Diamond Light Source

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Diamond Light Source
HeadquartersChilton, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom
LeaderProfessor Andrew Harrison
Diamond Light Source in snow, 2018.

Diamond Light Source (or Diamond) is the UK's national synchrotron light source science facility located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research. In particular it can be used to investigate the structure and properties of a wide range of materials from proteins (to provide information for designing new and better drugs), and engineering components (such as a fan blade from an aero-engine[1]) to conservation of archeological artifacts (for example Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose[2][3]).

There are more than 50 light sources across the world.[4] With an energy of 3 GeV, Diamond is a medium energy synchrotron currently operating with 32 beamlines.

Design, construction and finance[edit]

The Diamond Light Source building

The Diamond synchrotron is the largest UK-funded scientific facility to be built in the UK since the Nimrod proton synchrotron which was sited at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1964. Nearby facilities include the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, the Central Laser Facility, and the laboratories at Harwell and Culham (including the Joint European Torus (JET) project). It replaced the second-generation synchrotron at Daresbury in Cheshire.

Following early work during the 1990s, a final design study was completed in 2001 by scientists at Daresbury Laboratory; construction then began following the creation of the operating company, DIAMOND Light Source Ltd. The name DIAMOND was originally conceived by Mike Poole (the originator of the DIAMOND project) and stood as an acronym meaning DIpole And Multipole Output for the Nation at Daresbury. With the location now being Oxfordshire, not Daresbury, the name reflects the synchrotron light being both hard (referring to the "hard" X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum) and bright.

Diamond produced its first user beam towards the end of January 2007, and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 19 October 2007.[5][6]

The facility is operated by Diamond Light Source Ltd,[7] a joint venture company established in March 2002. The company receives 86% of its funding from the UK Government (via the STFC) and 14% from the Wellcome Trust. Diamond cost £260m to build which covered the cost of the synchrotron building, the accelerators inside it, the first seven experimental stations (beamlines) and the adjacent office block, Diamond House. Construction of the building and the synchrotron hall was by Costain Ltd.


Diamond generates synchrotron light at wavelengths ranging from X-rays to the far infrared. This is also known as synchrotron radiation and is the electromagnetic radiation emitted by charged particles travelling near the speed of light. It is used in a huge variety of experiments to study the structure and behaviour of many different types of matter.

The particles Diamond uses are electrons travelling at an energy of 3 GeV [8] round a 561.6 m circumference storage ring. The storage ring is not a true circle, but a 48-sided polygon of straight sections angled with bending magnets (dipole magnets).[9] The magnetic pull from the bending magnets that steers the electrons around the ring. As Diamond is a third generation light source it uses special arrays of magnets called insertion devices. The insertion devices cause the electrons to undulate and it is their sudden change of direction that causes the electrons to emit an exceptionally bright beam of electro-magnetic radiation, brighter than that of a single bend when traveling through a bending magnet. This is the synchrotron light used for experiments. Some beamlines, however, use light solely from a bending magnet without the need of an insertion device.

The electrons reach this high energy via a series of pre-accelerator stages before being injected into the 3 GeV storage ring:

The Diamond synchrotron is housed in a silver toroidal building of 738 m in circumference, covering an area in excess of 43,300 square metres, or the area of over six football pitches. This contains the storage ring and a number of beamlines,[10] with the linear accelerator and booster synchrotron housed in the centre of the ring. These beamlines are the experimental stations where the synchrotron light's interaction with matter is used for research purposes. Seven beamlines were available when Diamond became operational in 2007, with more coming online as construction continued. As of April 2019 there were 32 beamlines in operation. Diamond is intended ultimately to host about 33 beamlines, supporting the life, physical and environmental sciences.

Diamond is also home to 11 electron microscopes, where nine are cryo-electron microscopes specialising in life sciences including two provided for industry use in partnership with Thermo Fisher Scientific; the remaining two microscopes are dedicated to research of advanced materials.[11] The nine electron microscopes dedicated to life sciences are part of the electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC), a UK national facility providing instruments and expertise in the field of cryo-electron microscopy. eBIC was opened in September 2018, by Nobel Laureate Richard Henderson but began operations in 2015. The experimental techniques available at this facility include single particle analysis of biological macromolecules, cellular tomography, electron crystallography and cryo focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy. The electron Physical Science Imaging Centre (ePSIC) is a national centre for aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy opened in 2017. Through a collaboration with Jonhson Matthey and the University of Oxford, the two transmission electron microscopes are housed at Diamond.


Diamond began operation with seven beamlines:

  • Extreme conditions beamline (I15) for studying materials under intense temperatures and pressures.
  • Materials and magnetism beamline (I16) to probe the electronic and magnetic properties of materials at the atomic level.
  • Three macromolecular crystallography beamlines (I02, I03 & I04) for understanding the structure of complex biological samples, including proteins.
  • Microfocus spectroscopy beamline (I18) able to map the chemical composition of complex materials, such as moon rocks and geological samples.
  • Nanoscience beamline (I06) capable of imaging structures and devices at a few millionths of a millimetre.

Since then further beamlines have been added and upgraded and it now operates with 32 beamlines. A further beamline will welcome its first researchers in mid-2020.

  • I22 - Non crystalline diffraction interdisciplinary beamline for studying large, complex structures including living organisms, polymers and colloids.
  • B16 - Test beamline on a bending magnet for testing new developments in optics, detectors and research techniques.
  • I19 - Small molecule single crystal diffraction high-intensity beamline for determining the structure of small molecule crystalline materials, such as new catalysts and 'smart' electronic materials.
  • I11 - High resolution powder diffraction beamline specialising in investigating the structure of complex materials including high temperature semiconductors and fullerenes.
  • I24 - Microfocus macromolecular crystallography beamline for studying the relationship between the structure of large macromolecules and their function within living organisms.
  • B23 - Circular dichroism beamline for the life sciences and chemistry, able to observe structural, functional and dynamic interactions in materials such as proteins, nucleic acids and chiral molecules.
  • I12 - Joint engineering, environmental and processing (JEEP) beamline providing a multi-purpose facility for high energy diffraction and imaging of engineering components and materials under real conditions.
  • 104-1 - Fixed Wavelength Monochromatic MX station sharing straight I04 with one of the year one macromolecular crystallography beamlines, independent station using fixed energy light to investigate the structures of protein complexes.
  • I20 - X-ray spectroscopy (XAS-3) beamline including a versatile X-ray spectrometer for studying chemical reactions and determining physical and electronic structures to support fundamental science.
  • I07 - Surface and interface high resolution diffraction beamline for investigating the structure of surfaces and interfaces under different environmental conditions, including semiconductors and biological films.
  • B18 - Core EXAFS for supporting the wide range of applications of x-ray absorption spectroscopy, including local structure and electronic state of active components, and the study of materials including fluids, crystalline and non-crystalline (amorphous phases & colloids) solids, surfaces and biomaterials.
  • B22 - Infrared Microspectroscopy as a powerful and versatile method of determining chemical structure bringing new levels of sensitivity and spatial resolution, with subsequent impact across a wide range of life and physical sciences.
  • I10 - Beamline for Advanced Dichroism Experiments (BLADE) for the study of magnetic dichroism and magnetic structure using soft x-ray resonant scattering (reflection and diffraction) and x-ray absorption, allowing a broad range of novel studies focused on the spectroscopic properties and magnetic ordering of novel nanostructured systems.
  • I13 - X-ray imaging and coherence for studying the structure of micro-and nano-objects. The information is either acquired in direct space or by inverting (diffraction) data recorded in reciprocal space. Dynamical studies are performed on different time- and length- scales with X-ray Photon Correlation Spectroscopy (XPCS) and pinhole-based Ultra-Small Angle Scattering (USAXS).
  • I09 - Surface and Interface Structural Analysis (SISA) will combine low energy and high energy beams focused on the same sample area, and will achieve advances in structural determination of surfaces and interfaces, as well as in nano-structures, biological and complex materials research.
  • I05 - Angle-Resolved Photo-Emission Spectroscopy (ARPES). This beamline is a facility dedicated to the study of electronic structures by angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy.
  • I08 - Soft X-ray Microscopy has a range of applications including materials science, earth and environmental science, biological and bio-medical science, and scientific aspects of our cultural heritage.
  • B21 - High Throughput Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) beamline is dedicated to the study of noncrystalline, randomly oriented particles. SAXS measurements can be determined for any type of sample, in any physical state.
  • I23 - Long Wavelength Macromolecular Crystallography is a unique facility for solving the crystallographic phase problem utilising the small anomalous signals from sulphur or phosphorus present in native protein or RNA/DNA crystals.
  • B24 - Full Field Cryo-transmission X-ray Microscope for Biology is designed specifically around the requirements associated with the imaging of biological cells.
  • I14 - A Hard X-ray Nanoprobe beamline. I14 is a scanning probe beamline that uses X-ray fluoresence and diffraction techniques to determine the structure and composition of a huge range of materials.
  • I21 - Inelastic X-ray Scattering (IXS). This beamline produces highly motivated, focused and tunable X-rays in order to investigate the magnetic, electronic and lattice dynamics of samples.
  • B07 - VERSOX: Versatile Soft X-ray Beamline is designed for the research of catalysts under gas-phase reaction conditions of for the study of samples under native conditions in the field of atmospheric science. Currently B07 in the process of installing a second branch to enable high-throughout X-ray Photoelecton Spectroscopy (XPS) measurements and Near-edge Extended X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) spectroscopy measurements in ambient-pressure environments.
  • I15-1 X-ray Pair Scattering Distribution Function
  • VMXm - Versatile Macromolecular Crystallography micro. This beamline performs atomic structure determination where large crystals are difficult to produce or suffer from weak diffraction.
  • VMXi - Versatile Macromolecular Crystallography in situ is the first beamline of its kind solely dedicated to data collection directly from the crystallisation experiments in situ. It is a highly automated beamline with the facility to store thousands of user crystallisation experiments and features an automated transfer between sample storage and the beamline, as well as highly automated data collection and analysis.
  • DIAD - Dual Imaging and Diffraction beamline will be the first to offer two X-ray microscopy techniques applied synchronously with a switching time of 0.1 seconds. The first users of the beamline are expected in 2020.

Case studies[edit]

  • In September 2007, scientists from Cardiff University led by Tim Wess, found that the Diamond synchrotron could be used to see hidden content of ancient documents by illumination without opening them (penetrating layers of parchment).[12][13]
  • In November 2010 the journal Nature published an article detailing how Goedele Maertens, Stephen Hare & Peter Cherepanov from Imperial College London used data collected at Diamond to advance the understanding of how HIV and other retroviruses infect human and animal cells.[14][15] The findings may enable improvements in gene therapy to correct gene malfunctions.
  • In June 2011 an international team of scientists led by So Iwata published an article in the journal Nature detailing how, using Diamond, they had successfully solved the 3D structure of the human Histamine H1 receptor protein. Their discovery allowed development of ‘third generation’ anti-histamines, drugs effective against some allergies without adverse side-effects.[16][17]
  • Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2018, a five institution collaboration including scientists from Diamond used three of Diamond's macromolecular beamlines to discover details of how a bacterium used plastic as an energy source. High resolution data allowed the researchers to determine the workings of an enzyme that griped the plastic PET. Subsequently computational modelling was carried out to investigate and thus improve this mechanism.[18]
  • An article published in Nature in 2019 described how a worldwide multidisciplinary collaboration designed several ways to control metal nano-particles, including synthesis at a substantially reduced cost for use as catalysts for the production of everyday goods.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Diamond and Rolls-Royce shine light on world’s biggest synchrotron stage
  2. ^ High-tech conservation solutions for old warship – Diamond Lights Source
  3. ^ Podcast – Dr Mark Jones from The Mary Rose Trust discusses his research
  4. ^ "Lightsources.org: Light Sources of the World". 2019. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  5. ^ Diamond News: Her Majesty The Queen Officially Opens Diamond Light Source
  6. ^ "'Super-scope' opens for business". 2007-02-05.
  7. ^ Diamond Light Source Ltd Archived 2013-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Equivalent to accelerating them through a voltage of 3 billion Volts; 1 electronvolt is the energy an electron gains when accelerated by a potential difference of 1 Volt.
  9. ^ "Inside Diamond" (PDF). Diamond Light Source. 2015. Retrieved 5 Oct 2019.
  10. ^ "Current list of Diamond Beamlines". Archived from the original on 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  11. ^ "Beamline Development and Technical Summary - Diamond Light Source". www.diamond.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  12. ^ "'Super-scope' to see hidden texts". 2007-09-13.
  13. ^ "Diamond: Unravelling the secrets of ancient parchments". Archived from the original on 2011-08-08. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  14. ^ Diamond News: X-rays illuminate the mechanism used by HIV to attack human DNA
  15. ^ Maertens, Goedele N.; Hare, Stephen; Cherepanov, Peter (2010). "The mechanism of retroviral integration from X-ray structures of its key intermediates". Nature. 468 (7321): 326–329. Bibcode:2010Natur.468..326M. doi:10.1038/nature09517. PMC 2999894. PMID 21068843.
  16. ^ Diamond News: Histamine H1 receptor breakthrough heralds improved allergy treatments
  17. ^ Shimamura, Tatsuro (2011). "Structure of the human histamine H1 receptor complex with doxepin". Nature. 475 (7354): 65–70. doi:10.1038/nature10236. PMC 3131495. PMID 21697825.
  18. ^ Diamond Light Source. "Solution to plastic pollution on the horizon - Diamond Light Source". www.diamond.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  19. ^ "Worldwide scientific collaboration develops catalysis breakthrough - Diamond Light Source". www.diamond.ac.uk. Retrieved 2019-10-05.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°34′28″N 1°18′39″W / 51.57444°N 1.31083°W / 51.57444; -1.31083