"There are no analogues", by Vladislav Strekopytov for RIANOVOSTI. 09.04.2023.
The most advanced synchrotron is being created in Russia.
In the science city of Koltsovo near Novosibirsk, the construction of a unique mega-science facility, a specialized source of synchrotron radiation SKIF, is in full swing. Its discovery is already called the main scientific event of the coming year in Russia. About what research is planned to be carried out on the new accelerator - in the material of RIA Novosti.
In 1895, the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, during an experiment with electrical discharges, discovered a new kind of beam that could penetrate dense obstacles. This marked the beginning of a new stage in the knowledge of the world - it became possible to look inside opaque objects without violating their integrity.
X-rays, for which the scientist was the first in history to receive the Nobel Prize, immediately found application in medicine. Later, another German physicist, Max von Laue, proved that they can be used to study the structure of crystalline solids. In 1912, he discovered the diffraction of X-rays and proved their wave character, for which he also became a Nobel Prize two years later.
Thanks to these achievements, a separate branch of physics has arisen that studies the structure of crystals at the atomic level - X-ray crystallography. Today, such research begins the creation of almost all new materials - from metal coatings with desired properties to drugs.
From tube to synchrotron
To study matter, classical X-ray tubes were first used as radiation sources. In 1944, the Soviet physicist Vladimir Veksler, who described the principle of operation of a ring particle accelerator, theoretically substantiated that electrons, if accelerated to relativistic speeds, rotating along a circular trajectory, would dump part of the energy in the form of synchrotron radiation (SR).
The prediction was confirmed when, during experiments in accelerators, the researchers noticed a bright white beam, which took part of the energy of the electrons. This was synchrotron radiation. At that time he was considered "parasitic". Later it turned out that the SR spectrum is extremely wide: it includes visible light, ultraviolet, infrared, and, most importantly, X-rays. So, it can become an invaluable tool for studying materials.
Academician G. I. Budker, founder of the Novosibirsk Institute of Nuclear Physics, called accelerators the microscopes of modern physics. If in an optical microscope light gives an image of the external appearance of an object, then the pattern of scattering of a beam of charged particles can be used to judge its internal structure. And the greater the energy of the particles, the brighter the picture. The brightness of synchrotron radiation is higher than the beam of an ordinary X-ray tube by many orders of magnitude. It reaches the deepest layers of matter down to the level of atoms.
More than a hundred ring accelerators belonging to the class of synchrotrons operate in different countries. The most famous is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland . Basically, they solve fundamental theoretical problems, and the time for practical research is allocated according to the residual principle. Therefore, starting from the 1980s, specialized sources of synchrotron radiation, focused primarily on pressing problems, began to be built.
There are two such installations in Russia - at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (INP SB RAS) and at the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow . As radiation sources, these synchrotrons are not very bright; they are classified as first and second generations, respectively. For complex studies in the field of structural biology, chemistry and materials science, they are no longer suitable. Now we need sources of the fourth generation.
To overcome the technological gap, in the Novosibirsk region in the science city of Koltsovo , the SKIF synchrotron is being built - the Siberian Ring Photon Source. This is a generation 4+ megascience class unit. In terms of such an important parameter as the emittance (the product of the angular beam divergence and the size of the source), which directly affects the brightness, and hence the quality of research, it surpasses all foreign analogues.
The main components of the accelerator complex are already ready. They were shown to journalists during an excursion organized as part of the Popular Science Tourism initiative of the Decade of Science and Technology, which includes visiting the facilities of the Science and Universities national project.
“We are creating a synchrotron with an extremely small electron beam size,” says Academician Pavel Logachev, director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “This opens up unique prospects for many researchers in biology, chemistry, medicine, solid state physics, and electronics. There are facilities that are close in parameters to SKIF ", but there are no analogues. The creation of such equipment became possible thanks to the experience that the employees of our institute have. We have the most advanced level in the world in the development of devices for generating synchrotron radiation."
By the end of 2024, specialists from the INP SB RAS should complete the production, assembly and commissioning of equipment, and builders should erect a complex of 34 buildings and structures. The largest one, with a diameter of 230 meters, will house the main accelerating ring with a total length of 476 meters, from which dozens of output channels to user stations will be taken along the perimeter. The linear accelerator, where the electron beam is born, and the small ring booster accelerator will be placed in a separate building.
