In case you missed it on your way out the door for a festive weekend of St. Patty’s celebration, President Obama visited Argonne, IL on Friday to tour a vehicle research facility at the Argonne National Laboratory. Don’t worry. Though we recognize the focus of this visit was to highlight the opportunities that increased research funding for alternative energy sources will offer American business and consumers, this is not a political article.
What we are fixated on as the coolest part of the story is the Advanced Photon Source (APS).
Argonne National Laboratory is funded by the US Department of Energy Office of Science and is managed by jointly by the University of Chicago and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc., so it has some deep roots when it comes to atomic and subatomic studies. The Argonne APS itself is a synchrontron-radiation light source facility that provides the brightest source of ring-generated x-rays beams in the Western Hemisphere. More than 5,000 scientists worldwide use this resource to study, among other things, materials at the nano level and ways of improving engine combustions.
The APS works by producing electrons via a cathode heated to 2,000°F and accelerating them to 99.999% the speed of light in a linear accelerator. The electrons are then injected into a booster synchrotron where an oval tract of electromagnets further accelerates them so that within half a second the electrons have reached 99.999999% the speed of light. At this point, the electrons are injected into a 3,622 foot storage ring of more than 1,000 magnets. It’s at this point that the electrons produce x-ray beams that are available for research. There are 40 straight sections around the ring: 1 is used to inject electrons into the ring, 4 are used to replenish electron energy lost through x-ray emission, and 35 can be equipped with insertion devices.