Zhangjiang to upgrade its scientific platform SSRF with 5 new beamlines
The Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF) will be able to serve a larger number of users with the addition of five new beamlines next year.
Known as the Shanghai Light Source, the facility is like a super X-ray machine and a super microscope combined that allows researchers to determine the structure of a virus, protein, or even an atom.
It houses different beamlines where X-ray beams that are hundreds of millions of times brighter than normal X-rays are exposed to materials being studied.
With the new beamlines, the SSRF will be eyeing more scientific achievements in the future.
The SSRF, in operation since 2009, has been instrumental in many breakthroughs, including insights into fatal diseases such as H1N1 swine flu, repairing valuable antiques at the Palace Museum in Beijing, and inventing new materials used in high-speed trains.
Li Ruxin, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was full of praise for the state-of-the-art facility and its use in drug development.
"Using the SSRF to analyze molecular structures, the NASDAQ-listed BeiGene developed the Brukinsa (zanubrutinib) capsules, the first domestically-developed anti-cancer drug approved for marketing in the US," said Li, who is involved in building Zhangjiang's photon facilities.
The capsules are used to treat adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma.
There are currently 27 beamlines in use serving over 30,000 users. But it is not enough, Li stressed.
"There are so many people waiting to use the facility," he said. "With the addition of five more beamlines next year, the total will be 32. The facility can welcome more people."
The facility lies at the core of a cluster of advanced photon science facilities in the Zhangjiang Science City in the Pudong New Area. Other facilities include Shanghai Soft X-ray Free-Electron Laser (SXFEL), Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser Facility (SULF), Shanghai High Repetition Rate X-ray FEL, and Extreme Light Facility (SHINE), to name a few.
"They provide a strong tool for basic research and encourage more breakthroughs," Li said.
Looking at the bigger picture, Li expects Zhangjiang to become the world's top three photon science research center.
Li said 2016 was a watershed moment in Zhangjiang's development when the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology gave the nod to Zhangjiang to create a national comprehensive science center.
"Before 2016, there was only SSRF. But over the past five years, many others have popped up," he said, citing SULF as an example.
Commonly known as the Xihe laser facility, which is named after the Chinese sun goddess, it is capable of amplifying and outputting more than 10-petawatt lasers. One petawatt equals 1 quadrillion watts, which is about 50,000 times the planet's total power consumption.
Xihe No.2, which will be 10 times more powerful than the current one, is under construction. It is expected to be completed by 2025, Li said.
"In 2011 or 2012, the European Union started building similar facilities like Xihe. At that time, China had no such plans. In 2016, Shanghai launched a similar project," Li revealed, comparing China's progress as going from "a chaser" to "a peer," and now "a leader" in the field.
Zhangjiang is known as China's answer to Silicon Valley. It is a key part of the city's plan to become a global center for innovation.
China is striving to build Shanghai, Beijing and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area into global science and technology innovation centers.
Currently, 14 of China's science infrastructure facilities have been built or are being built in Shanghai, making the city a leader in the field. Eight of them are in Zhangjiang.
The science city, covering an area of nearly 94 square kilometers – nearly the size of the city of Paris – has created a vibrant innovation ecosystem formed by international talent, major science facilities, key universities and research institutes.
Statistics show that it is home to more than 20,000 enterprises, including 66 regional headquarters of multinational companies and 179 foreign-run R&D centers.
The pillar industries of integrated circuits, artificial intelligence, and biomedicine are thriving in Zhangjiang. Take integrated circuits, for example. About 66 percent of last year's revenue went to Zhangjiang.
A rich talent pool is also taking shape in Zhangjiang. It boasts 499,000 workers, with over 16 percent of them holding a master's degree or above. In an effort to attract more international talent, it has simplified and streamlined the process to help expats get a permanent residence permit.