Diamond calls for public to have their say on the future of science

UK’s cutting-edge X-ray machine, Diamond Light Source, calls the public to action as it celebrates 3000th science publication

The high tech equipment on one of Diamond's MX beamlines, I04
The high tech equipment on one of Diamond's MX beamlines, I04
 
Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, has reached a major milestone. The 3000th scientific publication has been generated as a result of ground breaking research conducted at the facility. In the last 7 years,  thousands of scientists from the UK and overseas have used the facilities available at Diamond to support a vast range of research, including new vaccines and antiviral drugs, ancient fossils and relics, new forms of energy production and storage, climate control and nanotechnology. Recently, findings have helped advance potential treatments for depression, Foot & Mouth disease and the common cold.
 
The number of papers published by the facility demonstrates the quantity, quality and range of the research conducted by the 3000 scientists who visit the facility every year to use the 24 ‘beamline’ laboratories. Their experiments take advantage of the light produced at the facility, which is 10 billion times brighter than the sun and allows scientists to study the structure of material at an atomic level. Research conducted at Diamond has been instrumental in a broad range of scientific advances and discoveries which touch on every part of our lives, from emerging nanotechnologies to how we combat disease, feed the world’s population and develop new energy sources. 
 
This milestone comes at a very significant time for Diamond Light Source and UK science in general, with the launch of the Government’s Capital Consultation Exercise. The Government has committed to £7 billion of capital investment over the next parliament. The ambition is to make the UK the best place in the world to do science and research, and the results of this consultation will help to inform the UK’s science capital roadmap. Diamond has recently set out an ambitious 10 year strategy for growth and development at this internationally acclaimed facility. This is an opportunity to make sure that Diamond remains a world leading synchrotron, working with academic researchers and industry to continue to deliver pioneering science which touches on virtually all aspects of our future society, environment and economy.
Tien-Lin Lee, principle beamline scientist for I09, where the research behind the 3000th publication took place.
Tien-Lin Lee, principle beamline scientist for I09, where the research behind the 3000th publication took place.
Government is currently asking for information from many sources, including the science community, members of the public, universities and industry, to give them a better picture of the issues, ideas and experiences around capital investment decisions.
 
Diamond is calling on members of the public, scientists and academics to share their opinions before the July 4th deadline and help shape the outcome of this consultation. We have provided advice on the consultation and how to contribute – available for download here. See the end of the release for full contact details to make your contribution.
 
One of Diamond’s great strengths is that research data is shared with the international science community through published papers. The widespread sharing of data ensures that knowledge and discoveries in science and engineering can be accessed and progressed by other scientists for the benefit of society and the economy. In addition to the science community, a significant and growing number of commercial users visit the facility every year, supporting the engineering and pharmaceutical industries.
 
The 3000th paper looks at the properties of CdO, an innovative conducting material which could have significant potential in developing future electronics, including advanced solar cells.
 
 

Big science, big data

A member of the public explores Diamond's I04 beamline on an open day
A member of the public explores Diamond's I04 beamline on an open day
 
This year the facility surpassed the collection of 1 petabyte of data in ¼ billion computer files.
There are a huge number of different experimental techniques being used across the 24 beamlines. Scientists can determine the atomic structure of samples by shining X-ray light onto material and interpreting the diffraction pattern this creates; they can also produce high resolution 3D images of the hidden interiors of samples, like fuel injectors or rocks containing fossils, without damaging them.
 
All this research has resulted in a vast quantity of computer data. This year, Diamond surpassed ¼ billion files, bringing the total to more than 1 petabyte of data – the storage equivalent of around 33,000 iPads.
 
Diamond also provides the Worldwide Protein Data Bank with the results of experiments related to the molecular structure of proteins. The PDB is one of the earliest ongoing examples of an open-access data library; established in 1971, the data bank stores data on the 3D atomic structures of over 100,000 proteins. This is vital information for our understanding of the human body and for the development of new medicines. Since Diamond began operations in 2007, over 2000 protein structures have been solved with the help of its crystallography beamlines. These have all become entries in this vital scientific resource.
 
 

Multifaceted Diamond – milestones in the last year…

Structure of the foot-and-mouth virus, solved at Diamond
Structure of the foot-and-mouth virus, solved at Diamond
 
The 3000 papers published using data collected at Diamond have contained a variety of discoveries, breakthroughs and advances, many of which have made headlines. In the last year alone, research into areas including consumer technology and drug design have highlighted the impact and importance of Diamond’s research in the UK and globally.
 
Designing a vaccine for a global viral threat – In 2013, Scientists at Oxford and Reading Universities, the Pirbright Institute and Diamond created a prototype vaccine for the animal disease foot-and-mouth. Anyone who remembers the culls across Britain in 2001 in response to this disease will understand the importance of being able to control it. The new synthetic vaccine developed at the synchrotron contains no live virus, making it safer, and it is engineered to stay stable outside a refrigerated environment – making prevention more possible the world over.
 
Preserving Britain’s heritage – Working with the Mary Rose Trust and close neighbour the ISIS neutron and muon source, which can analyse materials at the nanoscale using neutron scattering, Diamond research has been vital in preserving Henry VIII’s naval flagship, the Mary Rose, from decay and deterioration. Samples from the warship, which sank in 1545 and was famously raised from the bed of the Solent in 1982, are regularly brought to the synchrotron to determine the ongoing effects of the intense preservation efforts carried out over the last thirty years.
 
Feeding the world – Researchers from Rothamsted, one of the world’s oldest agricultural research institutions, have been bringing wheat to Diamond to map the structure of grains. This research is part of the effort to breed more nutritious grains: important to addressing nutritional deficiencies in the third world. By using this technique, they are able to grow foods that will provide greater nutrition to people and animals and could have a major impact globally.
 
Understanding life-changing disease – Researchers from University of Keele have been using synchrotron technology at Diamond in the UK as well as others in Switzerland and the US to shed light on the processes and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They discovered that brain lesions caused by the disease could be the source of a neurotoxic form of iron. This research could open up new avenues of research into diagnosing and treating this devastating disease.
 
Developing the future of transportation – Research undertaken at Diamond into the safe storage and transportation of hydrogen for fuel has led to the formation of a spin out company, Cella Energy. Cella has developed a novel hydrogen storage material which is stable, pourable and capable of releasing large quantities of hydrogen when heated. This work brings us closer to safe hydrogen powered cars that can be filled up at the pump.
 
 

At the forefront of global scientific research

Prof. Andrew Harrison, Diamond's CEO
Prof. Andrew Harrison, Diamond's CEO
 
Diamond’s CEO, Professor Andrew Harrison, comments: “We are extremely proud of this milestone achievement for Diamond. The synchrotron is the largest science machine that the UK has ever built, and this 3000th publication demonstrates both the quantity and the quality of the research undertaken here.
 
“The hard work and dedication of our staff has established Diamond as an international centre of excellence for scientific research, supporting a wide range of users from academia and industry. We are currently working with over 3000 scientists, commercial users and key stakeholders to plan for the next decade, and to ensure they continue to have the world class facilities they need. Two of the ten
 
Phase III beamlines are already operational and we’ll have 33 online by 2018. This positive growth will significantly extend the user base in areas such as medical science, environmental, food production, materials science and engineering.”
 
The 3000th published paper, Valence-band orbital character of CdO: A synchrotron-radiation photoelectron spectroscopy and density functional theory study,waspublished in Physical Review B, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevB.89.165305.