What is a Synchrotron Lightsource?

Synchrotron lightsources use particle (usually electrons) acceleration to produce high energy radiation (usually light in the x-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum) that is used to study atomic structure of materials.

The process of producing the synchrotron radiation starts with producing a flux of electrons. This is commonly done with a cathode system similar in principle to old-style television sets. The electrons travel through a system that accelerates them to relativistic speeds, i.e., near the speed of light. This system, commonly consisting of a small linear accelerator and a booster ring, not only increases the speed of the electrons, but also focuses them into a small beam. The electron beam, now travelling extremely close to the speed of light, is injected into the main storage ring.

Many large and very precise magnets are needed to make electron beam follow the path of the ring, otherwise they will want to keep going straight. When magnetic fields cause charged particles to change directions, the particles emit radiation, the frequency of which is determined by the speed of the electrons. The storage ring has several openings to beamlines where the radiation is sent from the storage ring to experimental stations.

Synchrotron radiation is extremely bright, much more intense than x-ray machines used in hospital and dental offices. Synchrotron radiation can be used to study the detailed atomic structure of materials. The applications are far and wide, including biomedical research, energy, food and water supply, archeology and history research, geophysics and forensic science.  More


A Synchrotron Lightsource for Africa

Synchrotron radiation has revolutionized basic and applied research in many scientific and technological disciplines, leading to a proliferation of facilities around the world. The website lightsources.org has links to 47 synchrotron radiation research facilities based on electron storage rings in 23 countries in operation, construction or planning.


Synchrotrons Around the World

Africa is presently the only habitable continent without a synchrotron light source. Dozens of scientists from African countries now perform experiments at facilities in Europe and elsewhere. Their numbers are limited mostly by distance and travel cost. A light source in Africa would enable thousands of African scientists and engineers to gain access to this superb scientific and technological tool. Indeed, in order to be competitive socially, politically and economically in the years to come, access to a nearby synchrotron light source will be an absolute necessity.  More


African Lightsource Conference and Workshop

Date : 16 -20 November 2015
Venue : ESRF, Grenoble, France
Information and registration: www.saip.org.za/AfLS2015/

Participants will be African scientists, colleagues, students who have worked at Light Sources and friends of Africa who support the vision for an African Light Source.

Workshop Agenda
The Workshop will be able to review the status of the African User Base at international light sources.

  • Presentations of African work at lightsources around the world
  • Presentations of highlights and status of lightsources globally
  • Discussions of strategy and policy for the the roadmap towards an Africa Light Source
  • Election of the new, fully mandated Steering Committee for the African Light Source and dissolution of the Interim Committee

Final book of abstracts

Grenoble Resolutions towards the African Light Source

  1. Advanced light sources are the most transformative scientific instruments similar to the invention of conventional lasers and computers.
  2. Advanced light sources are revolutionising a myriad of fundamental and applied sciences, including agriculture, biology, biomedicine, chemistry, climate and environmental eco-systems science, energy, engineering, geology, heritage studies, materials science, nanotechnology, palaeontology, pharmaceutical discoveries, physics, with an accompanying impact on sustainable industry.
  3. The community of researchers around the world are striving collaboratively to construct ever more intense sources of electromagnetic radiation, specifically derived from synchrotron light sources and X-ray free-electron lasers (XFELs), to address the most challenging questions in living and condensed matter sciences.
  4. The African Light Source is expected to contribute significantly to the African Science Renaissance, the return of the African Science Diaspora, the enhancement of University Education, the training of a new generation of young researchers, the growth of competitive African industries, and the advancement of research that addresses issues, challenges and concerns relevant to Africa.
  5. For African countries to take control of their destinies and become major players in the international community, it is inevitable that a light source must begin construction somewhere on the African continent in the near future, which will promote peace and collaborations amongst African nations and the wider global community.

Roadmap Summary for an African Light Source

In order to make its vision a reality and fulfil its mission, the African Light Source (AfLS) Steering Committee has devised a roadmap with short-, medium-, and long-term goals, detailed in the document published on the Conference’s website. See the roadmap.


Coverage of African Lightsource (AfLS) in Media

Via PhysicsWorld Physicists urged to back plans for Africa’s first synchrotron

Via BBC Science & Technology African synchrotron bid gathers pace

Via Research Africa  First African synchrotron light source proposed

Via La Dauphine Libere Vers un synchrotron africain


African Lightsource (AfLS) Presented at Scientific Conferences


AfLS poster pic

Drs Tabbetha Dobbins & Sekazi Mtingwa present African Lightsource poster at American Physical Society 2016 March meeting.