A synchrotron is a huge scientific machine designed to produce very intense beams of x-rays, infrared and ultraviolet light, called synchrotron light.
X-rays, infrared and ultraviolet light are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light is the small range of the electromagnetic spectrum that the human eye can detect.
Our eyes can distinguish between millions of different colours of visible light, each colour having a different wavelength. However, there is a huge range of the electromagnetic spectrum that we can’t see directly: radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, ultraviolet light, x-rays and gamma rays.
For centuries scientists have used microscopes to study things that are too small to see with the naked eye. However, microscopes are limited by the wavelength of the light that they use. Optical microscopes can be used to study objects that are a few microns (0.001mm) in size, about the size of cells. However, to study smaller objects like molecules and atoms, we need to use light with shorter wavelengths like X-rays.
Diamond can generate synchrotron light from infrared through the visible range and ultraviolet up to X-rays. Synchrotron light can be as much as 100 billion times brighter than the sun. This allows scientists to study samples in incredible detail, to a level that is only possible at a synchrotron.
The electromagnetic spectrum