Director’s Corner

As the Lab prepares for the next pilot stage in its progressive ramp-up of onsite operations, I’d like to join Director Witherell in his appreciation of the perseverance and ingenuity of our people. As you can see from the articles in this newsletter, ATAP staff continue to deliver outstanding science and technology under these difficult circumstances.

First light was delivered at the new free-electron laser at SLAC, LCLS-II, using undulators delivered by ATAP and Engineering.

In response to the current crisis, the Lab has made midyear LDRD funding available to jump-start several new coronavirus-relevant projects. In ATAP, we have attracted one of these projects, the only one in the Physical Sciences Area, on a novel laser-based approach to characterizing viruses and how they interact with their environment in droplets.

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Meanwhile, we continue to sharpen the kBELLA initiative, working on both facility plans and enabling technologies. We held a virtual Town Hall on Science at kBELLA, which was attended by over 100 colleagues from across the Lab. Flash talks at the Town Hall highlighted a series of high-impact discovery science and application areas that could be pursued with kBELLA and its unique high average power, short pulse laser capabilities. We are now planning the first intramural Science at kBELLA Workshop to begin exploring the breadth and depth of the research that kBELLA’s leading-edge beam parameters could enable.

The quality and importance of our work has also been recognized by two DOE Accelerator Stewardship grants, one for high-temperature superconducting magnets for medical-accelerator gantries, the other for coherent combining of laser pulses (a potential kBELLA enabling technology). We are also collaborators on a third award, led by colleagues from LANL, on novel machine learning and AI techniques to increase performance of particle accelerators. Future issues of this newsletter will give more details on these efforts.

Tong Zhou’s proposal on novel approaches to realizing high average power, short pulse fiber lasers that can drive laser-plasma accelerators has won a prestigious DOE Early Career Research Program award. Congratulations, Tong!

To take stock of these and many other exciting prospects, later this month we will hold strategy retreat. This long-planned retreat, now to be held virtually, will help us develop a vision for ATAP during the “new normal” and prepare us to make the most of opportunities in the next period.

Meanwhile, let’s all be diligent about (as Michael Brandt, Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operating Officer, put it in the most recent Labwide virtual town hall) “the Three W’s.” Wear masks, Wash hands, and Watch out for social distancing. These are requirements for those of us who are returning to onsite work… and great ideas for everyone whenever we go out in public

—ATAP, Engineering divisions played key roles in producing hardware

SLAC’s Upgraded X-Ray Laser Facility Produces First Light

Note: This press release has been adapted by Glenn Roberts, Jr., of Berkeley Lab Strategic Communications from the original release by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. View the original release.

A screenshot taken during SLAC’s live behind-the-scenes July 17 webinar showcasing the first light produced with LCLS using the first of the new variable gap undulators, which were installed and commissioned by the LCLS-II project in collaboration with staff from across the lab. This image shows the X-ray beam during early tuning. (Credit: SLAC)

First light: profile of X-ray beam

Just over a decade ago in April 2009, the world’s first hard X-ray free-electron laser (XFEL) produced its first light at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) generated X-ray pulses a billion times brighter than anything that had come before. Since then, its performance has enabled fundamental new insights in a number of scientific fields, from creating “molecular movies” of chemistry in action to studying the structure and motion of proteins for new generations of pharmaceuticals and replicating the processes that create “diamond rain” within giant planets in our solar system.

The next major step in this field was set in motion in 2013, launching the LCLS-II upgrade project to increase the X-ray laser’s power by thousands of times, producing a million pulses per second compared to 120 per second today. This upgrade is due to be completed within the next two years, and the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is among a group of collaborators that have made major contributions.

On July 17, the first phase of the upgrade came into operation, producing an X-ray beam for the first time using one critical Berkeley Lab-supplied element of the newly installed equipment: the hard-X-ray undulators.

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  This video shows how a sequence of carefully designed springs works to counteract the magnetic forces in powerful magnetic devices known as hard X-ray undulator segments. The spring force must exactly match the magnetic force in these segments to keep them aligned within millionths of an inch. These segments contain more than 500 magnets and are about 13 feet long. A chain of 32 of these undulator segments will be used at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s upgraded X-ray laser to produce X-rays from a powerful electron beam. The video also shows an undulator segment undergoing magnetic measurements at Berkeley Lab. (Credits: Matthaeus Leitner and Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

Image - A screenshot taken during SLAC's live behind-the-scenes webinar showcasing the first light produced with LCLS using the first of the new variable gap undulators, which were installed and commissioned by the LCLS-II project in collaboration with staff from across the lab. (Credit: SLAC)

A screenshot taken during SLAC’s live behind-the-scenes July 17 webinar showcasing the first light produced with LCLS using the first of the new variable gap undulators, which were installed and commissioned by the LCLS-II project in collaboration with staff from across the lab. This image shows the X-ray beam during early tuning. (Credit: SLAC)

“The LCLS-II project represents the combined effort of five national laboratories from across the U.S., along with many colleagues from the university community and DOE,” said Chi-Chang Kao, director of SLAC. “Today’s success reflects the tremendous value of ongoing partnerships and collaboration that enable us to build unique world-leading tools and capabilities.”

XFELs work in a two-step process. First, they accelerate a powerful electron beam to nearly the speed of light. They then pass this beam through an exquisitely tuned series of magnets within a device known as an undulator, which converts the electron energy into intense bursts of X-rays. The bursts are just millionths of a billionth of a second long — so short that they can capture the birth of a chemical bond and produce images with atomic resolution.

The LCLS-II project will transform both elements of the facility by installing an entirely new accelerator that uses cryogenic superconducting technology to achieve a repetition rate unprecedented in a free-electron laser, along with undulators that can provide exquisite control of the X-ray beam.

A worker inspects the soft X-ray undulator at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The hard X-ray undulator is visible at right. (Credit: SLAC)

A worker inspects the soft X-ray undulator at SLAC. The hard X-ray undulator is visible at right. (Credit: SLAC)

In addition to overseeing the construction and delivery of all of the “hard,” or higher-energy, X-ray undulator segments that enabled the latest milestone, Berkeley Lab is also making several other contributions to the LCLS-II project.

Berkeley Lab has designed and overseen the construction and delivery of the undulators for the lower-energy “soft” X-ray beamline; designed, built, and delivered the high-brightness injector source that provides the electron beam; and is collaboratively leading the development of hardware and software for the low-level radiofrequency (LLRF) control system that helps control the superconducting accelerator that is part of the soft X-ray line.

Berkeley Lab anticipates a role in the LCLS-II High Energy upgrade project, which will double the electron energy of the hard X-ray accelerator.

Powerful and precise
Over the past 18 months, the original LCLS undulator was removed and replaced with two new systems that offer dramatic new capabilities. Each of these undulator lines contains thousands of permanent magnets and stretches over 100 meters; together they create magnetic fields that are tens of thousands of times stronger than the Earth’s. This generates forces equivalent to a few tons of weight while maintaining the rigidity of the structure that holds the magnets within a hundredth of the width of a human hair.

The new hard X-ray undulators were prototyped by DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, designed by Argonne and Berkeley labs, built by Berkeley Lab, and have been installed at SLAC over the past year. Soft and hard X-rays can probe different sample types and properties. The LCLS-II soft X-ray undulator, driven by the superconducting accelerator, hasn’t yet been tested.
Today, the hard X-ray system demonstrated its performance in readiness for the experimental campaigns ahead. Scientists in the SLAC Accelerator Control Room directed the electron beam from the existing LCLS accelerator through the array of magnets in the undulator.

Over the course of just a few hours, they produced the first sign of X-rays, and then precisely tuned the configuration to achieve full X-ray laser performance with the available undulator segments. Most of the hard X-ray undulator segments have been installed, and the remaining segments are scheduled for delivery and installation in the coming month.
“Reaching the first light is a milestone we all have been looking forward to,” said Henrik von der Lippe, Engineering Division director at Berkeley Lab. “This milestone shows how all the hard work and collaboration has resulted in a scientific facility that will enable new science.”

He added, “Berkeley Lab’s contribution of the hard X-ray undulator design and fabrication used our experience from providing undulators to science facilities and our longstanding strength in mechanical design. It is rewarding to see the fruits from years of dedicated Engineering Division teams delivering devices that meet all expectations.”

A row of these undulator segments, called the hard X-ray undulator, today produced “first light,” generating X-rays for the first time for the LCLS-II X-ray laser project at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers contributed to the design and oversaw the construction and delivery of these undulator segments. (Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

A row of these undulator segments, called the hard X-ray undulator, today produced “first light,” generating X-rays for the first time for the LCLS-II X-ray laser project at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers contributed to the design and oversaw the construction and delivery of these undulator segments. (Credit: Marilyn Sargent/Berkeley Lab)

Thomas Schenkel, interim director of Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division, said, “This is a great example of how our scientific foundation and engineering expertise come together.” He added, “The Lab has decades of experience designing and building some of the most advanced undulators of their times, and we look forward to continuing to contribute to the DOE research complex in this way.”

The scientific impact of the new undulators will be significant. One major advance is that the separation between the magnets can be changed on demand, allowing the wavelength of the emitted X-rays to be tuned to match the needs of experiments. Researchers can use this to pinpoint the behavior of selected atoms in a molecule, which among other things will enhance our ability to track the flow and storage of energy for advanced solar power applications.

The undulator demonstrated today will be able to double the LCLS’ peak X-ray energy. This will provide much higher-precision insights into how materials respond to extreme stress at the atomic level and into the emergence of novel quantum phenomena.

The “noodle”: A unique, challenging undulator design
The completed hard X-ray undulator will have 32 segments. Each segment weighs 2.3 tons and is about 13 feet long. The design of the hard X-ray undulator segments is unique because it essentially rotates the traditional undulator design 90 degrees, which also posed unique engineering challenges.

To fit inside the undulator tunnel at SLAC, the undulator segments had to be much thinner than usual – Berkeley Lab engineers dubbed the design the “noodle.” This design also made the steel support, or strongback, containing the many magnets in each unduluator segment more subject to unwanted bending due to the roughly 4 tons of magnetic force they must withstand.

The unique, rotated design of the undulators required an array of about 150 springs per undulator segment that can be precisely adjusted to keep the hundreds of magnets in alignment.

But even small temperature changes, and simple machining such as bolting on new components, altered the strongback support structures beyond what was allowed – the devices had to remain straight to within 10 millionths of a meter.

