Issue 76

Beam Dynamics Newsletter

4.3 SESAME: the First Solar-Powered Accelerator Complex

Sameen Ahmed Khan, Dept. Mathematics & Sciences, Salalah, Sultanate of Oman.

On Tuesday the 26 February 2019, a ceremony was held to mark the official inauguration of the solar power plant of SESAME: Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East  [1]. This makes SESAME the very first large accelerator complex to be fully powered by solar energy. The SESAME synchrotron located in Jordan also has the distinction for being the first synchrotron in the region of the Middle East. In this note we recall the significance of the solar energy in the accelerator context along with the origins and of the SESAME synchrotron facility  [2, 3].

Like all other accelerator facilities, SESAME also consumes a huge amount of electricity. In Jordan, the electricity costs are rather high and the annual electricity bill of SESAME was about two million US$. The recent inauguration of SESAME’s 6.48-megawatt photovoltaic plant will now save this huge annual expenditure. The current capacity of the solar power plant will suffice the projected needs for the next several years. The power plant using monocrystalline solar panels was built locally at a site 30 km away from the SESAME facility. The power is transmitted through an on-grid photovoltaic system. The required funding for the solar power plant became available in late 2016 when the Government of Jordan through the Ministry of Energy, generously agreed to allocate about seven million US$, from funds provided by the European Union to support the deployment of clean energy sources in Jordan  [1]. The example set by SESAME is a source of encouragement for other accelerator facilities around the world.

Let us briefly recall the origins of the SESAME. In the 1990s, the BESSY-I synchrotron was to be replaced by a more facility BESSY-2 in Berlin. Instead of dismantling, Herman Winick of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in California and Gustav-Adolf Voss, a former director of the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Hamburg, Germany suggested to donate the BESSY-I to the region of Middle East. After an international bid, Jordan became the host to the relocated synchrotron under the auspices of UNESCO. The 800 MeV BESSY-I was upgraded to a 2.5 GeV SESAME. On 6 January 2003, His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan laid the cornerstone for the then upcoming International Center. The ceremony was attended by, the UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura. On 16 May 2017, the SESAME light source was officially opened by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan. The ceremony included ambassadors, ministers, former and current directors of CERN along with Irina Bokova, the then director-general of UNESCO  [1].

Since the opening of SESAME in July 2018, twenty-three user groups have utilized its facilities. A call for beam time in September 2018, resulted in a record number of 103 applications to utilize the XAFS/XRF (X-ray Absorption Fine Structure/X-Ray Fluorescence) spectroscopy and IR (Infrared) spectromicroscopy beam lines. The Facility is now working on construction of four more beamlines. These are the MS (Materials Science), MX (Macromolecular Crystallography), and BEATS (BEAmline for Tomography at SESAME) beamlines, as well as a soft X-ray beamline. The current Members of SESAME are Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine, and Turkey. The Current Observers are Brazil, Canada, China (People’s Republic of), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Union (EU), France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Portugal, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America  [1].

An international synchrotron facility is also needed in the populous continent of Africa  [4, 5]. There was a special session on SESAME during the World Science Forum (Dead Sea, Jordan, 7-11 November 2017). The idea of the African Synchrotron was also mentioned during this and other sessions. Since, it takes decades to plan and start such facilities, an early start is essential  [6].

  • [1]  SESAME: Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East.

  • [2]  Sameen Ahmed Khan, Jordan to host Middle East Synchrotron, ICFA Beam Dynamics Newsletter, 22, 6-7 (August 2000).

  • [3]  Sameen Ahmed Khan, The Middle East Synchrotron Laboratory and India, Current Science, 80 (2), 130-132 (25 January 2001). (Fortnightly Publication of the Indian Academy of Sciences).

  • [4]  Sameen Ahmed Khan, Ground Breaking for the Middle East Synchrotron; Armenian Synchrotron; Time to Launch the African Synchrotron Research Programme, ICFA Beam Dynamics Newsletter, 30, 88-89, (April 2003).

  • [5]  Sameen Ahmed Khan, Need to Create Regional Synchrotron Radiation Facilities (RSRF), IRPS Bulletin, 17 (2), 7-13 (July 2003). (IRPS: International Radiation Physics Society).

  • [6]  Sekazi K. Mtingwa and Herman Winick, SESAME and beyond, Science, 356 (6340), 785 (2017). doi:10.1126/science.aan6880.