Highlights of PSI-FELLOW Collaborations resulting in Publications
Ultrafast structural changes direct the first molecular events of vision
The visual pigment rhodopsin plays a critical role in the process of low-light vision in vertebrates. It is present in the disk membranes of rod cells in the retina and is responsible for transforming the absorption of light into a physiological signal. Rhodopsin has a unique structure that consists of seven transmembrane (TM) α-helices with an 11-cis retinal chromophore covalently bound to the Lysine sidechain of 7th TM helix. A negatively charged amino acid (glutamate) forms a salt bridge with the protonated Schiff base (PSB) of the chromophore to stabilize the receptor in the resting state.
Rhodopsin transforms the absorption of light into a physiological signal through conformational changes that activate the intracellular G protein transducin—a member of the Gi/o/t family—initiating a signaling cascade, resulting in electrical impulses sent to the brain and ultimately leading to visual perception. Although previous studies have provided valuable insights into the mechanism of signal transduction in rhodopsin, methods that provide both a high spatial and temporal resolution are necessary to fully understand the activation mechanism at the atomic scale from femtoseconds to milliseconds. This study presents the first experimentally-derived picture of the rhodopsin activation mechanism at the atomic scale using time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography in association with hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) simulations. The results show that light-induced structural changes in rhodopsin occur on a timescale of hundreds of femtoseconds, and they reveal new details about the conformational changes that occur during activation.
Advancing the JUNGFRAU detector toward low-energy X-ray applications
“Soft” x-rays are notoriously hard to detect. Particularly, in the context of high-performance synchrotron and free electron laser (FEL) experiments, suitable detector options for low-energy x-rays are highly sought after. Currently available options only provide limited area, readout speed, and dynamic range. Now, a team of scientists from the Laboratory for X-Ray Nanoscience and Technologies (LXN) at PSI are challenging these limitations. They combined a detector made at PSI with newly developed silicon sensors to push the resolution toward the soft x-ray limit. A first version of this detector system is now in operation at the SwissFEL endstation Maloja. And it points to further possibilities to refine the detector technology to eventually catch the elusive soft x-rays.
Single-domain stripe order in a high-temperature superconductor
The coupling of spin, charge and lattice degrees of freedom results in the emergence of novel states of matter across many classes of strongly correlated electron materials. A model example is unconventional superconductivity, which is widely believed to arise from the coupling of electrons via spin excitations. In cuprate high-temperature superconductors, the interplay of charge and spin degrees of freedom is also reflected in a zoo of charge and spin- density wave orders that are intertwined with superconductivity ...
Widely tunable two-color x-ray free-electron laser pulses
SwissFEL team has demonstrated the generation of widely tunable two-color x-ray free-electron laser (FEL) pulses with unprecedented photon energy ratio between the two colors of about three (350 and 915 eV), in addition to a tunable time separation between the two pulses from negative time delays to up to 500 fs. These new capabilities open new opportunities to study ultrafast x-ray-induced energy transfer and relaxation processes in physics, chemistry, and biology.
Low-energy spin dynamics in rare-earth perovskite oxides
A team of scientists from Paul Scherrer Institut and Oak Ridge National Laboratory review recent experimental studies of spin dynamics in the rare-earth perovskite materials. These compounds show unconventional magnetic excitations at low temperatures, including confined and deconfined spinons as well as multimagnon states, which were revealed by means of high-resolution neutron spectroscopy. These observations demonstrate that the rare-earth perovskite magnets can provide realizations of various aspects of quantum low-dimensional physics.
Revealing invisible defects in fusion reactor armor
In an exciting collaboration, Nick Phillips, a PSI Fellow at the cSAXS beamline, reveals nanoscale lattice distortions created by invisible defects in fusion reactor armor. This work develops the current understanding of how the smallest, but most prevalent defects, generated during neutron irradiation behave. The novel Bragg ptychographic approach published in Nature Communications paves the way for fast, robust, 3D Bragg ptychography.
3D Binary Mesocrystals from Anisotropic Nanoparticles
A team of scientists from Konstanz have developed and characterized micrometre-size binary mesocrystals made from the self-assembly of ironoxide and platinum nanocubes and published their work in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. In collaboration with researchers from Empa and PSI, they used brilliant x-rays at the cSAXS beamline of the Swiss Light Source to characterize the lattice spacing in the crystalline structure of the mesocrystals and complement their results through electron microscopy.
Quantum billiards with correlated electrons
Our collaborators at the Jozef Stefan Institute – the leading author, Jan Ravnik, is now a PSI Fellow at LMN – report a study of the electron ordering in equilateral triangle structures via photoexcitation of the prototypical dichalcogenide 1T-TaS2.
A time-domain phase diagram of metastable quantum states
Our collaborators at the Jozef Stefan Institute – the leading author, Jan Ravnik, is now a PSI Fellow at LMN – report a ‘dynamical’ phase diagram of metastable quantum states generated via photoexcitation of the prototypical dichalcogenide material 1T-TaS2.