Ready, set, upgrade: Advanced Photon Source’s overhaul is underway

The facility is undergoing a comprehensive upgrade. Afterwards, the new APS will be able to generate X-ray beams 500 times brighter

Over the past three years, thousands of machine parts have been delivered to a low-slung, deceptively plain building in Lemont, Illinois. Once a warehouse, Building 981 is now a workshop — an extremely sophisticated one. Inside, a multitalented team assembles the building blocks of a complicated yet elegant machine, one that will sit at the heart of the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science user facility at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory.

This new machine is part of a comprehensive upgrade to the facility, one that will set it at the forefront of global X-ray science for decades to come.

More than 5,500 scientists in a typical year use the APS for its intensely bright X-ray beams. Since it began operating in the mid-1990s, the APS has enabled advances in the fields of medicine, energy, climate, physics and more. The drug Paxlovid, devised to treat COVID-19, emerged from work at the APS. So did two Nobel Prizes in chemistry. These and many other breakthroughs have resulted from the APS’s ability to illuminate the otherwise invisible.

“The APS Upgrade opens up possibilities that could not be envisioned till now.” — Suresh Narayanan, Argonne Physicist

Now comes a moment more than a decade in the making. The APS’s powerful engines shut down on April 24, to make way for this new machine, called a storage ring, which circulates electrons in order to deliver X-ray beams up to 500 times brighter than the current one. That required first dismantling the existing storage ring, which spanned about two-thirds of a mile around. This phase of the project is now complete. The next phase will see the new components from Building 981 — preassembled into 200 modules weighing up to 50,000 pounds each — moved in this summer, when installation will begin in earnest.

Read more on the Argonne website

Image: Workers remove the final girder of the original APS. The new ring will be made up of 200 modules, each with precisely aligned electromagnets and complex vacuum and electrical systems

Credit: Argonne National Laboratory J.J Starr