic radiation. For the first time, the researchers around Franz Tavella from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the US, ...

20 November 2017

Clay mineral waters the mantle of the Earth from the inside


In high-pressure and high-temperature X-ray measurements that were partly conducted at DESY, scientists created conditions similar to those in so-called subduction zones where an oceanic plate dives under the continental crust. The first observation of a super-hydrated phase of the clay mineral kaolinite could improve our understanding of processes that lead to volcanism and affect earthquakes. The ...

06 November 2017

Crystals in a pink X-ray beam


A newly experimental set-up, developed by an international team including scientists from  DESY, allows the X-ray structure determination of biomolecules such as proteins with far smaller samples and shorter exposure times than before. At so-called synchrotron sources, protein crystal can be studied considerably more efficiently and quickly by using broad-spectrum X-rays. However, due to the large ...

01 November 2017

Study at FLASH: Imaging using incoherent light


Physicists at the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), the University of Hamburg and the research facility DESY have succeeded for the first time in revealing tiny structures using an imaging method that relies on the usual diffraction of light, but which does not require the scattered light to be coherent. With conventional imaging methods using the diffraction of coherent light, ...

19 October 2017

X-ray Rabi oscillations between nuclei observed in coupled cavities


A new study led by DESY scientist Ralf Röhlsberger shows a novel way to enhance and control the interaction of X-rays with resonant atomic systems. X-rays interact weakly with matter. This is their greatest strength for many applications, but also a fundamental weakness for others. In particular the fields of nonlinear optics and quantum optics, mainstays for both fundamental science and ...

10 October 2017

Nanoswirls for future data storage


Magnetic swirls called skyrmions are considered to be a promising potential means of achieving more efficient data storage technology. At PETRA III, scientists, also from DESY, used X-ray holography to image and directly observe the skyrmions. They have discovered a method to generate such skyrmions in a way which can be directly integrated into memory chips and which functions reliably up to the ...

22 August 2017

New spectrometers increase efficiency of X-ray analyses substantially


So-called Fresnel zone plate spectrometers offer new and more efficient ways of conducting experiments using soft X-rays. Scientists, including researchers from DESY, have presented the design for a reflection zone plate in a study published in the journal Optics Express. It simplifies the extremely complicated measurements on chemically and biologically relevant systems that have ...

08 August 2017

X-ray analyses with significantly enhanced resolution


Physicists from the Friedrich-Alexander-University of Nuremberg-Erlangen (FAU) and DESY have worked out a new technique that could significantly improve the quality of X-ray analysis in crystallography compared to conventional methods. Incoherent diffractive imaging (IDI) could help to image individual atoms in nanocrystals or ...

31 July 2017

Spectrally broad X-ray pulses can be “sharpened” by purely mechanical means


A team of theoretical and experimental physicists, including scientists from DESY,  lead by the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics (MPIK in Heidelberg, Germany) has developed and realized a method to “sharpen” spectrally broad X-ray pulses by purely mechanical means. It is based on fast motions, precisely synchronized with the pulses, of a target interacting with the X-ray light. ...

13 July 2017

Microwaves reveal detailed structure of molecular motor


A team of scientists, including researchers from DESY,  has used microwaves to unravel the exact structure of a tiny molecular motor. The nano-machine consists of just a single molecule, made up of 27 carbon and 20 hydrogen atoms (C27H20). Like a macroscopic motor it has a stator and a rotor, connected by an axle. The analysis reveals just how the individual parts of the motor ...

03 July 2017

Spin currents switch at terahertz frequencies


DESY scientist Lars Bocklage has discovered a new way of producing ultrafast spin currents. His theoretical calculations, which have now been published in the 'Physical Review Letters', suggest that the spin current can operate at terahertz frequencies – a thousand times faster than the speeds achievable at the moment. The technology of spintronics is based on the intrinsic spin of ...

26 June 2017

X-ray experiments reveal two different types of water


Liquid water exists in two different forms – at least at very low temperatures. This is the conclusion drawn from X-ray experiments carried out at DESY and at the Argonne National Laboratory in the US. An international team of researchers headed by the University of Stockholm now reports its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The scientists led by Anders ...

19 June 2017

First atomic structure of an intact virus deciphered with an X-ray laser


An international team of scientists, including researchers from DESY, has for the first time used an X-ray free-electron laser to unravel the structure of an intact virus particle on the atomic level. The method used dramatically reduces the amount of virus material required, while also allowing the investigations to be carried out several times faster than before. This opens up entirely new research ...

15 June 2017

Organic crystals behave like steel


Scientists, including researchers from DESY,  have been fascinated by thermosalient crystals for some time: when placed on a hotplate, these inconspicuous crystals suddenly propel themselves upwards, leaping to heights several times their own length. This abrupt movement is caused by a change in the structure of the crystals. A detailed examination of this transition is very difficult because it is ...

07 June 2017

X-ray analysis reveals unexpected behaviour of silica minerals


With high-pressure experiments at DESY's X-ray light source PETRA III and other facilities, a research team around Leonid Dubrovinsky from the University of Bayreuth has solved a long standing riddle in the analysis of meteorites from Moon and Mars. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, can explain why different versions of silica can coexist in meteorites, although they ...

