CERN Accelerating science

FP7 CESSAMag and science diplomacy
By Jennifer Toes & Livia Lapadatescu (CERN)


Visit to CERN by Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation (Image: CERN)

The CESSAMag project has achieved key milestones this year, with the delivery of the magnets and power converters for the SESAME synchrotron light source in Jordan and the support for the installation and alignment of the first cell (consisting of magnets, vacuum chamber and a girder) in its final position (see video below). 

Installation of SESAME’s Storage Ring Begins (Video: SESAME)

The installation of the first storage ring cell in February of this year heralds more than simply the next stage of construction in this scientific project. Indeed, SESAME will be the Middle East’s first major international research centre, and is the result of collaboration between its nine members in the Middle East and neighbouring countries on the model of CERN.

The road to a first international major scientific infrastructure serving the scientists of the region is a challenge, especially for researchers and institutions based in regions affected by particular political and cultural tensions. Several synchrotron laboratories in the world, international organizations and learned societies have given support to the SESAME members for this venture. FP7 CESSAMag is specific in that it combines science and diplomacy with the participation of CERN and the European Commission.

As part of the CESSAMag project, the dipoles, quadrupoles and sextupoles for SESAME were produced in Spain, UK, Cyprus and Pakistan. Switzerland, Italy and Israel provided the controllers and power supplies, while the coils for quadrupoles and sextupoles were produced in Turkey and France. This large participation, including companies in SESAME members, was allowed by ordering parts for the quadrupoles and sextupoles, rather than complete magnets. The coordination was provided by CERN experienced engineers, and led to outstanding products.

Fostering further science diplomacy, CERN also welcomed engineers and technicians from Iran, Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey to work on the design, production and testing of the power supplies, power supply racks and magnets assembly as part of the CESSAMag project.

Originally from Turkey, Evrim Onur Ari came to CERN as an Electronics Engineer in 2014 to work as part of the Storage Ring Magnet Power Supplies Team.

“I really got excited when I learned the details of it” says Onur Ari, explaining why the project appealed to him. “[It is] a science collaboration between countries which were counted as political rivals. The biggest motivation behind this collaboration was peace.”

This sentiment was shared by Ehsan Yousefi, an Electronics Engineer and Head of the Power Supply group at the Iranian Light Source Facility (ILSF) who came to CERN for seven months in 2015:

“Besides scientific achievements and improving skills in power supply design, I could learn how to live abroad, face new challenges and experience a different lifestyle where different cultures are respectful towards one another.”

Iranian researchers in particular have felt the impact of the sanctions against Iran. Javad Rahighi, Professor of Experimental Physics and Director of the ILSF commented “On the example of CESSAMag, we would like to see SESAME and other collaborations utilising the expertise already existing in Iran."

Indeed, science diplomacy not only hopes to foster peace between nations, but provide the conditions to facilitate the flow of skills and information between them.

“Being involved in this project gave me a general view about specifications and design of dedicated power supplies” said Ehsan, noting his experience may now be utilised in his work at the ILSF.

In addition, Azhar Nawaz, a Mechanical Engineer working in Pakistan, notes that his company’s experience of manufacturing magnets for SESAME has given them the experience to participate in future CERN tenders and other projects.

Of course, due to the nature of science diplomacy the potential challenges for researchers extend beyond the technical. Whilst Azhar Nawaz states that assembling the sextupole magnets was a “very challenging job as magnet manufacturing was a new field” for his team, Evrim Onur Ari notes a further challenge of working internationally due to differing cultural practices: “Sunday is counted as a part of weekdays in Jordan, whereas it is a part of the weekend in European countries; the reverse is true for Friday. We had effectively four days in common during the week." 

Indeed, whilst many international collaborations must overcome the impact of time zones, differences in the working week of different countries pose a further hurdle still, as despite both teams working full time, the potential days for collaboration are reduced. 

The FP7 CESSAMag project has been acknowledged by the SESAME Council as a major influencing factor to its continued progression, and hopefully will be one of many efforts in the name of science diplomacy that allow excellence in physics and peace to go hand in hand.