Saturday, June 12, 2010

Australian Synchrotron tour Part 1

On 19 May 2010 I was so priviliged to join a tour to the Australian Synchrotron organised by Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science, in short ANZAAS.

What is a synchrotron? First, I'd tell you, it's a particle accelerator, where you move a thing you can't see with your eye to very high speed. Now, what's the point of moving this 'thing' to very high speed? It's to harvest intense beam of light given off when the 'thing' moves at high speed. You can use the intense beam of light for various purposes. Because of this it's also named synchrotron light source.

This facility is a billion dollar investment of Australia in an intellectual capital so you can see how Australia is taking R&D seriously.

ANZAAS banner
Thanks ANZAAS!

Peter Kemeny ANZAAS
Peter Kemeny, Chairperson of ANZAAS Victoria. Also emcee of the day.

First we were welcomed by Head of Science, Professor Ian Gentle. He gave a lecture on the synchrotron, its principles and applications. Then, a graduate student gave her talk on mathematical models and optimization of synchrotron. I'm so impressed.

Next is the much awaited tour of the facility! First, don't forget about safety briefing!

safety briefing australian synchrotron visitors
Dean Morries briefing visitors on safety.

The synchrotron is not online, so there's no concern about radiation. Moreover, the facility has not been on two weeks prior to our visit.

Our adventure has begun!



I had the privilege to see what's inside, but I don't exactly know what these facilities are for. So let pictures do the talking!





us
That's Prof Ian in the middle.












Computers are your best buddies in science.






This microscope is powered by synchrotron light so you get image of better quality.






What a joke! This cutie has been residing in one of the lab for long.

So we're done with applications of synchrotron. In Part 2 we're going into the tunnels where the secret of synchrotron lies. Stay tuned!



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4 comments:

  1. Hie! I'd like more details, questions in brackets =)

    What is a synchrotron? First, I'd tell you, it's a particle accelerator, where you move a thing you can't see with your eye to very high speed (so these are microscopic things we are moving at high speed?). Now, what's the point of moving this 'thing' to very high speed? It's to harvest intense beam of light given off when the 'thing' moves at high speed. You can use the intense beam of light for various purposes (such as? I am a biz person, so when its a billion dollar investment, this will be what i am interested in). Because of this it's also named synchrotron light source.

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  2. The synchrotron is moving electrons at high speed.

    Applications of synchrotron light includes:

    Spectroscopy - resolving chemical structure by subjecting the substance of interest to beams at varying wavelength and energy then work out by observing spectrum of ray absorbed/transmitted. They use X-rays (both soft and hard) and infra-red to do this.

    Crystallography - solving chemical structure by shining a beam (usually X-ray) to a crystalline material and work out the structure through diffraction pattern of the ray. Done extensively with proteins now.

    Imaging - visualising the internal structure of a living body. Can also be used to see processes going on (circulation/breathing/metabolism). Important to locate cancer cells or fracture.

    Because synchrotron light gives unparalleled resolution and sensitivity it caters demanding experiments in quality of data.

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  3. I see thanks! I only understand imaging. So what is the purpose of resolving chemical structures and solcing chemical structure? How does it relate to life?

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  4. Resolving a chemical structure is essentially mapping out how atoms are arranged in space to create a molecule. For molecules with only a few atoms this isn't much of a problem.

    But when it comes proteins or RNA, we are dealing with a huge molecule with tens of thousands of atoms. We are now interested in the shape of the molecule. In life sciences, the shape of the molecule plays a part in determining its function, one example is a clamp shaped protein which serves to hold DNA during replication process.

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