Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron facility. Located in South Oxfordshire, it generates brilliant beams of light, from infra-red to X-rays. These are used in a wide range of applications, from structural biology through fundamental physics and chemistry to cultural heritage. Most of the experiments at Diamond use X-rays that are 100 billion times brighter than a standard laboratory X-ray tube. Researchers use this intense synchrotron light to study a wide range of biological, chemical and material samples at the atomic and molecular level.
At 45,000m2, Diamond is the size of five football pitches, and is essentially a series of 'supermicroscopes'. The electrons that power Diamond are first fired from an electron gun, before being accelerated to 3GeV (giga-electronvolts). Once up to full speed, the electrons inside Diamond's storage ring travel at nearly the speed of light. When the path of the electron beam is bent by Diamond's powerful magnets, the electrons leak energy, which emerges as very intense beams of X-rays, ultra-violet light and infra-red rays.
This synchrotron light plays a major role in several areas of research, including X-ray diffraction, spectroscopy, imaging and microscopy. While primarily used by researchers from academia, Diamond has a vibrant industrial science programme across many industry sectors, including pharmaceuticals, consumer products, chemicals and oil.
Diamond became operational in January 2007; it is a joint venture funded by the UK government through STFC and the Wellcome Trust. So far, capital investment in the project has totalled £383 million, representing the largest UK scientific investment for 40 years. In June 2010 the Thames and Kennet Group hosted a visit to the Diamond site to see this exciting project first hand.