SESAME to open door to experimental science in Middle East

2 July 2001 The SESAME Project will be taking a giant step forward next month when construction begins in Allan (Jordan) of permanent premises.

SESAME stands for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East. As the name suggests, the project’s aim is to establish, under UNESCO’s umbrella, the Middle East's first major international research centre as a cooperative venture by the scientists of the region. Upon completion of the centre, the research programme is expected to start in 2003.

Eleven governments have so far joined the project: Armenia, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian Authority, and Turkey. Observer countries include Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Sweden, the UK and the USA. Others have expressed interest in joining.

The SESAME Interim Council is due to meet in Amman, Jordan, on 27–28 August 2001. The meeting will be presided over by Herwig Schopper, President of the SESAME Interim Council, with His Majesty King Abdullah II expected to be in attendance. A groundbreaking ceremony is planned at this time to mark the placing of the first stone.

The centre will be jointly operated and supported by all member countries, with additional support from other countries interested in promoting the peaceful development of science and technology in the Middle East.

Specific programmes planned for SESAME include structural molecular biology, molecular environmental science, surface and interface science, microelectromechanical devices, X-ray imaging, archaeological microanalysis, materials characterisation, and medical applications. As an international scientific and technological centre of excellence open to all qualified scientists from the Middle East and elsewhere, SESAME will foster the scientific, technical and economic development of the region and strengthen collaboration in science.

SESAME will have as its centerpiece a synchrotron radiation source donated by Germany, the BESSY I storage ring and injector system, which is being significantly upgraded in size and energy to accommodate four insertion devices. Superconducting multipole wigglers will extend the spectral range to 20-25 keV. With these upgrades, the facility will have a very capable, broad spectral range. Due to its low emittance (50 nm-rad), high stored current (up to 700 mA), and small source size at the wiggler source points (0.45 mm x 0.05 mm sigmas), very high flux and flux density should be available from IR to hard x-rays. Undulators will provide relatively high brightness at photon energies up to about 1 keV.

Over the past couple of years, workshops and schools on Accelerator Science and Technology, Materials Research, and Structural Molecular Biology have brought scientists and engineers from SESAME member countries together with experts in synchrotron radiation sources and applications.

The next SESAME scientific workshop is due to take place in Istanbul (Turkey) from 3 to 8 September 2001 on the theme of Bioinformatics and Structural Modelling.

Also part of the SESAME project, some 20 scientists and engineers are currently spending 6–12 months each working on accelerator projects at European laboratories and eight scientists have completed or are now completing long term visits to US synchrotron radiation laboratories working on applications of synchrotron radiation. Support for these activities has been provided by UNESCO, SESAME member countries, the US Department of Energy, the US State Department, ICTP (Trieste) and the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as by many synchrotron radiation laboratories in Europe and the USA.

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