Today at Berkeley Lab

ALS Users Get the Third Degree

More than 2,000 scientists pass through the Advanced Light Source every year to conduct experiments they hope will lead to the next big breakthrough. They use the beamlines—essentially extremely bright x-rays—to examine everything from nanoparticles to disease samples. So can a user waltz into the ALS with his or her radioactive samples and fire up the beamline? Not before he or she answers to Sue Bailey.

As the head of ALS user services, Bailey makes sure all users fill out an Experimental Data Sheet (ESS) listing any kind of material or equipment they plan to bring. She wants to know if you’re bringing radioactive or biological samples, cryogens (such as liquid helium or liquid nitrogen), nanoparticles, lasers, power supplies, vacuum chambers or anything else that might be remotely hazardous. Then depending on what you answer, she wants to know more. If you say yes to nanoparticles, for examples, she wants to know if they’re in a solvent, or powder form, or attached to a substrate. “Then we can work out what controls to put in place,” she said.

Users are also asked which beamline they want to use. “If it’s beamline 6, for example, they’ll need laser training,” Bailey said. Other materials may trigger other types of training. And if they bring a power supply, an electrician would inspect it when they arrive. “In order to get access to ALS floor, we have to give it to you, and you’re not given access until you’ve completed the training,” she said.

So far the system seems to be working. User feedback is incorporated to improve the training and ESS. Upon completing their experiments all users are asked to complete a survey, and of the 215 users so far this year, more than 90 percent said they were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the safety training.