Brookhaven conducts scientific research using photons—particles of light—to probe the structure and makeup of materials. The National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) uses electrons accelerated along a high-tech ring at nearly the speed of light to create beams of light in the x-ray, ultraviolet, and infrared wavelengths, resulting in a kind of giant microscope.
Scientists use beam lines at NSLS to probe the electronic and atomic structures of materials, analyze very small samples, or map surfaces with atomic-scale sensitivity. Researchers at NSLS use an array of sophisticated imaging techniques to get highly detailed “pictures” of a wide range of materials, from biological molecules to advanced electronics.
NSLS is one of the world’s most widely used scientific research facilities, hosting 2,200 researchers each year from more than 400 universities, laboratories, and companies. Research conducted at NSLS has yielded advances in biology, physics, chemistry, geophysics, medicine, and materials science.
Major advances in energy technologies — such as using hydrogen as an energy source, the implementation of solar energy, or the development of the next generation of nuclear power systems — require scientific breakthroughs in developing new materials with advanced properties. NSLS is a non-destructive tool that gives researchers the ability to “watch” the system dynamics of a wide range of materials with nanoscale resolution — on the order of just billionths of a meter.
To delve even deeper into the nanoworld, Brookhaven is building NSLS-II, a light source with exquisite sensitivity and x-rays 10,000 times brighter than the current NSLS. Scheduled for completion in 2015, NSLS-II will allow the characterization of the atomic and electronic structure, chemical composition, and magnetic properties of materials in a wide range of temperatures and environments. NSLS-II will help researchers explore solutions to the grand energy challenges faced by the nation, and open up new regimes of scientific discovery that will pave the way to discoveries in physics, chemistry, and biology — advances that will ultimately enhance national security and help drive the development of abundant, safe, and clean energy technologies.