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Research areas

In this section, you will find examples of typical industrial research projects, conducted using synchrotron radiation, categorized into specific industry sectors. This list contains applications often chosen by the industrial users, which are available at the SOLARIS Centre, however, it is by no means complete. If you don’t find an example matching the industry sector that you represent, we encourage you to get in touch with the Industry Liaison Office, to discuss the specific needs of your business.

Most chemicals produced worldwide rely on catalytic reactions. Design and optimization of various catalysts is the key to improve processes’ efficiency and to decrease their environmental footprint. We offer a wide range of analytical techniques, which can be of use for the catalysis industry.

Using X-ray absorption spectroscopy, composition and a chemical state of the atoms in the catalytic compounds can be determined. By comparing fresh and used catalysts, it is possible to discover the ageing mechanisms and to develop methods of prolonging their lifetime, or allowing for their regeneration. This method also allows to determine the local geometric structure of the catalytic active sites (number and distance to the nearest neighbors), which can be applied for the optimization of the production processes. Beginning mid-2021, XAS method will be possible to apply in-situ, on the SOLABS beamline, allowing for the time-resolved monitoring of catalytic reactions.

The other method which enables studying the chemical environment of the atoms in the catalysts, including the types of chemical bonds, is X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Using this method, a very high degree of surface-sensitivity can be achieved, allowing for the signal to be collected from a single atomic layer of the material, which takes part in catalytic reactions. When the UV photons are used to excite the sample, it is possible to study electronic states density near the Fermi level, which can be linked to the reactivity of the catalyst (for example, when it acts as an electron donor).

Scanning transmission X-ray microscopy, which will be available at the SOLARIS Centre from mid-2021, can be applied for the in-situ, time-resolved studies of the catalytic chemical reactions, with chemical and spatial resolution.

Modern analog and digital electronics is based on several insulating, semi-conducting and metallic materials. In order to design and manufacture reliable electronic devices, it is necessary to study the physical and electronic structure of the used materials and to determine their interaction mechanisms.

The fundamental method for studying the electronic structure of materials, available at the SOLARIS Centre, is angle-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy. This technique allows for precise, three-dimensional mapping of electronic dispersion relations in materials, identification of surface states and resonances, as well as two-dimensional electron gases at the semiconductor’s surfaces. It is used to study surface passivation processes and to identify the phenomena disturbing the operation of electronic devices, such as Fermi level pinning. At the PHELIX experimental station it is possibble to conduct spin-resolved ARPES experiments.

Other techniques, which can be used alongside ARPES method include: low energy electron diffraction, which allows for the study of the ordering and symmetries present at the surfaces, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy and X-ray absorption spectroscopy, which can be used to determine chemical composition of the studied materials, photoelectron emission microscopy, used for the imaging of the surfaces with chemical resolution, and X-ray magnetic dichroism, used for the study of the magnetic phenomena.

Synchrotron radiation can be applied to a variety of problems, faced by the oil and gas industry. X-ray absorption spectroscopy can be used to study the chemical composition of crude oil and the intermediary products, especially in terms of characterizing the chemical environment of sulfur impurities, which is very difficult to achieve with alternative methods. CryoEM allows for the determination of the distribution of fluids in the porous media, used for the transport of hydrocarbons, while small angle X-ray scattering, which will be available at the SOLARIS Centre in the near future, can be applied to study the emulsions used to transport heavy hydrocarbons. Oil and gas industry is also one of the main industry sectors using catalysts and can benefit from using the methods described in the catalysis section.

Applications of synchrotron radiation in the energy industry are focused on the characterization of various materials, used for the energy generation and storage, in both renewable and non-renewable sectors. X-ray absorption spectroscopy can be applied, for example, to study the local structure of materials used as solid electrolytes (metal-organic frameworks, light metal hydrides), or as storage materials for hydrogen. It is also often applied to characterize various dyes, used to sensitize solar cells. Beginning in mid-2021, the method will be available at the SOLABS beamline, allowing for the in-situ studies of working fuel cells, or other devices. X-ray diffraction, which can be used alongside X-ray absorption, especially in terms of the structural studies, will be available at the SOLARIS Centre in 2024, however, it is possibble to gain access to this method at the infrastructure of our partnering institutions. Materials used in the energy sector can also be studied using photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy, photoelectron emission microscopy, and X-ray magnetic dichroism.

Biotechnology industry can use both the synchrotron beamlines and at the cryoEM microscope, which will be available to industrial users in mid-2021. CryoEM is widely applied to solve the structure of proteins and other biomolecules with atomic resolution, without crystallization. This is very often used for drug design and discovery and for the development of vaccines. Methods available at the synchrotron beamlines are focused on the physicochemical properties of the biomolecules. X-ray absorption spectroscopy can be applied, to study the chemical properties of active sites in biomolecules, such as metalloproteins, to determine the content and distribution of heavy metals in plants, or to determine the local environment of the sulfur atoms in cells and tissues. IR spectroscopy, which will be available at the SOLARIS Centre in the near future, could be used to study vibrational structure of different biomolecules and for imaging purposes.