Advanced Light Source

24.03.2015 |

Episode #6 of the course “Most ambitious science projects”

The most advanced form of microscope is The Advanced Light Source, a particle accelerator in Berkeley, California. It required $154 million to build and costs another $55 million per year to maintain. Its 223 personnel make sure that the ALS is maintained over all of its 78,432 square feet (~7,286 square meter).

The scientists at the Advanced Light Source have been putting a photon beam a million times more luminous than the surface of the sun into proteins, superconductors, and battery electrodes to demonstrate their atomic, molecular, and electronic capabilities since 1993.


Uses for Science

The ALS is one of the most luminous emitters of soft x-rays, which obtain the correct wavelengths for spectromicroscopy, a technique in science that simultaneously demonstrates the structural and chemical composition of samples only a small number of nanometers wide. In 2006, researchers at the ALS assisted in determining that the dust taken from the end of a comet was created close to the sun in the vicinity of the beginning of the entire history of the solar system. This information showed that the cosmic parts that originated in our neighborhood of the universe began combining earlier than we knew.

That year, Roger D. Kornberg of Stanford University secured the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research at the ALS on the 3-D configuration of RNA polymerase enzymes. The structural data gave him the opportunity him to demonstrate how DNA is turned into RNA during a procedure called transcription.


Uses for Practical Life

Progress at the ALS on a protein connected to melanoma helped the development of a new medication to fight the ailment. The medicine is in phase II and III clinical trials right now. More information from ALS could supply high-capacity lithium battery electrodes, which could significantly raise a battery’s capacity to charge. Lastly, knowing more about the physical and electronic components of flat carbon sheaths, or graphene, could encourage the creation of atomic-scale transistors and help produce quicker processing for computers.


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