Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Once more into the concrete bunker...

Working at a synchrotron usually involves being below ground level, surrounded by concrete, serenaded by the hum of energy and crushed by the absence of sleep. The 8-hour shifts often merge into 24-hour days whilst the timeless hum of relativistic electrons fills the air. Tomorrow, the University of Manchester team will start building another experiment on beamline 6-2 at the Stanford Synchrotron Lighsource. This is the only beamline on the planet where we can rapid scan GIANT objects (certainly in terms of synchrotron-based imaging), to tease their elemental signatures from their multi-million year old tombs. Many folks might think it was possible to undertake such work on simpler and more easily accessible equipment, such as the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)....however this would involve slicing-up your object, reducing spatial resolution and sensitivity (some elements you can only map with synchrotron light!), would need 48,000 hours of SEM work to achieve what we can do in a few hours on a synchrotron.
Dinosaur bone-X-rays......Sauropods never looked so good!
We will also start experiments later this year at the Diamond Lightsource, this being the UK's newest synchrotron lightsource. This work will continue to build-upon our prior work on feathers at SSRL... because there are plenty of other fossil-types to be elementally plumbed!

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