Little motions for Big Physics

China's ultra-modern Shanghai SynchrotronRadiation Facility
PI was recently honored to participate in the 7th International Conference on Mechanical Engineering Design of Synchrotron Radiation Equipment and Instrumen-tation-- the biennial MEDSI conference of users and engineers at the world's particle accelerators. We'd been invited to present a half-day tutorial on "Nano-Precision Mechanisms for Beamline Components" --a surprisingly broad and nuanced field of nanopositioning technology.

The meeting was hosted in the stunning city of Shanghai by the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), and our first words should be to thank the Institute again for their extraordinary hospitality as well as for their polished management of an informative and enjoyable technical conference and exhibition.
Big Physics indeed-- the view from inside
the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

Today's synchrotron applications are notable for their diversity and importance across fields as varied as semi-conductor process development and life sciences. As one example, their intense X-ray output is now a fundamental tool for investigating fine, complex structures in 3D at an atomic scale.  In fact, groundbreaking research in protein crystallography using synchrotron radiation to reveal the architecture of proteins won Stanford professor Roger Kornberg the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2006.  This is proving to be foundational to our advancing understanding of disease processes, with import ranging from biophysics to the design of advanced antibiotics.

Kornberg's Nobel-winning
investigation of protein structure
was published in the April, 2001 issue of Science.
Synchrotron facilities are a global aspect of Big Physics today, with major operations on all continents.  We were happy to see familiar customers from around the world attending the conference-- this is truly a field of global importance spanning many scientific specialties.  Here on the Internet, notable reading resources include the Australia Synchrotron's tutorial on macromolecular crystallography and the New Zealand Synchrotron Group's concise overview of synchrotron techniques... and much more.

Precise optic and sample positioning--often in vacuum and often requiring sub-nanoscale controllability--is fundamental to the science performed at synchrotron facilities.  Indeed, the MEDSI presenters' applications incorporated a wide range of motion mechanisms and methodologies including scanning, wavelength selection, gap adjustment, steering and focusing, seismic isolation and alignment automation.

Many of these applications involve exacting and specialized requirements: extreme stability, non-magnetic construction and complex configurations of multiple axes including mixes of motorized and piezoelectric actuation.  Accordingly, as we were preparing our tutorial we included input and content from our global organization, which includes focused domain expertise at PI miCos.  The resulting tutorial was truly the result of an intensive worldwide effort spanning many weeks.
From the PI miCos catalog, a 5m spectrometer
subassembly for synchrotron
applications.  Click to enlarge.

Our thanks to our hosts, the PI and miCos colleagues who contributed, and to the many dozens of conference participants who shared their expertise and enthusiasm for this exciting, important and productive field.  Special thanks are also due to our colleagues at PI Shanghai for all their helpfulness, knowledge and friendship. For the first-time visitor, it was a treat to see how this member of PI's worldwide network has evolved and expanded into a formidable design and manufacturing resource for our customers in the area and worldwide.  And finally, thanks to the sparkling city of Shanghai, with its friendly, industrious people and endless fascinations.