Interview with Professor Bo Brummerstedt Iversen, Center for Materials Crystallography at the Department of Chemistry and iNANO, Aarhus University

Bo Brummersted Iversen
Bo Brummersted Iversen.

How long has the collaboration with MAX IV Laboratory (MAX-lab) been ongoing and how did it start?

Danish involvement at MAX-lab has a long and successful history with Danish researchers being frequent guests at many different beamlines and covering a wide range of scientific disciplines. The close proximity to Denmark and effective collaboration with the Swedish hosts has provided a setting for outstanding science. The design and construction of the Cassiopeia beamline at MAX II (at the old MAX-lab) marked a significant Danish instrument involvement, and this is now extended to MAX IV with the DanMAX project using a visionary design. The DanMAX consortium was formed in 2009 and it was quite unique since it involved very close collaboration between the three major Danish universities; Aarhus University, DTU and Copenhagen University. The first step towards realizing the dream of a beamline dedicated to studying “real materials under real conditions in real time” was an infrastructure grant of 35 million DKK from the Danish Ministry of Research. This led to subsequent investments from the three universities, the Capital and Central Denmark Regions and MAX IV Laboratory, and in 2015 an agreement was reached to initialize the DanMAX project.

For this new investment, what made you choose MAX IV and not any other (European) facility?

MAX IV is a unique new synchrotron light source and in the coming years it will be the best intermediate energy synchrotron source in the world. The close proximity to Denmark and the long and close working relationship between Danish and Swedish scientists in synchrotron science made it an obvious choice for lifting Danish synchrotron research to new heights. Furthermore, MAX IV is situated right next to the coming European Spallation Source providing by far the strongest setting in the world for combined synchrotron and neutron research. The choice was easy.

The new capacities that will come through DanMAX and other beamlines at MAX IV, what impact in your area of science will they give?

DanMAX will be unique in the very strong focus on studying “real materials under real conditions in real time” using state of the art diffraction and imaging techniques. It will complement the other beamlines at MAX IV and thereby provide a strong suite of instruments. Currently materials are typically studied under idealized conditions, which are far from the working conditions of the material. It is a strong ambition of DanMAX that we can change this, and provide a beamline where materials can be studied e.g. while they are formed (in situ) or while they are at work (in operando). A very wide range of fields can benefit from the beamline and planned studies include catalysts, thermoelectrics, nanoparticles, batteries, construction materials, foods, paints, coatings and much more. Through very close collaboration with industry it is furthermore envisioned that DanMAX will provide an optimal setting for Scandinavian industries to obtain detailed insight into material structure that will allow them to have an edge in the global competition.

What would be the first upgrade to DanMAX? 

This is difficult to predict, but one may anticipate that the constant development of novel detector and optics technology will make it attractive to invest in upgrades.

How will you go about to connect to Danish students, users and industry to make the most of the investment?

DanMAX is unique since it from the beginning has been a close collaboration between Aarhus University, DTU and Copenhagen University. Each of these large institutions have world class programs in synchrotron and neutron science, and new courses at both undergraduate and graduate level are being developed to train the coming generations of synchrotron users, and potentially also a master education in application on large facilities. The Danish synchrotron community has had an impressive growth of about ten per cent per year for the past ten years, and DanMAX is expected to further fuel this growth. At the same time a new national Danish project for Linking Industry to Neutrons and X-rays (the LINX project) has set the scene for deep interaction between university researchers and industry on synchrotron and neutron science. DanMAX will provide fast and easy access for Danish industry to the best synchrotron in the world, and the close interaction between universities and industry is expected to provide a foundation for strong collaboration and innovation.

DanMAX comes out of a very big Danish collaboration, what are the possibilities and challenges that comes with that?

Denmark is a small country and although healthy competition between universities is good, it is clearly of national interest that the synchrotron community unite in projects on the DanMAX scale. For more than 20 years the Danish national center for synchrotron and neutron research, DANSCATT, has provided a forum for strong collaboration and coordination of Danish synchrotron and neutron activities. It is this collaboration, which has provided the extraordinary growth in the Danish community so it now includes more than 500 researchers covering all Danish universities and many industrial companies. With the strong growth in the user base it may be expected that beamtime will become increasingly scarce, and it will be a challenge to balance the many interests that come from a diverse user community. However, close collaboration on such aspects also tend to generate new unexpected collaborations, which further strengthen the community.

It’s the year 2026 and you are giving a speech at the ten year anniversary for DanMAX – what do you say?

Congratulations dear colleages and thank you for making DanMAX far exceed all expectations!
The results obtained at this unique facility are numerous and they cover both fundamental and applied science. I will just mention a few. With DanMAX we have for the first time obtained atomic scale structural insight into the foundation of nucleation processes, which is central in comprehension of how all materials forms, providing answers to old scientific questions but also the basis for rational design of nanoparticles with tailored properties now being used in a wide range of applications. We have understood how advanced catalysts, magnets, thermoelectrics and batteries work under real conditions leading to major new Danish industrial innovation activities. And we have provided detailed structural insight into advanced composites, metals, foods, coatings and plastics paving the way to new innovative products and new high paying jobs. On this background the initial investment of 100 million DKK has been cheap. Lastly one should not forget that DanMAX has provided a setting for education of hundreds of students in application of synchrotron light in materials research thereby strengthening the possibility for Danish society to stay strong and wealthy for generations to come.