What is a synchrotron?


A synchrotron is a particle accelerator that is specifically designed for creating light with very high brightness. The light is called synchrotron radiation. 

Synchrotron radiation is emitted by an electron traveling nearly at the speed of light, when its path is bent by a magnetic field.

The light from a synchrotron has many highly useful properties. These properties facilitate  unique  experiments  impossible to  perform  with  laboratory  based light sources.

These properties are:

  • very high brightness
  • pulsed time structure
  • natural collimation
  • polarization
  • coherence
  • tunable wavelength (energy)

Synchrotron radiation is used by many scientists in the fields of, e.g.,

  • life sciences
  • physics
  • materials science
  • chemistry
  • Earth and planetary sciences
  • environmental sciences
  • pharmaceutics
  • industrial applications
  • medical sciences

Reseach methods include

  • imaging
  • spectroscopy
  • scattering

Synchrotrons are extremely powerful and flexible tools, but they are not available at home labs of academia and industrial companies. They require access to large international facilities.

The importance of SR is emphasized by the fact that during the years 2009-2012 three chemistry and one physics Nobel prize involved experiments at synchrotrons.

The Finnish SR community in 2004-2008 at two main SR laboratories ESRF and MAX-lab alone published 283 peer-reviewed journal articles (145 at ESRF and 138 at MAX-lab, including Nature and Physical Review Letters articles, and 45 doctoral theses (26 at ESRF and 19 at MAX-lab).