Science Interviews


Mon, 31st Jan 2011

Look back at 2010

Trevor Rayment, Diamond Light Source

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Eroding Coastlines and Chemistry's Holy Grail - A look back at 2010

Meera - 2010 saw many changes and improvements to the Diamond Synchrotron as well as good news as to how it will continue to improve in the future. Diamond’s Physical Sciences Director, Trevor Rayment, explains more about the synchrotrons journey to completion as Diamond gears up for Phase III; 

Trevor - This is important for Diamond because it’s always been seen as a 3 phase development project. In Phases I & II we built the machine and are close to completing 22 Beamlines and in Phase III we’ll add a further 10 of these Beamlines. So, Phase III is going to improve our capacity for doing science and engineering technology by about 50%. 

Meera - So how are the Phases broken up? What make Phase I & II & III separate?

Trevor - Well, the way a synchrotron operates is that it provides a number of quite independent scientific facilities that we call Beamlines, which just simply describes the fact that the light is a beam and it comes down the line of equipment. But perhaps a better way of thinking about these is as independent scientific laboratories. Every laboratory is designed for a specific task and if you want to have a broad scope then you need to have a large number of beamlines because each one is very specialised and designed for a specific scientific purpose. By adding a further 10 of these Beamlines, we’re improving the scope of what we can do enormously.

I’d like to give you a couple of examples; There are a series of methods that have been developed outside synchrotrons, in other areas of science, called High Throughputs where you deliberately employ automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, to squeeze the very most out of your instruments. And this does two things; first of all it enables more people to access the facility, but not only that, it enables you to do things that you couldn’t dream of doing before, simply because it would take too long. You could ask questions that are more difficult simply because you could do more experiments, more quickly. Phase III gives us increased volume and it gives us hugely increased scope of what we can do. 

Meera - You mention the light generated by the core synchrotron itself is what changes and what is altered for each beamline, but in 2010 a change was actually made to the core synchrotron and the way it produces its light. 

Trevor - Yes it was. If you imagine a synchrotron, looking down from above, the way we normally explain it is as a many-sided coin, a 24 sided polygon. That gives you the impression of the electrons travelling in a straight line between magnets that steer the beams, the electrons will go in a straight line and then be steered round a corner, they’ll do that 24 times all together to go round. Then on the long sided sections of this polygon, we put what we call Insertion Devices – purpose built magnetic structures that produce the light that we want. But electrons are not really like that. All electrons are negatively charged and if you just put them together and leave them alone, they’ll repel each other. And so what that means is that as the electrons are travelling along in a straight line, they’re also moving apart from each other which mean the beam gets bigger. So part of the structure of the machine are components to refocus the beam back down to a very small point. So what you have to imagine is not only do you have the electrons moving in a straight line but they’re diverging and you have to refocus them. Now in the original structure of Diamond they were arrange so the electron beam was focused at the centre of each of these straight sections because that is where we would put the insertion devices.

Some of these straight sections are actually quite long, they’re 5 metres long and there is in fact space to put 2 of these Insertion Devices. So in principle you could have 2 sources of light rather than 1, and that would mean you could build 2 beamlines rather than 1 beamline. However, the fact that the electrons are focused at the centre means that if you have 2 Insertion Devices, they’ve both got to be off centre and neither is in the optimum position. So what they’ve done this year is they’ve changed the structure of the machine such that they can insert additional focus lenses at the end of the straight sections and also in the middle of the straight section so that now the electrons, as they enter this straight section, are focused very early on by diverge and then they’re focused back in again on the straight section and then out. So it becomes, instead of having one dip in the middle, it’s got a double dip. 

Meera - So essentially this is leading to more regular focusing of electrons along their route around the synchrotron? 

Trevor - More specialised, I wouldn’t say it’s more regular, but it’s more specialised. The take home message is that the light delivered out to the Users is going to be brighter and more flexible. 

Meera - You mention that Diamond’s priority is always the Users that come in and use the Facility for their Research and you actually reached a milestone in 2010 in terms of the research and publications resulting from this research. 

Trevor - Yes we did indeed. We reached the milestone of 1000 publications produced from Users and from people who work at Diamond. And that’s 1000 publications since the start of Diamond, we started operating in 2007. 

Meera - Are there any papers that are particularly noteworthy or stand out in your memory? 

Trevor - There have been some very interesting studies carried out at the University of Leicester where they have been looking at the fate of depleted Uranium – an Environmental study. There has been work on Lead-free ceramics to make Piezo electrics, that’s an important Material Science application and there had been work carried out at Imperial College where they’ve been able to solve a 20-year old mystery about the way that HIV attacks the body. 

Meera - Everything that you’ve mentioned just reiterates the fact that such a wide variety of scientific disciplines are researched at Diamond, but another important aspect of the facility is that you develop workshops and you have a great deal of Outreach. 

Trevor - Yes, that’s true. Diamond exists for people who don’t use it, as much as it does for those who do. We are now a mature facility and we are keen to attract a very large number of new users and experienced users and one way we do that is we host meetings. These meetings range from Training, Meetings that simply liaise with Users - we simply bring them in, listen to them and listen to their concerns – and we host external scientific societies for example. And of course we welcome lots of visitors from the local area on our Inside Diamond Days. 


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