The Diamond Synchrotron being built in Oxfordshire at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory will probe deep into the basic structure of matter and materials.

Diamond will be the size of a football field. At its heart is a ring-shaped evacuated tube that is surrounded by magnets. These bend and focus a beam of electrons travelling at close to the speed of light.

The X-rays this process produces can penetrate deep into a material and reveal its structure. This information helps scientists to better understand the fundamental workings of matter – such as biological tissues, polymers and catalysts – at the atomic and molecular level.

These studies will help them, for example, to design new medicines and high-tech materials, as well as to investigate environmental issues such as climate change.