So the early design of the segments had to be completely rethought, said Matthaeus Leitner, Berkeley Lab’s lead engineer for the LCLS-II undulators.

“For a long time we didn’t quite have a solution,” Leitner said. “We basically had to change each individual component of the device. This was a team effort by highly skilled engineers and technicians.”

Photo - Members of the Berkeley Lab and SLAC undulator teams in the undulator tunnel at SLAC. (Courtesy Matthaeus Leitner/Berkeley Lab)

Members of the Berkeley Lab and SLAC undulator teams in the LCLS Undulator Hall at SLAC. (Courtesy Matthaeus Leitner/Berkeley Lab)

John Corlett, who has served as Berkeley Lab’s senior team lead on the LCLS-II project and is now Lab Project Management Officer, said, “This was a very challenging mechanical engineering problem. It was a collaborative effort between SLAC, Berkeley, and Argonne labs working together. We held a number of workshops, and we worked together to solve problems. It’s fantastic that we succeeded in doing this in the very short time frame needed by the project.”

Leitner added, “A big strongpoint at Berkeley Lab is the array of engineering resources. If a problem comes up, we can immediately put a lot of resources into solving a problem. We could solve this seemingly insurmountable issue within a couple of months. This was incredible. It was only possible because we have large-scale tooling, precision measurement devices, and excellent engineering support equipment.”

There was also a substantial effort by Berkeley Lab engineers to work with and train the three vendors that manufactured and assembled the undulators. Berkeley Lab utilized its magnetic design and measurement capabilities, and developed precise methods to assemble and to efficiently tune the undulators.

The uniquely rotated design of the hard X-ray undulators will ultimately improve the X-ray laser’s performance by delivering more X-rays to samples in experiments, Leitner noted. “It gives you a significant boost in the available output power of the hard X-rays,” he said. Leitner and Corlett said that the design, known as vertical polarization, will likely be adopted by other X-ray free-electron lasers and light sources now that the design challenges for the capability have been worked out.
“This has never been done before,” Corlett said.

Next steps
Beyond the undulators lies the Front End Enclosure, or FEE, which contains an array of optics, diagnostics, and tuning devices that prepare the X-rays for specific experiments. These include the world’s flattest, smoothest mirrors that are a meter in length but vary in height by only an atom’s width across their surface. Over the next few weeks, these optics will be tested in preparation for more than 80 experiments to be conducted by researchers from around the world over the next six months.

“Today marks the start of the LCLS-II era for X-ray science,” said Mike Dunne, LCLS director. “Our immediate task will be to use this new undulator to investigate the inner workings of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Then the next couple of years will see an amazing transformation of our facility. Next up will be the soft X-ray undulator, optimized for studying how energy flows between atoms and molecules, and thus the inner workings of novel energy technologies. Beyond this will be the new superconducting accelerator that will increase our X-ray power by many thousands of times.”

He added, “The future is bright, as we like to say in the X-ray laser world.”

LCLS is a U.S. DOE Office of Science user facility.

To Learn More:
•  First Light Webinar, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, July 17, 2020

•  Berkeley Lab-Built Electron Gun Fires Up for LCLS-II X-Ray Laser Project, May 30, 2019

•  It All Starts With a ‘Spark’: Berkeley Lab Delivers Injector That Will Drive X-Ray Laser Upgrade, Jan. 22, 2018

•  Special Delivery: First Shipment of Magnetic Devices for Next-Gen X-Ray Laser, April 27, 2017

•  Construction Begins on Major Upgrade to World’s Brightest X-ray Laser, April 4, 2016

•  Berkeley Lab Working on Key Components for LCLS-II X-ray Lasers, April 4, 2016

—Multiprong platform at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center will produce X-ray images and chemical details

Laser, Biosciences Researchers Combine Efforts to Study Viruses in Droplets

Originally published as a news release by Glenn Roberts, Jr. of LBNL Strategic Communications

Photo illustration of droplet containing highly magnified coronavirus

Photo illustration of droplet containing highly magnified coronavirus (credit:

Laser and biology experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are working together to develop a platform and experiments to study the structure and components of viruses like the one causing COVID-19, and to learn how viruses interact with their surrounding environment. The experiments could provide new insight on how to reduce the infectiousness of viruses.

The new platform will build upon Berkeley Lab’s world-leading R&D efforts in laser-based plasma acceleration, in which a laser pulse creates an exotic, superhot state of matter known as a plasma that in turn rapidly accelerates charged particles – electrons and ions. Berkeley Lab scientists last year bested their own world record in accelerating electrons to high energies in a 20-centimeter span.

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In the new setup, the accelerated electrons will generate X-rays that will act as microscopic strobes to capture images of virus-laden droplets that are dripped into the path of the X-rays. At the same time, synchronized within quadrillionths of a second, a second laser beam will strike the droplets to capture another layer of data about the virus particles and their makeup, and about other matter in the droplets.

“The idea is to learn about the virus and what’s around it,” said Thomas Schenkel, acting director of the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division at Berkeley Lab who is part of the team planning the experiments. “How does it behave inside a droplet and what binds to it? How long is the virus viable in a droplet?”

