SSRL is a synchrotron particle accelerator. When electrons are sped up to relativistic speeds and forced to bend radially along their path they emit electromagnetic radiation in the microwave to high-energy (hard) x-ray range. This emitted radiation provides for a wide range of potential instrumental applications, which benefit from the high intensity, high brilliance, and high stability of the source radiation.
SSRL, a part of the SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator) National Accelerator Laboratory, is operated by Stanford University on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and provides scientists with the ability to access a wide range of instrumentation which utilizes synchrotron radiation.
The coloring here signifies the relative intensity at which x-rays are absorbed by the sample, with red being more and blue being less. The map shown here signified where sulfide is most likely present in the sample (where there's very strong absorption - i.e. red areas are sulfides).
Beamline science is exciting and fun, although tedious at times. I've watched a lot of episodes of Red Dwarf while working here at BL 14-3. As I finish up this blog post, I have x-ray spectra coming off of this paleopipe sample which will help me to determine the composition of the material. This is an important first step for x-ray microprobe mapping of my samples from the arctic. I hope in the not-too-distant future to be able to prepare samples for microprobe without removing them from their natural location in the arctic, as that may be the best way to preserve any potential remaining signatures of past/present biological activity.