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Synchrotron – Definition, Methods, Uses

Aug 13, 2022


 A synchrotron is a specific cyclic particle accelerator related to the cyclotron and features a fixed closed-loop path for the speeding particle beam to follow. As the particles accelerate, the magnetic field that bends the beam of particles into their confined route grows over time to the growing kinetic energies of the particles.

Synchrotron radiation is one of the initial accelerator technologies to allow for the development of large-scale facilities since beam focusing, bending, and accelerator can all be split down into independent units.


What is a Synchrotron?

They can be classified as a highly potent X-ray source. Here, high-energy electrons circulate the synchrotron radiation to create X-rays. The entire field of synchrotron science underlies one basic phenomenon: an electron in motion emits energy when its path changes. When the electron travels swiftly enough, synchrotron X-ray energy is released.

It can accelerate electrons to incredibly high energies and periodically shift their orientation using a synchrotron system. Numerous thin beams of synchrotron X-ray are produced as a consequence, each pointed at a beamline adjacent to the accelerator. The machine runs continuously, with sporadic brief and extensive maintenance shutdowns.


What is the Principal Structure of a Synchrotron?

A synchrotron device accelerates electrons to extremely high energies and periodically forces them to reverse direction. Numerous thin beams of X-rays are produced. As a result, each one pointed toward the beamline adjacent to the accelerator. The machine runs day and night with sporadic briefs and prolonged shutdowns.

Storage Ring

The storage ring is an 844-meter-long tube where electrons travel at speeds nearly equal to light for hours. The tube is kept at a very minimal pressure level (around 10-9 mbar). The electrons pass through several kinds of magnets as they circle the ring, creating X-rays as they do so. The energy that electrons have released as X-rays is replenished by devices known as RF cavities.


Proton Synchrotron Booster

The electrons are driven to an intensity of 6 billion electron volts (6 GeV) in this 300-meter-long pre-accelerator before being pumped into the storage ring. When the storage ring is refilled, the proton synchrotron booster only operates a few times per day for a short period. It can launch a group of 6 GeV electrons into the storage ring every 50 ms.


An electron gun, a device identical to the cathode ray tubes seen in retro televisions and computer screens, is used here to produce the electrons for the storage ring. These electrons are bundled into “bunches,” which are then accelerated to a 200 million electron-volt energy level, sufficient for insertion into the booster synchrotron.



The experimental hall’s “beamlines,” which encircle the storage ring, are targeted by the X-ray beams that the electrons emitted. Each beamline is intended to be used with a particular method or for a certain kind of investigation. The whole day and night are filled with experiments.

How are Magnets positioned in the Storage Ring?

The storage ring is composed of 32 straight and 32 curved components alternatively. Two enormous bending magnets compress the electrons’ journey into a test track orbit with an 844-meter circumference in each bent portion.


Several concentrating magnets in every straight section ensure the electrons stay near their optimum orbital path. The undulators, located in the straight parts and creating the powerful X-ray beams, are also housed there.

Undulator (or Insertion Device)

The complex collection of tiny magnets that make up these magnetic structures compels the electrons to travel along an undulating or wavy path. Each subsequent radiation bend overlays and interacts with that of the preceding bends.


Compared to the beam of radiation produced by a single magnet, this produces a beam far more focused and bright. The photons released also focus on specific energies (called the harmonics and fundamental). By altering the distance between the lines of magnets, the wavelength of the X-rays in the beam can be modified.

Bending Magnets

Magnets that bend mostly flex electrons into their test track orbits. But when they move through these magnets, the electrons are diverted from their intended course, and as a result, they spray a divergent stream of X-rays toward the direction of the electron beam.


A bending magnet produces radiation that spans a broad and uninterrupted spectrum, from microwaves to hard X-rays, and is significantly less brilliant or focussed than the narrow X-ray beam produced by an insertion device.

What Method Generates Synchrotron Light?

Synchrotrons use electricity to create powerful light beams more than a billion times brighter than the sunlight. High-energy electrons are compelled to move in a circular orbit inside synchrotron tunnels by the “synchronized” application of powerful magnetic fields, producing light.

The Australian Synchrotron’s electron beam moves about 299,792 kilometres per second, slightly slower than the speed of light. The powerful light that the electrons produce is filtered and altered before it enters the experimental workstations. It illuminates components more to expose their innermost secrets like plants, human tissue, and metals.

