Diamond Light Source, Harwell, Oxfordshire, UK

Designed by scientists at Daresbury Laboratory
Built by Costain Limited
Date Built
Formally opened by the Queen on October 19, 2007
Harwell Science Park, near Didcot
This silver doughnut-shaped building, located in the Oxfordshire countryside near Didcot, is home to the Diamond Synchrotron, a huge scientific machine, half a kilometre in circumference, designed to produce very intense beams of X-rays, infrared and ultraviolet light.  Access to the synchrotron building is made through the Diamond Building, shown below, ....

... and then across this bridge into the experimental area.


The intense beams of light generated by the synchrotron make it possible for scientists to study small objects like molecules and atoms.  The light is 10 billion times brighter than the sun.  The process begins in the electron gun, which is comparable with the cathode ray tube that used to be at the heart of television sets.  The Electron Gun fires electrons into the machine.  These electrons enter the linear accelerator (Linac), the Booster Synchrotron and then the Storage Ring.  By the time the electrons enter the storage ring they are traveling fast enough to circle the Earth 7.5 times a second. 

The Storage Ring appears to be circular but it is in fact a tetracontakaioctagon, a 48 sided polygon.  It is made up of 48 straight sections angled together with 48 powerful magnets that force the electrons to bend around the track.  The circumference of the Diamond Synchrotron is large enough that the footprint of St. Paul's Cathedral could fit inside it 5 times.

The light traveling around the Storage Ring can be channeled off down the Beamlines at the end of which are a series of experimental stations where the light is used for a wide variety of research projects both public and private.

The Diamond website points out that, "Phase I construction began in early 2003 with the first seven beamlines opening to users in January 2007. Construction of the 15 Phase II beamlines was completed in 2012. Phase III of construction will bring the number of beamlines at Diamond up to 32 by 2018."

In a paper entitled "STABILITY OF THE FLOOR SLAB AT DIAMOND LIGHT SOURCE", Kay, K. Baker, W.J. Hoffman and I.P.S. Martin, explain that, "... As with all light sources, a very stable floor slab is an essential requirement for the effective utilisation of high brightness photon beams. ...  Diamond has a circular building of outer diameter 235m employing a steel frame with 96 equally spaced columns at the inner and outer circumference mounted on pad foundations. The SR tunnel is built on an 850mm thick reinforced concrete slab and the EH slab is 600mm thick. These slabs are cast together with no open radial or circumferential joints between them and are cast onto a network of 600mm diameter piles, each 12-15m deep and arranged on a 3m grid."  The image below shows the huge number of piles that form the foundation for the stable floor.

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