SESAME: the doors are closed, but open for science

Quarantine and curfew are affecting many activities in Jordan and abroad, but although SESAME’s doors have been closed since March 18th, the staff have been anything but inactive, devoting a great deal of their time at home to science and work.

With two new papers just published in the past few weeks, Messaoud Harfouche, the XAFS/XRF Beamline Scientist, keeps himself busy helping more users obtain results from the data taken at the beamline. “During these weeks, I am dealing with six projects at the same time, two from Egypt, two from Pakistan, one from Iran, and one from Jordan” he says. Given the difficulty of XAFS analysis and the complexity of some software packages, the degree of involvement in each project may vary from suggesting the best path in data analysis to full collaboration, implying result interpretation and participation in drafting a scientific paper. “Moreover”, continues Messaoud, “my own research projects were also in my drawer, waiting to be worked out. With willpower and a little perseverance, curfew may turn out to be very beneficial”.

On another front, scientists from synchrotron radiation laboratories in different points in Europe (ELETTRA in Italy, ESRF in France and SOLARIS in Poland) and SESAME in Jordan are collaborating at a distance on raytracing simulations for the Technical Design Report (TDR) of SESAME’s BEATS (BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME) beamline which is approaching finalization, and from their respective homes Matteo Altissimo (ELETTRA), Alexander Rack (ESRF), Tomasz Kolodziaj (SOLARIS), and Gianluca Iori (SESAME) are constantly in touch with each other. In parallel, from their homes, too, team members of SESAME’s technical sector have been collaborating in the final design of the front end and experimental station of the beamline. BEATS is SESAME’s hard X-ray tomography beamline that is expected to come on stream in 2022.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Picture: As in the case of thousands of researchers worldwide, computer screens and notebooks are currently the main tools for the work of SESAME’s staff.

SESAME facilities in ever-increasing demand

No less than 151 proposals have been submitted in response to SESAME’s third call (Call “2”) for experiments on its three beamlines that closed on 27 January, thus confirming the ever-increasing demand for use of its facilities.

This time, it has been 64 proposals for experiments on its XAFS/XRF beamline that have been received, and 63 proposals for experiments on its IR beamline, as opposed to 60 and 43 proposals respectively in the second call, and 36 and 19 respectively in the first call. Added to this there have been 24 proposals for use of its MS beamline that comes into operation this year.
As in the first two calls in which there were not only proposals from the Members of SESAME but also from countries further afield (Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Mexico and Sweden), this time again they have not only originated from the Members of SESAME. There have again been proposals from Italy and Kenya, but also from Belgium, Malta, Qatar, South Africa and the U.K.
The large number of proposals and the variety of places from where they originate are excellent by any standards, and SESAME is greatly encouraged by the continuous upward trend in the number being received whether from users having already utilized SESAME’s facilities who are seeking to return to carry out further measurements, or new users from both the SESAME Members and beyond. In the case of the first group, this demonstrates that SESAME’s facilities are fully meeting users’ expectations, while in the second, this is evidence of the sound reputation SESAME is gaining on the world stage as a state-of-the-art synchrotron light source.

>Read more on the SESAME website

First light for SESAME’s MS beamline

On Monday, 23rd December 2019, at 13:21, scientists at the SESAME light source successfully delivered the first X-ray monochromatic beam to the experimental station of the Materials Science (MS) beamline, that will be used in applications of the X-ray powder diffraction (XRD) technique in materials science, The beamline will provide a powerful tool for studying microcrystalline or disordered/amorphous material on the atomic scale, the evolution of nano-scale structures and materials in various environmental conditions and for developing and characterising new smart materials.  

To have seen the X-ray signal inside the MS experimental station was very exciting said the MS beamline scientist, Mahmoud Abdellatief. It was the realization of four years of hard work, and has given me added stimulus for the new challenges lying ahead before the beamline may host users in some six months. 

