If growing local and international interest comes to fruition, South Africa could build the continent's first synchrotron — an electron accelerator that could be used to develop new industrial products and medicines.
A synchrotron can accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. The electromagnetic radiation this process generates means the apparatus can be used like a giant X-ray machine to determine the molecular structure of materials or organisms — such as viruses. The project would cost tens of millions of US dollars and would take ten to 15 years to realise.
South Africa's Department of Science and Technology is promoting the plan, first mooted by an engineer at the country's Nuclear Energy Corporation. According to the online news agency Africa Intelligence, France and the United States have expressed interest in backing the project, and a feasibility study will be commissioned soon.