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Sweden starts building the "most brilliant" storage-ring light source

posted 29 Nov 2010, 10:54 by Mpelembe   [ updated 29 Nov 2010, 10:57 ]

Work has begun in Sweden on a next generation facility to study nano-level molecular structures and materials on a smaller-scale than so far achieved. The synchrotron radiation laboratory, MAX Lab IV, will help in the development of new drugs and more efficient electronics and solar cells.

LUND, SWEDEN (NOVEMBER 22, 2010)  REUTERS - Work has begun in Sweden on the synchrotron radiation laboratory MAX Lab IV, a next generation facility that will enable scientists to study nano-level molecular structures and materials on a even smaller scale than ever achieved before.

The facility will generate synchrotron radiation is geneated by bending a beam of electrons around a ring of magnets. The

The study of these structures is important for the development of new drugs and more efficient electronics and solar cells for example.

When completed, the storage ring will have a circumference of more than 500 metres and will bring scientists from all over the world to Lund in southern Sweden.

Deputy Director of the Max Lab Svante Svensson said we live in the age of advanced materials and that a high-performance synchrotron radiation source like Max Lab IV was crucial for the study of these.

"We divide history into the stone-age, the bronze-age and iron-age and the iron-age ended around 1960. We are living in the age of advanced materials and in order to use advanced materials we have to study them and that we do with X-rays - those X-rays that we produce with such a machine," he said.

Synchrotron radiation is generated by bending electron beams as they travel around the storage ring, close to the speed of light.

As they travel, the electrons emit synchrotron light as they experience centripetal acceleration. The electrons are bent around the storage ring by magnets and when the electrons turn in the magnets they emit light.

"Synchrotron radiation is the same thing as x-rays and we produce enormously intense X-rays and extremely narrow beams, the beam in Max IV will be like the size of a hair and through this size of the hair there will be seven, sorry ten kilowatts of x-ray power and these X-rays we use for research," Svensson said.

Svensson said X-ray technology had developed dramatically since X-rays were invented by Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen in 1896.

He said that the development sped up after it was understood that X-rays could be produced using an electron accelerator.

With conventional X-ray sources the determination of protein structure was time consuming. Modern synchrotron radiation sources typically reduce these times significantly and with improved quality. According to Max Lab, this has led to the development of a new generation of drugs having specific actions as a consequence.

"During the years from 1970 we have increased the so called brilliance by 100 billion times which means that an experiment that took a year when I was a young research student now takes a fraction of a millisecond," he said.

Brilliance is the quantity that is usually used to measure the quality of the source. When completed, Max IV will be the most brilliant source available anywhere in the world over an extended energy range, according to Max Lab.

Nowadays X-ray technology is used not only to X-ray bones and teeth but for designing new drug molecules and developing new materials for super fast electronics and efficient solar cells and batteries for example.

Particles as small as a billionth of a meter can now be analysed and with Max Lab IV it will be possible to do chemical analyses of very small objects in a bacteria or get a picture of the protein structure of a virus.

"It's a fantastic workshop to study materials in general from proteins, biological materials to technological materials. All of these fields are there. It's to a very, very high degree inter-disciplinary research and I would say that around 70 per cent of the activities are related to new renewable energy and environmental research," Svensson said.

There are already three storage rings in Lund but a new storage ring is needed due to improved nanotechnology.

"We're progressing from micro-era in technology to nano-era and we will study materials on the nano level and that is why we have to use these very very narrow and intense beams because we have to have enough x-rays to get something out from a very very small sample namely a nano-size sample," Svensson said.

He also said construction of the facility was "very, very complicated" since the nano technology requires stability.

"In order to achieve studies of nano materials we had to stabilise the beam to nanometers this means that it has to be very very vibration-free so the concrete plate we're standing on here is four metres thick and this is to avoid vibrations," he said.

The exterior design of the facility has not been decided upon yet and Max Lab is currently looking at four designs.

Svensson said they planned to have the first beams for study by the beginning of 2015.