The goal is to study the virus in certain biofluids, like saliva, and how it reacts to compounds mixed into the droplets. Biosciences experts at Berkeley Lab will prepare the samples and participate in the data analyses.

In this pilot study, researchers will use surrogate viruses that have similar properties to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 but are safe for laboratory workers to work with.

“These droplets aren’t just mini sacks of water, but a complex mixture of proteins and salt that affects viral stability,” said Antoine Snijders, a staff scientist and chair of the department of BioEngineering and BioMedical Sciences in Berkeley Lab’s Biological Systems and Engineering Division.

The droplets are intended to simulate the environment of the body’s respiratory system.

“What’s exciting about this study is that it will lead to a better understanding of the chemical characteristics of respiratory droplets and the virus contained within them,” Snijders added. “Once we understand the chemical characteristics, and the mechanism of viral inactivation within these droplets, we may be able to reduce efficiency of airborne disease transmission.”

The effort is supported by Berkeley Lab’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, through which the Lab directs funding to specific areas of research. Berkeley Lab, like the U.S. Department of Energy’s other national laboratories, is making COVID-19 research a priority.

The experiments will combine two techniques: X-ray imaging for structural information, and mass spectrometry to learn details about the chemical makeup of samples down to the level of individual proteins and molecules.

The secondary laser in the experiments will provide the spectroscopic information by charging up and breaking apart matter in the samples. Those bits and parts, such as individual protein components of a virus, can then be chemically measured and analyzed by a detector.

Conceptual diagram of experimental setup

The planned setup for laser-based virus droplet experiments at Berkeley Lab’s BELLA Center. A laser pulse (left, red) creates a plasma (light blue) that accelerates electrons (dark blue). The accelerated electrons produce X-rays (yellow) that are used to image virus-containing droplets (blue spheres at center). A secondary laser (right, red) also strikes the droplets to capture mass spectrometry measurements of virus fragments (green). (Credit: Tobias Ostermayr, BELLA Center)

Conceivably, the setup could be used or modeled as a testing platform for coronavirus disease. Schenkel noted that with existing capabilities at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) Center, it is possible to image and measure about five droplets every second. A proposed BELLA Center upgrade, called kBELLA, could drive that rate up to 1,000 droplets per second.

Eric Esarey, BELLA Center director, said an ultimate aim in developing laser plasma acceleration techniques is to reduce the size and cost of particle accelerators that could serve in a range of capacities for the medical, industrial, and research communities.

“In principle, this could be a compact, powerful, and low-cost device that could be put in lots of laboratories and lots of hospitals,” he said.

New types of X-ray sources based on laser-plasma accelerators are in active research in the BELLA Center, and they continue to be improved. These improvements are needed to provide high-resolution imaging of very small viruses in their environment.

While the BELLA Center is now offline due to shelter-in-place orders, Schenkel said that planning has started for the new experimental setup, with the goal of first experiments later this summer. A collaboration with biologists at the BELLA Center is ongoing, and there is already mass spectroscopy equipment that can be adapted for the new experiments.

Schenkel added that researchers can proceed with modifying a Berkeley Lab-developed computer code that models the laser and electron beams to optimize them for the new research.

“We are excited to use our tools to advance our understanding of COVID and contribute to future pandemic prevention,” Schenkel said.

“There are many analytical techniques that have originated from research with atom-smashers and particle beams years ago and that have since become workhorse tools in biomedical science.” Schenkel added, “When we discussed this new idea, there was a strong sense of urgency and excitement. This project is one example where we can immediately adapt our capabilities in response to the current crisis and advance our arsenal for the prevention of future pandemics. We want to show that this works so that we can establish it as a new capability for the community.”

Editor’s Note: These videos, released since the publication of the article, detail some of Berkeley Lab’s other coronavirus and COVID-19-related research.


Tong Zhou Among Berkeley Lab Early Career Research Program Winners

Tong Zhou Tong Zhou, a research scientist in ATAP’s Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center (BELLA), is among three Berkeley Lab employees selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science to receive significant funding for research through its Early Career Research Program (ECRP). In addition, three faculty scientists with joint appointments at Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley will receive ECRP funding through their UC Berkeley affiliations.

Zhou’s research focuses on ultrafast laser technologies, including laser systems based on optical fibers and solid-state materials, and their applications — especially on high-repetition-rate laser-plasma accelerators.

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His award is for research on a multi-kilohertz laser-plasma accelerator driven by a spectrally combined fiber laser. Laser-plasma accelerators (LPAs) could greatly reduce the size and cost of particle accelerators, and fiber lasers are very promising to drive future high-repetition-rate LPAs. However, the optical pulses produced by existing fiber lasers are too long. This research will address the gap between the limited pulse durations of existing fiber lasers and the LPA application needs, and will demonstrate a fiber-laser-based, high-repetition-rate LPA that will use machine learning to implement feedback control. Technologies developed in this research can enable many applications using high-repetition-rate electron beams, including those in science and medicine, and with further development can enable the path to future laser-driven particle colliders.

“The Department of Energy is proud to support funding that will sustain America’s scientific workforce, and create opportunities for our researchers to remain competitive on the world stage,” said DOE Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. “By bolstering our commitment to the scientific community, we invest into our nation’s next generation of innovators.”

