New laser facility takes biomolecules videos

Li Qian
X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Test Facility, along with the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility and others, will form core of a cluster of scientific facilities in Zhangjiang.
Li Qian

A new laser facility capable of taking videos of biomolecules has passed national evaluation, becoming a new member of a cluster of major scientific facilities in the Pudong New Area’s Zhangjiang.

The X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Test Facility, next to the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, is shaped like a sword and features a free electron laser amplifier and high-performance electron linear accelerator that is able to produce energy of 840 million electron volts.

The facility, built by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Education, together with others including the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the National Center for Protein Science Shanghai and the Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser Facility, will form the core of a cluster of scientific facilities in the Zhangjiang Comprehensive National Science Center.

The state evaluation committee said the new facility, through domestic inventions and cross-border cooperation, had achieved a number of innovations and significantly improved China’s research ability in free electron lasers. It also provides technological support and a talent pool for the construction of other laser projects.

There are now just eight X-ray free-electron laser facilities in the world. Germany has two, and the US, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Switzerland have one each.

While the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility, the third-generation of its kind, takes pictures of biomolecules, the X-Ray Free-Electron Laser Test Facility, the fourth-generation, can take videos of them.

The radiation facility allows researchers to only discern the structure of a virus, a protein and even an atom. The new facility allows researchers to see the dynamic micro-world, providing a strong tool for frontier research in biology, energy and materials.

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