Picture: SESAME scientists just after obtaining the first monochromatic X-ray fluorescence signal (from left to right: Mahmoud Abdellatief, MS beamline scientist, Messaoud Harfouche, XAFS/XRF beamline scientist, and Gihan Kamel, IR beamline scientist)
Credit: SESAME

17th Users’ Meeting at SESAME and inauguration of the guest house

Some 80 scientists from the region and beyond are meeting at SESAME on 30 November and 1 December to discuss the scientific programme and latest results from the laboratory. For the first time, the Users’ meeting is being held on the SESAME campus in a new guest house and meeting facility. Another first this year is that the meeting is being held jointly with the European Synchrotron and FEL User Organisation, ESUO, a sign of SESAME’s growing integration into the international research landscape.

The programme opened with a welcome from the Laboratory’s Director, Khaled Toukan, and an update on the SESAME scientific programme and beamlines. It continued with presentations of results from experiments conducted at SESAME. There were also presentations from representatives of European light sources, as well as from the OPEN SESAME consortium, an EU funded project that has provided training support since 2017 and concludes this year, the BEATS consortium, another EU funded project building a tomography beamline at SESAME, and from HESEB, a SESAME-Helmholtz collaboration for the installation of a new soft X-ray beamline.

>Read more on the SESAME website
Image: A group photo for the 17th annual SESAME Users’ meeting.
Credit: SESAME.

Article about the inauguration of SESAME’s guest house.

Publication of the first scientific paper

June 1, 2019 marks a historically important accomplishment for SESAME, where the very first scientific paper presenting results using data obtained at SESAME’s X-ray absorption fine structure/X-ray fluorescence (XAFS/XRF) spectroscopy beamline was published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

S: Bac et al. Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, 259, 2019, 117808 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0926337319305545

Synchrotron measurements performed at SESAME were carried out by the research group of Associate Professor Emrah Ozensoy (Bilkent University Chemistry Department and UNAM-National Nanotechnology Center Ankara, Turkey), in collaboration with the research group of Professor Ahmet Kerim Avcı (Boğaziçi University, Chemical Engineering Department, Istanbul, Turkey) and Dr Messaoud Harfouche (XAFS/XRF beamline scientist, SESAME, Allan, Jordan).
The paper entitled Exceptionally active and stable catalysts for CO2 reforming of glycerol to syngas is the outcome of a measurement campaign at SESAME in July 2018 and focuses on the catalytic valorization of a biomass waste material (i.e. glycerol) to obtain synthesis gas (or syngas, CO + H2). Glycerol is an important renewable feedstock for the large-scale catalytic production of synthetic liquid fuels through a process called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. In the words of Emrah Ozensoy “XAFS/XRF experiments performed at SESAME were instrumental for us to understand the electronic structure of the Co/CoOx and Ni/NiOx nanoparticles serving as the catalytic active sites. Particularly, complementing the experimental data acquired in our labs with the results obtained at SESAME allowed us to examine the nature of the fresh catalysts and compare them with that of the spent catalysts obtained after the catalytic reaction, revealing crucial molecular-level insights regarding the catalytic aging and poisoning mechanisms.”

>Read more on the SESAME website

Image: Kerem Emre Ercan Some of the researchers who contributed to the publication and data acquisition (from left to right, Yusuf Koçak, Kerem E. Ercan, and M. Fatih Genişel)

SESAME hosts BEATS kick-off meeting

The kick-off meeting of the BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME (BEATS) project, was held in Allan, Jordan and hosted by SESAME on the 12th and 13th March 2019. BEATS is an EU funded project with the objective to design, procure, construct and commission a facility for hard X-ray full-field tomography at the SESAME synchrotron. The European grant is worth 6 million euros and will span a four-year period from beginning 2019 to end 2022 and is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n°822535.

>Read more on the SESAME website

SESAME fully powered by renewable energy

SESAME becomes the world’s first large accelerator complex to be fully powered by renewable energy.

