Upgraded synchrotron starts up at Argonne National Laboratory

Lab heralds ‘new era of scientific discovery’ for everything from batteries to biology at Advanced Photon Source

A new era of science is ready to begin. On June 17, 2024, the Advanced Photon Source at National Laboratory delivered a landmark set of X-ray light beams as part of a comprehensive and complex upgrade.

The Advanced Photon Source—which is located at Argonne, a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory affiliated with the University of Chicago—has been a leading destination for X-ray science for nearly 30 years. Scientists from around the world use its ultrabright X-ray beams to learn more about our universe and lay the groundwork for longer-lasting batteries, more efficient solar cells and tougher materials for roads and bridges, to name a few.

For the past year, however, operations have been paused at the facility while the original storage ring, which generates the X-ray beams, was removed and a brand-new ring installed.

Now the team has begun the process of bringing each of the 71 experiment stations, called beamlines, around the ring into operation. The first scientific beamline to receive X-rays was known as 27-ID, which specializes in studying complex materials that may be used to power the devices of the future.

“Just like the original Advanced Photon Source revolutionized hard synchrotron X-ray science in the United States and the world, the upgraded APS promises to do the same for the next several decades,” said Laurent Chapon, associate laboratory director for photon sciences at Argonne and director of the Advanced Photon Source. ​“It has taken our remarkable team more than a decade of work to get to this moment, and we look forward to the extraordinary scientific discoveries that will be made at this renewed facility.”

The new storage ring will also pioneer a new technique known as multi-bunch swap-out injection, which periodically replenishes electrons in the beam as it circulates. The Advanced Photon Source, or APS, is the first modern synchrotron X-ray light source in the world to make use of it.

The X-ray beams generated by the upgraded Advanced Photon Source will be up to 500 times brighter than those of the original facility, and hundreds of billions of times brighter than the X-ray beams in your dentist’s office. Using these beams, scientists will be able to peer inside thick materials to see what they are made of and how they behave, at spatial and time-scale resolutions previously impossible with X-rays.

“The upgraded APS storage ring is performing exactly as we had hoped it would,” said Jim Kerby, director of the APS Upgrade Project. ​“What we’re seeing now is the result of hundreds of people doing excellent and safe work consistently for years. I simply cannot say enough about the Upgrade team who designed, built and installed this new machine with incredible precision in all aspects. It is an amazing achievement, and the relatively quick commissioning of the new machine is a testament to the skills everyone brought to the table. Achieving first light with this new machine is a proud moment for everyone here at Argonne.”

Over the course of the next year, all of the APS beamlines will return to operations, and scientists from around the globe will begin to conduct research on the upgraded APS later in 2024.

“For nearly three decades, scientists have relied upon the Advanced Photon Source to provide an unparalleled look inside the objects and substances that make up our world,” said Juan de Pablo, Executive Vice President for Science, Innovation, National Laboratories, and Global Initiatives at the University of Chicago. “With this upgrade, the abilities of the APS are even more powerful, and researchers across the globe are eager to use this vastly improved facility to pursue bold new discoveries.”

“I’m excited to see what the international science community will do with the increased capabilities of the upgraded APS,” said Paul Kearns, Argonne laboratory director. ​“With more powerful X-ray beams and greatly enhanced beamlines, we’ll strengthen U.S. leadership in photon sciences. And by combining its cutting-edge technology with our new Aurora supercomputer, we’ll enable scientists to make pivotal discoveries at unprecedented speeds.”

- Adapted from an article first published by Argonne National Laboratory.