At BESSY II, we are operating some 50 beamlines, each of which offers the latest methods in spectroscopy and microscopy.
Each beamline has a dedicated beamline scientist, who not only manages all the projects on the beamline and knows its every secret, but also works with local and visiting scientists to get the best results out of the beam and its instruments for every specific research question they have. Without the beamline scientists, much of the science at BESSY II could never happen.

But who are they? What makes a good beamline scientist and where do they come from? In this little series you are going to find out. Today we introduce Ulrich Schade, who works at the IRIS beamline.

 

What’s the history of your beamline and what is it like?

At the end of the 90s, a consortium of several German research institutions proposed a multi-purpose infrared beamline for the new electron storage ring BESSY II under the acronym IRIS (InfraRotInitiative Synchrotronstrahlung). Funded by two proposals to the BMBF the beamline started operating in 2002 as a Cooperative Research Groupe (CRG) beamline and turned into a BESSY-operated beamline in 2004 at the end of the BMBF funding period.

For which research applications is this beamline especially suitable?

The IRIS beamline is quite different in its construction and operation compared to the other BESSY II beamlines due to the long wavelength nature of infrared light. IRIS comprises a large acceptance angle and therefore provides a diffraction-limited spot at the sample’s position in the order of the wavelength itself. IRIS delivers highly brilliant infrared radiation over the energy range from about 20,000 down to 30 cm-1 and even lower when BESSY II is run in the so-called low-α mode. The different spectroscopic endstations at the beamline are suitable for a large variety of material and life science investigations. Generally, spectroscopy with infrared radiation can provide information on the chemical, structural and electronic properties of matter.

What’s your background, scientifically?  How did you get to be a beamline scientist?

I graduated from Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and received my doctorate degree in physics in 1990. As a postdoc at the Tohoku Daigaku, Sendai, Japan, I studied epitaxial monolayer growths of semiconductors. Back in Berlin, I managed an infrared project for the European cometary mission ROSETTA and am still sometimes asked to contribute to the data analysis. In 1998 I came to BESSY II in the frame of the aforementioned BMBF projects to augment BESSY II with an infrared beamline. At present I am senior scientist at the IRIS beamline with the focus on the application of infrared and THz synchrotron radiation to material and life sciences. My previous experiences spanning from semiconductor physics over space instrumentations development to planetary sciences are of great help for my current work at the IRIS beamline.

What is your work as a beamline scientists?

We accommodate about 15 to 20 user groups at the IRIS beamline each year. Depending on their previous experiences, we support them not only in planning their experiments, but also in preparing the samples and the optical scheme for the spectroscopic investigation under specific environments, like pressure, temperature, atmospheres, etc. If requested, we also help them during the actual measurements on the experimental stations and in the data analysis. This is an extremely interesting, but demanding work that confronts us with a wide range of questions from almost all areas of science.

What is the most rewarding part?

I am particularly pleased when longer-term scientific collaborations develop and contribute to the improvement and success of the beamline. A good example is our collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS), which works with functionalized surfaces for future bio-sensors, among other things. A successful cooperation also exists with researchers from the University La Sapienza in Rome, who conducted measurements on novel superconductors. They are now coming to us once or twice a year investigating the light activation of proteins bi-layers.

“When paperwork and bureaucratic obstacles aren’t taking over too much of the efforts, a beamline at a storage ring facility can be a very creative environment for people who live for and love doing science.”

What is the most rewarding part?

I am particularly pleased when longer-term scientific collaborations develop and contribute to the improvement and success of the beamline. A good example is our collaboration with the Leibniz Institute for Analytical Sciences (ISAS), which works with functionalized surfaces for future bio-sensors, among other things. A successful cooperation also exists with researchers from the University La Sapienza in Rome, who conducted measurements on novel superconductors. They are now coming to us once or twice a year investigating the light activation of proteins bi-layers.

Also very exciting is the work on historical masterpieces or cultural heritage objects giving us the unique opportunity to see them up close. Colleagues from the Art History Museum and University of Oslo regularly visited us to investigate paintings by Edvard Munch and Arnold Böcklin or wooden objects from the Viking Age. The goal here was to find out how these treasures can be conserved for the future. Very recently we were able to contribute to the decipherment of the degradation mechanism in the parchment of the early 15th century illuminated Dutch manuscript „Maria von Geldern“, one of the most precious treasures of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and the Nationalbibliothek in Vienna.

What are you working on at the moment?

Besides maintaining the normal user operation of our beamline on a high level we have our own scientific projects. Together with researchers from Italy, China and colleagues from the Geoforschungszentrum Potsdam our group is currently investigating the behavior of thermoelectric compounds like SnSe at high pressure and high temperature in order to better understand the thermoelectric conversion. We are also at the final stage of developing a single-shot infrared spectrometer based on modern infrared focal-plane-technology, a BMBF project together with the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin. We already had first spectra on the noncyclic kinetics of proteins under light illumination and submitted a manuscript on the first results.

What have you always wanted to tell people about beamline work?

When paperwork and bureaucratic obstacles aren’t taking over too much of the efforts, a beamline at a storage ring facility can be a very creative environment for people who live for and love doing science.

(kh)

2 Comments

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