SKIF plans to study the structure of various organic and inorganic substances, solve issues related to genetics, pharmacology, biomedicine, geochemistry, aircraft building and space, energy and the oil and gas industry. The first stage provides for the construction of six experimental stations, each of which will specialize in its own type of research. For four, competitive procedures have already ended, design documentation has been developed and the production of experimental equipment has begun. In total, several dozen stations can be placed around the large ring of the accelerator.
Any specialized SR source is a shared facility. And SKIF is no exception. A whole research and production cluster is being formed around the accelerator, which is part of the Institute of Catalysis of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Roskosmos and Gazprom Neft , the Vector Center for Virology and Biotechnology, the Institute of Cytology and Genetics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of High Current Electronics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk State University , Tomsk Polytechnic University , Ufa University of Science and Technology, Krasnoyarsk State Medical University , other scientific, industrial and commercial organizations.
"SKIF is designed for interdisciplinary research," notes Yan Zubavichus, Deputy Director for Research at the SKIF Center for Collective Use, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. "It will be open to any scientific groups from Russia and other countries."
To understand the reactions of protein chemistry responsible for the vital functions of organisms, it is necessary to see how molecules change when interacting with each other. Since these processes are very fast, observations must be made with ultra-short steps to highlight the stages at which failures occur. The 4+ generation source of SKIF is ideal for X-ray diffraction analysis of biopolymer compounds - proteins and their complexes. It allows you to study substances of low molecular weight, as well as to work without the stage of crystallization by freezing.
“There is a general principle: the minimum size of the object under study must be greater than the wavelength of the microscope,” explains Pavel Logachev. “Here, the size of objects can reach one angstrom, this is the size of an atom. Moreover, SKIF helps to see not only individual atoms in a complex organic molecule, but but also dynamics - how this atom moves from one place of the molecule to another, how the reaction takes place. This is a kind of movie that gives us the opportunity to observe quantum objects."
Knowing how proteins and nucleic acids are arranged and interact with each other, it is possible to create molecules that enhance or block their activity. This will accelerate the development of anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial drugs.
Gone are the days when pharmacists prepared medicines by mixing various natural or artificial substances. Now drug design begins with the creation of a computer model of the main acting molecule. Then it is changed in such a way that it affects a specific target without harming the entire body. But in order to move from computer simulation to physical synthesis, it is necessary to determine the structure of the molecule, and here one cannot do without X-ray diffraction analysis. It can be done with high accuracy only at the synchrotron.
The State Center for Virology and Biotechnology "Vector", also located in the science city of Koltsovo, plans to use SKIF for a wide range of biological research. First of all, to study viruses, including new and potentially dangerous for humans and animals.
X-ray diffraction analysis makes it possible to decipher the spatial structures of protein pathogens, while X-ray microscopy allows one to look inside a cell infected with a virus. And radiography of laboratory animals will show how organs and tissues are damaged during a viral infection.
“At SKIF, we are going to implement the entire range of activities necessary for the development of antiviral drugs, from studying the structure of individual viral proteins to X-ray microtomography of cells, tissues and live laboratory animals,” says Anastasia Gladysheva, senior researcher at the SSC VB “Vector”. We expect that this will make it possible to make a breakthrough in applied research and significantly reduce the development time for drugs, vaccines and test systems."
In addition, high-contrast radiography helps to diagnose malignant tumors at an early stage, monitor the survival rate of implants, and promptly detect inflammatory processes that occur during prosthetics.
At the Technoprom-2023 International Technological Development Forum, which ended in Novosibirsk , eight organizations signed an agreement to establish a consortium to introduce synchrotron radiation in oil production. In addition to the SKIF CCU, it includes Novosibirsk State University, Gazprom Neft Scientific and Technical Center, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Kazan Federal University, the Institute of Catalysis of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Hydrodynamics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The objective of the project is to study in dynamics at the micro- and nanolevel the processes occurring in rocks saturated with oil and gas. This will help create technologies for maximum hydrocarbon recovery.
But developers and manufacturers of high-tech materials are most interested in synchrotron research. Today, without X-ray diffraction studies, it is impossible to create new metal coatings, polymers and composites with predetermined properties, including those for operation in extreme conditions: in the Arctic , space, inside nuclear reactors, and so on. And here in the first place is not just scientific interest, but the issue of technological security of the country.