This project will create a new, unique synchrotron-based user facility to examine geologic materials at the micron scale with a focused X-ray beam tuned specifically for lighter elements Na through Ti. This facility is designed and optimized for "tender" (1-8 keV energy) X-ray micro-spectroscopy and imaging applications for Earth Science research, and will complement existing and highly productive "hard" X-ray facilities operating above about 4.5 keV. It will extend to lower energies the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) capabilities typical of hard X-ray microprobes, as element-specific non-invasive probes of elemental distribution and local physical and electronic structures and states in crystalline and non-crystalline materials. In addition, it will offer advanced capabilities for microbeam extended X-ray absorption spectroscopy (EXAFS) for determination of more detailed local structure around the selected element.

This project will be undertaken by adding new micro-focusing capabilities at an established and proven macro-focused (~1mm spot size) tender-energy XAS beamline at X15B of the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and will subsequently transition to the new Tender Energy Spectroscopy (TES) beamline under development at NSLS-II. Its key attributes will be the distinct 1 to 8 keV energy range, user-tunable spot size from about 50 microns to 1 micron, high flux and stability optimized for high-quality and extended XAS, options for both XRF and XAS mapping with rapid scanning, and a helium glove-box sample environment. Performance will improve when transferred to NSLS-II, a state-of-the-art new Synchrotron designed for high brightness applications. These new capabilities are critical for advancing our knowledge of geochemical and biogeochemical processes, in particular those involving lighter elements, and will be openly available for use through the NSLS General User program. Specific applications targeted include the mineral-water interface, nutrients and contaminants, carbonates, paleoclimate, redox processes, high-pressure mineralogy; and health effects of Earth materials.

Project Report

The major goal of the project was to provide opportunities for students to gain access to and obtain training in the use of cutting-edge beamline equipment at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Students were able to conduct novel research on speciation and sorption mechanisms of light elements such as phosphorus and sulfur in soils and mineral surfaces by using the intense beams of infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray light. In addition, student researchers were able to probe the unique properties of matter at an extremely small scale -- the nanoscale. Such investigations are critical in addressing nutrient management issues that directly impact water quality, a major environmental challenge in Delaware and in many parts of the world. The new facility and microscopy capabilities provide opportunities for collaboration among the various co-PIs and users, their respective research groups, and students. The X-ray microspectroscopy capabilities are important for advancing our knowledge of geochemical and biogeochemical processes, in particular our understanding of important lighter elements, through measurements not readily obtainable at existing facilities. The project advances regional and national research and promotes research education in Earth Sciences through development and implementation of unique new instrumentation and facilities for the application of synchrotron science.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
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David Lambert
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University of Delaware
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