Diamond Light Source

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Diamond Light Source Logo
Diamond Light Source in snow, 2018.

Diamond Light Source ("Diamond") is the UK's national synchrotron 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]).

Design, construction and finance[edit]

The Diamond Light Source building

Following early work during the 1990s, a final design study was completed in 2001 (the so-called 'Green Book') by scientists at Daresbury Laboratory;[4] construction then began following the creation of the operating company, DIAMOND Light Source Ltd.

Diamond was built at Chilton near Didcot in Oxfordshire, UK, next to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). It produced its first user beam towards the end of January 2007, and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 19 October 2007.[5]

The facility is operated by Diamond Light Source Ltd,[6] 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. Costain Ltd constructed the building and the synchrotron hall. Significant construction achievements to note:

i) The project was completed on time and on budget;

ii) The construction of Diamond was completed with one of the lowest accident rates of a mega project ever completed in the UK. Over 1.4 million person-hours were completed during the peak of construction without a single recordable accident.

The synchrotron[edit]

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 [7] round a 561.6 m circumference storage ring. The ring is not circular, but is shaped as a forty-eight-sided polygon, using a 'double bend achromat' magnet configuration in which two bending magnets are placed in each of 24 cells. As the electrons pass through specially designed magnets at each vertex, their sudden change of direction causes them to emit an exceptionally bright beam of electro-magnetic radiation. This is the synchrotron light used for experiments.

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 738m 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,[8] 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 (Phase I) beamlines were available when Diamond became operational in 2007, with another fifteen (Phase II) completed over the period 2007–2012. As of January 2013 there were 22 in operation. The Government and the Wellcome Trust have now agreed to fund Phase III of Diamond which will increase the number of operational beamlines to 32 by 2017.

The seven beamlines which were available when Diamond first became operational in January 2007 were:

  • extreme conditions beamline for studying materials under intense temperatures and pressures (Beamline I15).
  • materials and magnetism beamline, set up to probe electronic and magnetic materials at the atomic level (Beamline I16).
  • three macromolecular crystallography beamlines, for decoding the structure of complex biological samples, such as proteins (Beamlines I02, I03 and I04).
  • microfocus spectroscopy beamline, able to map the chemical make up of complex materials such as moon rocks and geological samples (Beamline I18).
  • nanoscience beamline, capable of imaging structures and devices at the scale of a few nanometres (millionths of a millimetre) (Beamline I06).

Phase III of Diamond provides for the design, procurement, construction and commissioning of an additional 10 beamlines to complement those in Phases I and II of Diamond. They will become operational over the period 2013–2017/18.

Diamond is intended ultimately to host up to ~ forty beamlines, supporting the life, physical and environmental sciences.

In 2015, Diamond opened the electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC), a UK national facility providing instruments and expertise in the field of cryo-electron microscopy. Currently, an FEI Titan Krios microscope I is operation within the experimental hall at Diamond. In the future, eBIC will be located within a dedicated building adjacent to the synchrotron with completion due in 2016. Experimental techniques available at this facility include single particle analysis of biological macromolecules, cellular tomography and electron crystallography.


Phase I

The seven Phase I beamlines became operational in January 2007:

• 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.

Phase II

• Non crystalline diffraction interdisciplinary beamline (I22) for studying large, complex structures including living organisms, polymers and colloids.

• Test beamline on a bending magnet (B16) for testing new developments in optics, detectors and research techniques.

• Small molecule single crystal diffraction high-intensity beamline (I19) for determining the structure of small molecule crystalline materials, such as new catalysts and 'smart' electronic materials.

• High resolution powder diffraction beamline (I11) specialising in investigating the structure of complex materials including high temperature semiconductors and fullerenes.

• Microfocus macromolecular crystallography beamline (I24) for studying the relationship between the structure of large macromolecules and their function within living organisms.

• Circular dichroism beamline (B23) for the life sciences and chemistry, able to observe structural, functional and dynamic interactions in materials such as proteins, nucleic acids and chiral molecules.

