The Center for Synchrotron Radiation Research and Instrumentation (CSRRI) at Illinois Institute of Technology was formed in the early 90's to take advantage of the outstanding opportunities presented by the construction of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), at Argonne National Laboratory, just 25 miles southwest of Chicago. Virtually on IIT's doorstep, the APS is the largest synchrotron source in the western hemisphere. Synchrotron radiation consists of x-ray beams, a thousand to a million times more intense than those produced by traditional laboratory sources. These x-ray beams have a wide range of applications, including the study of large biological molecules and materials, semi-conductors, magnetic materials, nanostructures and novel technological systems such as fuel cells.
This x-ray source is also ideally suited for the study of our cultural heritage through the non-destructive analysis of archaeological materials. The CSRRI, under the direction of Dr. Thomas Irving, encompasses a broad range of research interests and competencies ranging from biophysics, materials science, and physical chemistry to structural biology, x-ray optics and instrumentation.
XANES and EXAFS Study of a Fully Operating Fuel Cell
Sector 10 belongs to the Materials Research Collaborative Access Team (MRCAT), a multiple-institution consortium, with membership from IIT, University of Notre Dame, University of Florida, Argonne Chemical Engineering Division, Argonne Biosciences Division, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Its mission is to build and operate two x-ray beamlines at the APS dedicated to x-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) studies. Research goals include: determining the local structure of materials and environmental systems; using a hard x-ray microprobe for determining the distribution of heavy elements, their speciation and local structure in biological and non-biological systems; deep x-ray lithography; and photochemistry.
An example of the exciting work done at the MRCAT facility are recent studies by Carlo Segre, Professor of Physics at IIT and Deputy Director of MRCAT, and his collaborators on direct methanol fuel cells: (DMFCs) using XANES and EXAFS x-ray spectroscopic techniques to study the chemical environment of metal in situ.
Powerful X-ray Beams and an Electronic Flight Simulator Uncover Clues to the Extraordinary Performance of Insect Muscle
Sector 18 is assigned to the Biophysics Collaborative Access Team (BioCAT), a NIH-Supported Research Center for the study of the structure and dynamics of partially ordered biological systems. Supported techniques are: fiber x-ray diffraction and micro-diffraction of muscle, connective tissue, amyloids and viruses; small-angle-x-ray scattering of macromolecules in solution; and using a scanning hard x-ray microprobe for the study of metal distributions and their speciation in tissues.
As an example of the kind of science being conducted at BioCAT, Thomas Irving, Professor of Biology at IIT, and his collaborators are studying the mechanism of so-called "stretch activation" in muscle. Muscle structure and function can be studied by time-resolved small-angle fiber diffraction using the powerful small angle x-ray diffraction instrument on sector 18. Unfortunately, cardiac muscle is relatively poorly ordered and the diffraction patterns are relatively uninformative. Professor Irving and his colleagues from IIT, Caltech and the University of Vermont, used extremely bright x-rays beams from the BioCAT facility and a virtual-reality flight simulator for flies (developed at Caltech) to probe the working muscles in a flying fruit fly. The intense x-rays are necessary to resolve the changes in the crystal-like configuration of molecules responsible for generating the rapid contractions of the muscle.