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Dorfan Today: 2006 — A Bumper Year for SPEAR3

(Photo - Jonathan Dorfan)Late Friday afternoon I joined a happy and relaxed group of SSRL staff, their families and some SPEAR3 users for their annual end of run party. FY2006 has been a bumper year for our SPEAR3 facility and there was much to celebrate. Since the commissioning of SPEAR3 in 2004, we have seen amazing advances in the operational ability of the storage ring and beamlines that have translated into much improved experimental performance for the users. And during the three-month SPEAR3 shutdown that began on August 7, we will see even more improvements and upgrades, many of which will be key to bringing us closer to operating at 500 milliamps of stored current and, in addition, employing the top-off injection mode that was pioneered so successfully by among others the PEP-II team.

During the 2006 run, SPEAR3 operators delivered an exceptional degree of beam reliability to users with an uptime of 96.2 percent. About 1,000 experiments were conducted on 20 beamlines by approximately 900 users, many of whom performed their research from off-site using remote access. Overall, users are providing very positive feedback about their experiences at SSRL.

A large number of these users go on to publish their results—a sustained average of 400 journal publications a year—and in 2006, SPEAR3 continued producing even more world-class science, including several notably spectacular successes. Environmental researchers at SSRL verified that certain bacteria can be stimulated to inexpensively and effectively reduce underground uranium pollution. Research on hydrogen as a carbon-free clean energy source continued at SSRL as several teams performed experiments aimed at improving both generation and storage technologies. And University of California researchers performed crystallographic studies of a particular kind of RNA, revealing its structure for the first time in such a way that may help explain how RNA replicates.

These are but a few examples of the outstanding science produced by SPEAR3: if it were not for the limitations of space I could give countless more examples. The most celebrated example of a 2006 SSRL experiment is embodied in the return of the Archimedes Palimpsest project. This project generated an astonishing amount of world-wide press attention, appearing on radio and television and in literally hundreds of papers and websites in dozens of countries.

Further improvement in the performance of SPEAR3 is possible and in various stages of implementation. In May operators tuned SPEAR3ís bending magnets to a "low-alpha" mode, dramatically reducing the pulse length of the electron bunch and giving researchers a better way of studying ultrafast phenomena. In June, unprecedented beam stability was established as the fast orbit-feedback system was implemented. And during the shutdown, in preparation for first light in 2007, new hardware will go in for the new Beamline 12. This new protein crystallography beamline, funded by the Moore foundation through CalTech, will push the envelope in protein crystallography with an extremely bright new in-vacuum insertion device, the first of its kind on the SPEAR3 storage ring.

On behalf of you all, I extend special thanks and admiration to all those that make SPEAR3 the enormously successful facility that it is.

—Jonathan Dorfan, August 14, 2006