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China's biggest particle accelerator set to work
Updated: 2009-04-30 13:59

BEIJING -- The building and testing of a machine that can create super X-rays capable of exposing the complicated structures of chemical compounds and proteins has been completed at Shanghai Zhangjiang High-tech Park in Pudong New Area.

The Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility is expected to significantly boost China's capability and competitiveness in scientific research, especially in life sciences, officials from the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the facility's key developer, were quoted as saying by Thursday's Shanghai Daily.

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The 1.2 billion yuan (US$176 million) particle accelerator, China's biggest light facility, will also help in the study of viruses and new drugs and the development of technology.

Next month the synchrotron will be opened to universities, scientific institutes and companies for approved research.

The trial operation of the facility in about 60 projects since last month has already yielded results.

"We have found seven new structures including one enzyme which can break down an environmental toxicant," said He Jianhua, head of the institute's synchrotron radiation experiment division.

The institute is cooperating with the Shanghai Institute of Material Medica on researching treatment of bird flu and is expected to work with Sinopec on petroleum catalyzers.

"The machine will be an effective tool in research on viruses as well as for swine flu medicines although we haven't received a request yet," He said.

The facility was jointly proposed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai government in 1995, with construction starting in December 2004.

The synchrotron's beamlines were adjusted from May last year to March. So far the facility has built seven beamlines and experimental stations for research and development in life sciences, new materials, physics and biochemical projects.

The particle accelerator can produce X-rays thousands of times stronger than normal X-ray machines capable of exposing the minute structure of human proteins.

"Thanks to the technology, we can know a protein structure within 20 minutes. Such a procedure usually took several months," said He.

The institute hopes to complete the facility's proposed 60 beamlines by 2020, and have 40 completed by 2015.