Diamond Light Source is a synchrotron – a particle accelerator that accelerates electrons up to very high speeds. These electrons produce very bright beams of light that scientists use to study a vast range of subjects. Find out more.
Synchrotrons play a key role in the scientific infrastructure of most industrial nations. Many modern scientific experiments require the bright beams of light that can only be generated at a synchrotron.
After 25 years of pioneering science, the previous UK facility at Daresbury closed in September 2008, and Diamond took over as the national facility. The new synchrotron’s beams are more advanced and much brighter than those generated at Daresbury. With this standard of light, scientists are helping to create a cleaner environment, new technology, safer engineering and better treatments for disease.
Diamond’s users are a combination of academic researchers, in-house research scientists and industrial companies. The vast majority of users are from academia. Academic users access Diamond free of charge. Up to 10% of available beamtime goes to industry, who pay for access if they are keeping their results confidential.
The facility offers research tools and techniques that are relevant to a broad range of research fields. Approximately 40% of Diamond’s users are working in the area of structural biology, but the synchrotron also welcomes material scientists, chemists, environmental scientists, engineers, oceanographers, archaeologists, earth scientists, and researchers working in the fields of art, history and cultural heritage.
It is the storage ring that gives Diamond its iconic shape. The size of the storage ring allows the stored electron beam to be bent repeatedly, so that it produces a bright light that can be siphoned off and reach a number of different experimental stations or ‘beamlines’ simultaneously. The size of the ring depends on the number and length of the straight sections which host the insertion devices. Insertion devices cause the electrons to wiggle, creating even more intense light. Diamond has 24 straight sections, and 32 beamlines. This means that many groups of scientists can use Diamond for their different experiments at the same time.
Diamond employs over 700 staff and welcomes over 6000 visiting scientists a year.
The facility is operated by Diamond Light Source Ltd, which is a joint venture between the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Wellcome Trust, a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health.
Phase I construction began in early 2003 with the first seven beamlines opening to users in January 2007. Construction of the 15 Phase II beamlines was completed in 2012. Phase III of construction has brought the number of beamlines at Diamond up to 32, with the most recent beamline opening to users in early 2021.
The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a thriving hub of scientific research and Diamond is surrounded by a number of other scientific research facilities, making the site an ideal location in terms of tools and expertise. Diamond works closely with other research centres on the Harwell site, including the ISIS neutron facility and the Central Laser Facility, and our scientists and visiting users benefit from these relationships.
Diamond’s construction was funded by its two shareholders, the UK Government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), which has contributed 86% of the investment, and the Wellcome Trust charity, which has a 14% stake in the facility.
Diamond’s construction is taking place in phases. Phase I cost £263 million and included the synchrotron machine itself, the surrounding buildings and the first seven experimental stations or beamlines. This phase was completed on time, on budget and to specifications in January 2007. Phase II funding of £120 million for a further 15 beamlines and a detector development programme was confirmed in October 2004 and completed in 2012. Phase III added an additional 10 beamlines at a cost of £111.2 million and was completed in 2021.
In the first year of operations (2007/8) Diamond’s operational costs were £23 million, in 2012/13, with 22 beamlines the operational costs were £40 million. As we enhanced the facility by adding new beamlines, the operational costs have increased to £67.7 million (2019/20) with 33 operational beamlines. However, the more beamlines we have, the more cost effective we become, as the cost of running the machine is shared by a growing number of experimental stations.
No. Diamond is largely funded by the UK Government and exists to provide research facilities to the UK’s academic community. Once academic users have had their beamtime proposal accepted by an external body of scientific advisors, they can access the facility without having to pay. A small percentage (10%) of Diamond’s beamtime is available for industry to make use of, and industrial users pay a fee for using the facility.
Diamond welcomed its first users in January 2007. The Synchrotron and its state-of-the-art beamlines and instrumentation are subject to continuous improvements over the years, to take advantage of advances in technology and scientific techniques. This ensures that researchers access to cutting-edge analytical techniques and services remain at the forefront.
Synchrotrons are used across a vast range of scientific areas, including health and medicine, nanotechnology, food science, forensics, archaeology, engineering, and earth and environmental sciences. See our science highlights to read about some of the cutting-edge science that has already come out of the synchrotron.
Diamond has both short and long term benefits to the economy. The synchrotron provides jobs and stimulates the local economy directly. Many of Diamond’s 700 staff are from the local area. Many local suppliers were used during the construction of Diamond and the synchrotron has developed strong links with the local business community. The synchrotron also has several industrial users that are based nearby. Having Diamond on the doorstep helps increase their efficiency and gives them access to a facility that can help bring new and exciting products to the market.
Furthermore, in facilitating scientific advances, Diamond impacts on UK and international industry, from engineering to pharmaceuticals. This world-leading facility in the heart of Oxfordshire attracts scientists from all over the world; and Diamond’s pioneering capabilities are helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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