Posted by Mark Halper

Slow curves on the outside, fast ones on the inside. China opened the synchrotron in 2009.

SHANGHAI – Today’s blog is a post card from Shanghai that ties right into this morning’s proceedings at the Thorium Energy Conference 2012 where, you could say, things really accelerated.

Just after downing breakfast dumplings, we heard engaging presentations about how particle accelerators can provide the oomph that releases neutrons that can start a safe thorium nuclear reaction. So-called “accelerator driven systems” are just one of several ways to stir up thorium, the fuel that augers a peaceful nuclear future.

So it was fitting that in the afternoon we trundled off to have a look at a handy, nearby accelerator built by the same people who as we said yesterday are building a liquid thorium molten salt reactor  – the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

In this case the accelerator was a synchrotron. It’s probably not the sort of accelerator you might use to release neutrons to start a thorium nuclear reaction (another time we’ll tell you more about what experts like Bob Cywinski of the UK’s University of Huddersfield have in mind for that), but one certainly suitable for all sorts of other things that are useful to humanity – medical cures and health diagnostics, just for starters.


The Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility is a 432-metre long ring that is actually a giant 3D camera taking stunningly detailed and clear images inside tiny things, such as a mouse’s heart (mouse heart fans can skip to photo below now). Using a combination of electron beams, magnets, radiation and optics, it makes x-rays look Stone Age.

SSRF is testimony to the technological and scientific zeitgeist that is driving China – the same spirit that is leading the country into alternative nuclear power technologies like thorium.

The synchrotron is the envy of many a scientist, such as Jean-Pierre Revol, the leader of the ALICE particle accelerator team at the much better known CERN laboratory in Geneva. He’s at the thorium conference advocating accelerator technology as a neutron release mechanism.

Revol lauded the Chinese for building the facility, which he called “state of the art” and “very impressive.” That’s something, coming from a guy who works on a daily basis with CERN’s renowned 17-mile long Large Hadron Collider.

Have a look and see what you think. That’s the rolling building that houses the operation, at the top of this story. Here’s what we saw in the interior today:


Look out for 3.5 billion electron volts on the other side of that white wall.


Mouse lung:

Makes it look like Mighty Mouse.

Mouse heart:

Move over Braveheart. This is some corazon.

Grasshopper breathing:

This is a still shot from a video that was playing on an SSRF screen today. Sorry, no surround sound.


How to travel around a synchrotron when you’re not an electron beam.


What do you get a man like Jean-Pierre Revol of CERN when he already has a Large Hadron Collider? Try a synchrotron. Revol, pictured outside the entrance, called the SSRF “state of the art” and “very impressive.”

Photos: SSRF exterior from India TV News. All other photos by Mark Halper, including those of SSRF images.

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