In DepthScientific Facilities

Flagship accelerators bid for better beams

Science  26 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6276, pp. 899-900
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6276.899

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Summary

A scientific advisory panel for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has begun weighing possible upgrades to four of the nation's top sources of high-energy x-rays and neutron beams. For years, the giant machines—two x-ray synchrotrons, an x-ray free electron laser, and a neutron accelerator—have given thousands of scientists unparalleled close-up views of the molecules that make up materials and living organisms. Recently, however, researchers say the facilities have been losing ground to counterparts in Europe, Asia, and South America. If DOE and Congress act on the panel's advice, U.S. facilities could regain global preeminence, promoting U.S. leadership in fields including chemistry, alternative energy, materials science, and structural biology for decades. But improving all four facilities within the constraints of a tight budget will require spreading the fixes out over time.