Elettra synchrotron in Trieste: when technology is at the service of science

It’s not every day you visit a place like this Elettra synchrotron in Trieste and meet scientists working on research projects, even very complex ones, which are at the heart of innovation in areas that closely affect our daily lives. Our trip to Trieste allowed us to better understand how a synchrotron works, but above all why it is so important for Italy to have an excellent plant like Elettra in its territory. Basic and applied research is essential and often underestimated, because it creates the conditions to make the whole system of the country more competitive, in such a complex phase of global evolution and in which technology plays a strategic role.

First, what is a synchrotron

For those who, like us, write or read about technology, it is not at all obvious to understand how a synchrotron works. He Prof. Alfonso Franciosi, President and CEO of Electra Sincrotrone Trieste. Elettra is an electron storage ring and the synchrotron is an accelerator that is used to inject particles, specifically electrons, into the ring where they “travel” almost to the surface. speed of light. The synchrotron is therefore a source of light 10 billion times more powerful than a conventional source, for example compared to a hospital X-ray machine for taking normal x-rays. With 10 billion times more luminosity, it is possible to make measurements inaccessible with conventional sources, which allows the characterization of different types of materials and, therefore, research both existing materials and develop new materials.

At the Elettra synchrotron, several experiments are constantly active and it is Marco PeloiHead of the industry relations office, to tell us both how the experiments are carried out in practice and how Elettra is organized to manage relations with the different research institutes that then use the Elettra Synchrotron.

The particles injected into the accumulation ring, the electrons that travel almost at the speed of light, in the circular path they follow, emit light radiation ranging from infrared to X-rays. This radiation is the ‘tool used by researchers for investigate nature. The light generated in the accumulation ring is transmitted in 28 lines of light, with different frequencies, to obtain the necessary modulation for the concrete experiments. At the end of the light lines are some experimental stations, with specific devices, always depending on the type of measurement to be performed. There are several fields of research that find space in Elettra and range from materials physics to life sciences and applications in the pharmaceutical field.

Elettra synchrotron

What experiments are done on the synchrotron

In the video we made in Trieste you can hear the testimonies of Annie Herouxwhich coordinates the XRD2 experimental station dedicated to protein crystallography, and of Alessandra Gianoncellihead of Twinmic, a line of X-ray microscopy.

Elettra synchrotron

Then we move on to Fermi’s linear accelerator, which differs from the Electra ring in that it produces a free electron laser which, as he explains very clearly, Flavio Capotondi, a researcher in charge of the Diprol light line, makes it possible to create a laser with very “short time” pulses. Imagine that we are watching a hummingbird in flight, whose wings flutter very fast. The light generated by the Electra ring can be associated with sunlight that allows us to see the bird fly, but not the flutter of its wings, because the light is continuous and our eyes are unable to perceive the movement of the wings, because it is too fast. If instead we imagine being in a dark room and shooting continuously with a flash at regular intervals, or having a strobe light so fashionable a few years ago at the club, then we can see the position of the wings at the moment when flash fires . The flash is the equivalent of the laser used by Fermi’s linear accelerator, which allows you to see the state of the matter under investigation. at a specific time. In short, Elettra allows continuous measurements of experiments while Fermi measurements are resolved in time.

In the video we made at the Synchrotron, you can hear from the hands-free voice of the researchers how their work is being carried out and more details of the experiments that are being carried out.

Elettra synchrotron

Our trip to Trieste lasted only two days and it was fascinating to discover how we work at the Synchrotron. Electra’s path began 25 years ago, when the European Commission launched a tender for the construction of synchrotrons, because it was considered strategic to develop new sites to analyze the structure of matter. Italy believed in this vision and allocated funding to the construction of Electra, which is preparing for a new leap forward in the coming years, with a modernization of the entire structure, which will increase the brightness of the source for one more factor. 1,000, with the birth of Electra 2.0.

Leave a Comment