Today (26 February 2019), a ceremony was held to mark the official inauguration of the solar power plant of SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East).
Constructed on grounds next to JAEC (Jordan Atomic Energy Commission) that is located some 30kms from SESAME, electricity from the solar power plant will be supplied by an on-grid photovoltaic system having a total power capacity of 6.48 MW, which will amply satisfy SESAME’s needs for several years.
Thanks to this power plant SESAME is now not only the first synchrotron light facility in the region, but also the world’s first large accelerator complex to be fully powered by renewable energy. “As in the case of all accelerators, SESAME is  in dire need of energy, and as the number of its users increases so will its electricity bill” said the Director of SESAME, Khaled Toukan. “Given the very high cost of electricity in Jordan, with this solar power plant the Centre becomes sustainable” he continued to say.
The power plant, which uses monocrystalline solar panels, was built by the Jordanian company Kawar Energy under the supervision of the consultancy firm Consolidated Consultants Group representing the owner, SESAME. Power from the solar power plant will be transmitted to the grid through the wheeling mechanism by JEPCO (Jordan Electric Power Company). The power that the solar power plant sends to the grid will be accounted for to the credit of SESAME.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Image: SESAME’s solar power plant.
Credit: SESAME.

Tomography beamline at SESAME is officially launched

On 1st January 2019, the European Horizon 2020 project BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME (BEATS) was launched with the objective to design, procure, construct and commission a beamline for hard X-ray full-field tomography at the SESAME synchrotron in Jordan.

The European grant is worth 6 million euros and will span a four-year period from beginning 2019 to end 2022.
Led by the ESRF, the European synchrotron (France), BEATS involves leading research facilities in the Middle East (SESAME and the Cyprus Institute), and European synchrotron radiation facilities ALBA-CELLS (Spain), DESY (Germany), the ESRF (France), Elettra (Italy), INFN (Italy), PSI (Switzerland), SESAME (Jordan) and SOLARIS (Poland). The initiative is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Nine partner institutes will join forces to lay the groundwork for the efficient and sustainable operation of the SESAME research infrastructure. Through the development and consolidation of the scientific case for a beamline for tomography, and actions to fortify the scientific community, the partners will pay particular attention to the R&D and technology needs of the SESAME Members. Built upon the OPEN SESAME project, BEATS will address the issue of sustainability of operation by preparing medium- to long-term funding scenarios for the tomography beamline and the facility.

>Read more on the European Synchrotron (ESRF) website

Bulgarian President visits SESAME

On 15 December, the President of the Republic of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, paid an official visit to SESAME. Among the 7 delegates accompanying him were the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Ekaterina Zakharieva, and Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Jordan, Venelin Lazarov. The visit was prompted by the President’s wish to see at first hand SESAME at work.

Bulgaria is one of the 9 countries forming part of SEEIIST (South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies), an intergovernmental project designed to promote science for peace in South East Europe following the CERN model. The other countries are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia, and in the Declaration of Intent signed by the 9 countries in 2017 SESAME is cited as an example of a similar initiative that came to fruition.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Image: The Director of SESAME, Khaled Toukan, welcoming the President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, and the Bulgarian delegation.
Credit: SESAME

SESAME becomes the first associate of LEAPS

At its first Plenary Meeting that is being held at DESY on 12-14 November, the Members of LEAPS (League of European Accelerator-Based Photon Sources) unanimously decided to grant SESAME Associate status.

SESAME thus becomes the first Associate of LEAPS.

On signing the Declaration of Association to the LEAPS Consortium with Helmut Dosch, Chair of LEAPS and Chair of the DESY Board of Directors, Rolf Heuer, President of the SESAME Council, said that “it is a great honour for SESAME to be the first Associate of LEAPS; the scientific and technical development of SESAME and visibility of the Centre will greatly benefit from this association”.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Image: Schematic overview from SESAME, find more here.

SESAME host to delegation from Helmholtz Association of German research centres

On 25th October, SESAME was host to a delegation from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres consisting of 43 persons. It was headed by Professor Otmar Wiestler, President of the Association.
The visiting delegation was shown round SESAME’s experimental hall and was able to see at first hand two of the Phase I beamlines that are already in operation, namely the XAFS/XRF (X-ray absorption fine structure/X-ray fluorescence) spectroscopy and IR (infrared) spectromicroscopy beamlines, as well as a further two Phase I beamlines, the MS (materials science) and MX (Macromolecular crystallography) beamlines, that are under construction and are expected to come on stream in two-three years.

