Late in the evening of 12 January, a beam of electrons circulated for the first time in the SESAME light source in Jordan. Following the first single turn, the next steps will be to achieve multi-turns, store and then accelerate a beam. This is an important milestone towards producing intense beams of synchrotron light at the pioneering facility, which is the first light-source laboratory in the Middle East.

SESAME, which stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, will eventually operate several beamlines at different wavelengths for wide-ranging studies of the properties of matter. Experiments there will enable SESAME users to undertake research in fields ranging from medicine and biology, through materials science, physics and chemistry to healthcare, the environment, agriculture and archaeology.

CERN has a long-standing involvement with SESAME, notably through the European Commission-funded CESSAMag project, coordinated by CERN. This project provided the magnet system for SESAME’s 42 m-diameter main ring and brought CERN’s expertise in accelerator technology to the facility in addition to training, knowledge and technology transfer.

The January milestone follows a series of key events, beginning with the establishment of a Middle East Scientific Collaboration group in the mid-1990s. This was followed by the donation of the BESSY1 accelerator by the BESSY laboratory in Berlin. Refurbished and upgraded components of BESSY1 now serve as the injector for the completely new SESAME main ring, which is a competitive third-generation light source built by SESAME with support from the SESAME members, as well as the European Commission and CERN through CESSAMag, and Italy.

There is still a lot of work to be done before experiments can get underway. Beams have to be accelerated to SESAME’s operating energy of 2.5 GeV. Then the synchrotron light emitted as the beams circulate has to be channelled along SESAME’s two initial beamlines and optimised for the experiments that will take place there. This process is likely to take around six months, leading to first experiments in the summer of 2017.