An exciting new hub for cutting-edge materials and life science research is well on its way to being built at Diamond. The new building, which is under construction next to the Imaging and Coherence beamline (I13), will house the Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline (I14) along with the Electron imaging centre for biology and the Electron microscopy centre for physical sciences.
I14, which will provide world-leading experimental facilities for micro-nano SAXS and nanoscale microscopy, is the third of four beamlines at Diamond to extend beyond the iconic silver ring. To maximise the distance from the focusing optic to the sample, I14 will reach approximately 185m from the main building.
The beamline will provide a state-of-the-art facility in which a focused X-ray spot is positioned or scanned over a sample in order to obtain structural and chemically-specific information on a full range of materials. The potential applications are extremely varied and include materials science in areas such as new polymers, magnetic and nano-structured materials, Earth and environmental science and geochemistry, with potential research topics including aerosols, minerals, sediments, soils, and bio-remediation.
Complementing these capabilities will be the Electron imaging centre for biology, a collaboration between Diamond, Birkbeck College and Oxford University, comprising two cryo-electron microscopes dedicated to the biological sciences. This new centre is funded by a £15.6 million grant from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. It will operate like a beamline and, although not connected to the powerful synchrotron light source, it will provide scientists with state-of-the-art experimental equipment and expertise that will complement Diamond’s current capabilities. The powerful cryo-electron microscopes will help scientists to look into the structure of cells to reveal molecular make-up and will provide new tools to visualise single bio-molecules.
In addition, the Electron microscopy centre for physical sciences will include a pair of JEOL electron microscopes. Complementing the beamline information, the electron microscopes will show the identity, ordering and chemical state of atoms in the sample, through EDX, EELS, atomic scale imaging, and electron diffraction. The potential of today’s advanced materials depends on the structures and properties that arise from collections of atoms interacting in their local environment. In automotive emissions control catalysts, fuel cells, chemical process technology and battery materials, the collections of atoms are the chemically active sites, and characterising those leads to better understanding and improved design. At greater length scales, active site interactions with framework materials such as graphene, zeolites or complex ceramics provide controlled transmission of chemical effects from clusters of atoms to bulk material properties.
The two microscopes for the physical sciences centre will be supplied by Johnson Matthey and Oxford University and operated under strategic collaboration agreements to provide for substantial dedicated peer reviewed user access. This collaboration will create stronger links between Diamond as a research centre and universities and industry. The expertise and equipment that Johnson Matthey, Oxford and Diamond are bringing together will provide the nucleus for the community to come together and address important future challenges. Diamond’s CEO Andrew Harrison emphasises the importance of fostering relationships with external experts; “This development is part of a more general trend to build strategic partnerships with industry and universities, often underpinned by investment in complementary equipment or people, to exploit more fully our synchrotron facilities.”
Progress on the new facilities has been rapid and successful with occupation of the building due in Summer 2015. Orders for the electron microscopes and support equipment have been placed and I14’s internal hutches and cabins are now complete. Installation of the I14 beamline has started with major components starting to arrive from suppliers, and soon the concrete that will make up the external hutches will be poured. Paul Quinn, I14’s Principal Beamline Scientist, comments; "The project is going well and over the coming years we are looking forward to developing a collaborative science project which exploits the capabilities of the beamline and electron microscope facilities.”
Bringing the Electron imaging centre for biology and the Electron microscopy centre for physical sciences to the campus is a significant step forward for Diamond. The new model brings in different facilities and expertise from across academia and industry. Housing three different facilities under one roof will allow new synergies to emerge between different techniques and areas of research.
This holistic approach to science, underpinned by co-location and collaboration, will not only enhance Diamond’s existing array of leading-edge facilities, but is also set to make a lasting impression on the future of funding and research partnerships in the UK.
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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