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The ALBA Synchrotron begins construction of a new beamline: 3Sbar

ICMAB Researcher Xavier Torrelles has collaborated in the design process of the new beamline installation.

ALBA Synchrotron, a 3rd generation synchrotron light facility that allows for the visualization of the atomic structure of matter as well as the study of its properties, will open its newest beamline, 3Sbar, by 2026:

"Each new beamline opens new windows in understanding the complexity of the world around us. With 3Sbar, ALBA aims to be at the fore-front of catalysis science, building a unique scientific instrument with strong capabilities for preserving our environment", says Caterina Biscari, director of the ALBA Synchrotron.

09 March 2022
ALBA Synchrotron.
ALBA Synchrotron.

This new beamline will be key to understand the correlation between chemical reactions and structural changes at atmospheric pressures, which represents a big step ahead for fundamental research in surface chemistry and catalysis. It will allow to get a deep insight in the basic processes determining the efficiencies of catalysts under industrial operating pressures.

The conceptual design of the beamline has been done by Professor Enrique Ortega (Universidad del País Vasco), Dr. Xavier Torrelles (Institut de Ciència dels Materials de Barcelona, ICMAB-CSIC) and Dr. Eduardo Solano (ALBA Synchrotron), with the support and collaboration of many ALBA colleagues from the Experiments, Accelerator, Computing and Engineering Divisions.

“It is the only beamline that will provide simultaneous information on the structure and electronic properties of the system studied through operando-type experiments”, says ICMAB Researcher Xavier Torrelles, from the Physical Chemistry of Surfaces and Interfaces (SURFACES) Group.

surfaces icmab


The 3Sbar will be ALBA’s 14th beamline, and it will operate from UHV (ultra-high vacuum) up to ambient pressure. It will be able to operate in the energy range from 3 to 17 keV and simultaneously combine Surface X-ray Diffraction and Ambient Pressure XPS.

"This new tool will be useful to characterize single crystals with large surface area (metals, oxides, semiconductors, organic crystals), ordered thin or thick films, organic/inorganic layers on ordered substrate surfaces, and to receive information from the interaction of gases (CO, CO2, H2O, O2), specially with ordered surfaces. The use of electrochemical cells will also be possible." explains Xavier Torrelles.

The electronic and atomic structures will be both probed during surface chemical reactions and catalytic operando reactions. The products of the reactions will also be analyzed by gas phase photoemission.

Torrelles explains some other technical aspects of the 3Sbar beamline: "The beamline’s detector will be fixed, with a large area detection, and the maximum range of accessible reciprocal space will be given by the operation energy. Approximately, one Brillouin zone at 5 keV and 3 Brillouin zones at 15 keV can be achieved. This range could be increased by a factor of two allowing the detector to move up and sideway according to its own dimensions. The maximum angle of the outgoing beam is of 45º due to restrictions of the electron analyzer."

Through the development of the scientific case for this new installation, Xavier Torrelles promoted different lines of research that require the use of the range of X-ray energies offered in this project, considering the materials research that the different ICMAB Research Groups carry out in areas such as energy, oxides, crystallography, superconductors or biomaterials.

All these factors have favored the need for new experimental synchrotron radiation techniques for the characterization, both at the structural and electronic levels, of a large part of the materials that are synthesized at ICMAB.

alba sync 3

ALBA Synchrotron from above

3Sbar will be extremely useful to provide answers to environmental protection, challenges such as CO2 reduction, wastewater treatment, development of environmentally friendly industrial catalytic processes or recycling of greenhouse gases. The beamline, adaptable to many different sample environments, will serve a wide community of users at a national and international level, from academy and industrial worlds.

Its estimated cost is 9 million euros, which have been granted by the Ministry of Science and Innovation through the European Recovery and Resilience Facility within the NextGenerationEU Programme. It covers the construction and staff positions needed for designing and operating this new beamline. Two new job positions are now open. The detailed design of the beamline is starting, and the construction is expected to finish in 2025, so that the instrument can be in operation by 2026.

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