Tuesday, 8th May 2007 by

Synchrotrons are just a fancy type of particle accelerator.

I'm not the world's greatest physicist but, as far as I understand it, they are circular accelerators that use an electricity field to speed up sub atomic particles to something near the speed of light and a synchronous magnetic field to rotate the beam (hence the name).

The resulting synchrotron radiation is a million times brighter than normal sunlight and a billion times stronger than your everyday X-ray - making it great for looking inside stuff.

One of the first dedicated synchrotrons was built underground in Daresbury, UK, but will close next year.

However, until then you can get a live status display of the beam. I don't understand it either but it looks cool to leave it on the screen at work.

Lightsources lists 69 different synchrotrons around the globe, so we're only going to look at a few of the most attractive.

ESRF, Grenoble, France:

NSRRC, Hsinchu, Taiwan

BESSY, Germany:

And finally, Diamond is the UK's new synchrotron near Didcot, Oxfordshire.

Although on Google Earth construction has just started, the Diamond "light source" (radiation sounded too dangerous) was first used earlier this year.

Coincidently, we last looked at particle accelerators around this time last year. I hereby name this particle accelerator week!

Google Earth Community member ChrisJHall also put together an excellent collection of Synchrotrons.

More info: Back to basics, Synchrotron (device), Synchrotron radiation & Diamond Light Source.

Many thanks to ChrisJHall