Tor 25 jul / År 42 / Nr 3 2024

Making the invisible visible

MAX IV produces the most intense x-ray light in the world and there are great hopes, both in the research community and the business sector, that it will deliver results the world has never seen before.

MAX IV has three accelerators – a linear accelerator and two storage rings. The large ring has a circumference of 528 metres, comparable with the Coliseum in Rome. It is estimated that 2,000 researchers from around the world will visit MAX IV every year to conduct experiments at the facility.
The linear accelerator increases the velocity of electrons almost to the speed of light. The electrons are then directed into the storage ring, where magnets bend their path. In this bending process the electrons emit synchrotron light, which is an extremely intense light spanning wavelengths from ultraviolet to hard X-rays. The light is directed to the research stations through special beamlines, which is where experiments are conducted. When fully developed, MAX IV will have the capacity to accommodate 26‒28 beamlines in the two storage rings and in the extension of the linear accelerator.

Deeper Understanding of How Things Work
The various techniques of imaging, spectroscopy and scattering are often combined in the experiments. In the life sciences, MAX IV can be used to study and develop new drugs and healthy and diseased cells and tissue can be analysed as a basis for developing new treatments.
Tomographic imaging could depict living structures in extreme detail. X-ray crystallography and powder diffraction can be used to identify how atoms or molecules are positioned in relation to each other, which is important for the characteristics – mechanical, magnetic, electronic, etc. – of the matter or material.
”When we’re able to see the actual structure of things, like proteins, in a resolution of a few tenths of a nanometre we get a much deeper understanding of how they function and interact with other molecules. Apart from increasing our knowledge through basic research it can also facilitate drug developers in their search for suitable drug candidates,” says Dr. Thomas Ursby, BioMAX Project Manager, MAX IV.
He’s also active in establishing the MicroMAX beamline, that can be used for studying extremely small crystals.
”40% of all pharmaceuticals are targeted at membrane proteins. These proteins are hard to crystallise into large crystals, so MicroMAX will greatly contribute to new developments in this important field of drug discovery. Also the formulation of drugs can be studied in great detail, utilising the different techniques provided by the different beamlines,” he adds.

Great Asset for Life Science Companies
”The facility is a great asset for life science companies who can study their samples here. Companies can come here and get access to the research equipment but we also encourage them to collaborate with academic research groups with the know-how and competence to perform these kinds of experiments. In the future we will provide a service so that only their samples need to be sent to us and the researchers can perform their experiments by accessing the equipment via a web-based interface,” says Magnus Larsson, Industrial Liaison Officer, MAX IV.
The MAX IV facility is based on new technology and scientific theories that have been developed at the Lund-based MAX Lab since the early 1980s. MAX Lab was the forerunner with the MAX I, II and III accelerators. So far, investment in MAX IV amounts to EUR 470 million, the biggest ever investment in national research infrastructure in Sweden.