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The Diamond Light Source

Posted on 10. June, 2015.

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Diamond is the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, and is situated on the Harwell campus in Oxfordshire. The Diamond synchrotron can produce intense beams of light, said to be “10 billion times brighter than the sun”. Here, the term “light” does not only refer to the region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to humans, since Diamond generates synchrotron light, which is a spectrum of electromagnetic radiation spanning hard X‑rays to microwaves.

Diamond is the largest scientific facility to be built in the UK, since the Nimrod proton synchrotron at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory (RAL) in 1964. Nimrod was converted into the (ISIS) neutron spallation source in 1977. ISIS is not an acronym, but is both the name by which the River Thames is known locally, and a goddess of Ancient Egypt who could restore life to the dead: this seemed appropriate since the ISIS facility was partially constructed from cannibalised equipment from the Nimrod and NINA accelerators.
In contrast, DIAMOND is an acronym: DIpole And Multipole Output for the Nation at Daresbury, as derived by Mike Poole, who inaugurated the DIAMOND project.
Since the facility is no longer at Daresbury, it is said that the name now reflects the fact that the synchrotron light is both ‘hard’ (as in the “hard” X‑ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum) and bright, similar to those qualities of a diamond.
The Diamond synchrotron accelerates electrons to an energy of 3 GeV around a storage ring with a circumference of 561.6 m. In fact, the ring is not circular, but is constructed as a series of straight lines, in the form of a 48‑sided polygon, using a configuration with two dipole (bending) magnets in each one of 24 cells. At each vertex, where a special magnet design is placed, the electrons undergo an abrupt change of direction (“turn a corner”), which results in the emission of an extremely intense spectrum of full-energy-range electromagnetic radiation, as is used to run the range of different experiments at Diamond. 

Read the full article, free of charge, in Science Progress, Volume 98, Number 2, June 2015, pp. 192-200.

Author: CHRISTOPHER J. RHODES

DOI:10.3184/003685015X14309150946424