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Middle East's First Synchrotron to Open in Jordan

SESAME's Technical Director Erhard Huttel explains the process on how the electrons are accelerated in the inner storage ring of the SESAME facility. (Photo. D. Calma/IAEA)

Allan, Jordan – SESAME, the Middle East’s first major international research centre for science application research, will be inaugurated on 16 May. It will see scientists from across the region and beyond work side by side in researching the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. IAEA has been closely associated with the project and is an observer on the SESAME council.

The facility will foster innovative scientific and technological research in areas ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences to studying the basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences.

“This centre, it is hoped will also prevent and reverse the ‘scientific’ brain drain and encourage scientists to contribute to the development of the people of the region,” said Khaled Toukan, Chairman of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission. As a scientific and cultural bridge between diverse societies, this centre of excellence is open to all scientists from the Middle East and elsewhere, he added.

SESAME is modelled on CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) and was developed under the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Scientists and engineers from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey — the current members of SESAME — have been involved in the preparatory work at the facility since 2004.

At the heart of the facility is a Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications (i.e. SESAME), which is capable of generating intense light beams for advanced scientific and technical research. It belongs to the family of synchrotron facilities (see Synchrotron accelerators: how do they work?).

“SESAME is an achievement both in terms of science and international relations and its success is due to the interest and confidence of all involved,” Toukan said. “The support provided by the European Commission, as well as various international and national laboratories and organizations including the IAEA is well recognised.”

Ready to start

As a first step towards commissioning this synchrotron facility, the precise testing and circulation of the beam light in the ‘storage rings’ has been successfully achieved in the 2.5 GeV (gigaelectronvolt) compact high performance light source machine. The aim of this Centre is to have 24 beamlines covering a wide range of scientific applications. Two of these beamlines; the IR (Infra-Red) and the XRF (X-ray fluorescence) have been installed and ready for producing photons.

The multipurpose infrared beamline will be used for a number of applications such as biological and materials science studies. “The process to have all the systems in place has been long, but we are now ready to get going to achieve results to help development using advanced synchrotron technology,” said Gihan Kamel, an infrared beamline scientist from Egypt.

The research and training in infrared beamline at SESAME will benefit the scientific community in the region to gain a better understanding on its use and applications, she added.

Develop science for peace: foster and collaborate

The facility will enable visiting scientists, including university students and researchers, to participate in experiments on synchrotron radiation sources, analyse the data obtained and acquire and share scientific expertise and knowledge, Toukan said.

The facility’s managers plan to take up joint projects with other international synchrotron radiation laboratories to develop and improve features of beamlines around specific scientific research projects, as well as undertake projects involving SESAME members in areas such as environmental and cultural heritage studies tracing the origin of materials.

Facilitating capacity building, the IAEA support

As an observer on the SESAME council, the IAEA has provided support to the project in training and sharing expertise, as well as in facilitating the networking of SESAME staff with other global research facilities, thus enabling greater scientific exchanges.

The IAEA has helped in the successful commissioning of the SESAME magnets, hands-on training in areas such as beamlines technology, installation, and testing of equipment in a high performance synchrotron radiation research centre, Toukan said.

The IAEA training also focused on the safe and secure commissioning and operation of the facility, said Jane Gerardo-Abaya, Section Head in charge of technical cooperation with Middle Eastern countries at the IAEA. “Our training also supports human capacity building for regional and interregional cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear science.”

The IAEA continues to remain involved with SESAME, serving on selection panels for scientific fellowships and participating in users’ meetings that promote the SESAME community throughout the region.

SESAME is an achievement both in terms of science and international relations and its success is due to the interest and confidence of all involved.
Khaled Toukan, Chairman, Jordan Atomic Energy Commission

Gihan Kamel, an infrared beamline scientist from Egypt, analyses particles at the infrared beamline lab in the SESAME facility. (Photo. D. Calma/IAEA))