I was lucky enough to get an opportunity last night to visit the synchrotron at the Diamond Light Source at Harwell, Oxfordshire. Unfortunately, due to bad weather and an accident on the A34 I was late and missed the start of the presentation. This meant that I missed the why are we here part of the discussion and came in during the “difficult” science bit which blew my mind somewhat (see previous references to my prowess in Physics).
I did learn some interesting things though. The project is completely government backed to the tune of £370M, so if you are a UK tax payer you have contributed to this. 90% of the time available in the synchrotron is available for academic use and is free to use. The remaining 10% is for company research, predominantly pharmaceutical based, for which they pay “a few thousand” per go.
I was also surprised to learn that there are about 70 other synchrotrons worldwide and the one at Harwell is the 4th largest. Although size does not seem to be what is important with these things but how bright the light is determines how good it is. In this case it is one billion times brighter than the sun, so pretty bright then.
For those that are interested there are some pictures of the facility below and for the really curious you can visit their website here.