I went to the open day for the Australian Synchrotron at the Monash Science Park on Sunday. As a member of SEMIP I already knew about the Australian Synchrotron but had never actually visited it. I am very glad I did.
On the open day I went to two sessions. The first was titled “Synchrotrons for Dummies” which was very well presented and gave a good overview of the Australian Synchrotron but more importantly, gave excellent examples of how it is used and what it can be used for. Here is a short list from one of their brochures, by no means exhaustive:
- Improving fertility
- Examining forensic evidence
- Helping premature babies breathe without getting lung damage
- Improving energy storage
- Improving industrial processes
- Nano-scale material science
- Improving cement
The Australian Synchrotron uses very high energy electrons to create electromagnetic radiation that can be used to either select specific frequencies for analysing, or for getting access to much higher energy or finer resolution imaging. It runs 24 hours a day when in operation and multiple experiments can be run at the same time on what they refer to as Beamlines. Each Beamline can run in parallel with the others as they are independent. The higher energy allows better penetration and the finer resolution which means you can go down to features comparable to a single molecule. So you can think of it as either:
- A very bright light (1 million time brighter than the sun before you filter it back to what you want)
- A very high resolution microscope
- A very high resolution and finely tuned X-Ray imaging system
The Australian Synchrotron website has an excellent set of explanations.
The second session was on Synchrotron Science and included a detailed guided tour through the entire complex starting from the electron gun where the initial 90KeV electrons are generated then into the booster ring where the energy is kicked up by a factor of over 30,000 and finally through to the main storage ring where they are circulating at 3GeV energy and as close to the speed of light as we know how to make them. In fact, they are going so fast that adding more energy makes them heavier just as Einstein predicted. The energy and the equipment involved are staggering. I was reading the individual steering magnet ratings and they are water cooled 6KW devices. And there are hundreds of them, all colour coded according to their specific function.
The guided tour included both a detailed up close view of the equipment and also a trip over the top to see the complex from above. The entire device is the size of a football oval.
And the commercial arrangements are very attractive. If you have a great idea for a project and it meets the selection criteria, it costs you nothing. If not, you can rent Beam Time as they call it for $400 per hour and usually get a slot within 8 weeks. Given that this is a $300M device, that is an absolute bargain.
Now I am thinking about what my clients might be able to do with this amazing facility.
Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2011 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd