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Australian Synchrotron

The Australian Synchrotron

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The Australian Synchrotron is a major research facility located in Clayton, a technology and innovation hub of southeast Melbourne.  It is one of Australia's most significant pieces of scientific infrastructure.

Scientific research and innovation using synchrotron light span hugely diverse areas of activity and has led to advances that bring benefits to Australia and internationally.

The Australian Synchrotron produces powerful beams of light that are used at individual experimental facilities to examine the molecular and atomic details of a wide range of materials. The advanced techniques are applied to research in many important areas including health and medical, food, environment, biotechnology, nanotechnology, energy, mining, agriculture, advanced materials and cultural heritage.

Experiments with synchrotron light offer several advantages over conventional techniques in terms of accuracy, quality, robustness and the level of detail that can be seen and collected, and are much faster than traditional methods.

More than 5000 researchers a year use synchrotron instruments. The facility has been directly involved in the generation of more than 3000 publications in refereed journals.

How it works

In simple terms, a synchrotron is a very large, circular, gigavolt technology about the size of a football field. From outside, the Australian Synchrotron, for example, looks like a roofed football stadium. But on the inside, it’s very different. Instead of grass and seating, there is a vast circular network of interconnecting tunnels and high tech apparatus.


Australian Synchrotron diagram

Synchrotrons use electrons to produce intense beams of light more than a million times brighter than the sun. The light is produced when high-energy electrons are forced to travel in a circular orbit inside the synchrotron tunnels by the ‘synchronised’ application of strong magnetic fields.

The electron beam travels just under the speed of light - about 299,792 kilometres a second. The intense light they produce is filtered and adjusted to travel into an experimental workstation, where light reveals the innermost, sub-macroscopic secrets of materials, from human tissue to plants to metals and more.

The synchrotron produces X-ray and infrared radiation that is channelled down long pipelines, known as beamlines, into a suite of scientific instruments.

There are different methods of using radiation to suit an investigation.  The types of instruments are broadly categorised by the way in which light is used: diffraction and scattering, spectroscopy and imaging. There are currently 10 operational beamlines with plans to expand the suite with an additional seven beamlines (Project Brght).


In June 2001, the Victorian Government announced its decision to build a national synchrotron facility on land adjacent to Monash University. The Victorian Government committed to funding the synchrotron technology and a building to house the facility. Beamline capital funding came from partners such as research institutions and state governments.

In June 2006, the Australian Synchrotron project reached a major milestone with engineers and scientists achieving ‘first light’, confirming that the machine was working as planned.

Since commencing operations in 2007 the Australian Synchrotron has demonstrated that it is arguably one of the most successful scientific user facilities, bringing benefits to over 5000 researchers a year from academia, medical research institutes, government and other research organisations and industry.

In 2013 ANSTO became the new operator of the Australian Synchrotron, which brought together two of the nation’s most significant pieces of scientific infrastructure to advance science outcomes for the nation. ANSTO operates the OPAL multipurpose reactor in Sydney.  

Through Project BRGHT, ANSTO has, to date, secured $80.2 million in new funding to expand the research capabilities of the Australian Synchrotron over the next decade. The new funding will expand the number of beamlines from 10 to as many as 19, increasing research output significantly.

1 million times

 Brighter than the sun

216 metres

The circumference of the storage ring 


Research visits per year


What is synchrotron light?

After electrons are accelerated to velocities close to the speed of light, they are forced to change direction under a magnetic field.


Fundamental and applied research conducted at the Australian Synchrotron brings improvements in human health, leads to the development of new materials and technologies,  contributes to environmental sustainability and solves problems for industry.

The specialised techniques have applications in in advanced materials, agriculture biomedicine, defence science, environmental sustainability, food and food technology, forensic science, energy industry, mining, cultural heritage, planetary science, and electronics, among many others. A specialised team of physicists at the Australian Synchrotron also undertake research in accelerator science and develop accelerator systems in a broad range of areas, including feedback systems to modelling future linear collider accelerators. and the design of novel future light sources for precision particle physics measurements.

Beamline instruments

All beamlines

  • Imaging and medical beamline

    Imaging and medical beamline

    The Imaging and Medical beamline (IMBL) is one of only a few of its type in the world, and delivers the world’s widest synchrotron x-ray ‘beam’. It produces dynamic high resolution, phase contrast 3D X-ray imaging at incredibly high resolution so as to reveal minute differences at the interface of air, tissues and bones for biomedical investigations. The beamline also has a wide range of engineering applications,  food technology investigations on wheat, plant physiology and archaeology studies.

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  • Infrared microscopy beamline

    Infrared Microspectroscopy beamline

    The Infrared Microspectroscopy (IRM) beamline combines the high brilliance and high collimation of the synchrotron beam with a Bruker V80v Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometer and a Hyperion 2000 IR microscope.  The beamline ideally suited to the analysis of microscopic samples, such as small particles and thin layers within complex matrices, or thin coatings on surfaces.

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  • Terahertz/Far-Infrared Beamline

    THz/Far-IR Beamline

    The Terahertz/Far-Infrared beamline instrument can be connected to a multitude of accessories and components, allowing a variety gas and condensed phase experiments to be conducted across a wide spectral range: THz – visible frequencies. It can be used for studies of gases, surfaces, materials, cultural heritage, forensic matter, and higher order protein structures.

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  • Powder Diffraction beamline

    Powder Diffraction beamline

    The Powder Diffraction beamline can accommodate a wide variety of experiments, particularly those utilising non-standard sample stages and cells. This end station is well suited to time resolved and in situ experiments as well as more traditional powder diffraction geometries and experiments.

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  • Macromolecular Crystallography beamlines

    Macromolecular Crystallography beamlines

    The Macromolecular Crystallography (MX) beamlines are general purpose crystallography instruments for determining chemical and biological structures  The MX1 beamline is a bending-magnet beamline with stability and ease of use for high-throughput crystallography projects.  The MX2 beamline is a finely-focused in-vacuum undulator equipped with a microcollimator. It is ideal for weakly-diffracting, hard-to-crystallise proteins, viruses, protein assemblies and nucleic acids as well as smaller molecules such as inorganic catalysts and organic drug molecules.

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  • Soft X-ray Spectroscopy beamline

    Soft X-ray Spectroscopy beamline

    The Soft X-ray (SXR) beamline is set up primarily for X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) investigations of the surfaces of low atomic number elements and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS). The beamline also other significant research capabilities such angle resolved photoelectron spectroscopy (ARPES) as well as Coherent Diffraction Imaging (CDI).


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  • Small and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering beamline

    Small and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering beamline

    The Small and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering  (SAXS/WAXS) beamline is a flexible x-ray scattering facility due to the design of the optics and a highly adaptable endstation and sample stage. The primary roles of the beamline are Transmission SAXS and vertical dispersion WAXS. A bounce-down vertical focusing mirror also permits grazing incidence (GISAXS) experiments.

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  • X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy beamline

    X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy beamline

    X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) is a versatile tool for chemistry, biology, and materials science. By probing how x rays are absorbed from core electrons of atoms in a sample, the technique can reveal the local structure around selected atoms.

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  • X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy beamline

    X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy beamline

    The X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) beamline has the ability to map a range of elements of interest at low concentrations and at high resolution in a range of samples, from biological, geological, cultural heritage to industrial materials. 

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Want access to a beamline?

Discover how the Australian Synchrotron can assist your investigation.


Prof Andrew Peele

Director, Australian Synchrotron

Prof Michael James

Head of Science, Australian Synchrotron

Dr David Cookson

Commerial Technical Consultant

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