|The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource at dusk (credit: SSRL/SLAC)|
BL 14-3 is an x-ray microprobe beamline. An x-ray microprobe is based on the concept that each element can absorb x-rays of a very specific energy. When the x-rays are absorbed, one thing that can happen is the emission of light. With the sulfur x-ray microprobe on BL 14-3, I'm scanning across polished surfaces of material that I collected at Borup Fiord Pass last summer. The x-ray microprobe can tell me how much sulfur is present in an area that I've mapped this way. Here's an image showing a rough map that I just collected:
Once I've mapped the sample, I can conduct x-ray absorption spectroscopy on the most interesting spots in the sample. This will allow me to figure out not only what kinds of sulfur are in my sample, but also how those types of sulfur are distributed throughout the material. Fantastical!
Of course, being that I'm at a synchrotron, I imagine this has not been my best writing. There's this thing about synchrotron work, where many of us will be working most of the day and night and taking our sleep in little bouts when we can get it. The time we get on synchrotrons is always limited and we like to make the most of it, so we end up driving ourselves into a bit of zombie mode toward the end of our time at these facilities (especially for those of us who caffeinate heavily while here).