The construction of research centre called European Spallation Source (ESS) in the north of Lund city in Sweden is in progress with the half-kilometre-long tunnel, through which protons will be sent out at an extremely high speed, already completed. Once the construction is finished, the project will be world's most powerful microscope.
The ESS is scheduled to be completed by 2023, which means it may be operational in five years' time. Built at a cost of 18 billion kronor ($2.2 billion), it will be world's strongest neutron microscope.
According to Swedish Radio, the concrete walls are at present cast into the target station. In that, a nearly five-ton heavy wheel of the elemental tungsten will rotate, surrounded by nearly 6,000 tons of steel and concrete in the ESS called the monolith. Then protons will be sent out through the half-kilometre-long tunnel that ends at the target station at almost the speed of light. When they meet the tungsten wheel inside the target station, the neutrons, which are the "rays of light" in this giant microscope, are released.
500 m-long room at @essneutron. Soon this room will host a beam of protons traveling at 96% of the speed of light. This is part of the accelerator that will produce neutrons by crashing high-speed protons into atoms of tungsten in a process called spallation. pic.twitter.com/MnC2oKpr5z— Noël Group (@group_noel) November 22, 2017
The new technology will enable researchers to get more details of images at the atomic level. The ESS was initially aimed at reaching a maximum power of five megawatts but a change in design has reduced the impact to two megawatts.
"That makes us reach even more with five megawatts, the day we are ready for five megawatts and when we have additional instruments in place," researcher Marie-Louise Ainalem told Swedish Radio.
Reaching a maximum power of five megawatts will be both expensive as well as technically complicated, so it has been debated if researchers need so much. However, Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council and a Swedish member of the ESS Council believes that they will do.
"In Sweden, we now make sure that we gather Swedish researchers into a meeting, to discuss just this question from a Swedish point of view. What do Swedish scientists think of a build-up rate of up to five megawatts, or are there alternatives to stay at a lower impact?" Stafström said.