The synchrotron radiation facility SPring-8.
When high-energy electrons travelling near the speed of light are made to move along a circular path, they emit a strong electromagnetic radiation, or light, called synchrotron radiation. The wavelength of synchrotron radiation is typically around a tenth of a nanometre (a nanometre is one billionth of a metre), and is comparable to interatomic distances, which makes it ideal for the study of atoms and bonds within materials and molecules. This is the reason why synchrotron radiation sources are often compared to giant microscopes.
Japan’s synchrotron radiation facility SPring-8 is a high-brightness source of X-rays covering a very broad range of wavelengths. At the core of the facility is the storage ring, which circulates high-energy electrons around a 1.4-kilometer path. The X-rays are extracted into a series of beamlines equipped with instruments for a wide range of analyses.
The intense X-ray beams produced by the facility are particularly suitable for determining crystal structures at ultrahigh resolution, and for this reason the SPring-8’s beamlines are in high demand among researchers in both structural biology and materials science.
SPring-8 remains the largest third-generation synchrotron in the world, and thanks to ongoing joint development by the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute (JASRI) and RIKEN, continues to maintain its world-leading status.