During the visit, Otmar Wiestler informed SESAME that five research centres of the Helmholtz Association will be taking part in construction of a soft X-ray beamline for SESAME under the leadership of DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron). This is another of SESAME’s Phase I beamlines. The five research centres – DESY, FZJ (Forschungszentrum Jülich), HZB (Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin), HZDR (Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf), and KIT (Karlsruher Institut für Technologie) – will be constructing a complete undulator beamline with monochromator and refocussing optics and a small chamber to conduct absorption and fluorescence yield experiments. The capital value of this work would be of the order of €3.5 million.
Given that the European Union has very recently informed SESAME that it will be providing €6 million for construction of its tomography beamline, SESAME will have six of its seven Phase I beamlines in operation relatively soon.

>Read more on the Synchrotron light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) website

Image: (from left to right) Rolf Heuer, President SESAME Council, Otmar Wiestler, President Helmholtz Association, Khaled Toukan, SESAME Director, Walid Zidan, SESAME Administrative Director, and Rene Röspel, Member of the Bundestag and Vice-Chairman of the Science Committee of the Bundestag.
Credit: DESY

SESAME appoints a new administrative director

SESAME, which is the first synchrotron light source in the Middle East and neighbouring countries and has now received its first users, has recently appointed Professor Walid Zidan as its new Administrative Director.

Professor Zidan, who took on this position at the beginning of this month, holds a PhD in chemical engineering from Alexandria University (Egypt), and has extensive experience in science and monitoring science and technology developments at national and international levels. He has 25 years experience in the public sector, starting from the Egyptian Atomic Energy Authority (EAEA) in 1993, moving on to also include the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA) in 2012. For the seven years from 2007 to 2014 he was Supervisor of the Egyptian System for Nuclear Material Accounting and Control of the EAEA and ENRRA. From 2012 to 2014, he was then Head of the Nuclear Safeguards and Physical Protection Department of ENRRA, and in 2014, he became Vice Chair of ENRRA, as well as Rapporteur and National Coordinator of the Supreme Committee of Nuclear and Radiological Emergencies, two positions that he held until 2017 when he was appointed Vice Dean of the Division of Regulations and Nuclear Emergencies and Head of the Nuclear Safeguards and Physical Protection Department both of ENRRA.

In science, Professor Zidan has supervised several PhD and MSc theses and published 48 scientific articles in international journals. His publications focused on improving the operational performance of fuel cycle facilities through safe and secure management, nuclear material accountancy, criticality prevention, and process systems performance improvements.

>Read more on the SESAME website

SESAME hosts its first users

Mid July, the first users arrived at SESAME to perform experiments using the Centre’s XAFS/XRF (X-ray absorption fine structure/X-ray fluorescence) spectroscopy beamline, SESAME’s first beamline to come into operation.

This was the Finnish Kirsi Lorentz and three of her colleagues at The Cyprus Institute: the Cypriot Grigoria Ioannou, the Japanese Yuko Miyauchi and the Greek/Egyptian Iosif Hafez, who together form a true international team in the spirit of SESAME.

Kirsi is the author of one of the 19 proposals from 5 of the SESAME Members (Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey) that have been recommended for a total of 95.8 hour shifts on the XAFS/XRF beamline by SESAME’s Proposal Review Committee (PRC). The PRC is an international advisory body that evaluates the scientific and technological merit of proposals from the General Users and determines their priority using criteria based on IUPAP’s Recommendations for the Use of Major Physics Users Facilities.

“This heralds in a new stage in SESAME’s march forward, and for scientists in the SESAME Members and the region it is the tangible beginning of a moment from when it becomes possible to carry out state-of-the-art research in the region” said Khaled Toukan, Director of SESAME.

 “It is a unique opportunity and a real honour to be the first user of a synchrotron light facility – a research visit to remember” said Kirsi, who is examining ancient human remains from the Eastern Mediterranean and the Near East, adding “we are very excited with the results we obtained at the SESAME XAFS/XRF beamline, and grateful to all those who have worked so hard to bring this crucial research facility into operation in our region”.

