Diamond Light Source
Southern Section diary
Southern Section diary
Half an inch, in old money’s worth, of rain had fallen overnight. The morning however, was classic Autumnal, bright, misty, and, with just a touch of leaf mulch on the road for added spice. 3 out of 5 of us had made it to the meeting point at Longacres Garden Centre, Bagshot, for a pre-ride coffee. Our destination was the Diamond Light Source open day, located in the Harwell Science campus and organised as part of World Science Day 2018.
After a debate over refreshments, and taking into account standing water on the roads and leaves on the line, we opted for the simplicity and relaxation of the M4/A34 route to Harwell which also allowed us ample time.
The campus itself was both impressive with its diverse, research related businesses, as it was by its size. Following the signs for the event, the Syncrotron Building, a sort of enormous, squashed doughnut, ½ kilometre in circumference, constructed from grey metallic panels under an exoskeletal structure, hove into view. Riding alongside the boundary fence accentuated just how big this structure was until we finally rode onto the site itself and parked up.
The organisation was well prepared for the numbers expected and we were soon ushered into the lecture room for our introduction. Initially, there was something of an admission that Diamond Light was a simplification of the experimental and investigative work carried out in the facility, in that it was about the whole of the electro-magnetic spectrum that was involved, with much of it using x-rays
Inside the Syncrotron building - ½ kilometre in circumference!
The application of the ‘super x-rays’ found use in analysis of everything from jet engines to viruses, historic artefacts to new materials, and just about anything in between. The level of presentation was pitched about right in that, with my GCSE Level Physics, I could just about keep pace with the information, but there were plenty of others in the audience who were clearly revelling in the minutiae. The scale of some of the statistics relating to the operation of the Syncrotron were astonishing, with everything measured in nano-seconds or mega watts.
Having had our brains stretched, we were then shown around the facility. Starting from the gun that produces the electrons, firing them into the first stage accelerator that speeds the particles up before, in turn, firing them into the huge doughnut or storage ring. The light energy at this stage can be 10 billion times brighter than the sun itself.
The electron gun - works much like a cathode ray tube from a black and white television
Using magnetic pulses, the energy is maintained until required in one of 31 laboratories located on the outside of the ring, where the ‘light’ is diverted for use in dedicated experimental installations. With x-rays of this power, much of the structure is related to controlling radiation with many walls finished in yellow indicating lead shielding.
The tour lasted about 2 ½ hours and was totally absorbing.
Once finished, we saw the light of day and were greeted with the beginings of a rain storm of biblical proportions that followed us all the way back. That said, we still enjoyed the whole day and would recommend future events at Diamond Light Source to anyone with an interest in science.
Our thanks go to the team at Diamond Light Source and David Stevens for organising this enjoyable outing.
Syncrotron model showing:
Light diverted to each of the 31 individual laboratories from the storage ring.
Laboratory - this one is used for measuring material responses to extremes and is capable producing temperatures down 7k and 1/2 million bar pressure!