Journalist Kathiann Kowalski researched this story while on a “Chicago Fellowship” through the MBL’s Logan Science Journalism Program.
By Kathiann Kowalski
A giant ring-shaped research laboratory in Illinois is providing a new window into teeny, tiny molecules. What scientists learn there can help them study diseases, build better batteries, design bridges and aircraft, fight pollution and more.
Known as the Advanced Photon Source, or APS, it sprawls across 8.6 hectares (more than 21 acres) at Argonne National Laboratory, just west of Chicago. This research center is big, both in terms of its value to science and its size.
The outer diameter of its experiment hall spans 373 meters — the length of three and a half U.S. football fields. Within the building is a ring of narrow pipes that measure 1,104 meters (3,622 feet) around. You could fit a Major League Baseball stadium inside this ring!
This facility is one of several particle accelerators around the world. Their goal is to send a beam of subatomic particles into some target and then watch what happens. (Subatomic particles are bits of matter smaller than atoms.) Those collisions can provide detailed information about the structure of things too small to see — things almost too small to imagine. Read more …
Photo: Lighting flashes in the sky over the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Ill. The giant ring-shaped building houses a beam of tiny but powerful particles that helps scientists design better electronics, study disease and more. Credit: Argonne National Laboratory (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)