MAX IV Helps Companies Uncover the Secrets of Materials
How are the smallest structures in dough affected when a croissant is baked? What minerals are stored within a single seed? How do medications bind to the proteins they then influence? The MAX IV Laboratory in Lund enables us to look at extremely small parts of materials such as these. The benefits of this facility go beyond academic research; companies too are now able to make groundbreaking discoveries using the beamline portfolio at the world-class synchrotron research facility in Lund’s newest district.
The MAX IV Laboratory in northeastern Lund attracted 10,000 visitors in 2018, including research groups, potential users from companies, and the curious public. What attracts so many visitors is the brightest X-ray source and highest quality X-rays available to academia and industry in the world – a truly world-class resource for both academia and business.
MAX IV is a synchrotron radiation-based research facility. The linear accelerator accelerates electrons to nearly the speed of light and then feeds these electrons into two storage rings. Beamlines are built around the storage rings, where focused X-ray beams are emitted. These specialized beamlines are sophisticated scientific instruments that enable a wide range of experimental possibilities, such as to more closely examine the properties of materials.
MAX IV is the world’s brightest synchrotron light source and was inaugurated in June 2016. In the current beamtime call, when researchers apply for time to use a beamline, eight beamlines are open for applications. Financing for 16 beamlines has been secured, but there is room for between 25 and 30 beamlines in total. For example, the ForMAX beamline, financed by the forestry industry and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, makes it possible to examine the extremely small constituents of wood.
According to Magnus Larsson, head of the Industrial Relations Office at MAX IV, ”The forestry industry is in need of new innovations, and in order to better understand the processes they must have foundational understanding of the material they work with. Financing a beamline is a way to strengthen a research field.”
The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of using results from research facilities similar to MAX IV. There are also ongoing discussions within the Swedish food industry about how they could embrace these techniques as well as the potential benefits they could get from MAX IV’s experiments and results.
“We will gather food industry researchers and companies in March 2019 to see what their largest research challenges are and identify what needs to be developed so that the food industry can also use and benefit from the techniques available and planned at MAX IV,” says Larsson.
Other areas of immediate interest include the metal, biomedical, and textile industries, as well as materials science for energy technologies such as solar cells and batteries. Even traditional research areas like archaeology have found new approaches through MAX IV’s techniques. The possibilities are endless.
“Our strategy is to work with industry sectors,” says Larsson. “It has worked well for us to gather academia, companies and institutes in order to reach existing clusters. By working in this way the sector is able to build internal competence and strengthen themselves. We hope that with time more companies will make targeted investments to take advantage of the technology. Together with us or the university, they can produce a measurement method that best suits their needs. At MAX IV an industry sector can come together and invest in a beamline to secure the proper equipment and time for research.”
There are several ways to utilize the MAX IV facility even for companies who are not able to build their own expertise. One way is through collaboration with researchers at the university. According to Larsson, 28% of the academic projects in the latest call for beamtime declared an industrial connection.
Another way to get results from MAX IV is to utilize a mediator company. These are specialty companies whose focus is on helping other companies to utilize lab equipment within the university research world or to do experiments at MAX IV.
“We already have a handful of mediator companies, but there is a lot of room for more actors who do this,” states Magnus Larsson. “It is a good way for companies to get value from the facility without having to go all the way.”
This is just the beginning of this unique state-of-the-art facility. It remains to be seen what fantastic discoveries will be made as more beamlines become operational and as the use of the beam is widened. The results will likely mean a great deal for material sciences, biotechnology and medicine, as well as address to important sustainability issues in energy and the environment.
Facts about MAX IV
- MAX IV was inaugurated in June 2016 and boasts a number of predecessors. The first electron accelerator at Lund University, LUSY, was built in 1962. LUSY was followed by MAX in 1987, MAX II in 1995, and MAX III in 2007.
- In terms of cost, the properties alone cost just over 1.8 billion Swedish crowns. Additionally, the linear accelerator, two storage rings, and laboratory space cost 1.3 billion Swedish crowns to build and install.
- Public funds finance MAX IV in the form of the Swedish Research Council, Sweden’s Innovation Agency Vinnova, as well as the Swedish Energy Agency, Swedish universities, and Region Skåne. MAX IV also has international initiatives in beamline development in the form of a Finnish-Estonian beamline, a Danish beamnline, and a beamline financed by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
- When researchers apply for beamtime, they describe the scientific benefits of their experiment. An independent international panel evaluates applications by scientific quality, technical feasibility, and safety, and based on that assessment assigns beamtime. These research beamtimes are free, but carry an obligation to the public and to funders to report the outcomes through publication of results. In addition, it is possible for non-academic researchers to purchase beamtime.
- MAX IV aims to be fully operational in 2026, at which point it is expected to have about 30 operational beamlines with approximately 2,000 beamtime users a year. In 2018, between 300 and 400 researchers used the three operational beamlines.
Original text by Caroline Wendt
Translation by Finlay MacGregor
Photo by © Perry Nordeng