Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The APS at Argonne National Lab

I just found these photos and thought they were really fun

My trip to the APS (advanced photon source) in Chicago (March 2010)

To visit the APS you submit a proposal describing your intended research. Once approved, you pay for your travel and lodging and can use the facilities free of charge. This source provides the brightest x ray beams in the western hemisphere (the electrons are accelerated to 7 billion eV, traveling at >99.999999% the speed of light or 186,000 miles/second!) The cost to generate these photons would be beyond the price any private group could afford so there are a few government run labs around the world that researchers can use.

The photons are generated in a ring that is 1 kilometer in diameter that is divided into sectors and there are little stations (see blue doors below) set up for different experiments. There are adult sized tricycles all along the wall to help you get around to different stations faster-they were quite the highlight of the trip!

It was an interesting experience to say the least-I was rather ill (bad timing!) and we had to run around the clock from Tuesday at 8 am to Sunday at noon so it was a loooooooong week (one I would not mind never repeating). Because time is so hard to get-you don't waste it, you use every minute! It was fascinating and, though the pics don't do it justice, I thought you would all like to see what it looked like inside.

The ring is a huge warehousy type of building-like a Scientific Cosco. No windows in the inner circle and the lights are the same all day and night (no sense of time except at noon when everyone power-walks around the ring-imagine the hallway above filled with men with 70's mustaches-not joking about the 70's fashion!)

Here I am riding around at 3 am (this was rather entertaining and I'm thinking about getting one of these for leisure rides around Provo)

As you walk (or preferably ride) around the ring you see the blue doors-different beam lines set up for different experiments

the beam actually travels to one of the chambers through the silver pipe-lucky we weren't killed :)

getting closer

Inside the blue doors! In the maybe 5 x 5 foot room you set up your stuff, then have to press like 10 buttons (one on each wall to make sure you have not missed a person hiding on the floor and accidentally close them inside) before the doors will close, the safety will come off, and you can actually get the beam into the chamber. Additionally, while you close the doors, a warning elevator type voice repeats loudly over and over again some warning about the doors closing, once again, to hopefully warn any stragglers to get out. (unfortunately, the only way you would get locked in there is if you had been tied up and shoved in, in which case the warnings would not really help you). Fortunately, we all made it out and our DNA was not fried. (they are actually very safe there and there was never any question of this happening-you are hardly allowed to breathe without clearance-I had to take a test before I was authorized to plug in my computer-I never got clearance to turn on/off lights though.)

back outside the doors, we made our little home here-we would switch samples every 30-60 min and then control everything from the computers.

here I am frantically pelletizing samples at 2 am-apparently rather cold in the lab.

Well-in case you never visit Argonne, this little tour may suffice!