It was with great excitement and anticipation that almost 2,000 visitors arrived at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, to take part in a special series of Inside Diamond open days, held to mark the facility’s 10th Anniversary.
Diamond’s scientists, engineers and technicians, along with external researchers who carry out experiments at the facility, had been busy preparing displays and hands-on demonstrations to bring the wonders of synchrotron light to life for the public and school parties over a period of five days, 16-20 June 2012.
Generating light that is 10 billion times brighter than the sun here on Earth is a real challenge and visitors were given a guided tour into the machine tunnel where this light is produced to find out how we do it. The light is then channelled to a series of experimental stations (known as beamlines) located around the doughnut shaped building where it is used to illuminate the structure and properties of a host of samples including meteorites, dinosaur fossils, drug targets, jet fan blades, new materials and even earthworm poo.
As well as a trip into a number of these beamlines to hear from Diamond scientists about the experiments taking place, visitors were also taken into the Control Room where technical staff were on hand to explain how the machine is operated, monitored and controlled remotely via a sophisticated computer system.
Simon Lay, Senior Engineer, comments, “It is not every day that the public can tour around a large science facility like this. People were really excited by what they saw and heard. Their sense of wonder reinforced the fact that we are lucky to work in such a fascinating place with amazingly talented people. We were also delighted by the popularity of our demonstrations, in particular a robot that people could control via a touch screen to pick up and place a ball into a piece of piping. The prize for success was a chocolate football, which went down well with visitors of all ages!”
Feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly positive, with many visitors remarking on how passionate the Diamond team were about what they do and the facility as a whole. One happy participant said, “My thanks to those who answered our questions. The enthusiasm for what the machine can achieve showed through, and I feel you have done a great service to science today. I have no doubt that the other visitors will, like myself, be regaling others with the tales from their visit.”
Both as a construction project and as a working science facility, Diamond is something that everyone in the county and the country can take pride in. Between 2002 and 2007, a dedicated team of in-house staff and contractors put a huge amount of effort into ensuring the facility was constructed and up and running for scientific users on time, on budget and to specifications. The following five years were spent delivering science as well as building up the next Phase of construction. More than 1600 scientific papers have been published so far and over 3,000 researchers are now using Diamond, which today has a team of 430 staff.
For its 10th birthday, Diamond has also launched a blog www.diamond10.org where everyone who has had a connection to the project can contribute and leave their perspectives. It’s also where anyone new to Diamond can find some fascinating facts and background to the project.
The next Inside Diamond public open day will be held on Saturday 17th November 2012. Registration for this event, which is free of charge, will open in September and those interested can e-mail email@example.com. We’ll then let you know as soon as registration opens.