Mon, Jan 26, 2015 - Page 1 News List

NT$7bn particle accelerator sees light in Hsinchu 

ENABLING NOBELS:Chen Chien-te said the facility might lead to further Nobel wins for researchers in Taiwan if they could find suitable subject matter

By Tang Chia-ling, Hung Mei-hsiu and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Taiwan Photon Source project leader Chen Chien-te, left, and colleagues pose for a photograph in a laboratory at the Hsinchu Science Park in Hsinchu County on Jan. 18.

Photo: Tang Chia-ling, Taipei Times

A ceremony yesterday marked the first official use of the nation’s newest and largest synchrotron, which researchers said in a trial run had set a world record for this type of particle accelerator.

The complex — part of the Taiwan Photon Source project and built in Hsinchu County — began construction in 2011 at a cost of NT$7 billion (US$222 million) and has a circumference of 518m. It was expected to produce a beam more than 10,000 times stronger than that emitted by the accelerator it superseded. The complex is capable of running at 3 billion electron volts (eV).

The light source the synchrotron produces is capable of allowing the detection of the atomic structure of proteins, project head Chen Chien-te (陳建德) said.

The synchrotron, which produces a sustained beam of electromagnetic waves from infrared, ultraviolet, X-ray and visible light wavelengths, has a beam that is 1 trillion times brighter than that from a traditional X-ray tube, Department of Radiation director Felix Gwo (果尚志) said. The facility can reveal the minute and complex structures that make up matter.

The light it generates is 1 million times brighter than sunlight, Gwo said.

Gwo said that in three weeks of trial runs the team managed to ramp the accelerator up from 150 million eV to 3 billion eV.

Gwo said the time taken to achieve the increase had set a world record.

Synchrotrons elsewhere have been used to detect organic matter in fossils and in Australia revealed a rare self-portrait of painter Arthur Streeton under layers of white lead paint.

At the ceremony, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the new synchrotron could be used in biomedical and nanotechnology research, adding that the facility would allow the nation’s technology industry to gain an edge over competitors, as it provides a research tool for numerous fields, such as physics, chemistry, geology and archeology.

Gwo said the project is the largest scientific experiment in Taiwan’s history.

Gwo said that while Australia’s synchrotron was bought, Taiwan had built its own, calling the feat another “Taiwanese miracle.”

The first ever Nobel Prize in physics was given to Wilhelm Roentgen in 1901 for his work to describe X-rays and work to unravel the secrets of DNA was done with X-rays, Chen said. Even in recent times, the physics prize has been awarded for important discoveries using X-rays, so it is possible that the synchrotron could be the catalyst for the next Taiwanese Nobel laureate.

“Just as the best car only shines on the racetrack with the best driver, the best synchrotron needs the best scientists,” Chen said, adding that Taiwan’s hopes for a Nobel Prize are good if a worthy subject is the focus of study.

The facility is to have 48 stations where experiments can be performed, though only five would be available this year, Chen said, adding that by next year the center will be available for use by scientists from around the world.

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