China science

China to invest ¥4.8b in world’s most powerful synchrotron light source

Sprawling facility to explore properties of all sorts of matter under brilliant beams of light for applications ranging from medicine to new materials and defence

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 3:45pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 3:45pm

China will invest 4.8 billion yuan (HK$5.4 billion) to build the world’s brightest synchrotron light source, state broadcaster CCTV reports.

A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that scientists use to explore the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level, according to the website of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron.

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A synchrotron produces light by using radio frequency waves and powerful electromagnets to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. Energy is added to the electrons as they accelerate so that, when the magnets alter their course, they naturally emit a very brilliant, highly focused light.

Different spectra of light such as infrared, ultraviolet, and X-rays, are directed down beamlines where researchers choose the desired wavelength to study their samples.

The researchers observe the interaction between the light and matter in their sample. The technology can probe matter and analyse a host of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes.

Information obtained by scientists can help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller, more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants to name just a few applications, Canadian Light Source says.

Construction of China’s newest synchrotron, its fourth, is expected to start in Beijing by November next year and take six years to complete, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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China three operating synchrotron are located in Beijing, Shanghai and Hefei in Anhui province. But the academy said the new synchrotron is of a new generation would even outshine Sweden’s MAX IV, currently the world’s most advanced synchrotron light source, by 10 times.

Even with its three operating synchrotrons, China has made significant progress the field. Shanghai’s Synchrotron Radiation Facility, for example, has played a key role in revealing the inner mechanism of various cancers.

Dong Yuhui, a researcher at the academy, said the new Beijing synchrotron would contribute greatly to developing aerospace materials, which is crucial to national security, according to the CCTV report.