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IAEA-backed SESAME Research Centre Opens its Doors, Fostering Scientific Cooperation in the Middle East

2017/16
Allan Jordan

SESAME Research Centre opens its doors in Jordan

A major international centre for scientific research in the Middle East, supported by the IAEA, was inaugurated in Jordan today. The Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) will enable scientists from the region to cooperate on advanced research projects. Over the last decade, the IAEA has facilitated the training of dozens of scientists to support SESAME and to help bring online the region’s first particle accelerator.

A joint venture involving governments and scientists, SESAME will foster scientific and technological research in areas including biology, archaeology, medical and material sciences. Current members are Cyprus, Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. It was inaugurated by King Abdullah II of Jordan in an opening ceremony in the presence of IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano.

The IAEA has provided extensive support to train staff at SESAME to safely commission and run the facility. This has included the training of 66 technical and scientific fellows in beamline technologies, and over 30 expert missions to SESAME to help build capacity in the installation and testing of equipment. The Agency also facilitated the networking of SESAME staff with experts from other synchrotron facilities in Europe, the United States and Japan.  

“SESAME is an excellent example of multinational high-tech collaboration,” Director General Amano said at the facility’s inauguration in the town of Allan. “The IAEA is proud to be your partner.”

“I have no doubt that the people of this region will derive great benefits from the advanced research in physics, chemistry, biology, environmental and earth sciences, medicine – and other subjects – that will be carried out here in the coming decades,” Amano said.

Synchrotrons are particle accelerators that produce intense light with properties similar to laser beams. Under controlled conditions, researchers can use this intense light to look at materials with great precision, and even at the structure of a single cell.

They are used for advanced scientific research, but also in a variety of applications. “Synchrotrons are widely used across industries, from pharmaceutical and biotechnology to the manufacturing of cars and cosmetics,” said Ralf Kaiser, head of the IAEA Physics Section. The development of the antiviral drug TAMIFLU, at the height of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, benefitted from synchrotron experiments.   

With two beamlines ready for use, SESAME has the capacity to house a total of 24 to cover different applications, and is now open to research proposals from its members.

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

The Agency's support to SESAME will be showcased at the first International Conference on the IAEA Technical Cooperation Programme: Sixty Years and Beyond, taking place 31 May – 1 June in Vienna, Austria.

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