Azara Blog: Diamond synchroton lab opens up

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Date published: 2007/02/06

The BBC says:

The biggest science facility to be built in the UK for 30 years - the Diamond Light Source synchrotron - has opened its doors for business.

The vast machine, which covers the area of five football pitches, generates intense light beams to probe matter down to the molecular and atomic scale.

The South Oxfordshire-based facility will be used by many fields, including medicine and environmental science.

Researchers have now commenced their experiments at its "beamline" stations.

Gerhard Materlik, chief executive of Diamond, said: "The first users possess an extensive knowledge of synchrotron science and bring a range of research projects to Diamond, from cancer research, to advancing data storage techniques, to unravelling the mysteries of the Solar System."

Within the machine, which is sometimes described as a "super microscope", electrons are accelerated into a thin, doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber, which measures 562.6m (1,846ft) in circumference.

As the particles whizz around and around, almost reaching the speed of light, they lose energy in the form of synchrotron light.

This intense light, which falls in the range of x-ray, ultra-violet and infra-red, is then channelled off into beamlines, where it passes through samples of material, probing deep into their fine-structure.
The project has cost about £300m, funded by the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) and the Wellcome Trust.

Hopefully the money will be worth the investment. It's unfortunate that they have to hype the science (curing cancer and "unravelling the mysteries of the Solar System" being two perennial favourites), but that is the world of spin that we live in. Meanwhile back in the real world, science advances forward in hard-fought moves of size epsilon.

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