Industrial Use of the Japanese Synchrotron Radiation (SR) and the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) Facilities

Tetsuya Ishikawa

Workshop group photograph with Mt. Fuji in the background

Workshop group photograph with Mt. Fuji in the background

The Japanese government, like many other governments, wants to see higher participation rates for industry in research facilities like SPring-8 (synchrotron radiation, SR), SACLA (X-ray free electron laser, XFEL), J-PARC (spallation neutron), and the K-computer. Since its inauguration in 1997, SPring-8 has encouraged participation from industry by establishing an equal-access policy for users from both academic and industrial circles. As a result of several strategic initiatives, approximately 20% of accepted proposals currently come from industry. Many companies have found solutions to their specific problems by using SPring-8, often leading to the introduction of new products in the marketplace. SPring-8, originally named for “Super Photon ring 8 GeV”, now refers to “Solution Providing ring 8 GeV” or “Solving Problem ring 8 GeV”.

Initially, the SPring-8 beamlines were used by individual companies, mostly by users from their analysis departments. Soon after SPring-8’s launch, thirteen companies from heavy industry, electronics, electric companies, automotive companies, and chemical industries collaborated to construct two beamlines as proprietary assets, one using a bending magnet and the other using an undulator. A consortium of pharmaceutical companies soon followed, constructing a bending magnet beamline for protein crystallography as its proprietary asset. Next, the local government, Hyogo Prefecture, constructed two beamlines, which opened partially for industrial use by local companies. SPring-8 then constructed two public beamlines for proposal-based industrial use, and converted one beamline for undulator R&D for proposal-based industrial applications as well. Finally, Toyota Central R&D Laboratories, Inc., a unit of Toyota Motor Corporation, constructed a beamline for research supporting the Toyota Group.

The second phase of SPring-8 opened with the construction of the Frontier Soft matter Beamline by a consortium comprising nineteen leading polymer companies in Japan. One of the consortium’s initial trials was to set up a strategic academic-industrial alliance, which resulted in the development of energy-saving automotive tires by a collaboration between Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. and the University of Tokyo. Construction of two similar beamlines followed with investment from the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). One targets development of new battery technology with collaboration between Kyoto University and related companies, and the other targets development of catalysts for Fuel Cells with collaboration between the University of Electro-Communications and related companies.

The considerable success with industrial applications at SPring-8 has encouraged both the facility and representatives from industry to seek additional opportunities for collaboration. There has been strong demand in industrial circles to address common, significant problems facing their industrial segments by using SPring-8 facilities for research. In addition, there has been momentum both in the facility and within industrial circles to use SPring-8 not only as an analytical tool but also as a tool for advancing business strategy.

Innovations in science and technology are indispensable for addressing many challenges facing the world today, such as a steadily growing world population, limited and/or costly energy sources, global warming, and rapidly evolving infectious diseases. Leading-edge photon science will undoubtedly play a prominent role in the technology required to analyze the properties of materials that can help to address these problems. Synchrotron radiation (SR) and X-ray free electron laser (XFEL) technologies are expected to provide insights as observation and analysis tools. A serious examination of the roles that scientific and technological innovation plays in resolving the problems facing humankind, and the roles for SR/XFEL facilities, requires active participation from the industrial arena.

In order to facilitate further collaboration between academia and industry, a two-day workshop titled ”Workshop toward Innovation and Photon Science” was convened in November 2014 to hold a series of roundtable discussions among Japanese industrial leaders and leaders of SR facilities around the world. The workshop represented a first attempt for this type of discussion. Japanese industrial companies have earned a reputation for excellence in analyzing the unique structures of various materials to develop technologies for everyday use. The workshop aimed to inspire discussion about cutting-edge science and technology among representatives of several international SR/XFEL facilities and Japanese industrial leaders. Roundtable sessions were conducted to discuss methods for solving various challenging problems facing mankind, roles for photon science in addressing these problems, and technological innovations required in SR/XFEL facilities.

The workshop was held at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Attendees included leaders from fourteen SR/XFEL facilities (Advanced Light Source, USA; Advanced Photon Source, USA; Australian Synchrotron, Australia; CHESS, USA; Diamond, UK; ESRF, EU; Euro XFEL, EU; NSLS and NSLSII, USA; NSRRC, Taiwan; PLS-II and PAL XFEL, Korea; PSI, Switzerland; Shanghai Light Source, China; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, USA; and SPring-8/SACLA, Japan), and the CTOs or CEOs from eleven Japanese companies (Asahi Kasei Corp.; Hitachi Metal Ltd.; Hitachi Zosen Corporation; Honda R&D Co. Ltd.; KYOCERA Corporation; Mitsubishi Electric TOKKI Systems Corporation; Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.; NICHICON Corporation; Sumitomo Rubber Industries, LTD.; TOSHIBA Corporation; and TOYOTA MOTOR Corporation). In addition, the workshop included professors and researchers from the University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University, Osaka University, UCLA, MEXT, JST, GIST, JASRI and RIKEN.

On the first day, the present author gave a keynote lecture titled “Can photon science contribute to making a more sustainable world?” The second day started with the first roundtable discussion on “the Energy Problem”, moderated by Prof. Gerhard Materlik. Problems in energy production, transfer, storage and conservation were discussed. The second roundtable session addressed “the Environmental Problem”, moderated by Dr. Dennis Mills. Challenges with carbon dioxide, auto exhaust, biodegradable materials, saline water conversion, and nuclear decontamination were discussed. The final roundtable discussion on “Atomic Level Understanding of Destruction” was moderated by the present author. Topics for this session included making products more indestructible, deterring destruction, and investigating the possibility of programmed destruction.

Throughout the course of the workshop, participants discovered new possibilities for photon science using SR/XFEL to contribute to developing solutions to great challenges with clean energy sources, environmental degradation, and other issues that impede sustainable development. These discussions also spurred new academic-industrial alliances to develop novel applications at SR/XFEL facilities.

Tetsuya Ishikawa is the Director of the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, a branch of RIKEN responsible for developing and operating Spring-8, a third generation hard X-ray SR facility, and SACLA, a hard X-ray free-electron laser facility.

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