Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mega Science


The UKs latest large piece of Scientific hardware is now up and working. The Diamond synchroton will be used to probe the nature of materials on the smallest scales, allowing new insights into how materials behave on the atomic level, as well as probing the structures of biological samples. Hopefully leading to better smart materials and new pharmaceuticals. The BBC has a reasonably good story covering the main talking points over here.

A synchrotron works by accelerating electrons to near the speed of light, confining them with magnetic fields they are forced around and around a circular ring. As they travel round the synchrotron the electrons emit electro-magnetic radiation in the X-ray and gamma ray region of the spectrum. At speeds close to the speed of light strange things begin to happen, one of which is that the light emitted is affected by Special Relativity and is boosted in wavelength by relativistic effects, another is that the radiation pattern becomes highly collimated. Because of these two effects synchrotrons are the brightest known sources of X-rays. Just another real life example of how an abstract physical concept has real world application.

Oh and in case your wondering (in light of many recent posts), no, Autodynamics cannot explain the light given off by a synchrotron, in fact it can't even match the observed motion of electrons around the synchrotron, oops.

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