21 November 2008

World’s most powerful synchrotron to Lund

The Swedish government has given the green light for a new synchrotron, MAX IV, which will be the world’s most powerful radiation facility for the research of materials. The location at the University of Lund also means completely new prospects for research in biological substances, medicine, and nano-materials at the Niels Bohr Institute, the Department of Chemistry, the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

“It is very positive news. The MAX laboratory has developed a technology that will be world leading and the good researchers go where the good opportunities are”, explains professor in nano-physics at the Niels Bohr Institute, Robert Feidenhans’l, adding that it will benefit research in the entire region.

Europe in the lead
The green light for the MAX IV synchrotron could also be good news for the European Spallation Source, ESS. ESS is a European accelerator project, which will be the world’s most powerful neutron source for researching substances from membranes and molecules to magnetic materials and superconductors, technology, for example, for harnessing hydrogen energy and researching all types of surfaces.

There are currently two smaller accelerator based facilities in Switzerland and in England, and the best reactor based neutron source is in France, but it is from 1970 and it is getting old as are the other facilities.

“The new sources are more powerful and they can do much more”, explains Robert Feidenhans’l, adding that one has just been built in the USA and that the Japanese are in the process of building one. ESS will, for the same price, be 5-10 as powerful, but in Europe the final decision to build has not yet been made.

Colossal lift for research
ESS is an international project similar to CERN in Switzerland and there are three consortiums vying the project. They each have their preferred location either in Debrecen in Hungary, Bilbao in Northern Spain or Lund in Sweden. ESS Scandinavia would like it to placed in Lund and it is here where the decision to build the MAX IV radiation facility could be a big advantage, as having the radiation facility and the neutron facility at the same place gives entirely unique possibilities for research as the two methods complement each other with their respective high-tech precision.

Synchrotron radiation can show the position of atoms and create three-dimensional fluoroscopic images of the substance’s composition with incredible precision. Neutron radiation is less precise, but on the other hand it can go much farther into a substance and show the substance’s atomic structure and how the atoms are moving. In addition, it can show magnetism, hydrogen and can distinguish between isotopes.

“The radiation synchrotron and the neutron radiation facility will be a boost to research in the entire Øresund Region, where a tremendously strong scientific environment could be established”, tells Robert Feidenhans’l, explaining that it will attract new high-tech jobs and in all could provide around 600 new positions.