Australian Synchrotron Open Day, 2009

High Voltage

I finally got around to uploading a gallery of photos I took from the Australian Synchrotron Open Day last year.

What is a Synchrotron?

A synchrotron is basically a particle accelerator, but instead of trying to find the Higgs-Boson (or create black holes and cause the end of the universe, if you’re a nutcase who believes that sort of nonsense), it uses a radiation by-product to do high energy science.

Synchrotrons accelerate electrons, not protons or other matter. When you have electrons moving about, you get electro-magnetic radiation; i.e., light. This light is high-energy light, so think X-rays. And just like your doctor can use X-rays to look inside your leg to see how broken it is, researchers can use high energy light to look inside materials, do fancy crystallography, all sorts of things. This is why the tagline for the Australian Synchrotron is “the brightest light in the southern hemisphere”.

This is really useful for all sorts of practical, every-day industrial purposes, like analysing soil samples. Synchrotrons are another awesome example of brilliantly useful things coming out of pure science research, even though it wasn’t what we were looking for in the first place. This is one of the great things about science; just trying to figure out how stuff works so other people can come along later and go “Ooh! I can totally use that to do this really useful thing over here!”

Open Day



The Australian Synchrotron has held an open day for the past 2 years that I’ve lived in the area. It looks like they do free tours if you book, but I couldn’t see anything on their website about the Open Day being a regular event.

There was an amazing level of public access, as you can see from the photos. I booked ahead for a guided tour of the control systems, which ended up being a tour of pretty much the whole facility. Not only did we get to see the control room, complete with inflatable kangaroo mascot, we also got to see inside the concrete bunker of the beam path itself.

At one point we had to clamber over the linear accelerator. We were close enough to touch the beam path! How cool is that!?

It was a really popular event, and I hope they keep holding it.

Check out the full gallery of high energy science/industrial machinery porn by clicking here.

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One Comment

  1. Marian Macdonald

    Yep, it’s pretty unbelievable and so are all the little incidentals. I’ve just written up a case study for the people who do the motion control there. They move gear weighing tonnes by 10 nanometres at a time and because the whole principle is that the synchrotron “wobbles” electrons, it all has to be super smooth. The equipment is so sensitive that the building has isolated foundations and a rubberised girder super-structure to dampen vibration.

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