After mentioning the Fusion reactor visit the other day, two more science venues are also updating their open day events.


Diamond Light Source

This is basically the formal brandname for the UK’s synchrotron facility is offering free tours next month of their sprawling base in South Oxfordshire (map).

This is BIG SCIENCE for the fanboys (and fangirls!).

The synchrotron is basically a particle accelerator (a mini-CERN) which then produce very bright beams of light which scientists use to study a wide range of material properties, structures and chemical reactions.

The UK’s Diamond’s storage ring (the main part of the accelerator) is 561 m in circumference.

The next open days at Diamond are 29 March, 14 June and 15 June 2014.

National Physical Laboratory

Devoted to the science of measurements, this facility has an annual open day at its base in Teddington.

I’ve not been yet, but everyone I know who has says it is an excellent day out. The open day is on 20th May — which happens to be a Tuesday (maybe that’s why I haven’t been yet?).

NPL Open House 2014 is a free event, although registration is essential.


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  1. Anthony says:

    It looks like smaller accelerator. How wide across is it?

  2. Eric says:

    I visited the synchrotron on an open day in 2011 and it was a very well organised event with lots of information.

    The tour began with an interesting lecture in which we are told how the Synchrotron is really just a particle accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, except that here they don’t collide things, but instead produce extremely bright wave lengths of light which are used to look at the composition, atomic or molecular structure of substances ranging from proteins to aircraft engine parts.

    Electrons are produced from an electron gun (like in the old cathode ray tube TVs) which are then initially accelerated by a 30 metre Linear Accelerator and into a Booster Ring where it is further accelerated to the required energy levels. Once achieved the electrons are sent to the 560 meter Storage ring where they wriggle the electrons which produces the light which is then taken into a beam line (of which there will ultimately be over 30), focused into a small beam of the required wavelenght(s) and directed at a sample being examined. Using spectrometry, diffusion and scatter patterns they can then deduce the content and structure.

    Armed with a rough understanding of how it works and its uses we are taken around each of the components of the Synchrotron in small groups of 6.

    It was a really enjoyable tour and the scale of the site and equipment was impressive. The staff were really energised about their work and had a passion for what they were doing. I also could not believe how close we were allowed to get to the machinery as I was expecting it to be more of a “black box” tour where they show us the boxes in which the key elements were housed. So being able to see thinks like the individual magnetic coils and the business end in an experiment hutch really exceeded my expectations.

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