United in Discovery: The Middle East’s Particle Accelerator

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland has been heralded by scientists and academics around the world, not just for its potential to uncover some of the secrets of particle physics, but for the human innovation that has gone into its creation.

Already, there have been numerous exciting findings like the tantalising glimpses of the Higgs Boson, with more expected to come in the coming years as further experiments take place.

While the LHC may tend to dominate the headlines, another particle accelerator is currently under construction in the Jordanian town of Al-Balqa.

Named the ‘Synchrotron-Light for Experimental Science and Applications’, or ‘Sesame’ for short, this $100m scientific creation might not be on the same scale of the LHC, but the impact it has had – and may have – in the Middle East, could be huge.

The proposed site for the new project is located 30 km North East of the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The proposed site for the new project is located 30 km North East of the Jordanian capital, Amman.

A Number of Participating Nations

One of the first notable things about this project is the unlikely Middle Eastern governments that have come together to work on it.

The nations involved in the project are Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey – some of which have had their difficulties in the past.

But this has been described as an example of the region becoming united in scientific progress and discovery. This has also resulted in a great deal of optimism in the area, among scientists and residents alike.

A Trifecta of Operation

Although a little behind schedule, Sesame is expected to start operating in the final quarter of 2016 and will have a trio of purposes. Like the LHC, Sesame will fire electrons around a tube nearing the speed of light and information will be gathered from these.

There will be three main lines of analysis:

  • To study samples of soil and different particles in the air to learn more about pollution and the environmental situation in the places these samples come from.
  • To study living tissue and the creation and changing of cells.
  • To study different proteins to help get a better understanding of viruses and work to create antivirals and drugs.

In the future, there is also potential to expand Sesame’s abilities and open up other lines of investigation.

Further Study and Development

With these experiments though also comes two objectives for the project, as stated on sesame.org.

To:

  • Foster scientific and technological excellence in the Middle East and neighbouring countries by enabling world-class scientific research in subjects ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences through basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences.

and…

  • Build scientific and cultural bridges between diverse societies, and contribute to a culture of peace through international cooperation in science.

Possible Political and Economic Effects

Another aim behind the above projects is to stop so many of the Middle East’s best and brightest students, academics and professionals heading overseas.

By creating such an impressive facility, it may mean that the next generations favour staying in their home nations to work. Equally, some of the above mentioned environmental findings could mean that companies and businesses need to adapt to become greener – ultimately improving the working and living standards in the countries.

The knock-on effects of this could see some of the nations involved diversifying their exports and stimulating growth in industries that have historically been largely underfunded.

Low oil prices have meant some of the countries involved have experienced a tumultuous time economically, prompting them to look for new opportunities in different sectors. Stock platform IG noticed a 77.48% fall in the value of oil between 2011 and 2016, which has encouraged many to look for new opportunities outside of petrochemicals. Projects like SESAME will hopefully kickstart a new wave of optimism among investors.

A Final Thought…

Sesame is pencilled in to start working in the coming months and it can be assumed that there will be a shared sense of hope amongst the different parties involved.

It could also theoretically be an opportunity to demonstrate what a group of united nations in the Middle East can achieve by working together; the truth, of course, will be shown once Sesame is up and running.