Web edition: January 2, 2009
Print edition: January 17, 2009; Vol.175 #2 (p. 32)
How did the SESAME idea originate?
At a committee meeting in September of 1997, as the new
machine [BESSY II] was coming close to getting online, I asked the question,
what are you going to do with the old machine?… The answer came back, we’re
going to call in a junkyard dealer, cut it up into small pieces and get rid of
it.… I said immediately that it’s a shame to destroy such a beautiful,
productive machine.… And I said why not offer it as a gift to serve as the centerpiece
for a new facility in the
At first the plan was just to upgrade BESSY I from 800 million electronvolts (MeV) to 1 billion electronvolts (GeV), but now SESAME will be an even bigger machine. Why?
We realized that merely upgrading BESSY I but keeping its
basic structure was not going to be adequate.… So we said let’s abandon that
whole thing and go to 2 GeV with a totally new machine, and in fact it was
reviewed by the European Union, which said that 2 GeV was still too low. So the
present planning design has been made for what we call a third-generation 2.5
GeV light source. However, all the German equipment from BESSY I is now sitting
What’s the price tag for the whole project?
That’s a tricky question to answer because the land and the
site are gifts from
The motivation for SESAME is as a facility for doing science and also for working together across countries and cultures as an example of how science can foster that kind of cooperation, right?
Precisely. UNESCO called it a model project for other
regions.... It has brought together people. These nine countries include
What is it about synchrotron radiation facilities that makes them ideal for this purpose?
Because they affect such a broad area of science.... Nothing approaches the impact of X-rays as a tool for understanding materials — biological materials, semiconductor materials, catalytic chemical materials, environmental toxins, whatever.… Bang for the buck, the attractiveness and the impact over so many areas of science and technology could not be matched by anything else.
Who coined the name SESAME?
I take credit for that.... I decided that it needed to be
named SESAME, because I claim there’s three important connotations of the word
SESAME: One, it’s a door opener — it opens the door to jewels, to scientific
knowledge; another is the spice, sesame, a Middle East spice, the sesame seed,
it’s the seed for growth.... But most important it’s