Friday, 17 January 2014

Back at the beam-line....

After a rather long and protracted journey from Manchester to San Francisco, the University of Manchester Synchrotron beam team finally arrived at the Stanford Synchrotron Lightsource yesterday evening...all a tad shattered. Our body clocks were all saying 5am GMT when we crashed to sleep...only to wake-up at 3:30am Pacific time (a relative sleep-in till 11:30GMT). After playing catch-up with work email, we all headed down to the beamline...where we will now be working for the next week. So much for the Californian Sun outside...we will not be seeing that much. It is here at beamline 6-2 that we will gently bathe fossils in the brilliant monochromatic synchrotron light to gently tease-out their elemental secrets. However, before we could start to hunt for the chemical ghosts of past life, we had to spend a whole day aligning the optics of the beam line…sometimes accelerator physics can be ironically slow and frustrating.

Pause for thought: Roberto and Dimosthenis at SSRL

However, the two excellent SSRL scientists, Roberto and Dimosthenis, gently coerced the beam into its correct position...shedding light brighter than a million suns through our 50 micron diameter pinhole. As I sit writing these lines, we have just started to scan our elemental standards to provide a baseline to allow accurate measurements to be taken of the chemical concentrations locked within each fossil that we scan…so, we are ready to do some science!

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