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Headlines Published on 06 July 2007

Title European research sharing the light “down under”

Geographical distance is proving to be no barrier with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Australia and Europe which will help accelerate the transfer of knowledge between the two. This MOU will allow both centres to tap into the banks of knowledge the other has accumulated over the years, thereby expanding the horizons of the future.

Schematics of the principles of a synchrotron  © Matt+
Schematics of the principles of a synchrotron
On 18 June the Australian Minister for Innovation announced the signing of a MOU to promote scientific collaboration between the Australian Synchrotron and the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), located in Geneva, Switzerland.

John Brumby commented, 'This agreement with CERN will enable the Australian Synchrotron to benefit from the participation in common R&D related to technologies for accelerators, from staff exchanges and from the excellent courses in advanced accelerator physics offered by CERN.'

The Australian synchrotron facility located in the vibrant state of Victoria on Australia's east coast is one of the world's latest facilities that literally aims to shed light on electrons and light. The vacuum chambers and radio frequency accelerating systems alone are estimated to be worth approximately AUD 170 million (EUR 107.3 million).

The synchrotron is considered to be a vitally important tool in research and is used to study high energy particle physics. Its applications extend to the production of bullet-proof plastics and to the creation of micro-motors that are so small that they can fit through the eye of a needle. Its application extends so far that it can also be utilised to increase chemists' understanding of the crystallisation of cocoa butter which can be used in creating a better tasting chocolate.

When electrons are accelerated, they emit light. This is used in televisions and computer monitors. The synchrotron does virtually the same – with the exception that the speeds achieved approach the speed of light. By so doing, scientists are able to research relativistic effects that Albert Einstein had predicted would occur. The beams of light created end up going in very narrow directions. Scientists then have the capacity to scrutinise objects which approach the nano-scale.

CERN is the centre for the world's largest particle physics laboratory which is currently completing the Large Hadron Collider, a machine of immense proportions; its circumference alone measures in at a whopping 27 kilometres. This machine can be used to study the kinds of reactions that occurred at the birth of the universe.

Dr Robert Aymar, Director General at CERN, was also enthusiastic with the idea of strengthening ties between European and Australian science. ‘Interaction between mature and expanding facilities like ours, and new accelerators like the Australian Synchrotron, can lead to very interesting collaborations,’ Dr Aymar said. ‘There is a lot of common ground between accelerators, even those working with different sub-atomic particles.’

This memorandum is an acknowledgement that cooperation and collaboration are of immense importance, not only for the development of new technology for particle accelerators, beamlines, detectors and control systems, but also that the future lies in extending ties between nations.

More information:

  • CERN
  • Australian Synchrotron

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