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Sincrotó Alba
The ALBA synchrotron

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About ALBA

ALBA is the name of the synchrotron light laboratory that will come on line in Cerdanyola del Vallés in 2009. This state-of-the-art facility will serve as a huge microscope revealing the secrets of atoms and molecules. It will be used by researchers and high-tech companies.

The 22,870 sq. m. facility is housed in a central concrete and glass building in the shape of a snail shell with a diameter of 140 metres. Workshops and centres for producing energy will be housed on different levels underground.

There are as many as 20 synchrotrons in Europe, but ALBA will be the only one south of the Paris-Trieste corridor (excluding the European facility at Grenoble).

The synchrotron is managed by CELLS (the Consortium for the Construction, Equipping and Operation of the Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory) and is financed jointly by the Generalitat and the Spanish State. The cost of ALBA will be in the region of 164 million euros.

How it works

A synchrotron is a particle accelerator. An electron cannon emits an initial beam that is accelerated to nearly the speed of light. Once the electrons have reached high energies they are introduced into a confined ring where they move about for hours with energy that is kept constant by means of changes in radio frequency.

When the electrons moving around in the ring take a curve, they emit extremely intense light with wavelengths ranging from the visible to X-rays. This light is highly focalized, polarized and then emitted in the form of pulses like a camera flash.

The radiation emitted, or synchrotron light, is channelled towards workstations where users can utilise it for research.


Synchrotron radiation can be used in many fields of research from physics to medicine and biology.

Its industrial applications are highly varied. It can be used to manufacture small articles, to design drugs and to develop new equipment for industry.

Major applications

  • Molecular biology: for studying proteins, viruses and helping to design new medicine.
  • Medical therapy: the X-rays emitted by a synchrotron can be applied to medical imaging and certain therapies.
  • Environmental sciences: for determining the structure of pollutants.
  • Material sciences: for studying the properties of materials.
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