The program, now in its 11th year, is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work. The three Berkeley Lab recipients are among 76 recipients selected this year, including 26 from DOE’s national laboratories.

The scientists are each expected to receive grants of up to $2.5 million over five years to cover salary and research expenses.

Zhou, who joined the ATAP career staff after an appointment as a postdoctoral researcher, is ATAP’s fourth awardee in this prestigious and competitive program. ATAP staff with ongoing ECRPs are Chad Mitchell (beam theory and modeling of intensity frontier particle beams in collaboration with the IOTA project at Fermilab), Qiang Du (scalable control of multidimensional coherent pulse addition for high average power ultrafast lasers), and Jeroen van Tilborg (demonstration of a free electron laser driven by electron bunches from laser-plasma-acceleration). Past recipients include Daniele Filippetto (HiRES, a high-repetition-rate beam source for ultrafast electron diffraction) and Tengming Shen (high-Tc superconductor to high-field magnets).


ATAP Postdoc Helps Codes Communicate

Simulation codes are numerous and vital in accelerator physics. Getting the resulting datasets to talk to one another makes them even more useful; they are often supposed to be self-describing, but often this falls short. An ATAP postdoctoral researcher has invented openPMD, a metadata standard to help improve this interoperability and to improve scientific workflows.

OpenPMD logoOpenPMD is an open-access metadata schema, providing naming and attribute conventions that enable interchange of particle- and mesh-based data from both simulations and experiments. It is agnostic with respect to data formats—capable of working, for instance, with both ADIOS and HDF5.

The openPMD standard ( is managed by Axel Huebl, a postdoc in ATAP’s Accelerator Modeling Program. Huebl first created it in 2015 as a student in Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) in Germany. He did this in collaboration with ATAP’s researchers from AMP, as part of the activities of the Consortium for Advanced Modeling of Particle Accelerators (CAMPA), an LBNL-coordinated multi-institutional group.

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A number of particle-in-cell (PIC) simulation codes from the U.S. and Europe have already adopted the openPMD standard or are planning to do so. These include FBPIC, IMPACT, OPAL, OSIRIS, PIConGPU, Smilei, Synergia, QuickPIC, UPIC-EMMA, Warp and WarpX. Of those, the IMPACT suite, FBPIC, Warp, and WarpX are parts of the Berkeley Lab Accelerator Simulation Toolkit (BLAST).

Implementations of openPMD in codes are also by the European Cluster of Advanced Laser Light Sources (EUCALL) and the Photon and Neutron Open Science Cloud (PaNOSC) projects in the European Union; by the private-sector company RadiaSoft with its Sirepo code; and by the PlasmaPy community, which adopted and highlights openPMD as part of a successful National Science Foundation Cyberinfrastructure for Sustained Scientific Innovation (CSSI) proposal.

New and updated extensions include a description for conventional accelerator physics modeling (Cornell University and, SLAC); a description of molecular dynamics data for modeling of photon-sample interaction (EU XFEL), and a description for neutron ray tracing data (European Spallation Source), each of them co-published with open access datasets.

A focus on laser-plasma accelerators

Laser wakefield model

A laser wakefield modeled with Warp and visualized with VisIt. An ultrashort, high-intensity laser pulse, traveling to the right, is shown in orange-green and transversely focusing fields formed in its wake are shown in red-blue. The white areas are background e plasma.

Recent work focuses on adoption of modern data transport and visualization methods for accelerator modeling. OpenPMD strives for a tight integration with tools of the Exascale Computing Project (VisIt, ParaView). OpenPMD recently added a high-performance, scalable reference library, which enables reuse of best practices for large and high-frequency data handling in many code bases.

This library is also developed openly with the community, with major contributions from LBNL and HZDR. For example, researchers use the same library to write data from CERN’s Geant4 code that is then coupled as input to LBNL’s WarpX. Then generated large-scale output from WarpX uses the same library in a parallel manner to provide a standardized basis for post-processing and archival. Lessons learned from high-performance computing and modeling are further shared with experimental data acquisition activities through a recent addition of openPMD support in the Generalized Equipment and Experiment Control System (GEECS), a system at ATAP’s Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator Center (BELLA) for storing high-resolution camera images.

The way forward

Standardization in openPMD is not set in stone; like software, it is enhanced in successive versions in an open, collaborative effort. Upcoming activities for the next major release of openPMD include support for non-spatial meshes, mesh refinement, incorporation of community feedback, aforementioned domain-specific extensions, and community support in integration that include machine-learning (ML) activities.

By coordinating and integrating cutting-edge methods from researchers across physics and computer science, openPMD continuously improves scientific data workflows in collaborative accelerator research. The particular focus of upcoming work is to leverage the standardization of data with openPMD to streamline the process of ML model training. It is especially timely – and expected to be widely impactful – to have standardized data from particle accelerator simulations and experiments at the time of rapid development and adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning in particle accelerator activities.


— ATAP’s Schenkel was co-organizer

DOE Report Lays Out Planned Steps toward Quantum Internet

A February Department of Energy workshop on development of a quantum Internet has published its report, From Long-distance Entanglement to Building a Nationwide Quantum Internet: Report of the DOE Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop. ATAP Interim Director Thomas Schenkel was the Lab’s point of contact for the workshop, a co-organizer, and co-chair of the quantum networking control hardware breakout session.

