Synchrotron's beamline to unlock mysteries

·2-min read

A new frontier has opened for knowledge, on the tiniest of scales.

The 'first light' milestone has been achieved thanks to a new high-tech network of pipes that lead scientist Andrew Stevenson says could solve some of the most tricky scientific problems.

"The Australian Synchrotron is one of the most impressive scientific research tools on Earth, producing light more than a million times brighter than the sun," Dr Stevenson said on Wednesday.

That light is channelled down pipes known as beamlines to high-tech scientific instruments to enable cutting-edge research and discoveries.

Scientists, technicians and engineers have been working on the new $10 million micro-computed tomography beamline as part of a $100 million upgrade at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation's MCG-sized facility at Clayton, Victoria.

The new beamline can create detailed 3D images down to a sub-micron scale using new x-ray imaging and tomography technology that can look deep into a structure to capture cross-section images.

The structural integrity of alloys and how materials respond to temperature can be examined, both vital for a future space program.

Scientists will also be able to unlock riches in microscopic veins of rock or see inside fossils and human bones.

"We'll be able to examine something down to one millionth of a metre, without causing any damage to the object we're looking at," Dr Stevenson said.

Senior principal research scientist Michael James said ANSTO's Synchrotron has been a guiding light in an age of discovery where new knowledge is found at the smallest of scales.

Australian and international researchers have been using the 15-year-old Synchrotron facility to unlock protein structures in the fight against COVID-19 and to understand new ways to treat aggressive cancers.

More beamlines are planned, funded by universities and industry.

The seven-year project is funded by 30 universities and research organisations from around Australia and New Zealand.

"Science at its core is about sharing knowledge," Professor James said.

With first light capabilities now established, he expects the MCT Beamline to be open for business from September 2022.

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