06 June 2017

Phosphorus-containing lipid molecule self-assembles into a cuboid structure


For the first time, scientists have observed a phosphorus-containing lipid molecule that assembles by itself to form cubes. Research carried out at  PETRA III at DESY and other facilities has shown that the unusual shape is due to special bonds in the synthetic molecule, a particular phospholipid. Phospholipids play an important role in living organisms, forming membranes, among other things. The new ...

01 June 2017

X-ray pulses create “molecular black hole”


Scientists, including researchers from DESY,  have used an ultra-bright pulse of X-ray light to turn an atom in a molecule briefly into a sort of electromagnetic black hole. Unlike a black hole in space, the X-rayed atom does not draw in matter from its surroundings through the force of gravity, but electrons with its electrical charge – causing the molecule to explode within the tiniest ...

30 May 2017

Scientists demonstrate unparalleled phase control of free-electron laser pulses


Thanks to a smart mirror scientists can control the phase of X-rays from DESY's free-electron laser FLASH with attosecond precision. The feat enables new investigations of the interactions of light and matter, as the team headed by DESY scientist Tim Laarmann reports in the journal Nature Communications. An attosecond is a billionth of a billionth of a second. The phase indicates at which ...

17 March 2017

Scientists synthesise first sample of transparent silicon nitride at DESY


Scientists have synthesised the first transparent sample of a popular industrial ceramic at DESY. The result is a super-hard window made of cubic silicon nitride that can potentially be used under extreme conditions like in engines, as the Japanese-German team writes in the journal Scientific Reports. Cubic silicon nitride (c-Si3N4) forms under high pressure and is the ...

16 March 2017

Double flow concept widens spectrum for protein crystallography


Thanks to an innovative nozzle, scientists can now analyse more types of proteins while using fewer of the hard-to-get protein crystals. As the inventors - DESY scientist Saša Bajt from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) headed the team - write in the journal Scientific Reports, the nozzle can reduce protein consumption eightfold in serial X-ray crystallography experiments. ...

02 March 2017

Scientists develop spectacles for X-ray lasers


An international team of scientists, including researchers from DESY, has tailored special X-ray glasses to concentrate the beam of an X-ray laser stronger than ever before. The individually produced corrective lens eliminates the inevitable defects of an X-ray optics stack almost completely and concentrates three quarters of the X-ray beam to a spot with 250 nanometres (millionths of a millimetre) ...

23 February 2017

X-rays from PETRA III reveal weaving of golden coat


Applying nanoscale metal coatings to thin polymer films is of interest for various promising industrial applications, for example as a means of increasing the efficiency of organic solar cells. The properties of the metal coatings need to be precisely adjusted, depending on the application in question. At DESY, scientists have now studied in real time how the structure of a fine gold coating produced by ...

14 February 2017

X-ray pulses reveal structure of viral cocoon


An international team, including scientists from DESY, has used high-intensity X-ray pulses to determine the structure of the crystalline protein envelope of an insect virus. Their analysis reveals the fine details of the building blocks that make up the viral cocoon down to a scale of 0.2 nanometres (millionths of a millimetre) – approaching atom-scale resolution. The tiny viruses with their ...

08 February 2017

Under pressure: Heliums forms stable compound


Using high pressure, an international team of researchers has produced a stable sodium-helium crystal. In experiments partly carried out at PETRA III, they  were able to confirm the compound. This discovery comes as a surprise as Helium does not react with other elements under normal conditions. The scientists around Artem R. Oganov of the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) in ...

07 February 2017

Researchers unravel dynamics of electron clouds


A US-German research team, including scientists from DESY,  has elucidated the ultra-fast dynamics of electron clouds in xenon atoms. Using attosecond technology, the scientists around Stephen R. Leone from the University of California in Berkeley were able to measure the reactions of the electrons to the strong field of an intense laser pulse in real time. Quantum mechanical modelling of the process ...

02 February 2017

X-ray vision reveals new crystal structure in “gum metal”


Scientists from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung (MPIE) have observed a new phase transformation in a titanium alloy at the X-ray source PETRA III at DESY. The mechanism they discovered could further our understanding of some surprising properties of certain alloys and be used to develop new materials. The team around main author Jian Zhang of the MPIE in Düsseldorf presents its ...

24 January 2017

Foundation for new type of solar cell


An interdisciplinary team of researchers, also from DESY, has laid the foundations for an entirely new type of photovoltaic cell. In this new method, infrared radiation is converted into electrical energy using a different mechanism from that found in conventional solar cells. The mechanism behind the new solid-state solar cell made of the mineral perovskite relies on so-called polaron excitations, which ...

24 January 2017

X-ray study throws light on key process for production


A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from  PETRA III, DESY's research light source, the scientists could watch just how small protein pieces, called nanofibrils, lock together to form a fibre. Surprisingly, the best fibres are not formed by the longest protein pieces. Instead, the strongest ...

12 January 2017

First attosecond timing in a kilometre-wide laser-microwave network


Scientists at DESY have set up the world's most precise ‘metronome’ for a kilometre-wide network. The timing system synchronizes a 4.7-kilometer-long laser-microwave network with 950 attoseconds precision. An attosecond is a quintillionth of a second, or a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. Such installations can provide the beat for recording ultrafast X-ray snapshots of ...