By Susan Curtis in Campinas, Brazil
For the first time this week I woke to a brilliant blue sky, and below my hotel room I could see young Brazilians enjoying a quick game of football in the relative cool of the morning. Away from the traffic jams and unseasonably wet weather of the past few days, this seemed much more like the image of Brazil that’s projected to the outside world.
Today I was in Campinas, the third largest city in the state of São Paulo, some 100 km north-east of São Paulo itself. On the outskirts of the city is the National Center for Energy and Materials (CNPEM), home to Brazil’s synchrotron source as well as three national laboratories for nanotechnology, biosciences and ethanol production – which is a big deal for Brazil, since it offers a way to produce fuel from its abundant sugar cane.
I first visited the site last year as part of my research for Science Impact – Brazil, a special report produced by IOP Publishing in partnership with the Brazilian Physical Society. During that visit I found that CNPEM plans to build a third-generation synchrotron source called Sirius that will rival the best in the world, and I was curious to find out whether the facility is still on track to open to users in 2017.
It was clear when I arrived at the site that some construction had started, with diggers creating huge piles of red-coloured soil in the land next to the existing facility. Antonio Jose Roque da Silva, head of the synchrotron lab, told me that the land works would be completed by early December, ready for construction to start in February. Roque is confident that commissioning of the Sirius source will start in mid-2016, with the first beamlines coming on stream a year later – but admits that funding for the $320m project is not yet guaranteed.
“In Brazil we get the approval first, and then we find a way to make it happen,” he told me. And experience suggests he may be right, since the existing UVX synchrotron was hand-crafted in Brazil to keep the budget to a minimum
That can-do attitude is evident in the current technical team, which is developing and implementing technologies that haven’t yet been deployed in any operational synchrotron. “Sirius will be a major development for science in Brazil,” says Roque. “It shows we can be a leader, not just a follower.”