Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron, undertakes many activities which support the delivery of the Industrial Strategy. Here we explain how Diamond is an agent of change for 21st century global challenges.
The UK Government’s Industrial Strategy1 highlights Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future: to be a leader in the artificial intelligence and data revolution; to equip UK industry to be best prepared for clean growth; to be at the forefront world-wide in the mobility of people, goods and services; and to help meet the needs of an ageing society.
Since the formal launch of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron, has done a round-up of activities which have been supporting its delivery and explains how we are an agent of change on the 21st century global challenges.
Already we have seen key investment like the Faraday Institution and the Rosalind Franklin Institute as part of the Industrial strategy current waves of allocations be located close to Diamond as we are a catalyst for the activities they are undertaking.
Diamond is enabling world-class science in universities and industry, both in the UK and internationally, which is advancing knowledge and underpinning innovation in virtually all fields of research. Diamond currently offers access to 32 instruments which it calls beamlines (Figure 1) and 5 complementary facilities – the Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC), the Electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (ePSIC), the MPL (Membrane Protein Lab), the XChem Fragment Screening service and the XFEL Hub, which develops technology for sample delivery and data analysis for Free Electron Lasers for life sciences.
The information that Diamond provides is essential in understanding and developing the properties, function or processing of materials, including biomaterials, for an immense range of science and technology, from drug design and catalysts, through to electronic devices and high-performance engineering alloys to heritage science. The work that Diamond supports has a direct impact on some of the key challenges for our society, for example healthcare, the environment, more efficient energy storage and transport.
Diamond has reached 9,500 user visits in the past financial year (Figure 2). It has directly supported proprietary work for over 130 companies, and about 40% of all delivered beamtime in FY2017/18 had direct or indirect industrial access through the peer-review access route.
Its output includes a rapidly rising number of peer-reviewed articles, to date 7,400 (Figure 3), and a rate of deposition of structures in the Protein Data Bank that places it as one of the most productive synchrotrons in the world, and the leader among medium energy synchrotrons.
Such high throughput has been enabled by a remarkable level of robotic automation, matched with efficient data analysis pipelines in close-to-real time; both now being rolled out across an increasing number of physical and life sciences beamlines to optimise workflows.
Since the facility opened its doors in 2007, Diamond has welcomed over 12,000 direct users who have had an impact on a wider network of at least 24,500 researchers, positioning Diamond as one of the largest user bases among national facilities in Europe.
Diamond’s output is not just characterised by volume. The institutional h-index currently stands at 128 2, and a recent analysis showed that 25% of publications are found in journals with an impact factor of nine and above.
In September 2018, an agreement was launched for a new cryo-EM capability for use in the life sciences industry sector by Thermo Fisher Scientific, one of the world leaders in high-end scientific instrumentation and Diamond Light Source.
This collaboration positions the UK as a global leader in providing large-scale industrial access to Cryo-EM for drug discovery. It is also creating a very real step change for life sciences sector, because it is a one-stop shop for structural biology and one of largest cryo-EM sites in the world embedded in a synchrotron with all its complementary facilities and techniques. This collaboration has confirmed Diamond as one of the leading global cryo-EM sites but in particular, one which provides the life sciences sector with an offer not available anywhere else in the world.
The completion of the Phase-III instrument programme has added 10 beamlines, which ensures that the investment in Diamond fully maximises return on the initial capital investment. As an illustration of the impact of these new beamlines, and just one of many possible examples, the latest work around the plastic digesting enzyme is the epitome of the huge impact world leading instruments can make.
Insights into how PETase is structured, and how it works, that have been garnered from Diamond’s MX beamlines will be invaluable in designing a highly-efficient plastic-degrading machine for the future. Tailored PETases like those developed at Diamond could be used for large-scale industrial recycling processes, and offer an innovative solution to the plastic waste problem that we desperately need.
Another example of amazing science undertaken at Diamond which is contributing to the clean growth agenda is the study of storage in metal-organic frameworks (MOF) of toxic iodine vapour from nuclear industry operation to design more efficient and effective capture systems. Using Diamond, allowed researchers to fully determine the position of the iodine molecules for the first time within the MOF pores, which are less than 1 nm in size. MOFs are unique materials that present a structure of exceptional porosity. By synthesising structures of differing pore sizes, MOFs can be used to filter, trap, or transport molecules. Research into better understanding MOFs has been largely driven by the wealth of potential applications in hydrogen storage, catalysis, drug delivery, carbon capture and more that these materials may have.
A final example illustrating and amplifying how Diamond provides enabling tools for basic research is the discovery of Weyl quasiparticles. These particles are many millions of times more sensitive to magnetic changes than the materials in current computer hard drives. This means they have the potential to store vastly more information per disk. The Weyl fermions themselves can carry an electrical charge and move much faster than electrons in normal materials potentially leading to much faster electronics. The unusual arcs that connect the Weyl points also demonstrate a unique property that, if combined with other exotic materials, could make them useful for quantum computing – a technology believed by many to be the future of computing. From an industrial strategy perspective, this has opened the door for the exploration of new electronic systems that could potentially be designed to step change their energy efficiency and storage capabilities compared to current technology.
With a ’transforming space’, Diamond would aim to more than double the number of visitors to the facility within 5 years. The proposed space represents a unique opportunity to have an impact on the UK’s scientific landscape by providing a hub for skills, and access to high quality training, education and informal learning, and this in line with the industrial strategy’s aspirations.
Its close location to Diamond will concentrate educational visits, scientific workshops, hands-on training and tours with minimum impact on the operation of the facility.
The location of the new building maximises access to the machine during shutdowns and allows quick access to the spare girders area, where we have invested in a training beamline in the visible light spectrum as part of the developments. This idea represents a unique opportunity for the UK Government to invest in a collaborative space to generate more growth of STEM infrastructure and education, embraces the science provided by Diamond and combines it with the potential to serve and showcase the Campus.
With over 60,000 visitors already welcomed to the facility, the potential for Diamond to attract a huge range of audiences is clear. One of Diamond’s strategic objectives is to ‘To engage and inspire the general public through promoting science’. With over 80 events per year the facility is a catalyst for the industrial strategy’s approach to strengthen skills and build on delivering a world-class education system (secondary, technical and higher education) as well as ensuring that the UK remains at the forefront of science and technology.
In the past 5 years, Diamond has seen its yearly average number of visitors reach just under 7,000 and with a growing programme of scientific workshops, courses and training, as well as secondary and its wider public engagement, Diamond has a clear vision and need for what they are calling ‘a transforming space’. This would help it maximise its full potential and impact positively on the entire Harwell Science & Innovation Campus where it is located.
The current demand to visit Diamond through education and informal learning activities is already substantial. However, expansion of these activities is constrained by lack of space. Additionally, there is a need to consolidate and expand the aspect of student training and engagement as part of our offer as a national facility. Many of the advanced training courses delivered at Diamond are in the biomedical field, and taking into account the current rate of the growth, it is anticipated that with its integrated facilities the range of courses required for biomedical and physical sciences will increase by 40% each year. Similarly, it is expected that the portfolio of required events will increase in line with the increased number of beamlines especially as they mature.
2 Our h-index is the maximum value of h such that our user community and staff members have published h apers that have each been cited at least h times; for example a h-index of 120 means that 120 Diamond papers have been cited at least 120 times.
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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