13 November 2019

Lower sixth physicists joined a group of Fitzharrys, Larkmead and John Mason students to travel to Harwell for an ‘Inside Diamond’ visit to the UK’s national synchrotron facility, the Diamond Light Source.

Inside the iconic, doughnut shaped building we are all familiar with locally, the group were able to find out more about the work that goes on there and the prospects for employment as physicists, engineers and support staff right on their own doorstep. Synchrotron radiation from the particle accelerator is tapped off at thirty four, individual beamline points, where experiments can be set up which utilise the powerful X-ray beams the accelerated particles produce.

As a national facility, scientists from all over the UK and beyond can apply to use one of the beamlines, but will only be successful if their projects are judged to be good enough. Experiments are carried out on everything from biological molecules to rechargeable battery technology as well as archaeological applications such as reading ink patterns on ancient scrolls and helping to conserve artefacts from the wreck of the Tudor warship, The Mary Rose.

The party from Abingdon was impressed by the scale and complexity of the facility and were able to tour the inside of the particle accelerator area as it was not emitting radiation during a shut down period for maintenance and upgrade of various pieces of equipment. Armed with new knowledge about how the physics they are learning is put to use in real applications, and not very far from home either, the group returned to their schools inspired and eager to get to their next physics lessons!

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