Cheshire scientists to lead the world in ground breaking synchrotron light source project


Cheshire scientists to lead the world in ground breaking synchrotron light source project

Scientists and engineers at the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire have welcomed news that funding is now in place to begin work on what will be one of the most powerful science facilities in the UK.

When constructed, the fourth generation light source (4GLS) will be the most advanced light source of its type in the world. Its short pulses of high intensity light - over a million, million, million times brighter than a household light bulb - will have a peak power equivalent to lighting every home in London

On behalf of over 270 members working at the laboratory, the scientists’ union Prospect described the Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to give the go ahead for the research, development and design phases of 4GLS as recognition of the outstanding work undertaken by staff to secure the future of the site.

Prospect members at the Cheshire laboratory suffered a setback in 2000 when, after a long campaign to locate the third generation synchrotron – the Diamond project – on site, government decided to build the project at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire.

Dr Steve Bennett, Prospect union representative at the Cheshire laboratory, described news of the funding as an acknowledgement of the scientific expertise at Daresbury. "This is a tremendous boost for the staff who developed the ground-breaking concept behind the 4GLS and reaffirms their impressive track record in the design, construction and operation of world-leading facilities. As the centrepiece of future activity at Daresbury it will be a beacon for high tech research and jobs.

"The 4GLS project focuses on the new and emerging sciences, which will be the key to medical advances and the region's economic prosperity in the 21st century, and will help underpin the north-west's contribution to UK science."

The decision, announced on 2 April, follows the successful passage of the project through two of the ‘gateways’ that the government funding mechanism requires. It will provide Daresbury with £8m from the Office of Science and Technology and a further £3.5m from the Council of the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils to establish the technical know-how to build the 4GLS facility. Due to be completed in 2010, the project has an estimated final capital cost of £118m.

In securing the funding Prospect members are confident they have guaranteed the future for the Daresbury laboratory, coming as it does on the heels of the award of two other major projects:

  • HPCx – a £53m project won by the laboratory last year to develop the most powerful academic research computer in Europe
  • SuperSTEM (Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope), a project based at the laboratory and run by the universities of Liverpool and Cambridge, among others, to develop the world’s most powerful microscope.


4GLS will produce very short pulses of extremely high brightness light which will enable researchers to study how molecules work, for example by following chemical reactions as they happen, looking at clusters of atoms or even examining the spin of electrons.

In the concept for the 4GLS, the light is produced by a combination of two new technologies, energy recovery linac and free electron lasers which together result in light up to a million times more intense than conventional storage ring technology used in all current ‘third generation’ synchrotron sources.

Because it produces high intensity, low energy light researchers can examine the processes within living cells without destroying them and therefore, for example, study how drugs kill diseased cells. More information on the 4GLS is available at

The decision to base 4GLS at Daresbury has been supported by the North-WestDevelopment Agency who have also announced funding of £25.7m to develop a Daresbury Science Park, securing its future as a centre of excellence for scientific research and development.