CERN Accelerating science

King Abdullah II of Jordan officially opens SESAME light source
by James Gillies (CERN)

European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, receives a model of a SESAME dipole magnet from CERN Director General, Fabiola Gianotti, and President of the SESAME Council, Chris Llewellyn Smith, during the opening ceremony. The SESAME magnet system was produced under the EU FP7 CESSAMag project, coordinated by CERN (Image credit: CERN).

On a luminous day in May, Jordan’s King Abdullah II unveiled the plaque that symbolically declared the SESAME light source open for science. An intergovernmental organization, SESAME is the first regional light source laboratory for the Middle East and neighbouring countries. The laboratory’s official opening represents a remarkable achievement for the scientists of the region who have nurtured and developed the dream of bringing first-rate science to the Middle East for over 20 years.

“Today sees the fulfilment of many hopes and dreams,” said President of the SESAME Council, Professor Chris Llewellyn Smith, speaking at the opening ceremony. “As well as being a day for celebration, the opening is an occasion to look forward to the science that SESAME will produce.” SESAME ushers in a new era of research covering fields ranging from medicine and biology, through materials science, physics and chemistry to healthcare, the environment, agriculture and archaeology.

SESAME is a third generation light source with a main ring magnet system built in SESAME Members and Observer countries under the EU FP7 CESSAMag project, which was coordinated by CERN. The new ring’s injection system is based on the BESSYI light source, donated by Germany, while its accelerating structures were provided in part by Italy. Commissioning began earlier this year, with the first beam achieving a single turn on 11 January.  Milestones were quick to follow, with multiple turns being achieved on 25 January, and a beam being stored on 9 February. The first beam to be accelerated to SESAME’s design energy of 2.5 GeV came in April. At the time of the inauguration, SESAME was routinely storing beams for several hours.

“SESAME is evidence that science diplomacy is a driver of scientific and technological excellence and a powerful tool for improving relations across countries, regions and cultures,” said European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas. “I'm proud that the EU is supporting this important flagship of science diplomacy.” The EU continues to support SESAME through the H2020 Open Sesame project, which will provide a range of training opportunities for SESAME personnel through to the end of 2019.

The next step in the commissioning process is to use the synchrotron radiation emitted by the circulating electron beam to scrub the beam pipe clean of attached gas molecules that limit the beam intensity and lifetime. SESAME’s stored beams are currently operating at 25mA, and the goal is to reach 400mA by mid to late summer. “We expect to have the first light in a beam line by August 2017, said SESAME accelerator physicist Maher Attal. “The first operational beamline will be the X-ray fluorescence (XRF) beamline, and we expect the infrared beamline to be operational soon after.” Among experiments scheduled for the XRF beamline is one that will study heavy metal pollution in the Jordan river valley to help improve public health, while the infrared beamline is suited to work in drug development and cultural heritage studies among others.

“Today we are at the end of the beginning,” said SESAME Director, Professor Khaled Toukan, at the opening ceremony. “Many challenges lie ahead – including building up the user community, and constructing additional beamlines and supporting facilities. However, I am confident that these challenges will be met.”

The opening ceremony marked the end of Professor Llewellyn Smith’s mandate as President of the SESAME Council. He passed the baton to Professor Rolf Heuer, who will Chair the Council through SESAME’s start-up phase.