How Diamond delivers knowledge generation for the clean growth agenda

A year on from the formal launch of the UK’s Industrial Strategy, Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron, has undertaken many activities which have been supporting the delivery of the Industrial Strategy. Here we look at Diamond's work supporting the clean growth agenda. 

     

The completion, this year, 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.

Scientists researching PETase at Diamond Light Source
Scientists researching PETase at Diamond Light Source

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.