SESAME on track for commissioning

On Thursday 16 May, ambassadors, official representatives and delegates from countries in the Middle East arrived at CERN to participate in an event supporting SESAME, which included the signing of a new agreement between CERN and SESAME. The agreement adds to growing multi-national support for SESAME – vital ingredients for the completion of the project.


SESAME Director Khaled Toukan and CERN Director General Rolf Heuer signing the joint agreement. They are accompanied by (left to right): Seyed Mahmoud Reza Aghamiri, co-Vice President of the SESAME Council; Chris Llewellyn Smith, former CERN Director General and current SESAME Council President; and Mohamed Tarek Hussein, co-Vice President of the SESAME Council.

It reads like a page out of CERN’s own history: a scientific collaboration, founded under the auspices of UNESCO, dedicated to peaceful physics research. But instead of post-war Europe, SESAME is being built in Jordan. The project brings together partners from across the Middle East, namely Bahrein, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey.

The SESAME Organization held its Council Meeting at CERN last week, seizing the opportunity to fortify its relationship with CERN with a new agreement. “Under this agreement and provided that other contributions ensure the support to buy the necessary material, CERN will provide the manpower and technical knowhow needed to develop the magnet system, which forms the heart of the SESAME synchrotron,” says Jean-Pierre Koutchouk, CERN’s representative for the SESAME project.

SESAME’s research facility in Jordan should be completed by late 2015 to become the first world-class physics facility to open in the Middle East. Its research programme will utilise intense synchrotron light for studies across a diverse range of research areas, including the medical, material and environmental sciences (for more information on SESAME research areas, see the box below). “SESAME will attract experts from the whole area to make science in a peaceful environment, which will mix nationalities, religions and languages,” said SESAME Council President and former CERN Director-General Chris Llewellyn-Smith at a talk that followed the signing ceremony.

The SESAME synchrotron is re-assembling components from the German decommissioned BESSY I machine to be used as injectors for the new facility. Other synchrotron laboratories, such as SOLEIL in France, ALBA in Spain, ELETTRA in Italy, the Swiss Light Source, Diamond in the UK and the Canadian Light Source, are also contributing materials. “Collaboration with international colleagues has been vital to SESAME and not just because it provided us with the necessary hardware,” said Khaled Toukan, SESAME Director. “We had to overcome not just technical issues but also political and networking issues and the model provided by CERN and other collaborative efforts has been instrumental to us.”

All the speakers confirmed that current commitments from SESAME members and other donations look set to provide most of the capital funding needed to complete construction – allowing experiments to begin with four beamlines in late 2015.


Science with light

The intense synchrotron light produced at SESAME can be used to study matter at on atomic scale. This depth allows the light to be used across many scientific fields. Here’s how synchrotron light can be used today:
  - Study of biological functions and disorders: Several techniques using synchrotron light, including X-ray protein crystallography, have allowed researchers to study how human organs function and examine their structure in depth. These techniques are also used to monitor how diseases progress, helping physicians develop promising new drugs. Crystallography is an established research tool in the biological field, with three crystallographers receiving the 2009 Nobel prize for Chemistry for their use of the technique to study how human cells produce proteins.
  - Analysis of materials: The high intensity and adjustability of X-rays produced by synchrotron radiation have made them the ideal tool to probe man-made materials, including archaeological artefacts. Recent studies utilising synchrotron X-rays revealed that the ancient Egyptians were able to manufacture opaque glass – further evidence of the scientific capabilities of that civilisation.
  - Capturing and storing carbon dioxide: Synchrotron techniques can be used to develop materials to capture and sequester CO2. Current studies are investigating the structure of Metal-Organic Frameworks – a type of porous material that may be used to store CO2.


by CERN Bulletin