Interview with Professor Marko Huttula, Department of Physics at the University of Oulu, Finland

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

For long, from the start of MAX-lab actually. It started with the Finnish beamline – beamline 51 – a collaboration between University of Oulu, University of Turku and Tampere University of Technology who established the funding with Academy of Finland for building up the beamline at MAX I. Then came VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd who designed the undulator and also sold undulators for MAX II. This beamline, named 51, later got transferred to MAX II and was renamed to beamline 411 with Swedish contributions to the endstation.

One of the undulators at, the now decommissioned, MAX II storage ring.
One of the undulators at the, now decommissioned, MAX II storage ring.

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

The long tradition of collaborating and the good relations with MAX IV Laboratory made it easy to decide on new projects and funding. There have not really been any discussions on investing elsewherewith such infrastructure. Naturally, to guarantee the Finnish access to all services provided by the forefront facility was the key national driver.

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

The FinEstBeaMS beamline is extending the capabilities and capacities that where available at MAX II within low density and gas phase research. Now, at MAX IV we get better flux (more photons per square µ-meter in the synchrotron X-ray light beam), controllable polarization and we can also do research within a wider energy region. One interesting field of research – close to my own heart – on this beamline is studying atmospheric clusters and nanoaerosols.

Another very important impact of building a beamline is the discussion at the universities on how synchrotron X-ray light can be a tool in other fields of research; materials science, medical imaging, wood and forest science.

What would be the first upgrade to FinEstBeaMS? 

We are really keen on looking at time-structure, which means we need single-bunch mode at the source, the 1,5 GeV ring at MAX IV. With this we could use multi-electron coincidence method, magnetic bottle spectrometer, which we are actually already building up in Oulu. This would provide a new viewpoint for part of the research done in this, very booming, field of research. But this is an upgrade of the storage ring, not of the beamline or the endstations.

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

In University of Oulu, for example, we have an EU co-funded program for 20 four-year doctoral students, I4Future where MAX IV is an essential part in this program and the very place to do experiments for some of the students. For the industrial use it is very important to initialize small projects of research but also training and workshops on the various available synchrotron radiation related methods. Naturally, we urgently need that the knowledge of the methods is part of the academic education as these students are the future research leaders. Increasing amount of multidisciplinary teaching is given already, for example at University of Oulu, even today for students on the potential fields such as medical imaging or materials research.

The investment in FinEstBeaMS and the operation of MAX IV guarantee Finland and Estonia not only beamtime at this specific beamline but on all beamlines at MAX IV. This means we can offer industry and academy in our countries access to all the different tools and methods available at the facility.


FinEstBeaMS comes out of a Finnish Estonian collaboration, what are the possibilities and challenges that comes with that?

There is a long history of collaboration between our partner universities; Oulu, Turku and Tartu and Tampere University of Technology. The beamline has actually emerged from that collaboration so the short answer would be: “a lot of possibilities but not very many challenges”.

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

Dear colleagues and friends,

I’m proud of being part of establishing and growing the European community in gas-phase research through the investment in the FinEstBeaMS beamline. Today FinEstBeaMS is one of the leading gas-phase beamlines in Europe and simultaneously established a lively and unique environment for combined surface science research.

The initial investments of Academy of Finland to the FinEstBeaMS have provided a great start for the present numerous Finnish industrial partners on their synchrotron radiation based R&D for biomaterial based products and novel materials surfaces. The FinEstBeaMS beamline has hosted tens of PhD works, provided experimental results for great number of high quality publications on various fields of nanomaterials research, chemistry and surface science. Many previously open questions have been answered in environmental and atmospheric issues, biomolecules and electrochemistry. Novel luminescent materials have been found, many mysteries of nanopatterned biofunctional surfaces have been resolved and great steps have been taken in the fundamental knowledge on electronic structure and dynamics of atoms and molecular systems.

In all, the beamline and the Finnish and Estonian investments have proven to be success in providing scientific advances, increasing the knowledge capita and providing fresh new starts for the society.