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St Andrews researcher leading light

A researcher at the University of St Andrews is one of the leading lights in Scotland in the new Diamond Light Source – the UK’s brand new ‘super microscope’.

Dr Adrian Finch, of the University’s School of Geography & Geosciences, will use the new £300 million facility to investigate 1 million year old corals for clues of climate change.

The Diamond synchrotron facility is one of the brightest sources of light in the world and the biggest science facility to be built in the UK for thirty years. It is hoped that the facility, the size of five football pitches, will enable scientists to find out more about the secret structure of the world around us.

Based in South Oxfordshire, the 235m diameter doughnut-shaped facility will be used by a unique cross-section of science, including those working in biotechnology, medicine, environment and materials research. Diamond will produce ultra-violet and x-ray beams of unprecedented quality and brightness, in the region of 100 billion times brighter than hospital x-ray machines. Prior to the new development, Dr Finch and fellow St Andrews academic Dr Nicola Allison used similarly powerful x-ray facilities at the Advanced Photon Source in Chicago, to map variations in corals over small areas.

A crystallographer and an expert in mineralogy and materials science, Dr Finch has used novel methods for the last ten years to examine the way in which coral skeletons encode climate change over thousands of years. By looking at the chemistry of corals, his research could uncover information which may be helpful in predicting climate change in the future.

The process of examining cross sections of corals can be likened to the processes used when ageing trees. Corals are sliced and x- rayed, and each annual band holds information on age and climate. As corals deposit their mineral skeletons year after year, the trace elements in each band of the skeleton encode long-term sea temperature changes. By examining fossil corals, some of which are millions of years old, Dr Finch and Dr Allison will gain insights into sea temperatures in the distant past.

He said, “The diamond facility is an exciting opportunity for the UK science community to perform synchrotron experiments previously only possible outside the UK. We are looking forward to the prospect of being able to understand more about how corals encode past ocean conditions and therefore how the world’s climates have changed. ”

The first research projects at Diamond will be carried out in experimental stations (or ‘beamlines’), each with a different purpose. Dr Finch, one of the first round of researchers invited to use the new facility, is also a member of the steering committee of the I18 beamline station alongside fellow researchers across the physical sciences.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS:

DR FINCH IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON 079 6988 7634.

NOTE TO PICTURE EDITORS:

IMAGES RELATING TO DR FINCH’S RESEARCH ON CORALS ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE PRESS OFFICE – CONTACTS BELOW.

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email gec3@st- andrews.ac.uk Ref: Diamond light 070207.doc

View the latest University press releases at http://www.st- andrews.ac.uk

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