• Joint engineering, environmental and processing (JEEP) beamline (I12) providing a multi-purpose facility for high energy diffraction and imaging of engineering components and materials under real conditions.

• Fixed Wavelength Monochromatic MX station (I04-1) 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.

• X-ray spectroscopy (XAS-3) beamline (I20) including a versatile X-ray spectrometer for studying chemical reactions and determining physical and electronic structures to support fundamental science.

• Surface and interface high resolution diffraction beamline (I07) for investigating the structure of surfaces and interfaces under different environmental conditions, including semiconductors and biological films.

• Core EXAFS (B18) 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.

• Infrared Microspectroscopy (B22) 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.

• Beamline for Advanced Dichroism Experiments (BLADE) (I10) 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.

• X-ray imaging and coherence (I13) 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).

• Surface and Interface Structural Analysis (SISA) (I09) 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.

Phase III

Phase III was approved in October 2010 and will provide another 10 beamlines, to become operational between 2012 and 2017.

• I05 - Angle-Resolved Photo-Emission Spectroscopy (ARPES). Beamline I05 is a facility dedicated to the study of electronic structures by angle-resolved photoemission spectroscopy.

• I08 - Soft X-ray Microscopy will have 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)

• I23 - Long Wavelength Macromolecular Crystallography will be a unique facility for solving the crystallographic phase problem utilizing 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 will be designed specifically around the requirements associated with the imaging of biological cells.

• I14 - A Hard X-ray Nanoprobe for Complex Systems

• I21 - Inelastic X-ray Scattering (IXS)

• B07 - VERSOX: Versatile Soft X-ray Beamline

• I15-1 X-ray Pair Scattering Distribution Function

Case studies[edit]

  • On 13 September 2007, scientists from Cardiff University, led by Professor Tim Wess, found that the Diamond synchrotron could be used to discover hidden content of ancient documents by illumination without opening them (penetrating layers of parchment).[9][10]
  • In November 2010 the Journal Nature published an article detailing how scientists 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 or animal cells.[11][12] The findings may enable improvements in gene therapy to correct gene malfunctions.
  • In June 2011 an international team of scientists led by Professor So Iwata published an article in the Journal Nature detailing how using Diamond they had successfully solved the complex 3D structure of the human Histamine H1 receptor protein. Their discovery opens the way for the development of ‘third generation’ anti-histamines, specific drugs effective against various allergies without causing adverse side-effects.[13][14]


Diamond is a UK National Facility that aims at providing researchers from the UK and the world with synchrotron-based techniques for a wide range of scientific applications.

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 of Diamond now being in Oxfordshire, the explanation has been changed, and now derives from that the fact that the light from the synchrotron is both 'hard' (referring to the "hard" X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum) and bright, and hence the current name "Diamond" was born).[15]

Diamond is located on the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory site, near to the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, the Central Laser Facility, and the nearby laboratories at Harwell and Culham (including the Joint European Torus (JET) project). Diamond was originally due to replace the second-generation synchrotron at Daresbury in Cheshire, however, it was decided to locate the new British synchrotron in Oxfordshire.

The Diamond synchrotron is the largest UK-funded scientific facility to be built in the UK for over 45 years, since the Nimrod proton synchrotron which was sited at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. In 1977 financial approval was given to convert the Nimrod facility into the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) named ISIS.

There are approximately 70[16] dedicated synchrotron facilities in the world, and Diamond (3 GeV) is the world's largest medium energy synchrotron. Only four dedicated synchrotron facilities in the world are currently larger than Diamond, and all are high energy machines. These are: i) SPring-8 in Japan (8 GeV); ii) The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France (6.03 GeV); iii) The Advanced Photon Source (APS) in Chicago, USA (7 GeV); iv) DESY's PETRA III (6 GeV) in Germany, which is currently the world's largest dedicated synchrotron source.

Films, animations and podcasts[edit]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

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