»BESSY III is picking up speed!«

HZB is intensifying its planning for the successor source BESSY III. A project team has kicked off, future scientific topics are being identified and a series of workshops is being planned. »lichtblick« talks to the project coordinator Markus Sauerborn about the next steps.

The project team assembled for the first time at the end of January. Have the plans for BESSY III taken off since then?
Yes, you can say that! Our project team has 14 employees from various departments of HZB working together on everything from beam generation, X-ray optics and instrument development to digitalisation and energy efficiency. The schedule is ambitious, with the Conceptual Design Report expected to be finished in two years. This is a first interim goal on the route to BESSY III, but it is also clear that the route is still long: it will be at least ten years before BESSY III actually goes into operation.


What does the report contain?
The CDR describes the frame conditions that BESSY III will have to offer in order to meet the needs of HZB research, the user community and strategic partners as ideally as possible. It includes the design concept for the new source and shows how the identified requirements can be technically implemented. It will also present a realistic budget.

What topics is the project team discussing at the moment?
We are discussing questions like: What key technical parameters determine the character of the ring? What aspects have to be considered in planning the construction? What information do we need to make decisions? We are also currently looking into the matter of the future location. We are conducting soil surveys and calculations to clarify whether the existing grounds in Adlershof are suitable. It is conceivable, for example, that vibrations from traffic or industrial plants could disturb the operation of BESSY III. We have to rule out such matters from early on. Another major topic is the internal and external communication: how can HZB colleagues be brought into in the process even during times of a pandemic? How do we approach the politicians, boards, committees or even the public? After all, we have to get the people on board.

Markus Sauerborn, BESSY III projectcoordinator.

Markus Sauerborn, BESSY III project coordinator.
Picture: sz

What are some of the considerations regarding the sustainability of the new facility?
Electron accelerators consume a lot of power. Our aim is to achieve the smallest possible CO2 footprint, for example, by using as large an area of the buildings as possible to generate our own electricity using photovoltaics. The technical components such as cooling and magnets will also have to use less energy than before. We want to collaborate with innovative companies to develop low-energy solutions for these things. Sustainability also means that we have to think about the entire lifecycle, including how we can one day dismantle and recycle the facility.

Technology development and digitalisation are other topics the project team is working on. What paths will need to be taken?
We are looking into what technologies will be used more widely in the future, examples being metal 3D printing, new welding technologies, robotics and automation. Many of these technologies already play an important role in the continual upgrading of BESSY II. In the current pandemic situation, we have users asking us whether we can perform automated measurements on the samples they submit. This is not possible for every experiment, of course, but basically, the question of automation and remote control of experiments is a big issue. We also want to make greater use of artificial intelligence (AI). We already have the first starting points for using AI in controlling the storage ring or optimising beamlines.


And now to the science: What problems will benefit from a successor source BESSY III?
BESSY III, in my opinion, will be of enormous importance for the development of new materials and material combinations based on an understanding of materials at all levels. With tailored photons, we can selectively investigate individual elements, their chemical environment and their properties. Of course, HZB will be focusing primarily on materials for energy conversion and storage as well as quantum technologies. Yet, these are very broad topics. So, we have formed twelve Science Expert Groups to home in on these questions. 

How do the expert groups work, exactly?
Each Science Expert Group has 10 to 20 experts addressing a specific topic, for example catalysis, life sciences or quantum materials. Each group identifies scientific challenges that will still be relevant ten years from now. Some experts have never seen a synchrotron from the inside before, but are highly visionary and are able to single out future topics from their disciplines for us. This open approach is extremely fruitful. The groups are coordinated by Ullrich Pietsch, a longstanding synchrotron researcher who knows BESSY II and the European user community very well. His task is to filter the concerns of the groups and translate them into requirements and needs for BESSY III, and in fact for BESSY II as well. After all, BESSY II will stay in operation for at least another ten years, and for this we will be continuing to invest in new methods and beamlines. 

In April, many samples of the SARS-CoV2 virus were studied at BESSY II. Does this present an opportunity through greater visibility – including in relation to BESSY III?
We are delighted to have been able to help in finding new insights into the coronavirus. Years ago, when nobody was thinking about an impending pandemic, a lot was invested in expanding the MX beamlines and establishing new methods such as fragment screening. As a result, the group of Manfred Weiss was now able to rapidly analyse the virus proteins at the University of Lübeck. This shows that such infrastructures are needed in Germany. In a situation like the current one, nobody can travel across Europe just to measure samples. Scenarios like this could receive some amount of attention in politics. So, the visibility that synchrotron sources gain in pandemic times is indeed a major opportunity for us.

Florentine Krawatzek and Silvia Zerbe talked to Markus Sauerborn.