Cover of Quantum Internet reportThe primary goal of the workshop was to begin laying the groundwork for a nationwide entangled quantum Internet. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, under the leadership of Under Secretary of Energy Paul Dabbar, sponsored some 70 representatives from multiple government agencies and universities at the event, held in New York City Feb. 5-6.

The technical program committee was co-chaired by Kerstin Kleese Van Dam, director of the Computational Science Initiative at Brookhaven, and Inder Monga, director of ESnet at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. ESnet’s Michael Blodgett also attended the workshop.

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The Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop chairs. Top row left to right: Inder Monga (ESnet) and Gabriella Carini (BNL). Bottom row left to right: Nicolas Peters (ORNL), Kerstin Kleese van Dam (BNL), Joseph Lykken (Fermilab), Thomas Schenkel (Berkeley Lab).

The Quantum Internet Blueprint Workshop chairs. Top row left to right: Inder Monga (ESnet) and Gabriella Carini (BNL). Bottom row left to right: Nicolas Peters (ORNL), Kerstin Kleese van Dam (BNL), Joseph Lykken (Fermilab), and Thomas Schenkel (Berkeley Lab).

In parallel with the growing interest and investment in creating viable quantum computing technologies, researchers believe that a quantum Internet could have a profound impact on a number of application areas critical to science, national security, and industry. Application areas include upscaling of quantum computing by helping connect distributed quantum computers, quantum sensing through a network of quantum telescopes, quantum metrology, and secure communications.

Toward this end, the workshop explored the specific research and engineering advances needed to build a quantum Internet in the near term, along with what is needed to move from today’s limited local network experiments to a viable, secure quantum Internet.

To learn more…

•  The technical report is available from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

•  An in-depth interview with Inder Monga by Kathy Kincade of Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences explains the role of DOE and the national laboratories on this exciting frontier.

•  “What’s Needed to Deliver the Nationwide Quantum Internet Blueprint”, an article by John Russell in the trade journal HPCWire.

Based on an article by Kathy Kincade.


IPO Has Something Inventive Going On

E.O. Lawrence's signature on patent for the cyclotronGoing back to its very beginnings, Berkeley Lab has been a hotbed of inventiveness, and the recent Labwide trend has been toward several dozen patents a year. Not just a point of pride and a way to protect our intellectual property, a patent can mean money in your pocket—our inventors get 35% of the net royalties after the cost of patenting has been covered.

If you find the patent system useful but novel and non-obvious, let Tech Transfer Tuesdays clarify matters. This lunchtime series is organized and hosted by former BELLA Center engineer Gregg Scharfstein, now Senior Technology Commercialization Associate with the Lab’s Intellectual Property Office. It is held at noon on the third Tuesday of every month. Next up on August 18: “Patent Types and Families.” Click here to add their shared calendar.

Prior art (slides from previous sessions) can be found on the LBNL Google Drive (Lab Single Sign-On credentials required). Click here to learn more about what the Intellectual Property Office has to offer.


Lindau Honors for BELLA Postdoc Lieselotte Obst-Huebl

Lieselotte Obst-Huebl

Virtually in Lindau

Lieselotte (“Lotti”) Obst-Huebl, a postdoctoral researcher in ATAP’s BELLA Center, recently had the honor of making an alumni presentation at the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings.

The annual Lindau meeting is intended to foster the exchange among scientists of different generations, cultures, and disciplines. Typically 30-40 Nobel Laureates convene in Lindau, Germany to meet the next generation of leading scientists: 600 undergraduates, PhD students, and postdocs from all over the world. Normally this would be an in-person event, but in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lindau alumni and this year’s new speakers were asked to submit abstracts for an online meeting. Obst-Huebl was one of 24 selected to give a presentation.

Obst-Huebl gave a 10-minute talk on June 30 about laser-plasma particle acceleration. The talk was followed by an hourlong virtual poster presentation in the Scientific Exchange session.

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Powering through time zone differences

An in-person session would have been at 10:30 a.m. Central European Time, but Obst-Huebl was on the west coast of the US. “I gave the talk at 1:30 in the morning,” she recalls.

She found it rewarding despite the hour, as “The range of people at the meeting was really broad: scientists, politicians, economists, international relations, and obviously some Nobel laureates as well,” she says.

It was a demonstration of the communication skills of the up-and-coming scientists as they presented their work at a comprehensive level for a broader audience, she says. “Everybody tried hard to do that, and it was pretty great.”

Since coming to LBNL a year ago, Obst-Huebl has worked on a wide spectrum of BELLA Center activities, including high-energy electron acceleration using the 20-cm plasma capillary; a LaserNetUS project with Ohio State University researchers on plasma mirrors with liquid-crystal film targets; and a radiobiology experimental campaign that accelerated protons from tape targets and transported the beam to cell samples. “It was quite nice—it gave me an opportunity to learn the whole experimental system at one of the most interesting laser-particle acceleration set-ups there is in the world,” she notes, adding, “It’s a nice area here as well.”

