Open SESAME: a new light from West Asia

  • A new radiation project called SESAME in Jordan has emitted a ‘new light’ of single wavelength for the first time on November 22, indicating the start of the lab’s experimental programme and opening of a new area of research. According to a press release, the new light, which falls in the X-ray spectrum, can be used to carry out research “from solid state physics to environmental science and archaeology”.

 How is the new light formed?

  • SESAME stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.
  • The synchrotron is a vast circular apparatus containing a ring of a 133-metre circumference (longer than a football field).
  • Along the ring, beams of electrons travel at near-light speed.
  • They circulate for several hours, completing millions of revolutions each second. As they circulate and get deflected by magnets in the loop, they give off radiation called synchrotron light.
  • This light can be collected and used to study the properties of materials.

Why is it significant?

  • The synchrotron light has better brightness and resolution than conventional X-ray or infrared sources.
  • The light can be used to study new drugs for cancer therapy and study of cultural heritage like bio-archaeology (the study of our ancestors) and also for investigating ancient manuscripts.
  • “We are…starting with an experiment to investigate heavy metal contamination… in the soil,” said SESAME scientist Messaoud Harfouche in a press release.
  • “There is always an excitement when you see the first light from a new set-up.
  • This new light can also be used for imaging of molecules and for dissociation studies (to understand splitting of a molecule into smaller molecules, atoms, or ions).

Who is behind the SESAME project?

  • The project was officially opened in Allan, Jordan, in May 2017.
  • It is a cooperative venture by scientists and governments of the region of CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research).
  • It is West Asia’s first major international research centre with members from Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, and Turkey.
  • It was developed with the help of UNESCO.

 What next?

  • The SESAME is currently operating with a beam current of 80 milli amps while it is capable of up to 400 milli amps.
  • The researchers are planning to gradually increase the current in the coming months and study its capabilities.


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