The ALBA synchrotron was opened in 2010. This facility has a set of particle accelerators to produce light with which to analyze the atomic and molecular structure of matter and understand its properties. Since then, researchers have used its eight beamlines for different scientific and industrial applications. The synchrotron light produced in the Cerdanyola del Vallès (Barcelona) complex was recently used to test the safety and efficacy of two experimental drugs for sleeping sickness in animal models and to study more stable and less toxic nanoparticles with possible medical applications.
The complex, in operation twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, has several accelerators. The linear accelerator is to accelerate electrons up to 100 MeV. The booster synchrotron is used to accelerate electrons up to 3.0 GeV and last, the storage ring works to store electrons and emit the synchrotron radiation which is used at the eight beamlines. Two others (low-energy ultra-high-resolution angular photoemission for complex materials and a microfocus beamline for protein crystallography) are now under construction, while work is being completed on this infrastructure, managed by the Consortium for the Exploitation of the Synchrotron Light (CELLS).
The ALBA Synchrotron is the most important complex of its kind in the Mediterranean region, but not the only one in Europe. A total of 19 accelerator-based photon sources, that produce extremely intense X-ray beams, ultraviolet and infrared light, have now joined forces to form a community consortium designed to promote European cooperation and achieve scientific excellence. The project is called LEAPS, in allusion to the “League of European Accelerator-based Photon Sources”. Overall, the participating centers bring together over 24,000 researchers who are direct users, and a broader network of 35,000 scientists, with five Nobel Prize winners among them.
The initiative was presented several weeks ago, with the participation of Robert-Jan Smits, Director General of Research and Innovation (RTD) of the European Commission, and Giorgio Rossi, Chairman of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). The main goal of LEAPS is to accelerate the work done from these ‘supermicroscopes’ used for basic and applied research in areas as diversified as medicine, chemistry, energy, cultural heritage, biology, physics or engineering. Among the photon sources that participate in LEAPS are the ALBA Synchrotron of Barcelona and other facilities such as ASTRID2 (Denmark), BESSY II (Germany), Diamond (United Kingdom), Elettra (Italy) or ESRF (France), in addition to other complexes.