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SESAME to Open Ties Between Countries

A unique facility to serve scientists all over the Middle East prepares to begin operating in Jordan

Aladdin spoke the magic word “Sesame!” to open doors. Likewise, the SESAME project (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) stands to open doors that have for many years shut off the scientists of different countries from one another. The synchrotron, at Al-Balqa’ Applied University near Al-Salt, Jordan, serves scientists in Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan, with other, European, scientists participating as observers.

A synchrotron is a large, ring-shaped pipe in which electrons are accelerated to near-light speeds. As they whiz through the pipe, the electrons emit radiation, such as X rays. In research stations situated around the facility, scientists perform experiments using this radiation. Although the synchrotron is a sort of particle accelerator, such as those used in nuclear physics research, many scientists employ it as a giant microscope that allows them to observe things at the scale of molecules and atoms. SESAME is planned to have five different beam lines, making it valuable for research in nanotechnology, atomic medicine, spectroscopy, atomic and molecular physics, archaeology, environmental science and more.

Structural biologists, for instance, rely on synchrotrons to unravel the three-dimensional structures of proteins – an essential step in understanding how they work as well as in creating new and better drugs. To solve a protein’s three-dimensional structure, scientists crystallize the protein and then bombard it with strong X-ray radiation.  As the rays bounce off the crystal, they create a pattern that, after analysis, yields the structure of the protein molecule.

On 6 August 2015, Israel’s Minister of Science, Technology and Space (MOST), Danny Dannon, visited SESAME together with other high-ranking members of his Ministry, including Mr Ido Sharir, Director General of the Ministry. Eliezer Rabinovici, one of Israel’s delegates to the SESAME Council and its co-Vice President, was also a member of the delegation.

During the visit the Minister and his delegation were toured round the tunnel of SESAME’s booster synchrotron and that of its main storage ring, and listened to short presentations on technical aspects of SESAME’s accelerator and the SESAME scientific program and ‘day-one’ beamlines. There were also talks with the Director of SESAME, Khaled Toukan.

SESAME explicitly aims to foster scientific and technological capacities and excellence in the Middle East and neighboring regions (and help prevent or reverse the brain drain) by enabling world-class research in subjects ranging from biology and medical sciences through materials science, physics and chemistry to archaeology – much focused on issues of regional importance, e.g. related to the environment, health, and agriculture, and to build scientific links and foster better understanding and a culture of peace through collaboration between peoples with different creeds and political systems.



Israel BDS – building dialogue through science – aims to promote the kind of international collaboration that can lead to true understanding between people. Israel BDS stands for the free and open exchange of ideas among scientists everywhere. By reporting on the benefits of Israeli-international scientific research and the web of connections that these scientists create around the world, Israel BDS takes a vibrant approach to highlighting the global necessity of continued international scientific collaboration.