National Synchrotron Light Source

An accelerator takes stationary charged particles, such as electrons, and drives them to velocities near the speed of light. In being forced by magnets to travel around a circular storage ring, charged particles give off electromagnetic radiation and lose energy. This energy is emitted in the form of light and is known as synchrotron radiation.

National Synchrotron Light Source

While it cannot be seen by the human eye, when used in certain ways and viewed by special detectors, this light can reveal structures and features of individual atoms, molecules, crystals, cells and more, especially when the wavelength and corresponding energy of the light are matched to the size and energy of the sample being viewed. Because synchrotron light is very intense and well collimated, it is preferred to light produced by conventional laboratory sources.

When the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences recognized the need for "second generation" electron synchrotrons dedicated to the production of light, it budgeted construction funding for Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS). Ground was broken for the NSLS on September 28, 1978, and the vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) ring began operations in late 1982, while the x-ray ring was commissioned in 1984.

One of the world’s most widely used scientific research facilities, the NSLS is host each year to about 2,400 researchers from more than 400 universities, laboratories, and companies. Research conducted at the NSLS has yielded advances in biology, physics, chemistry, geophysics, medicine, and materials science.

Some examples of research performed at the NSLS include investigations into the chemical origins of nerve impulses, studies of the crystal structure of new materials like high-temperature superconductors, studies of arthritis and osteoporosis, and techniques to make faster, small computer chips. See the NSLS website.

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Did you know?

Two BNL scientists, Renate Chasman and G. Kenneth Green designed the "double focusing achromat," or what is more commonly known to accelerator physicists the world over as the Chasman-Green lattice.

Researchers at the NSLS use an array of sophisticated imaging techniques to get highly detailed “pictures” of a wide variety of materials, from biological molecules to semiconductor devices.

Other Accelerators


Alternating Gradient Synchrotron

National Synchrotron Light Source

Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider