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Plans to establish a synchrotron light facility in the Middle East have been given the final seal of approval by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

The organisation gave the formal go-ahead to the project — which is expected to play an important role in fostering scientific collaboration in the region — yesterday (30 May) at a meeting of its Executive Board.

The centre is to be housed at Jordan's Al-Balqa Applied University in Allan. It will allow scientists and engineers from the Middle East and elsewhere to study the molecular structure of matter using the synchrotron, which produces high-quality X-rays by circulating electrons around a ring at high speed.

The project — known as the International Centre for Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications for the Middle East (SESAME) — is a collaboration between Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The idea began in 1999, when Germany offered to donate a synchrotron, called BESSY I, to the Middle East. The scientific commission of UNESCO endorsed the creation of the project last year (see Middle Eastern promise as synchrotron wins approval).

The government of Jordan will provide the land and buildings for the facility, while the running costs are to be covered by members of SESAME. The centre could be up and running within three years.

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