The Diamond Light Source in South Oxfordshire is a quite stupendous facility the size of five football pitches. You get the sense that this is leading edge science at its very best. This facility now makes the UK one of the leading synchrotrons in the world.
Courtesy of Diamond Light Source. This is an aerial view of the Diamond Synchrotron, “the donut”.
As the name suggests, very highly focussed light is generated by electrons being “fired” from an electron gun, and accelerated close to the speed of light. When this electron beam is bent by Diamond’s enormous magnets. energy is leaked, emerging as intense beams of X-rays, ultra violet light and infra red rays, these being used to experiment upon an amazing variety of materials – food, viruses, aircraft components and archaeological artifacts to name but a few.
I was extremely privileged in that it was Diamond’s CEO himself, Professor Dr. Gerd Materlik himself and his fellow board member Andy Akerman, Diamond’s Director of Finance and Corporate Services, who showed me around. However a check of Diamond’s website http://www.diamond.ac.uk will tell you when Diamond is next available for the public visits.
Diamond, is one of over 70 synchrotrons to have been built around the globe during the last 30 years. The science is mind boggling to us mere mortals. A vast circular “donut” carries the 4 inch diameter tube containing electrons that have been accelerated close to the speed of light.
At intervals around this ring, a portal can be opened and a beam of light, “escapes” into one of 1 7 beam lines (with more to come), at the end of which scientific experiments of extraordinary complexity take place. Within the beam lines, mirrors are used to focus and direct the light to the point at which it strikes the material being studied.
Courtesy of Diamond Light Source.
Diamond is expanding and by 2012 there will be 22 beam lines operational. Be under no illusion, what goes on in these synchrotrons will improve life on this planet exponentially – better drugs [anticancer and Alzheimer being prime examples], energy research, unlocking the secrets of damaged DNA, development of jet engine and, IT components, protecting the Mary Rose and much, much more.
Courtesy of The Mary Rose Trust
I am again so grateful for the time taken out of their schedules by Prof Materlik and Andy Akerman, as were my guests, some senior colleagues from Industry, The OCC [Oxford City Council] and the OEP [Oxfordshire Economic Partnership].