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Max-Lab new light on materials research

Swedish Research Council : 26 October, 2006  (Technical Article)
Development of new materials for superfast electronics and for highly efficient solar cells requires detailed understanding of the structure of atoms and processes at microscopic level. The same is true of the design of new drug molecules for treatment of disease. These are some of the uses of the multitalented synchrotron laboratory MAX-lab in Lund.
The MAX-lab national electron accelerator laboratory in Lund has since 1985 been at the forefront of research that uses synchrotron radiation, a kind of intense x-ray, to study all kinds of materials. Physicists, chemists and biologists come from around the world to study subjects as diverse as the surfaces of semiconductors for tomorrow´s electronics, new materials for catalysis that may be used to clean car exhausts in a more effective way, the structure of large protein molecules and high-temperature superconductors that have potential for saving energy in resistance-free electric cable and provide extremely sensitive detectors for studies of brain activity.

At the heart of the research facility are its three electron storage rings, MAX I, II and III, which have already helped many user groups achieve world-leading research status. Now, a new storage ring, MAX IV, is to be built that will be the most advanced in existence.

“The planned MAX IV facility will provide much-needed additional capacity and more advanced capabilities for the research and industrial communities in the Nordic region,' says Professor Nils Mårtensson, director of MAX-lab.

More energy, more possibilities
Higher-power and higher-quality X-ray sources enable researchers to look deeper and with more accuracy into larger, denser samples and more complex structures, such as bio-molecules - and to investigate processes such as the reaction conditions in catalysts. Higher-energy beams also penetrate experimental equipment better, enabling investigations under extreme conditions, such as replicating the very high pressure at the centre of the Earth.

Synchrotron radiation is generated by bending electron beams as they travel around an enclosed storage ring. The electrons, which are travelling at close to the speed of light, emit synchrotron light as they experience centripetal acceleration. By inserting carefully designed arrays of magnets around the path of the electron beam, radiation with differing wavelengths and intensities can be extracted into beamlines and used in experiments.

Demand for synchrotron radiation research has grown rapidly over the past few decades. Originally used mainly for pure physics research, synchrotron radiation sources are now used by researchers in chemistry, materials science, energy technologies, life sciences, environmental science, medicine, pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology.

The new generation synchrotron source, MAX IV, will contain an innovative design comprising two electron storage rings right on top of each other in the same complex and provide unprecedented intensities of x-rays in a wide range of energies and allow for even more detailed understanding of some of the most interesting materials for future electronics, energy and bio- technologies

“What this new facility would give the scientific and industrial communities in this region is a far superior view into structures and processes than they have today, especially for the more advanced areas of nano science and technology,' summarizes Professor Mårtensson. “If ESS (the European Spallation Source) comes to Lund too, it will provide an excellent complement to Max-lab, that will attract some of the world´s leading researchers in this field and, I believe, provide a strong driver for advancing European science and technology.'
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