In the synchrotron’s centre, the linear accelerator, also known as the linac, or electron gun, produces electrons that are then accelerated to 99.9997% the speed of light. Afterward, the electrons are moved to the booster ring, where they quickly grow in energy from 100 MeV to 3,000 MeV (or 3 GeV) for about a half-second. Following that, they are moved to the outermost storage ring.

A collection of magnets spaced apart by straight sections move the electrons across the storage ring. A beam of synchrotron light is formed at each bent magnet because the electrons deviate through the magnetic fields generated by the magnets. It emits this electromagnetic radiation in a forward-facing narrow cone perpendicular to the electron’s orbit.

Advanced third-generation technology is used in the Australian Synchrotron. With the help of three various kinds of light sources (bent magnets, undulators, and multiple wigglers), it is possible to conduct various cutting-edge experiments and observations.

Why is Synchrotron Light Different?

Super proton synchrotron light may be produced across the whole electromagnetic spectrum, from ultraviolet to visible light to x-rays, and is exceptional in its brightness and intensity. The Australian synchrotron generates synchrotron light that is equivalent to one million suns.

Characteristics of Synchrotron Light

Synchrotron light has a variety of special characteristics. These consist of:

  • High illumination: It’s light is substantially collimated and incredibly intense, hundreds of millions of times more strong than that from ordinary x-ray tubes.
  • Broad energy spectrum: It’s light is produced at energies ranging from weak x-rays to infrared light.
  • Tunable: Any chosen wavelength can be obtained as a powerful beam.
  • High polarization: It generates radiation that can be linear, circular, or elliptical and is highly polarized.
  • Released in very rapid pulses: These allow for time-resolved research because they are generally less than a nanosecond (a thousandth of a second).

Uses of Synchrotron

Research and development are being advanced by synchrotron light in a variety of sectors, including:

  • Biosciences (protein crystallography/cell biology and macromolecular).
  • Medical study (disease mechanisms, microbiology, cancer radiation therapy, and high-resolution imaging).
  • Ecological sciences (atmospheric research, toxicology, cleaner industrial production technologies, and clean combustion).
  • The agricultural sector (soil research, plant genomics, plant, and animal imaging).
  • Mineral research and development (quick detailed research of drill core samples, detailed exploration of ores for easy processing of minerals).
  • Modern materials (intelligent polymers, nanostructured materials, light metals and alloys, ceramics, electronic and magnetic materials).
  • Engineering (real-time monitoring of industrial processes, high-resolution inspection of cracks and structural flaws, and large-scale chemical engineering processes operation.
  • Technology (identifying and analyzing new suspects from extremely dilute and small samples).


In a synchrotron known as a cyclotron, the intensity of the magnetic field is increased in proportion to the particle energy to keep the orbital radius constant. It is a very potent source of X-rays. These are produced by strong electrons traveling around the synchrotron in a big circle.

The entire field of synchrotron physics is founded on the physical phenomena that occur when an electron changes direction while traveling and releases energy. When an electron moves quickly enough, X-ray energy is released.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Define a Synchrotron?

A synchrotron, also commonly known as a cyclotron, the intensity of the magnetic field is increased in proportion to the particle energy to keep the orbital radius constant. It is a very potent source of X-rays. These are produced by strong electrons traveling around the synchrotron in a big circle.

2. What is the process of a Synchrotron?

A synchrotron device accelerates electrons to extremely high energies and periodically forces them to reverse direction. Numerous thin beams of X-rays are produced. As a result, each one pointed towards the beamline adjacent to the accelerator. Day and night, the machine runs with sporadic brief and long shutdowns.

3. Describe X-rays.

X-rays and X-radiation are both types of electromagnetic energy. They are potent electromagnetic energy waves. Most have wavelengths between 0.01 and 10 nanometers, which correspond to energies between 100 eV and 100 keV and frequencies between 30 petahertz and 30 exahertz.

4. Who created the first X-rays?

Wilhelm Röntgen, a German physicist, is widely credited with discovering X-Rays in 1895 since he was the first to thoroughly examine them, even though it is not believed that he was the first to have observed and understood their effects.



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