Diamond Light Source is an advanced X-ray crystallography device located in the U.K. It has mainly been used for studying materials, now its powerful beams will be used to examine infectious diseases.
The Diamond Light Source is located at the U.K.'s national synchrotron facility, near Oxford (a synchrotron is a particular type of cyclic particle accelerator). The center is to become the global research base studying the structure of viruses and bacteria that cause serious disease. The focus will be on HIV, hepatitis viruses and some types of flu viruses.
According to the BBC, the 'diamond' uses intense X-rays to reveal the molecular and atomic make-up of objects and materials.
The video below gives some background to the 'diamond' device:
According to the research center, the system works by accelerating electrons to near light-speed, to generate brilliant beams of light from infra-red to X-rays which are used for academic and industry research. It is the X-rays that will be harnessed to study disease causing organisms.
Discussing the proposal, Professor Dave Stuart, the life sciences director at Diamond, said: "Viruses, as you know, are sort of tiny nanomachines and you can't see them in a normal microscope. But with the crystallography and X-ray techniques we use, we are able to get about 10,000 times the resolution of the normal light microscope.
This takes us from the regime of not being able to see them to being able to see individual atoms. And if we can look at 'live' viruses and get an atomic-level description of them, it opens up the possibility of using modern drug-design techniques to produce new pharmaceuticals."