The MAX IV synchrotron research lab is located on a large environmentally friendly campus. (Photo credit: FOJAB Architects).

The MAX IV particle accelerator or synchrotron is due to start operations in the summer of 2015 in the university town of Lund. This unique facility, for the scientific community, will also foster opportunities in the form of new businesses, innovation and the spread of technological know-how.

“A large research facility, MAX IV will examine really small things with the help of synchrotron radiation. Research in fields such as materials science, medicine, environmental science and biotechnology will benefit. An exciting neighborhood will arise around the MAX IV attracting researchers and businesses,” says Tutti Johansson Falk, communications director at MAX IV.

“AB ML4 is the developer and property owner. The project started in 2010 and on June 1, 2015 ‘the keys’ were handed over to the tenant, Lund University. Early in the project, MAX IV, ML4 and contractor Peab AB adopted a comprehensive environmental and sustainability program that permeated the entire construction process.”

Big tool studies small particles

“Extremely large tools are required to study extremely small particles. With a circumference of 528 meters, the synchrotron is one meter longer than the Coliseum in Rome,” continues Johansson Falk.

“It all begins in a tunnel under the building. A laser creates very short pulses of electrons that travel through a 250-meter long linear accelerator (LINAC) at close to the speed of light. These electrons subsequently enter rings where powerful magnets control their orbits. The deflections emit intense synchronous radiation at all wavelengths, an incredibly intense light, which gets captured at various points along the ring for further study. This phenomena is the basis for all the research.”

Minimizing the impact of the heavy traffic vibration from the adjacent E22 highway was one of the facility’s biggest challenges. Synchronous radiation has a very broad wavelength only a quarter of a human hair. And vibration tolerances are on the nanometer level. In cooperation with Lund University and the architectural firm Snøhetta, construction firm Peab developed several innovative solutions to absorb these external road vibrations. The surrounding countryside for example was specially landscaped to dampen these.

Carbon-neutral research facility

Synchronous radiation is created in the linear accelerator by accelerating electrons in these tubes to a speed close to that of light. (Photo credit: Johan Persson)

“Another challenge is the facility’s large energy needs and effect on climate change. Small magnets and other technical measures such as recycling waste heat from the accelerator help make MAX IV more energy efficient than other traditional synchrotrons. As an example, our cooling water gets sent into Lund’s district heating network,” says Johansson Falk.

“We strive to minimize our environmental impact. The electricity for offices is solar generated. Rainwater is collected from rooftops to reduce the load on storm water networks. The buildings also have several environmental certifications such as: Gold level Miljöbyggnad, and Green Building. The latest accolade was ‘Outstanding’ in the BREEAM-SE level certification.”

Green surroundings

Large areas surrounding MAX IV were excavated to create a living landscape where surrounding hills were made of earth and gravel. With their various ecosystems, these hills help reduce building vibrations. In addition, seeds from the nearby Kungsmarken nature reserve were planted, and rainwater from roofs and other surfaces is collected in surrounding ponds and wetlands to promote aquatic life.

It is an artificial landscape that provides a stimulating environment for employees and researchers. A so-called Våglandskapet, the grounds will symbolize MAX IV and will appear as such on Google maps.

Innovative environmental research

“The synchrotron is an important tool for materials sciences, biotechnology and medicine. MAX IV will help scientists answer crucial issues surrounding energy and the environment,” says Johansson Falk.

She cites some examples of innovative environmental research.

Investigations into some materials can be significant for environmental technology. For example, researchers are investigating using the synchrotron radiation properties of bentonite clays, an absorbent aluminium phyllosilicate, as a way of disposing nuclear waste. Clays can also be used for water purification and for storing carbon dioxide, which is of interest both for society and business at large. Other researchers are trying to improve fuel cell materials and their possible contribution to sustainable development.

Innovative technology at the MAX IV can help examine extremely thin layers of water surfaces and create a better understanding of the dynamics between sea, air and clouds – which could yield new insights into the Earth’s climate. Another area of research concerns the role of airborne particles in the Earth’s climate.

The article was published in June 2015