To explore further…
•  Visit the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting website.
•  Read an interview with Obst-Huebl while she was earning her PhD at Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, before she came to LBNL, that was featured on the Women in Research blog.
•  Berkeley Lab postdocs who wish to begin the application process for the 2021 program are reminded that the deadline is close of business (5 p.m. Pacific time) Friday, August 14. The Lab’s online form is available on our Google Drive, as are the criteria from the Lindau website. For now, just fill out the form, which will be submitted to the national laboratories office in the University of California Office of the President. Recommendation letters are not needed at this stage.


Bring Us Your IDEAs in FY21

Example of a LeanIn card

If we play our cards right, we can build a more equitable future

As part of the Lab’s emphasis on IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability), an ATAP committee is working on plans that include actively using Lean-In “50 Ways to Fight Bias” cards to a greater extent across the Division. You can learn more about them at the website.

Logo of LBNL's Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accountability OfficeIDEA works best when it reflects the greatest concerns and highest values of all of us. If you would like to get involved in the ATAP IDEA committee, welcome! Please email Ina Reichel ( We meet monthly for one hour, varying the days and times to accommodate member’s schedules.



LBNL Helps Cultivate Future SAGEs of STEM

SAGE-S (Science Accelerating Girls' Engagement in STEM logoBerkeley Lab joined forces with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory for a series of talks in the SAGE-S program (Science Accelerating Girls’ Engagement in STEM). Ordinarily SAGE-S would conduct a summer camp for public high school students, but in the year of the pandemic the event went virtual. A Monday, August 3 session on Accelerator Science and Technology kicked off a week of daily talks on what the national laboratories do and what life in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) profession is like.

The Advanced Light Source was spotlighted in a Berkeley Lab video made for the SAGE-S program. The video gives glimpses of work by BELLA and the Superconducting Magnet Program as well.

ATAP Outreach and Education Coordinator Ina Reichel was one of several Lab employees participating in a virtual “job shadow” event, which under the circumstances consisted of an extended conversation with half a dozen “campers” interested in her career path.

Nominations Open for Women @ The Lab Awards; Deadline 18 September

Screen shot of Women @ The Lab honorees

The Lab’s Women Scientists and Engineers Council (WSEC) and Diversity and Inclusion Office are excited to launch the fourth Women @ The Lab event, and hope that their stories inspire more women to think about education and careers in STEM.

This year’s Women @ The Lab nomination process is now open. The deadline is Friday, September 18.

The goal of the Women @ The Lab awards is to honor women at Berkeley Lab who are making outstanding contributions to science and engineering or operations, who are dedicated leaders and mentors, and who are working to increase diversity in STEM fields. Critieria include

•  Dedication
•  Talent
•  Inspired by work in STEM/support of STEM
•  Commitment to Berkeley Lab’s mission
•  Commitment to outreach and science communication

If this sounds like someone you know, please visit the Women @ The Lab website for further information and a link to the nomination form.


September Slam On Schedule for ATAP’s Amorim

Ligia Diana Amorim Accelerator Modeling Program postdoc Lígia Diana Pinto de Almeida (Diana) Amorim competed in the final round of the third annual Berkeley Lab Research Slam.

In this popular event, styled after poetry and storytelling “slams,” early-career scientists hone their communication and outreach skills as they compete to tell compelling stories about their work in 3 minutes or less. A $3000 grand prize awaited the winner.

The Slam (virtual this time) was live-streamed September 17. If you couldn’t join live, you can catch the full event at to learn more about what some of the brightest young minds through the Lab are doing. A standalone version of Diana’s talk is available on YouTube.

Meanwhile, you can learn more about Diana in this 2019 article on the LBNL Postdoc Association website (which features a recorded video of a Slam-like event at Brookhaven); this August 2020 article in the LBNL newsletter Elements; and her LinkedIn page.

She also gave a talk on “Plasma based Technology for Future Particle Colliders” September 13 at the Virtual Visit on Modern Physics, an event hosted by Birla Vishvakarma Mahavidyalaya Engineering College under the auspices of the IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society.


IPO Has Something Inventive Going On

E.O. Lawrence's signature on patent for the cyclotronGoing back to its very beginnings, Berkeley Lab has been a hotbed of inventiveness, and the recent Labwide trend has been toward several dozen patents a year. Not just a point of pride and a way to protect our intellectual property, a patent can mean money in your pocket—our inventors get 35% of the net royalties after the cost of patenting has been covered.

If you find the patent system useful but novel and non-obvious, let Tech Transfer Tuesdays clarify matters. This lunchtime series is organized and hosted by former BELLA Center engineer Gregg Scharfstein, now Senior Technology Commercialization Associate with the Lab’s Intellectual Property Office. It is held at noon on the third Tuesday of every month. Next up on August 18: “Patent Types and Families.” Click here to add their shared calendar.

Prior art (slides from previous sessions) can be found on the LBNL Google Drive (Lab Single Sign-On credentials required). Click here to learn more about what the Intellectual Property Office has to offer.


Please see the Publications tab of this website for a complete listing.

