Alba, the only synchrotron in South-western Europe
February 2013.- A synchrotron can be simply defined as a huge microscope that reveals the hidden architecture of matter. These discoveries provide greater understanding of different materials and also how to develop new ones. Synchrotrons are essentially buildings where electrons are spun at an extremely high speed. The electrons travel along a tube going round the entire building. They accelerate up to the speed of light and then the invisible light they emit is used to go through matter and reveal its secrets.
Synchrotron light is useful in many fields of applied knowledge (chemistry, biotechnology, environment, medicine, materials, etc…). It also has many industrial applications in sectors such as pharmaceutical and health industry, with the design of new drugs, foods, plastics, microelectronics, metallurgy, cosmetics, construction, etc. In fact, synchrotron light is useful in any field where one needs to understand the structure of material at the incredibly small scale of atoms. There are about fifty synchrotrons all over the world.
The Catalan Alba facilities in Cerdanyola del Vallès beside the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona are the only ones of their kind in South-western Europe. Alba is a third generation installation, meaning that the emitted light is particularly bright, thus providing even more precise results. These types of synchrotrons are not very common, with less than twenty to be found around the world. It was built with an investment of some 200 million euros coming from both central government and local Catalan government funding and has been in operation for almost a year.
The Barcelona Synchrotron Park, a privileged location on the outskirts of Barcelona
The ALBA Synchrotron is located in very special surroundings: in the Barcelona Synchrotron Park. Home to not only the synchrotron itself, it is in its own right a science and technology park with 400,000 M2 of productive floor space, with 55 plots from 2,100 to 36,000 M2. Its mission is to offer innovative companies a unique ecosystem in which to concentrate on both growth and production.
One of the Parks’ more striking features is the transport infrastructures it enjoys: a direct access to the AP7 Motorway which leads straight to France (and has been behind the creation of a dynamic and tight-knit industrial base in the area), and its nearness to Barcelona’s airport and port. Inside the Park itself we can find state-of-the-art facilities with six telecommunication networks, cold and heat installations on each plot - thanks to its polygeneration plants – a highly reliable power source essential for the synchrotron. These factors are why, for example, the Barcelona Data Center Cluster chose to install its premises in the Park. This new cluster hosts Data Centres from CaixaBank, IBM and T-Systems.
The innovative character of the Park and the attraction of innovative economic activity is determined not only by the synchrotron itself, but also is due to close connections with the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and its own Research Park, with the Vallès Technology Park - Spain's most long-standing technology park - with the ASCAMM Technology Centre and with Creapolis, the business hub of one of Europe’s leading business schools, ESADE. Therefore, it is clear that the Barcelona Synchrotron Park is located right in the centre of one of the greatest concentrations of talent in the Catalonia. This unique environment is a major asset of the Park.