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Science Technology

Desktop Synchrotron to Capture Molecular Action 46

Syncrhronymous Coward writes "Researchers led by Dino Jaroszynski of Strathclyde University have developed a desktop synchrotron particle accelerator that could soon freeze-frame the motion of atoms and molecules. Using a laser, some gas, and a row of magnets, his team put together a source of 'synchrotron light', which they say can be easily upgraded to produce intense, ultra-short pulses of X-rays — ideal for probing the intricate structure of many kinds of matter. Instead of a conventional ring of magnets and microwave cavities, they use an experimental technology called plasma wakefield acceleration."
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Desktop Synchrotron to Capture Molecular Action

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    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 )
      And the first "practical" mention I have found of this technique so far is from 1979 (if one has access to Phys. Rev. Letters Online): []
    • by Cyclotron_Boy ( 708254 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @04:04PM (#21675543) Homepage
      The poster should have checked his facts. The desktop synchrotron light source is NOT a synchrotron. A synchrotron is an alternating lattice strong focusing particle accelerator with 1 or more accelerating cavities. A wiggler using permanent magnets and a wakefield accelerator to generate the beam of electrons is a great desktop machine, but far from a synchrotron. The wiggler produces synchrotron light - but that's about the extent of it. Synchrotron light comes about from the interaction of charged particles and magnetic fields. Don't call it a desktop synchrotron. It's a desktop synchrotron light source.

      Here's some reminders for those of us who haven't studied accelerator physics in a while:
      Synchrotron [] via wikipedia
      Synchrotron light [] also via wiki
      Wigglers [] produce synchrotron light without the synchrotron

      • Another thing: There IS such a thing as a desktop synchroton. As least yesterday a coworker visited a company in stanford building one.

        The principle: a small 50 MeV Synchrotron (fits easily on a desk including injector) plus a infrared laser.
        The infraled laser is injected into the straight section, pulsed synchroneous to the electron bunches.

        The magnetic field of the laser act as a "virtual undulator" with a lambda of only a few um. If you put this in the undulator equation, you can get hard x-rays (in thei
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Elky Elk ( 1179921 )
        Most synchrotron radiation sources aren't 'synchrotrons' they are electron storage rings, but its widely accepted in the user community that they're known as synchrotrons.
    • by necro81 ( 917438 )
      Does it have anything to do with this Wakefield Accelerator []?

      How'd they manage to shrink down and clone him, I wonder?
      • I'm just wondering why everyone else's desktops get to be cooler than mine. Geekiest thing I've got is a red Swingline stapler. Why do they get synchrotrons?
  • Hmm.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by HadesInjustice ( 872477 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:57PM (#21674593)
    Do you know if they can somehow take a picture of the atoms while it is at a freeze frame? or will the photon cause the atoms to move again? I just need some pictures of real atoms to prove to my liberal art 'friends' that atoms are not just some random stuff we (chemist and chem e) thought up to confuse them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by snl2587 ( 1177409 )

      The technology really is more for examining molecular structure (which will be very useful for protein folding research. Now they can track the reactions at each stage)....but then again, it depends on what you mean by "picture". Will the individual atoms be identifiable? Yes. Will they be in the same kind of pictures you take with your camera? Probably not.

    • If you want "pictures" of atoms, images from scanning tunneling microscopes should suffice. IBM's Almaden Research Center [] has a nice gallery of micrographs- this one [] is probably my favorite.
    • Pfft STM pics. How about a single barium atom, visible to the naked eye? Trapped in a Penning trap and illuminated with a laser: []

      It's a 2meg pdf but worth it for the little blue dot picture.

    • pulse length is ~10 fs or 3 microns at the speed of light. Since most of the stuff one looks at is at thermal velocities, this is certainly a macroscopic freeze frame. To look at steps of chemical reactions, sub-femtosecond pulses are desirable. Google "energy recovery linac" (ERL) for information on a mechanism for getting such short pulses. UK was hoping to build an ERL-based light source at Daresbury but the budget news out today [] suggests this won't go a
    • Do you know if they can somehow take a picture of the atoms while it is at a freeze frame? or will the photon cause the atoms to move again?

