What is a synchrotron?

A synchrotron is an extremely powerful source of X-rays. It builds on the physical phenomenon that a moving electron emits energy when it changes direction. If the electron is moving fast enough, the emitted energy, called synchrotron radiation, is at X-ray wavelength.

Synchrotron radiation is produced by electrons that circle inside an accelerator ring. When these electrons, which travel at nearly the speed of light, are guided into a curve by deflecting magnets, they emit a highly intense and collimated beam of light whose spectrum ranges from infrared light to X-rays.

Even more effective than deflecting magnets are special magnets known as wigglers and undulators. They are used in storage rings and consist of a series of alternating pairs of magnets extending over several metres. This magnetic “racetrack” forces the superfast electrons to speed along a narrow zigzag channel. Due to the large number of successive magnetic poles the electrons emit a much more intense beam of light than that produced with a single deflecting magnet. Use of a wiggler generates synchrotron radiation up to 100 times as intense as that produced with deflecting magnets. In a certain mode of operation, the intensity at specific wavelengths can even be 1000 times higher because the wave trains reinforce one another. As a result, the wiggler is transformed into an undulator

Synchrotron radiation is millions of times more brilliant than anything a physician’s X-ray machine can produce. Scientists use it to study the most diverse materials with atomic precision. These materials range from metals and semiconductors to plastics and protein molecules.

For more details, click on the link below.