Complexo Sirius. Crédito: Divulgação LNLS/CNPEM

Sirius: Brazil launches the most up-to-date electron accelerator

Evaluated at BRL 1.8 billion, the gigantic 68-thousand-square-meter laboratory is one of two in the world with the fourth generation of synchrotron light, and serves both for academic research and industrial development

Brazil just launched its largest and most complex scientific research infrastructure, and with it, one of the most modern electron accelerators on the planet. Located in Campinas, in the state of São Paulo, Sirius, the new Brazilian source of synchrotron light, officially opened on November 14th. This project was planned to “place Brazil as the world leader in production of synchrotron light, and designed to have the greatest brightness of all equipment in its class of energy.” It is one of the two only laboratories of fourth-generation in the world (the other is MAX-IV, in Sweden).

The structure that hosts the equipment is 15 meters high and has 68 thousand square meters. The apparatus works as a large microscope that, by revealing molecular, atomic and electronic structures of a great range of materials, it allows for researches in almost any area of expertise “with potential to solve today’s big problems”, according to its administrators.

The equipment itself is a machine with a tunnel of 500 meters of circumference, whose function is to accelerate electrons to quasi-light speed, and, then, produce synchrotron light.

The structure can host up to 800 researchers and, at full capacity, will be capable of operating in 13 active lines of research and in 40 simultaneous experimental stations.

What is synchrotron light

The synchrotron light, or radiation, is a type of high-flux, high-brightness electromagnetic radiation that extends over a broad range of the electromagnetic spectrum, from infrared light through ultraviolet radiation to x-rays, as explained by the Sirius website. The energy of the synchrotron light beam allows investigating and learning accurately the composition of materials at atomic levels.

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Sirius: a nearly one-decade history

The project conception began in 2009, driven by the fact that the synchrotron light source at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) was outdated from a technological point of view - called UVX, it was built in 1997 and at the time of launch it served, on average, one thousand researchers a year.

Three years later, the Brazilian scientific body and the federal government agreed to develop a fourth-generation machine, which, at the time, would be the first in the world. Hence, the project was estimated in BRL 1.8 billion - to date, about BRL 1.12 billion were put into the project, BRL 282 million in 2018 alone.

The project was almost entirely developed in Brazil. Of all technical developments and totality of parts and tools, 85% are related to Brazilian professionals and to the Brazilian industry.

Although it is at the testing stage since launch, Sirius has not been completed yet. The main ring is under assembly stage and its conclusion is estimated for May 2019 - it can hold six lines of light.

What can Sirius do?

According to its developers, the structure will have two times more energy and emittance (beam divergence of electrons) around 360 times lower than UVX. This combination will make the emitted synchrotron light brightness be, in certain frequencies, more than a billion times higher than what is available to researchers today.

With the Sirius’ extremely high generation technology, it will be possible to study hard and more accurately dense materials such as steel, metal, concrete and rock - which may impact projects such as the exploration of the pre-salt layer. Its applications may enable researches in strategy fields, such as energy, food, environment, health and defense, among others. Check out some applications.

Complexo Sirius. Crédito: Divulgação LNLS/CNPEM

Use of Sirius

How the new experiment may contribute with researches in the fields of agriculture, energy and health;

In agriculture

The technology may be used to assess the soil and map concentration, bioavailability and localization of nutrients in vegetable species;

In the energy industry

Development of new technologies for exploration of petroleum and natural gas and materials and systems for solar cells, fuel cells and batteries;

In health

Nanoparticles may be developed for diagnosis of cancer and to fight viruses and bacteria, and also to identify protein structures and complex intracellular units to make new drugs.

Published 17 December 2018