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

Piero Pianetta’s #My1stLight

First light from the SPEAR Ring at SLAC July 6, 1973
Ingolf Lindau & Piero Pianetta

#My1stLight memory submitted by Piero Piantetta, Deputy Director of SSRC at SLAC


Pilot project to extract synchrotron radiation from the SPEAR ring at SLAC. In-alcove video camera imaging light emitted from a fluorescent screen just downstream of the Be exit window. No beam steering beyond global steering for colliding beam operation. Our group, including Gerry Fisher, waiting to see if beam would even make it through all the apertures. SUCCESS on first opening of line!!!!!

Giorgio Margaritondo’s #My1stLight

Synchrotron Radiation from a Synchrotron

We must face reality: almost all synchrotron radiation users of today have never seen a synchrotron! As we know, what they call “synchrotrons” are really “storage rings”. Only a tiny minority of elderly, retired scientists worked at real synchrotrons – and were lucky to survive the experience. I am one of them. Indeed, the first time I used synchrotron radiation was in the 1970s at the 1.1 GeV “elettrosincrotrone” of the Frascati National Laboratory. Which in the 1970s was the source for our synchrotron radiation project “PULS”.

How was my experience? Miserable! Contrary to a storage ring, a synchrotron is a pulsed source in which electron bunches are continuously injected, accelerated and dumped. The bunches cause very dangerous radiation, so we could not work close to our experimental chamber when they travelled in the ring. This transformed simple operations into a nightmare. For example, a sample alignment that takes a few minutes at a storage ring required days or weeks — subsequent small adjustments being separated by hours of accelerator operation.

At Frascati, we were dreaming of using the excellent storage ring Adone instead of the synchrotron — but this happened only later. Personally, after months of misery I found a way out when I was hired by Bell Labs in New Jersey. Which, to my relief, was as far as possible from the synchrotron facilities of that time. But I could not escape my destiny: shortly after my arrival, Bell Labs asked me to start experiments at the Wisconsin Synchrotron Radiation Center! Fortunately, the source there was not a synchrotron but the storage ring Tantalus. I could thus appreciate the huge advantage over real synchrotrons. I am indeed convinced from experience that, without the arrival of storage rings, synchrotron radiation research would have died at birth.

Giorgio Margaritondo
Faculté des Sciences de Base, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
(EPFL), CH-1020 Lausanne, Switzerland

Image: The Frascati electron synchrotron, where my career in synchrotron radiation started and almost
ended

Everyone remembers their 1st day at a light source

Light sources around the world share a common quality. They all have the ability to deliver a ‘wow factor’ when people first step inside. From young, bright eyed, tech-savvy children; scientists embarking on their first experiments; right through to retired visitors who spent their younger years without telephones or TVs. Synchrotron and X-ray Free Electron Lasers (XFELs) deliver science and technology on a grand scale. In this #LightSourceSelfie, Ida, a Phd Student at the ESRF, and Michael, who undertakes experiments at the European XFEL, both recall their first day. The words they use include exciting, overwhelming, exhilarating, busy and fascinating. Michael remembers feeling slightly in the way but, at a certain point, he started to ask questions. From that first day he learnt to, “Always ask questions. You can’t ask enough questions!”