In the countryside not far from Didcot can be found a stunning flying saucer of a building, which also happens to house the UK’s national synchrotron, and they open it up to the public for free tours.

(c) Diamond Light Source

A synchrotron is essentially a large particle accelerator, but rather than smashing atoms together to study them, as is done at CERN, here, they are used to generate powerful light beams that can be used to study the inside of materials.

And the entire facility sits in a huge silver ring building in the countryside.

Of importance to science, and commerce, the huge facility is a wonder of big machines that are used to study the microscopic. I visited in 2010 and had a great time.

As the synchrotron is pretty much in use all the time, tours are limited to occasional open days, and the next one will be on Saturday 25th March 2023.

A visit will take approximately 2/2.5 hours and will consist of:

  • An introductory talk giving a general overview of Diamond and what it is used for.
  • A guided tour – including a trip to see inside the synchrotron and the laboratories – note that extensive walking will be involved
  • An opportunity to talk to Diamond employees and ask them about their work and the facility.

Due to demand for places, they are being allocated by ballot — and you can apply for up to 6 free tickets here. The ballot will close for submissions at midnight on Sunday 26th February 2023 and successful entrants will be notified within a couple of days.

To get to Diamond Light Source if coming by public transport then buses from Didcot railway station to Harwell Campus run every half hour on bus route Connector X32 with journey times of around 20 minutes.

  • Leaves Didot station at 07 and 37 minutes past the hour.
  • Leaves Harwell campus at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour

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