About the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource

SSRL is a forefront lightsource providing bright X-rays and oustanding user support.

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a Directorate of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC), is an Office of Science User Facility operated for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by Stanford University. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is a multi-program national laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, biochemistry, material science, particle physics and accelerator research. SLAC engages in fundamental research which is published or shared broadly with the scientific community. The DOE Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

SSRL produces extremely bright x-rays as a resource for researchers to study our world at the atomic and molecular level. Research at SSRL benefits many sectors of the American economy and leads to major advances in energy production, environmental remediation, nanotechnology, new materials and medicine. SSRL provides unique educational experiences and serves as a vital training ground for future generations of scientists and engineers.

SSRL Strategic Plan 2017-2021


Scientific Mission

SSRL enables and supports outstanding scientific research by a broad user community in a safe environment. SSRL operates approximately 9 months each year with a very high reliability -- delivering more than 95% of scheduled x-ray beam time. Access to the SSRL is competitive based on peer-review. Users disseminate their findings through talks and publications, and new highlights are featured monthly. Experiments conducted at SSRL resulted in over 13,300 scientific publications since 1974.

Opportunities for Training and Discoveries

Of the approximately 1,600 scientists who annually participate in experiments at SSRL, over 30% are first-time users, and approximately 60% are postdoctoral associates or graduate and undergraduate students. Each researcher completes training to operate SSRL equipment. Students and new researchers learn from and assist more senior researchers with taking measurements and analyzing data during their experiments. The personal experience received during beam time benefits each participant by providing a framework and understanding of the mechanisms and difficulties that can be encountered during research experiments.

Scientific users also have the opportunity to participate in schools and workshops which provide in-depth, hands-on experience with specific data acquisition and analysis techniques as well as practice with sharing research findings through talks and poster presentations. SSRL research results in approximately 600 scientific papers annually, which includes about 20% that are theses prepared by students who relied upon access to SSRL to complete their dissertations.

Synergy and Teamwork

With the knowledge gained at SSRL, researchers have improved the design of fuel and solar cells, revealed the very nature of bacteria and viruses, exposed how genetic mutations may cause diabetes, and mapped the structures of proteins for use in biology and medicine.

Partnering with Industry

Companies use SSRL instruments to help bring discoveries and innovations from theory to reality. Products ranging from the world's most advanced computer chips to pharmaceuticals such as Tamiflu® have been created thanks to research conducted at SSRL by companies including HP, IBM, Intel, GE, BP, Northrop Grumman, Sony, UOP, Exelixis, Genetech, Pfizer, and Roche.  In addition, research and development activities at SSRL create a great variety of opportunities for commercial ventures, including the foundation of new start-up companies. These start-ups have created hundreds of jobs and give advanced technologies a foothold in the commercial market.

Improving Fuel Cells

Cheaper, more efficient fuel cells are on the way thanks to a new form of platinum created by researchers working at SSRL. The material will likely enable broader use of fuel cells that produce emissions-free energy, which could eventually replace gasoline engines and the batteries found in small electronic devices.

Innovative Solar Cells

A new process that simultaneously combines the light and heat of solar radiation to generate electricity could offer more than double the efficiency of existing solar cell technology. The process, called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," or PETE, could reduce the costs of solar energy production enough for it to compete with oil as an energy source.

Better Remediation

SSRL's X-rays are used to identify toxic elements in drinking water, soil, plants and microorganisms, contaminants that have the potential to kill millions. This work supports the development of new technologies for removing contaminants from the environment, directly impacting the health of Americans.

Revolutionizing Electronics

No longer content with materials found in nature or made through trial and error, scientists at SSRL are finding ways to design new materials, in atom by atom detail, that precisely fit society's needs. Applications include power lines that transmit electricity with 100 percent efficiency, new types of solar cells, more powerful electronics, catalysts that speed chemical reactions, and novel computing technologies.


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