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Synchrotron light sources

Light sources provide brilliant beams from infra-red to X-rays for the study of materials across a very wide range of science areas. We provide access to the UK’s national light sources, Diamond, at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, and to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) at Grenoble. We are involved in developing new light sources such as ALICE at Daresbury Laboratory.

Synchrotron light covers a broad area of the electromagnetic spectrum, from infrared through to hard X-rays, and is used for research in biology, physics, materials and engineering, and structural and environmental chemistry. The range of materials that are studies is remarkably wide ranging from biomolecules to nanomagnets, and ancient Greek helmets to chocolate.

The techniques available include X-ray diffraction, X-ray spectroscopy (XAFS), small-angle/wide-angle scattering, soft X-ray spectroscopy, photoemission, and imaging.

Research carried out using synchrotron light sources is often complementary to that carried out using neutrons.  Further information on neutron sources can be found on the neutron sources page.

UK facilities

The Diamond Light Source (link opens in a new window) synchrotron started user operations in 2007 and has built on the knowledge developed at the Synchrotron Radiation Source (link opens in a new window) (SRS), which closed in 2008. On behalf of the UK government, STFC is the majority shareholder in Diamond. The Wellcome Trust (link opens in a new window) is also a shareholder. Scientists wishing to use Diamond should apply through the facility's own access procedure.

European facilities

STFC manages the UK subscription to the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (link opens in a new window) (ESRF). Seventeen nations work together at the ESRF in Grenoble, France. Researchers wishing to use the ESRF should apply through the facility's own access process.

Future facilities

A project has been launched to examine the case for a New Light Source Facility in the UK with unique and world leading capabilities.

For more details on future facilities, view our 'Accelerator Science' page.

Last updated: 02 July 2019


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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