      Yes and yes.

      The burst of x-ray/gamma-ray photons will no doubt blast the molecules being observed into their component nuclei and electrons, which will scatter like billiard balls during the "break".

      But it's a very SHORT flash. You get your "picture" of where they were when the flash hit, by the scattering of the incident massless photons, before the particles with res
  • by Glowing Fish ( 155236 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @02:57PM (#21674599) Homepage
    2008 looks like it is finally going to be the year of the synchrotron on the desktop!
    • I read somewhere that this device can handle somewhere around 640,000 atoms at any given time with no plans for future expansion... 640K should be enough for anybody!
    • I realise it was a joke, but you will never have synchrotrons on the desktop for the simple reason that it is easy to build cyclotrons of that size. The reason you use synchrotrons for larger particle accelerators is that it would be a hell trying to create a several tesla strong magnetic field over such a large area. For smaller accelerators you would either use a cyclotron ( if you want a continuous beam ), or as the article mentioned, a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator ( if you want high particle energ
  • You can slow the atoms down as much as you want, and major league hitters still can't hit 'em.

    Except Aaron Boone, dammit.

  • by dances with elks ( 863490 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:08PM (#21674791)
    IAASS (I am a synchrotron scientist). This looks like the ideal solution to the always crippling problem of never having enough beamtime. This will become especially bad in the UK over the next few years as the SRS closes but before Diamond has all its beamlines running. In my own area we like to combine the problems of not having much beamtime with all the problems of vacuum systems. I would love to have my own source at university with out having to moving everything for every experiment.
  • way cool! I know what I'm doing in my shed this Christmas!

    and if my neighbors complain? well, I've have* a very powerful laser....

    *(well maybe not, at £1-2m thats a little out of my fripperies budget, back to building the war robot then. shucks)
  • Meh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by 6Yankee ( 597075 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:19PM (#21674969)
    ...I've got a real one [] in the next building! :)
    • not for much longer though :(

      and there will be a 1-3 year after the SRS is shut but before diamond is completely active with no soft x-ray beamlines in the UK

      I've spent many an unhappy week at that damn place, I miss the Ring o' Bell though
    • I've got a real one in the next building!

      That one won't fit on a pistol grip - or even a tank-based mobile platform. What kind of raygun is that?

      Fixed installation beam weapons might be OK for shooting down incoming stuff. But you need to go on the offense if you want to finish the war with a win.

      • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )
        This is why all the modern synchrotrons are in round buildings - so you can jack them up on their sides and roll them into battle, all beamlines blazing...
  • by OriginalArlen ( 726444 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @03:32PM (#21675161)
    On a slightly related note, here's the physics of supersonic solar plasma flows, the termination shock, the heliopause and Voyager, all demonstrated in your kitchen sink. Superb stuff courtesy of The Planetary Society []. "Really baked my noodle" - Satisfied customer.
    • by rts008 ( 812749 )
      Only a Good Teacher(TM) could come up with something so simple, elegant, and informative.

      Thanks for the link- that was very illustrative...and can be demonstrated safely at home by most of us!
  • by Tmack ( 593755 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2007 @04:06PM (#21675549) Homepage Journal backpack mounted unlicensed nuclear accelerators that emit proton beams.


  • Did that sentence sound very MacGyver to anyone else?
  • I have an idea! We'll cross the streams!

    (Ray groans) "...cross the streams!"
  • Desktop Synchrotron? No thanks, but I've already got one.
  • "Guess there's no point worrying about it now."
    "Why worry? Each of us is wearing an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back."
  • Reading this, I immediately set out to try to duplicate their setup. I lined up my keychain laser pointer with a couple of fridge magnets and ate some Taco Bell to give myself lots of gas, and I didn't see ONE synchrotroned particle!

  • I'm not sure Wakefield [] needs any acceleration; his knuckle is tricky enough as it is.

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