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Diamond Light Source

    Diamond Light Source is a synchrotron research facility located in Oxfordshire, England. It produced its first user beam towards the end of January 2007. Diamond will be used to probe the structure and properties of many types of materials and complex structures like proteins — information that will be used by a wide range of scientists.


Construction and finance

The Diamond Light Source is a scientific research facility built at a cost of £260m on the site of the Science and Technology Facilities Council Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, at Harwell/Chilton near Didcot in Oxfordshire, UK. It came into operation in January 2007 and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 19th October 2007. Established in March 2002, Diamond Light Source Ltd is a joint venture company funded by the UK Government via the Science and Technology Facilities Council, and by the Wellcome Trust in a ratio of 86%:14% respectively. The construction of the building and the synchrotron tunnel was undertaken by Costain Ltd.

The synchrotron

Diamond generates synchrotron light (also called synchrotron radiation), which is the electromagnetic radiation emitted by charged particles which are moving near to the speed of light, at wavelengths from X-rays to the far infrared; this synchrotron light will be used to study the structure and behaviour of many different types of matter. Electrons of 3 GeV (3 gigaelectronvolts, i.e. 3 thousand million electronvolts) are generated from a series of pre-accelerator stages (electron gun, 100 MeV linear accelerator, and 100 MeV - 3 GeV booster synchrotron) prior to injection into the 561.6 m circumference storage ring. As the electrons pass through the specially designed magnets they are accelerated (changing direction, while their speed is maintained), causing them to radiate, emitting synchrotron light. It is this exceptionally bright X-ray light or radiation that is used in a huge variety of complex experiments.

Diamond is housed in a silver toroidal building which covers the area of 5 football pitches, containing the storage ring and a number of experimental stations or beamlines where the interaction of radiation with matter will provide evidence for the properties of many materials. Diamond may ultimately host up to 40 such beamlines, supporting the life, physical and environmental sciences. Of these, seven were available when the facility became operational in 2007, with another 15 being built in the period 2007-2011 at an additional cost of £120m.

When Diamond opened in January 2007, seven experimental stations came online:

  • Extreme conditions beamline for studying materials under intense temperatures and pressures.
  • Materials and magnetism beamline, set up to probe electronic and magnetic materials at the atomic level.
  • Three macromolecular crystallography beamlines, for decoding the structure of complex biological samples, such as proteins.
  • Microfocus spectroscopy beamline, able to map the chemical make up of complex materials, such as moon rocks and geological samples.
  • Nanoscience beamline, capable of imaging structures and devices at the scale of a few millionths of a millimetre.


On September 13, 2007, scientists from the University of Cardiff, led by Professor Tim Wess, found in a study that the Diamond synchrotron could be used to discover hidden content of ancient papers by illumination without opening them (penetrating layers of parchment).[1]


It is said that the name DIAMOND is an acronym meaning Dipole And Multipole Output for the Nation at Daresbury. More likely the name is a retro-fit, with the original name coming from the fact that just like the material diamond, the output from the synchrotron will be 'hard' (referring to the "hard" X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum) and bright. The decision to call it a "Light Source" rather than a Radiation Source was driven by information from focus groups that indicated that opposition from local residents to its construction would be much less if it was called a "Light Source"

Diamond's location in Oxfordshire gives it a synergy with other scientific facilities such as the ISIS neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and the nearby laboratories at Harwell and Culham (including the Joint European Torus (JET) project). DIAMOND was originally due to replace the second-generation synchrotron at Daresbury in Cheshire (giving it the final 'D' in DIAMOND). However, it was decided to relocate the British synchrotron to Oxfordshire, despite the "Keep Science in the North West" campaign and potential loss of staff and expertise.

The Diamond synchrotron is the largest UK-funded scientific facility to be built in the UK for almost 40 years, since the Nimrod proton synchrotron which was sited at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. In 1977 financial approval was given to convert the Nimrod facility into the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), which subsequently became ISIS.


The Diamond Light Source is being blamed for the extensive cut backs in physics funding that is expected in the UK. For instance, among large costs faced by the STFC is a £10.5 million VAT bill in connection with Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire, which costs £46 million a year to run.( 'Sad day for physics' as funding is decimated The Science and Technology Facilities Council which funds research in physics, astronomy and space science, warned last month that the council's budget would leave it with an £80 million shortfall by 2011 and that withdrawal from some projects was inevitable.

See also


  1. ^ BBC NEWS, 'Super-scope' to see hidden texts

Coordinates: 51°34′28″N, 1°18′39″W

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Diamond_Light_Source". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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