Peng-Wei Huang (DESY, Germany; Tsinghua University, China); Houjun Qian, Ye Chen (DESY); Daniele Filippetto (LBNL); Matthias Gross, Igor Isaev, Christian Koschitzki, Mikhail Krasilnikov, Shankar Lal, Xiangkun Li, Osip Lishilin, David Melkumyan, Raffael Niemczyk, Anne Oppelt (DESY); Fernando Sannibale (LBNL); Hamed Shaker, Guan Shu, Frank Stephan (DESY); Chuanxiang Tang (Tsinghua University); Grygorii Vashchenko (DESY); and Weishi Wan (LBNL), “Single shot cathode transverse momentum imaging in high brightness photoinjectors,” Physical Review Accelerators and Beams 23, 043401 (9 April 2020),

Tae Moon Jeong (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, ELI-Beamlines Project); Sergei Vladimirovich Bulanov (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, ELI-Beamlines Project; Kansai Photon Science Institute, Japan; and Prokhorov General Physics Institute RAS); Pavel Vasilievich Sasorov (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, ELI-Beamlines Project); Stepan Sergeevich Bulanov (LBNL); James Kevin Koga (Kansai Photon Science Institute); and Georg Korn (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, ELI-Beamlines Project), “4π-spherically focused electromagnetic wave: diffraction optics approach and high-power limits,” Optics Express 28, 9 (27 April 2020), pp. 13991-14006,

S.C. Leemann, “Applying Machine Learning to Stabilize the Source Size in the ALS Storage Ring,” oral presentation at the virtual 11th International Particle Accelerator Conference (May 10-15, 2020, Caen, France),

O.G. Olkhovskaya, G.A. Bagdasarov (Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, Moscow); N.A. Bobrova (Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics; Czech Technical University in Prague); V.A. Gasilov (Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics); L.V.N. Goncalves, C.M. Lazzarini (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, v.v.i. (FZU), ELI-Beamlines Project, Prague); M. Nevrkla (Czech Technical University in Prague; Institute of Physics of the ASCR, v.v.i. (FZU), ELI-Beamlines Project); G. Grittani (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, v.v.i. (FZU), ELI-Beamlines Project, Prague); S.S. Bulanov, A.G. Gonsalves, C.B. Schroeder, E. Esarey (LBNL); W.P. Leemans (DESY, Germany); P.V. Sasorov (Czech Technical University in Prague; Institute of Physics of the ASCR, v.v.i. (FZU), ELI-Beamlines Project); S.V. Bulanov (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, ELI-Beamlines Project; Kansai Photon Science Institute, Japan; and Prokhorov General Physics Institute RAS);; and Prokhorov General Physics Institute RAS);and G. Korn (Institute of Physics of the ASCR, v.v.i. (FZU), ELI-Beamlines Project, Prague), “Plasma channel formation in the knife-like focus of laser beam”, Journal of Plasma Physics 86, 3 (2 June 2020), 905860307,

Cover of Appl. Phys. Lett. 116, 184002

Cover story

V. Ranjan, S. Probst, B. Albanese (CEA Saclay); T. Schenkel (LBNL); D. Vion, D. Esteve (CEA Saclay); J.J.L. Morton (University College London); and P. Bertet (CEA Saclay), “Electron spin resonance spectroscopy with femtoliter detection volume,” Applied Physics Letters 116, 184002 (4 May 2020);

K. Schoenberg (FAIR and TU-Darmstadt, Germany); V. Bagnoud (GSI and Helmholtz Institute Jena, Germany); A. Blazevic (GSI); V.E. Fortov (Joint Institute for High Temperatures, Russian Academy of Sciences); D.O. Gericke (University of Warwick, UK); A. Golubev, (Kurchatov Institute and MePHI, Russoa ); D.H.H. Hoffmann (Xi’an Jiatong University); D, Kraus (Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf and TU-Dresden); I.V. Lomonosov, V. Mintsev (Institute of the Problems of Chemical Physics, Russia); S. Neff (FAIR); P. Neumayer (GSI); A.R. Piriz (INEI, Spain, and Univ. Rostock, Germany); R. Redmer (Univ. Rostock, Germany); O. Rosmej (GSI); M. Roth (FAIR and TU-Darmstadt); T. Schenkel (LBNL); B. Sharkov (JINR Dubna, Russia); N.A. Tahir (GSI); D. Varentsov (GSI); Y. Zhao (Xi’an Jiatong University), “High-energy-density-science capabilities at the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research,” Physics of Plasmas 27, 4 (April 6, 2020), 043103,

P. Zhang, S.S. Bulanov, D. Seipt, A. V. Arefiev, and A. G. R. Thomas, “Relativistic Plasma Physics in Supercritical Fields,” Physics of Plasmas 27, 5 (26 May 2020), 050601,
Invited perspective paper for Physics of Plasmas, also featured in a press release by the American Institute of Physics.




Turning Scraps into Flowers and Vegetables with Home Composting

Working at home, sheltering in place, and minimizing trips to the grocery store has led to renewed enthusiasm for gardening. When you’re ready to try closing the loop on your home carbon cycle and reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers through composting, check out the Sustainable Berkeley Lab composting website.Sustainable Berkeley Lab logo

You’ll learn about how to get started with the different kinds of composting; balancing the different kinds of input materials; which things are okay for a municipal green-waste stream but not appropriate for home composting; and how to avoid objectionable odors and attracting animals and insect pests.


Because we could all use a laugh these days…

Social distancing, Roswell style: cancellation poster for the UFO Festival

Be sure to check travel restrictions before booking interstellar tickets. (© Used by permission.)

We’ve all had to deal with cancelled conferences and meetings this year, but some announcements are very extra… extraterrestrial, that is!