France announces synchrotron site

French 'Sun' to Shine Near Paris

Paris--The sun is shining on French science today with the selection of a site outside Paris for the country's new synchrotron. The contraption, which bounces x-rays off of materials to probe their structures, will be the country's first "third-generation" x-ray source and is expected to open up new research opportunities.

Research minister Roger-Gérard Schwartzenberg announced today that the machine, called SOLEIL, or "sun," would be built near Saclay, about 20 kilometers southwest of Paris. The project had been cancelled by his predecessor, Claude Allègre, who feared that its $200 million price tag for construction and 8 years of operation would pinch other research budgets. But Schwartzenberg said that the national government's share should not exceed 20%, with regional and local authorities paying 75% and the rest coming from the United Kingdom, Spain, Belgium, and Portugal.

SOLEIL's high-power x-rays will allow researchers to probe the atomic structures of biological molecules and industrial materials at resolutions of just a few angstroms. The accelerator will have an energy of up to 2.75 giga electron volts and 24 beam lines for experiments. Groundbreaking on the machine is set for fall 2001, with SOLEIL coming online in 2005.