Energy and Natural Resources

Video: Open SESAME — New Research Center in the Middle East

17 May 2017

The first synchrotron light source in the Middle East is now open for scientific research. The International Center for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) near Amman, Jordan, will enable scientists in the region to cooperate on research in areas including biology, archaeology, medical, and material sciences.

Current members of the joint venture involving the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), governments and scientists are Cyprus, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey.

The IAEA has provided extensive support to train staff at SESAME to safely commission and run the facility. This has included the training of 66 technical and scientific fellows in beamline technologies, and over 30 expert missions to SESAME to help build capacity in the installation and testing of equipment. The Agency also facilitated the networking of SESAME staff with experts from other synchrotron facilities in Europe, the U.S., and Japan.

The inner storage ring, or booster, with deflection and focusing magnets through which the electron beams circulate as they are accelerated. Source: IAEAThe inner storage ring, or booster, with deflection and focusing magnets through which the electron beams circulate as they are accelerated. Source: IAEA

Synchrotrons are particle accelerators that produce intense light from the electromagnetic radiation generated by electrons moving almost at the speed of light. The precise beams of light produced include microwave, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, X-ray and gamma-ray light. Under controlled conditions, researchers can use these beams to look at materials with great precision. There are currently around 50 synchrotron light sources in the world.

With two beamlines ready for use (an X-ray absorption fine structure/X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy beamline and an infrared beamline) and the capacity to house a total of 24 to cover different applications, SESAME is now open to research proposals from its members. A third beamline to support materials science studies will come into operation in late 2017. A macromolecular crystallography beamline and a protein expression/crystallization facility for structural molecular biology will come into operation in 2019.

The facility is modeled on the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and was developed under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

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