The Rector Council of the ALBA Synchrotron, counting with the participation of the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Department of Business and Knowledge of the Generalitat de Cataluña, chaired by Minister Pedro Duque, has given the green light to start working in 2021 on the ALBA II project, an ambitious program that will transform ALBA into a 4th generation synchrotron facility upgrading the accelerator and other components and building new beamlines.
Nowadays, synchrotron facilities are experiencing an outstanding technological evolution, applying new solutions for the design and construction of accelerators, the development of X-ray detectors and the management of experimental data.
The so-called 4th generation synchrotron facilities, compared to those of the 3rd generation, produce a brighter and more coherent photon beam. When analyzing matter, they provide inaccessible capabilities as of today, in terms of resolution, detection levels and the understanding of chemical and electromagnetic properties. In addition, they offer new technological approaches to solve society’s challenges more efficiently and move towards a sustainable and smart economy in a more efficient health system.
The ALBA II project foresees transforming ALBA Synchrotron from 3rd to 4th generation, through the partial replacement of the accelerator, the construction of new beamlines and the upgrade of some components of the existing beamlines.
The last Rector Council meeting of the ALBA Synchrotron, held yesterday, December 16, 2020, approved the start of the ALBA II preliminary design in 2021 to define the necessary parameters and funds. Once the Rector Council approves the upgrade, it will be a cost-effective process since it will keep the existing infrastructure and most of the accelerator and experimental beamlines, obtaining a large state-of-the-art facility with a reduced investment (half of the cost to build and operate ALBA in its first 8 years). The ALBA II project represents a marginal increase compared to what is necessary to operate and maintain the current infrastructure for a decade.
Minister Duque recalled the importance of this unique scientific & technical facility and, proof of this, reminded that the budget of the Ministry of Science and Innovation for next year include an increase up to 22.9 million euros, 46% more than in 2020.
“The transformation of ALBA into a fourth-generation synchrotron is excellent news for the Catalan research system and for the country as a whole. This ambitious technological upgrade will have an undeniable return for science, the economy and the well-being of the country in terms of cutting-edge science, knowledge transfer and competitiveness”, says Francesc Xavier Grau, Secretary of Universities and Research of the Department of Business and Knowledge of the Generalitat of Catalonia. Grau also recalled the co-funding in equal parts by both administrations.
The design and construction of ALBA II will take place between 2021 and 2028, maintaining the current operation of the ALBA Synchrotron. Between 2029 and 2030, there will be a technical shutdown to install and commission the new components, restarting the research activity in 2031.
ALBA II will continue to shed light on the current challenges of science in areas such as health, climate change or energy. Its new capabilities will allow the scientific and industrial community to go one step further and understand even better complex phenomena such as virus infection processes, as well as the search for drugs, vaccines or treatments. It will also play a key role in the development of sustainable agriculture and the preservation of the environment, supporting the search for new fertilizers, water supply systems or the detection of waste such as heavy metals or nanoplastics. Its impact on the development of materials for the storage, conversion and transport of energy will be also fundamental.
Since its inauguration in 2010, the ALBA Synchrotron has become an exceptional tool for science in Spain and internationally, with the performance of more than 1,500 experiments published in more than 1,300 articles in specialized journals. ALBA II represents a leap forward with the aim of remaining at the top level of science, technology and innovation.
The ALBA Synchrotron is a Singular Scientific and Technical Infrastructure (ICTS) managed by the Consortium for the Construction, Equipment and Operation of the Synchrotron Light Laboratory (CELLS) and co-financed in equal parts by the Ministry of Science and Innovation and Generalitat de Cataluña.