24 hours, 1000 samples: Project M beamtime begins today

At 11am today, Diamond scientists Dr Claire Murray and Dr Julia Parker will begin the mammoth task of processing the 1,000 samples sent back to us from 100 schools across the UK as part of Project M – Diamond’s largest public engagement project to date. Using I11, our high-resolution powder diffraction beamline, they are aiming to process the calcium carbonate samples in 24 hours.

“Calcium carbonate has three main forms, or ‘polymorphs’: vaterite, calcite, and aragonite,” explains Dr Julia Parker. “We’ve asked each of the schools taking part in Project M to produce samples using specially selected additives, and we’re trying to find out which of the polymorphs form for each of the additives.”

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response we’ve had from the schools,” adds Dr Claire Murray. “The students have been really engaged with the project and we’ve loved all the photos they’ve send us of them preparing their samples.”

“Project M has been a great way to give the students an experience of the tools used in a world-class science facility, and an insight into how our users work,” says Professor Andrew Harrison. “We’re hoping that some of those that take part have been inspired to choose a career in science and that we’ll welcome them as scientists working here at Diamond in the near future.”

Using the X-rays on I11 it will be possible to see which polymorphs have formed as they each have a specific chemical fingerprint that we can detect. Once the data has been collected, it’ll be sent back to the schools for the students to analyse, and at the end of the project (hopefully) the results will be used to produce a scientific publication – this research has never been done before.

The data gathering is being livestreamed from 11am, which you can watch at:


Live updates will also be tweeted @DLSProjectMLive.