African synchrotron bid gathers pace

The effort to build a synchrotron in Africa is gaining momentum, a leading proponent has told a US conference.

Prof Herman Winick said a key meeting of scientists and officials has been scheduled for November.

A synchrotron is a big accelerator that produces powerful X-rays for research; apart from Antarctica, Africa remains the only continent without one.

The effort will be modelled on a Middle East synchrotron which resulted from a landmark international collaboration.

Prof Winick, an eminent physicist from Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California, highlighted the uneven scattering of the 50-plus light sources on a world map.

"Glaring on this map is the absence of any red dot here," he said, pointing to the African continent.

"It's very relevant that Africa has such facility, so that dedicated, motivated African scientists can work on problems - biomedical, environmental - that are of particular interest to that region."

So far the initiative has a 15-strong steering committee that includes members from several African countries as well as the US and Europe.

It is these scientists who have called the November workshop, to be hosted by the ESRF (the European synchrotron in Grenoble, France).

"It will bring together scientists and government officials from all over Africa," Prof Winick said.

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