Year of glittering celebrations begins at major UK science facility

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The UK's national synchrotron, Diamond Light Source, which produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun for scientific research, has announced a year of activity to showcase 100 years of crystallography, a technique which is used in thousands of research experiments carried out at the facility every year. The programme of events has been organised to celebrate the United Nations’ 2014 International Year of Crystallography and to promote public understanding of this critical scientific field.

At Diamond, crystallography is a scientific technique which uses the unique pattern of diffraction which is produced when intense X-rays pass through a crystallised sample to determine its atomic structure. The ‘beamlines’ at Diamond Light Source are used by over 3,000 scientists ever year to literally shine a light on a broad range of research areas, including DNA, HIV and cancer treatments. Crystallography has fostered countless scientific advances since its discovery and continues to be used in pioneering research into new forms of energy, archaeology and drug design.

The United Nations International Year of Crystallography in 2014 follows the Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded to British father and son scientific partnership William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg, the founding fathers of crystallography.

Professor Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source, commented: ‘It is extremely encouraging that UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] has chosen to designate 2014 as the International Year of Crystallography. We intend to embrace every opportunity to communicate the science that this technique has enabled researchers to carry out over the last century. Crystallography revolutionised science 100 years ago and when synchrotrons started to be built 30 years ago, they revolutionised crystallography.'

The programme of events will allow the public to participate in a range of activities, which are aimed at helping the public understand more about this scientific technique. The ‘Diamond in Action’ calendar of events aims to reveal the details of the pioneering work done inside the Diamond Light Source facility’s giant, donut-shaped building in Oxfordshire.