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POSTECH LabCumentary Pohang Accelerator Laboratory

Pohang Accelerator Laboratory

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Pohang Accelerator Laboratory

Pohang Accelerator Laboratory

A synchrotron is also called a ‘photon factory’. When electrons pass through the magnetic field, they bend from the force imposed on them and this results in the generation of light or synchrotron radiation. Just as a camera uses light to snap photos, synchrotrons use radiation to photograph micro-sized target objects. Synchrotron radiation is intense across a wide spectrum of wavelengths and is thus highly useful in conducting research.

 

The Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL), as an operator of both third and fourth generation synchrotrons, is the only ‘photon factory’ ever built in Korea to date. The PAL accommodates researchers from all over the world who come to conduct cutting-edge research using these high-tech facilities.

 

The third-generation synchrotron, known as PLS, was built in 1995 as Korea’s first and the world’s fifth synchrotron. While researchers had to rely on insignificant light sources produced from X-ray generators at the Laboratory, the deployment of the PLS has allowed them to harness X-rays that are more than 10 billion times brighter. With exceptionally high brilliance, synchrotron radiation enables scientists to gain a more accurate, thorough and a true insider’s view of any given material. Lab experimentation times have been dramatically reduced from a full week to a mere five minutes, all of which have significantly brought down error ranges.

 

The PAL installed the fourth-generation synchrotron PAL-XFEL in 2016 as the world’s third to do so following the US and Japan. The light produced by the PAL-XFEL is 11 quintillion (one quintillion = 1018) times more intense than sunlight and has extremely short wavelengths of 0.1nm (1nm = one billionth of a meter).

 

Unlike the 3rd-generation accelerator which is round in shape, the 4th-generation synchrotron, PAL-XFEL, is linear and is 1.1 km. long. In addition to the difference in shape, the PLS performs analyses at the nanosecond (1 picosecond = 1 trillionth of a second) level, while the PAL-XFEL measures the target object at the dozens of femtosecond level that is tens of thousands of times shorter than the PLS.

“To draw an analogy to cameras, the third-generation synchrotron is similar to a long-exposure camera while the fourth-generation synchrotron is more like that of one with an extremely short exposure”, Kim, Chang-bum, Director at the PAL-XFEL Accelerator Division, commented.

 

The PAL primarily serves researchers in the chemistry and biotechnology fields. Synchrotrons play an essential role in analyzing the structure or composition of given compounds used for chemical products or drugs. Each year, more than 7,000 researchers both in Korea and abroad visit the PAL to undertake approximately 1,800 projects.

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