The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

The magazine of Friedhelm Loh Group

Experience – Information technology

World-class research station

Brain research. The state of São Paulo is home to the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory – one of the largest scientific projects in the country. One of the many goals of the research work conducted in the laboratory’s particle accelerator is to study the human brain to learn more about Parkinson’s disease. Enclosures from Rittal are used in the process – for a very specific reason.

Text Christine Wollowski ––– Photography

Viewed from above, this gigantic circular structure with a silver shine to it looks like a flying saucer that has just landed. Spanning 68,000 square metres, the futuristic 15-metre-high building is as big as the Maracanã football stadium. It’s a researcher’s dream come true. Here in Campinas, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo, one of the world’s largest particle accelerators is currently being built as part of Project Sirius. “Sirius is taking modern-day engineering technology very close to its limits. It will be churning out world-leading research for at least a decade,” predicts physicist Antônio José Roque da Silva, who is the Director General of the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), which is based at the site, and is in charge of Project Sirius. According to his estimates, experiments that currently take ten hours to carry out will be completed in ten seconds when using Sirius, a fourth-generation accelerator.

November 2018 marked the first milestone, with two of the three accelerators and the building reaching completion. Since then, the people of Brazil have elected a new government and the country continues to suffer from a financial crisis. Yet nothing is stopping South America’s largest country from driving forward this ambitious project. In fact, the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communication has allocated around four million euros to the research centre to allow scientists from across the globe to carry out truly innovative experiments.  

All three particle accelerators, which are connected in series, have now been installed. The first electron beam circulated on 8 March 2019 – a breakthrough in the construction of the CNPEM research centre’s synchrotron radiation generator. Synchrotron light forms when the pre-accelerated particles almost reach light speed at the final stage and their trajectory is diverted by magnetic fields at approximately 600,000 revolutions per second. This light makes it possible to take high-resolution images of different organic and non-organic materials and processes, including viruses, rock, proteins, plants, metal compounds and human body parts.

You may find further information about the Sirius project here.

Matheus Fonseca (28) is thrilled. The CNPEM researcher has spent years studying neurodegenerative disorders, in particular Parkinson’s disease, which currently affects six million people worldwide. “With the synchrotron light Sirius generates, I can examine a human brain in a single analysis – with millimetre precision and on a nanometric scale,” Fonseca explains, adding: “I can also use it to analyse the brain in its entirety. Until now, specimens couldn’t be any larger than seven millimetres.” Making use of this and the greatly improved image resolution, Fonseca hopes to discover how and where exactly the disease forms so that treatment can be administered in that very area. In his opinion, Project Sirius is breaking new ground in the world of research. “Perhaps we’ll discover ways to cure previously incurable neurodegenerative diseases! I am extremely proud that this machine has been built by Brazilian researchers,” he says.

back Page 2: Pioneering development work  

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