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Middle East particle accelerator project aims to begin experiments this fall

A panorama of the SESAME storage ring shielding wall after completion.
Photo courtesy SESAME
Project has brought together several unlikely partners, including Israel, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority

The Middle East's SESAME particle accelerator in Jordan aims to begin its first experiments as early as this fall, ahead of it's inauguration in the spring, the Guardian daily reports. 

SESAME, short for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, is an astonishing 20-year long effort to establish an advanced physics research facility, equipped with a sophisticated electron accelerator, in the town of  al-Balqa, some 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of Amman. The project has brought together several unlikely partners, including Israel, Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Turkey, Pakistan, Cyprus and the Palestinian Authority, becoming a symbol of cooperation in the Middle East.

Iran, which does not recognize Israel, continued it's participation in the project even after Dr. Masoud Alimohammadi and Dr. Magid Sharhriari, two Iranian nuclear physicists who participated in the SESAME project, were both assassinated. In 2010, an Iranian prosecutor accused the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad of taking out the scientists.

The project's scientific director Giorgio Paolucci told the Guardian that "We’re cooperating very well together. That’s the dream.”

“I don’t know how many places there are where all these governments have representatives who have the opportunity to come and talk to each other,” he continued.

According to the report, the team's progress advances through council meetings which are attended by government officials from each country.  In these sessions, the officials are able to leave behind politics that have lead to decades of enmity and instead focus on technical issues, and make agreements.

Particle accelerators push subatomic particles almost to the speed of light and smash them together to study the underlying structures of matter. In this way, questions can be answered about the Big Bang and the makeup of the universe.

It was in the largest of these underground accelerators that scientists in 2012 detected the Higgs boson, the elusive particle that gives mass to protons, electrons and other subatomic particles, allowing the universe to exist. 

The Synchrotron electron acceleration has applications in various fields of study, including environmental studies, biology, chemistry, and archaeology. Dozens of this particular accelerator model exist across the world, but SESAME aims to build a generation 2.5 model, on par with advanced synchrotrons operating in Canada and Australia. When completed, SESAME will become the Middle East's first advanced electron accelerator.

“There are so many applications that actually we are somehow limited by our fantasy,” Paolucci explained. “You can study almost anything. Here we can study everything from isolated atoms to human beings and everything which is in between these two extremes is allowed.”

“It’s really amazing the things you can do,” he added.

Read more: Israeli selected as VP of future particle accelerator in Jordan


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