>Read more on the SESAME website

Picture: Kirsi Lorentz, The Cyprus Institute: Kirsi Lorentz and her research team (from left to right: Yuko Miyauchi, Grigoria Ioannou, Kirsi Lorentz and Iosif Hafez) at the XAFS/XRF beamline control hutch.

SESAME light source brings second beamline into service

Allan, Jordan, 30 April 2018. At 11:21 pm local time (GMT +3) scientists at the SESAME light source brought the laboratory’s infrared (IR) spectromicroscopy beamline into service for the first time.

This beamline is a completely new beamline. It was designed and built in collaboration with the French Soleil Synchrotron. It is SESAME’s second operational beamline, and it joins an X-ray beamline that saw first light on 23 November 2017. The addition of the IR beamline will enable the application of infrared microspectroscopy and imaging in a wide range of fields, including surface and materials science (e.g. characterization of new nanomaterials for solar cell fabrication and for drug delivery mechanisms), biochemistry, archaeology, geology, cell biology, biomedical diagnostics and environmental science (e.g. air and water pollution)

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Gihan Kamel, SESAME’s IR beamline scientist. “It’s very satisfying to see light in the beamline, and to be able to start doing research here that we previously had to travel to Europe to carry out.”

In preparation for the SESAME research programme, a number of thematic schools are being held across the region in a collaboration involving SESAME and European partners including the European Union through its Open SESAME project. One of these was held at SESAME earlier this month, covering science on the IR beamline. Students came from across the region and learned techniques ranging from sample preparation to data analysis.

“The infrared beamline has a mouth-watering research programme lined up,” said SESAME Scientific Director Giorgio Paolucci, “and it is great to see so many young people from across the region preparing to embark on careers in science.”

>Read more on the SESAME website

New Diamond SESAME Rutherford training programme underway

First four fellows welcomed to new training programme

Diamond has welcomed the first four fellows on the newly created Diamond SESAME Rutherford Fellowship Training Programme. The result of a £1.5 million grant from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Diamond will use the funding to expand its training and development support of SESAME, a unique Middle East project.

Up to 25 delegates will benefit from training in areas of science and engineering associated with the construction and operation of SESAME (Synchrotron light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) in Jordan. The Middle East’s first major international research centre, the SESAME light source involves members from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond, explains, “SESAME represents a unique project for the Middle East region because of the excellent opportunity to stimulate and support scientific and technical activity, training and engagement in the region.  Because SESAME focuses on areas of local importance – such as water supply, energy, health and the environment – we are keen to nurture new talent and share our skills. This significant grant will enable us to build stronger links.”

>Read more on the Diamond Light Source website

Image: Fellows, Mentors and Programme Support
Credit: Diamond Light Source

First light for pioneering SESAME light source

This is of particular significance since this is the first high-energy accelerator in the Middle East.

On the 22th November et 10:50 in the morning scientists at the pioneering SESAME light source saw First Monochromatic Light through the XAFS/XRF (X-ray absorption fine structure/X-ray fluorescence) spectroscopy beamline, signalling the start of the laboratory’s experimental programme. This beamline, SESAME’s first to come on stream, delivers X-ray light that will be used to carry out research in areas ranging from solid state physics to environmental science and archaeology.

“After years of preparation, it’s great to see light on target,” said XAFS/XRF beamline scientist Messaoud Harfouche. “We have a fantastic experimental programme ahead of us, starting with an experiment to investigate heavy metals contaminating soils in the region.”

The initial research programme will be carried out at two beamlines, the XAFS/XRF beamline and the I nfrared (IR) spectromicroscopy beamline that is scheduled to join the XAFS/XRF beamline this year. Both have specific characteristics that make them appropriate for various areas of research. A third beamline, in this case devoted to materials science, will come on stream in 2018.


>Read More on the SESAME website

Image: SESAME XAFS/XRF beamline scientist, Messaoud Harfouche, points out SESAME’s first monochromatic light.
Credit: SESAME