Introduction to the Sirius Beamlines


In a Synchrotron Light Source, the beamlines are the experimental stations where materials are analyzed. They are like complex microscopes that focus the synchrotron radiation so that it illuminates the samples of the materials under study and allow the observation of their microscopic properties.

The quality of analysis in the beamlines is determined by the brightness of the Synchrotron Light Source, i.e. the number of photons emitted by the source in a determined spectral range of energy, per unit of time, per unit size and angular divergence of the source.

A higher brightness is not only capable to improve quantitatively the experiments, with the reduction in data acquisition time, with increased accuracy of measurement results or the increase in the number of samples that can be analyzed in the same space of time.

A higher brightness opens up completely new research opportunities, allowing the conducting of experiments in techniques that are impossible to be implemented in low-brightness synchrotrons.

New Prospects

The chemical and crystallographic mapping of materials with nanometer resolution, for example, is made with light focused in nanometric regions of the samples with Synchrotron Radiation. The intensity of the illumination, which defines the quality of the mapping, is proportional to the illuminated area and the brightness of the source. Therefore, to reduce the illuminated area and see finer details, maintaining the image quality, high brightness is required.

Similarly, to make three-dimensional images of materials with better contrast and temporal resolution, some beamlines use only a part of the beam which is transversely coherent (i.e., similar to a laser). This fraction is proportional to the brightness of the source and the square of the wavelength. Thus, to obtain an intense coherent illumination with X-rays (shorter wavelength) a high brightness is required.

The low brightness of the current Synchrotron Light Source UVX prevents today in Brazil, for example, beamlines with micro- and nanofocus and coherent diffraction imaging beamlines that are important for the development of the biotechnology and nanotechnology areas. This also prevents the community of academic and industrial users of the LNLS to perform highly complex experiments in areas such as archeology and paleontology, through medicine, biology and agriculture, or even in areas where the synchrotron is traditionally used such as physics, chemistry and materials science.

The new Synchrotron Light Source will not only be able to quantitatively improve the experiments that are already made today. Sirius and its Beamlines will enable primarily a qualitative change to the user research, allowing the execution of these experiments now impossible in the Country.

New Beamlines

Sirius is one of the first fourth-generation Synchrotron Light Sources to be built in the world and will have the highest brightness among the light sources in the energy range that goes from soft x-rays to hard X-rays with energies up to 20 keV.

The choice and design of the first 13 Sirius beamlines were defined considering three general guidelines:

  • Access to New Science: to make the most out of the high brightness of a fourth-generation Synchrotron Light Source to explore techniques such as coherent scattering, nanofocus and inelastic scattering spectroscopy;
  • Improvement to Current Science: to provide access to enhanced versions of experimental techniques currently available through the high brightness and wide spectrum provided by the Source;
  • Innovation in Strategic Areas: to provide high-tech tools to solve problems in strategic areas for the Country.

The project to build the first 13 beamlines intended for Sirius are in the technical development and prototyping phase. These thirteen beamlines will enable unprecedented studies to be made in Brazil, in practically all areas of knowledge, whether of academic or industrial interest.

Prospects in Agriculture and Environment

The techniques based on Synchrotron Light find numerous applications in agriculture such as in soil analysis, in mapping nutrients in plants or in contamination studies.

In Sirius, high brightness and flux of the radiation allow performing a wide variety of experimental techniques, with high spatial and chemical resolutions for the understanding the basic processes that occur in soils, from atomic to micrometer scale.

The analysis of materials of complex compositions such as soil – formed by solid and heterogeneous combinations of organic and inorganic compounds immersed in aqueous solutions and in the middle of plant roots – demands the application and the combination of several experimental techniques, which may be done in a next-generation Synchrotron Light Source such as Sirius.

Prospects in Energy and Materials

In the Energy area, Sirius could contribute decisively to the development of intelligent materials, new catalysts and exploration technology for oil and natural gas.

The techniques available in the new Synchrotron Light Source will facilitate the understanding of the mechanical and transport properties of heterogeneous materials, such as those that typically hold oil and natural gas. It will also allow studies on various conditions of temperature and pressure, useful for the development of the exploration in deep waters.

Sirius will offer a set of tools that will see in detail the interactions between photons and electrons as well as chemical bonds between atoms. The combination of these tools is essential for the development of new materials, more effective and selective catalysts to chemicals of interest and new ways of storing electricity, as well as systems for solar cells, fuel cells and batteries.

Prospects in Health and Medicine

Research with Synchrotron Radiation is fundamental for the identification of the three-dimensional structure of proteins, that is, the position of each of the atoms and their interactions, an important step in the development of new drugs.

In this area, Sirius opens possibilities to unravel complex proteins, not yet investigated, and proteins such as kinases involved in the regulation of cellular processes, and therefore important targets in the treatment of some cancers, inflammatory diseases and diabetes. Furthermore, the protein crystallography technique with micrometric x-ray beams would enable, for example, advances in understanding the fundamental structures of the HIV virus and its mechanism of action.

At Sirius, the imaging techniques with nanometric spatial resolution will bring enormous contributions in the analysis of organs and tissues. Images obtained by phase contrast will allow the distinction of biological tissue with contrast a thousand times better than that obtained today, bringing great benefits in the study of cancer, for example. In addition, tomography techniques for soft and tender X-rays that will be available on Sirius will obtain images of cells with sufficient resolution to understand the structure of organelles.

In the future, the combination of imaging techniques with Synchrotron Light and protein crystallography will allow the scientists to obtain an overview of cellular metabolism mechanisms, from the atomic to tissue level with unprecedented scientific impact on health. With Sirius, Brazil may participate and become one of the leaders of this scientific revolution, expected in the coming decades.