#SynchroLightAt75 campaign launches on International Day of Light

The SRS at Daresbury Laboratory in the UK was the world’s first dedicated synchrotron light source facility. It opened in 1980 and delivered worldwide impact and two Nobel Prizes.

The first of its kind, the SRS enabled research that has improved the quality of our lives in so many ways. This included research into diseases such as HIV and AIDS, as well as motor neurone disease, to name just a few examples. The structure of the Foot & Mouth virus was solved for the first time at the SRS – it was the first animal virus structure to be determined in Europe and led to the development of a vaccine. The huge magnetic memory of the Apple iPod was also the result of research carried out on the SRS. However, its most famous achievement was the key role it played towards a share of two Nobel Prizes in Chemistry.  One to Sir John Walker in 1997, for solving a structure of an enzyme that opened the way for new insights into metabolic diseases, and the other to Sir Venki Ramakrishnan in 2009, for his work on the structure and function of the Ribosome, the particle responsible for protein synthesis in living cells.

During its lifetime, the SRS created a critical mass of highly skilled engineers and technicians at Daresbury Laboratory, with specialisms ranging from detectors to magnets and electronics, and by the time it closed in 2008, it had collaborated with almost every country active in scientific research. It had hosted over 11,000 users from academia, government laboratories and industry worldwide, leading to the publication of more than 5000 research papers, resulting in numerous patents. The economic impact of this was vast on a worldwide scale, but it also played an important role in boosting the regional economy of the North West, having worked with hundreds of local businesses.

The success of the SRS led to the development of many similar machines around the world, with the technologies and skills developed still in use at many facilities today, including its UK successor, the Diamond Light Source at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. It also led to the establishment of ASTeC, a leading centre for accelerator science and technology at Daresbury Laboratory, and the Cockcroft Institute, a joint venture between STFC and the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool, Manchester and Strathclyde. It is also home to CLARA, a unique particle accelerator designed to develop, test and advance accelerator technologies of the future. Research carried out by accelerator scientists at Daresbury has had many impacts, particularly in the health and medicine arena, including work to develop our next generation of proton imaging technology for cancer detection, and research that could one day lead to more efficient diagnoses of cervical, oesophageal, and prostate cancers. In the footsteps of  senior scientist, Professor Ian Munro, who was responsible for the plan to build the SRS and for its operation at Daresbury, ASTeC’s accelerator scientists and engineers continue to play a key role in designing, building and upgrading the world’s newest generations of accelerator facilities.

Read more on the STFC/UKRI website

Image: The SRS control room

Credit: STFC

Ramon Pascual’s #My1stLight on International Day of Light!

Memory of synchrotron light

The first time I learnt about synchrotron light was around 1968 at a seminar by Manuel Cardona at the University of Madrid about an experiment he developed at DESY. As a particle physicist theoretician, at that time I did not had any idea that many years later I would be involved in a synchrotron light source as ALBA.

At the beginning of the ‘90s, with the idea of constructing a particle accelerator in Spain I realized the interest and the importance of a third-generation light source and I proposed to the Catalan Government the construction of a light source in Spain. After a bit more of a decade of efforts of several people, ALBA was finally approved and their beam lines have been operating for users since 2012.

The success of these ten years of reliable operation is that, ALBA is now preparing its upgrade to a fourth-generation source, ALBA II.

Ramon Pascual

Honorary president of ALBA

Find out more about ALBA here

Image: Aerial view of ALBA

Credit: ALBA

Picture of ALBA wins the contest

Photographer Sergio Ruiz wins the Technology and Science Prize of the #IDL2019 Photo Contest with a picture at ALBA in Barcelona (Spain).

“I’ve always been interested in science and I do respect very much the job of scientists, so when I was asked to take pictures at the ALBA Synchrotron for a magazine cover, I felt so honoured to visit the facility”. Sergio Ruiz (1976, Barcelona) noted, remembering the excitement he felt when entering for the first time at the experimental hall of ALBA, the synchrotron light source facility of Spain. “I could not stop looking at the different instruments and laboratories; I was like a child in Disneyland!”

Sergio Ruiz has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years, and works as a freelancer in the Barcelona region for magazines, publishers and companies. He also teaches photography in different institutions of his home town Mataró. He has been awarded the Technology and Science Prize for the International Day of Light Photo Contest 2019. The prize was supported and sponsored by Lightsources.org, an international collaboration of science communicators working in light source science facilities.

Catching the atmosphere at a beamline

The winning picture shows the scientist Carlos Escudero working at the CIRCE beamline, a laboratory that uses synchrotron light to perform studies in the field of nanotechnology, materials science and chemistry.

“[Sergio] was very agile in capturing the complexity and beauty of our job. Performing an experiment can be very hard – preparing samples, working on night shifts, etc. – but also very rewarding. Furthermore, before the scientists can do an experiment, there is a huge effort that involves a lot of people. Thanks to all ALBA staff we are able to make our small contribution to the progress of the society,” describes Carlos.

“What I wanted to communicate with this picture is that science is nothing without scientists. The human presence is always necessary for having good scientific results. It’s my modest way to highlight the excellent role that scientists have in our life”, says photographer Sergio Ruiz (picture left). “I consider myself an unfulfilled scientist with the luck of dedicating myself to photograph these wonderful machines and these incredible scientists,” he continues.

The picture was taken, during a shutdown week a few summers ago. “When we have experiments we are not very available for this type of activity, as we need to take maximum profit of the beamtime. On this occasion, we were able to spend around one hour working to find the right image,” says Carlos.

“Obtaining this picture implied facing three challenges. First of all, defining the frame. In a large scientific facility, all of the equipment, cables and objects can generate a certain visual chaos. Defining carefully what to include and what to dismiss from the picture is not an easy task. The second problem was finding the appropriate lighting conditions. Many of the instruments are shiny and flashy, so you need to control light in order to get the right proportion between the elements appearing in the picture. And finally the last difficulty was time, as I had a limited amount of time with the scientist,” says Sergio Ruiz.

The result is a stunning picture which effectively summarises the perfect communion between the scientist and the machine/instrumentation. The selection panel at SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics and also organiser of the photo contest were delighted about the amount of science and technology related images in this year edition. All in all more than 1300 images were submitted in the three months following the 16th May (International Day of Light). Sergio Ruiz is very pleased with the award and assures that, “it will encourage him to specialize in taking pictures of scientific facilities”.


Technical details about the picture: Reflex camera, wide-angle lens, 1 source of light placed rear-lit to generate the texture appearing in the picture.

CIRCE Beamline: scientists work here with soft X-rays that can be used in two different end-stations. One is devoted to photoemission electron microscopy and we study thin films, surfaces, interfaces and magnetic properties of nanomaterials. The other end-station is for near ambient pressure photoemission spectroscopy, a technique that allows studying the chemical composition and oxidation state of the elements present at the materials surface under different gas environments. This technique is especially interesting for catalysis and other energy-related applications.

The SPIE International Day of Light Photo Contest is an annual event that provides imagery to support the celebration of IDL. The contest kicks off each year on IDL, 16 May, and runs for three months, giving professional and amateur photographers alike the opportunity to show how light impacts cultural, economic, and political aspects of our global society. In 2019, for the first time, Lightsources.org sponsored a new category: technology and science, with a prize worth USD 750.

Want to know more about the next photo competition, the International Day of Light or #LightSourceScience in general?  Check out http://www.lightsources.org one platform for news, events and careers, also on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.