The United Kingdom’s status as a global hub for groundbreaking scientific research is set to receive a significant boost with a £519 million investment in the Diamond Light Source. This cutting-edge science facility, often described as a giant microscope, has been instrumental in advancing treatments for various global health challenges, including HIV, malaria, and cancer. Furthermore, it played a pivotal role in the development of Covid-19 drugs.
A Remarkable Scientific Facility
Located in Harwell, Oxfordshire, the Diamond Light Source is the UK’s national synchrotron. It functions as an extraordinary scientific tool, generating light that is 10 billion times brighter than the sun. This intense light is directed into laboratories known as beamlines, where research spans across a wide array of scientific fields, from health to energy research. It is approximately 10,000 times more powerful than a conventional microscope.
Over the years, the Diamond Light Source has been indispensable in various scientific pursuits, including the examination of fragments of ancient paintings and fossils, as well as the development of solutions to extend the lifespan of machinery, such as engines and turbine blades.
A Visionary Investment for the Future
The significant funding for the Diamond Light Source’s upgrade was announced by Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan. This ambitious project, dubbed Diamond-II, aims to construct a new, even brighter synchrotron machine. The upgrade will also include the development of new flagship beamlines and critical upgrades to existing beamlines. The anticipated completion date for this transformation is 2030.
The enhanced capabilities of Diamond-II are expected to accelerate drug development, provide real-time insights to advance manufacturing processes, and contribute to the study of improving next-generation batteries.
A History of Scientific Excellence
In 2020, research conducted at the Diamond Light Source was instrumental in determining the atomic structure of key drug targets for SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. This research played a pivotal role in understanding the vaccine that has saved countless lives and allowed the UK to safely reopen.
The synchrotron has also contributed significantly to the development of COVID-19 treatments, improved our understanding of the COVID-19 vaccine’s efficacy, and advanced the treatment of various diseases, including HIV and cancer.
Furthermore, Diamond’s impact extends beyond the life sciences. It has facilitated discoveries of new materials for the electronic and renewable energy industries, aligning with the Net Zero agenda.
Currently, Diamond hosts over 220 UK-based companies, and more than 14,000 scientists have utilized its resources since its inception in 2007. Its economic and social contributions are estimated to be worth at least £2.6 billion, signifying a substantial return on the £1.4 billion public investment made to date.
The commitment to investing in world-class research infrastructure, such as Diamond-II, solidifies the UK’s place as a Science Superpower, empowering researchers and innovators to achieve significant breakthroughs across various scientific domains.