One might imagine that few celebratory events bring together high-ranking representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Turkey and Greek Cyprus, given current diplomatic relations. But a synchrotron science soirée this week has done just that.
Yesterday marked the inauguration of the UNESCO-sponsored project Synchrotron Light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME. The event celebrated the beginning of the light source's injection system installation and the completion of the center's main building, which is occupied by about 20 staff members. The SESAME site and building have been provided by Jordan; the project as a whole is a collaboration between Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority and Turkey.
"I am often asked why countries that have no diplomatic relations, and even engage in hostile acts against each other, are cooperating to make SESAME a reality," said SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University physicist Herman Winick, who first proposed the project. "It is because they seek the benefits that SESAME offers. Their students no longer have to leave the region to conduct frontier research as part of graduate training. Their scientific diaspora has reason to return. And their scientists can pursue studies relevant to local biomedical and environmental issues and concerns. SESAME also promotes understanding among scientists from different cultures and religions, contributing to peace in the region."
The idea of an international synchrotron light source in the Middle East was first proposed in September 1997 by Winick and followed up a few months later by Gustaf-Adolf Voss of the German laboratory DESY during a workshop organized by the CERN-based Middle East Scientific Cooperation group. The project was officially launched at a meeting at UNESCO headquarters in 1999, and construction began in 2003.
Just after yesterday's inauguration ceremony, the SESAME council presidency passed from Herwig Schopper, former director-general of CERN, to Chris Llewellyn-Smith, also a former director-general of CERN.
The facility, located about 19 miles northwest of Amman, Jordan, will accelerate electrons in a circle to produce high-intensity light called synchrotron radiation over a broad energy range extending from the infra-red to hard X-rays. This light will enable scientists to view molecules that are too small to see with regular visible-light microscopes, supporting research in physical science, biological and medical sciences, environmental sciences, industrial applications and archaeology.
SESAME is built around the BESSY I accelerator, which was decommissioned at the German research institution BESSY at the end of 1999 and subsequently donated to the SESAME project. The BESSY I 0.8 GeV injection system, worth about $6 million, is now being installed as components are procured for an entirely new 2.5 GeV third-generation storage ring at SESAME, comparable to SLAC's SPEAR 3.
Entire beamlines have been donated by the Daresbury Synchrotron Radiation Source in the UK, the Laboratoire pour l'Utilisation du Rayonnement Electromagnetique in France, and the Swiss Light Source in Switzerland. In addition, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Advanced Light Source loaned the project a permanent magnet wiggler, and SLAC loaned a permanent magnet undulator and an X-ray monochromator.
"The monochromator performed well at SPEAR2, but because of the SPEAR upgrades, SLAC has no plans to use it anymore," said SLAC Science and Engineering Associate Charles Troxel. "Likewise, the undulator was used on PEP-I for a very short time in the 1980s before the ring was shut down. SESAME will give this equipment new life."
"Thanks to the help of many laboratories and countries, SESAME is on track to begin operations in 2011," Winick added.