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How to travel around a synchrotron when you're not an electron beam

Posting in Energy

Out of Sync. That's a photo from the outside the state of the art Shanghai Synchrotron. Enter below.

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SHANGHAI - Greetings from the Shanghai Synchrotron. Come on in and I'll show you around. I took some pictures here three weeks ago.

Jean-Pierre Revol, leader of the ALICE team at CERN's particle accelerator, called the Shanghai Synchrotron "very impressive" and "state of the art."

A synchrotron is a type of particle accelerator, and this one is eye opening. Don't take my word for it. I toured it with Jean-Pierre Revol, one of the team leaders at the world's best known particle accelerator - the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider at the renowned CERN laboratory in Switzerland. Revol called the Chinese facility "very impressive" and "state of the art."

This three-year-old synchrotron is really a giant 3D camera taking stunningly detailed images of tiny things, such as a mouse heart. The potential applications in the medical field are obvious, as doctors and researchers can see inside organs like never before. It sends X-Rays to the Stone Age.

The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) operates this 1,417-foot long ring by deploying a combination of electron beams, magnetic fields, radiation and light. SINAP is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a huge research group run centrally by the Chinese government.

Feast your eyes on what the synchrotron sees, and on a few other things I spotted:

The Great Hall of Electron Beams: There are 3.5 billion electron volts beyond the white wall.

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Mighty mouse details. This triptych of a mouse heart was on display on one of the synchrotron's video screens.

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Do you prefer looking at mouse lungs rather than hearts? If so, lucky you. SINAP had them on display as well.

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This is a still shot I took from a video screen showing a live grasshopper expanding and contracting as it breathed.

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The photo to the right is of one of the many homages to Western biomedical researchers that SINAP has mounted throughout the cubicles and offices at the synchrotron. This one shows, among others, England's John Ernest Walker (upper left) who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997 with American Paul D. Boyer for their work on enzymes and ATP - the stuff that carries chemical energy around cells. Walker currently works in mitochondrial biology.

Synchronized Cycling. Or, How to Get Around a Synchrotron When You're not an Electron Beam. Not the world's best photo, but I've included it because how often do you get to see this? He's pedaling around the big machine.

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Top photo from IndiaTV, all others by Mark Halper, including photos of images. Some of these photos first appeared in my blog for the non-profit Weinberg Foundation, where I write about nuclear power, and for whom I traveled to Shanghai to cover a thorium conference. China has big thorium plans.

— By on November 20, 2012, 9:31 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure