The history of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) and, therefore, of the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM) begins in the 1980s, with the first Brazilian big scientific project. At that time, the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) requested the Brazilian Center for Research in Physics (CBPF) proposals for the construction of a laboratory with scientific equipment that could benefit researchers from all over the country.
Thus, in 1982, the Synchrotron Radiation Project is initiated, responsible for developing feasibility studies for the construction of a synchrotron light source, the first equipment of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.
On December 5, 1984, the Brazilian Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (LNRS) is formally established. In January 1985, a group of researchers travel to the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory (SSRL), at Stanford University (USA), to develop the conceptual project of the Brazilian light source.
In September 1986, the laboratory is renamed as Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS). The implementation of LNLS starts in the following year and, in July 1987, it is installed in a building acquired by CNPq, in Campinas, SP. There, a group of researchers, engineers, and technicians begin to design and develop the components of this complex machine.
In 1990, the Laboratory receives an area of 380 thousand square meters, donated by the Government of the State of São Paulo, for the installation of its definitive headquarters. In December, even before the machine is built, the first LNLS Annual Users’ Meeting takes place with the goal to discuss the characteristics and priorities of the future experimental stations (called beamlines) that would be installed.
In 1992, the assembly of the first of the beamlines planned to operate in the future Brazilian light source is completed. This beamline is installed at the Center for Advanced Microstructures and Devices (CAMD), at the University of Louisiana (USA), to allow the first tests before the completion of the LNLS machine.
In October 1995, the construction of the 6,400-square-meter storage ring building is completed and the LNLS team begins to move to the site for the start of the synchrotron installation. In May 1996 the first electron loop in the storage ring takes place. In the second semester the first beamlines begin to be installed, and in October synchrotron light is observed for the first time in one of them.
Finally, on July 1st, 1997, the synchrotron light source of the LNLS, called UVX, the first electron accelerator of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and, until its decommissioning, the only one in Latin America, is opened to the science and technology communities. At the time, UVX had seven beamlines.
At the same time, the Laboratory ceases to exist as a CNPq institute and becomes the first Brazilian scientific institution to be managed by a private non-profit organization with the creation of the Brazilian Association of Synchrotron Light Technology (ABTLuS).
The association is responsible for the management of the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory, under a Management Contract signed with CNPq and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) on January 29, 1998.
Between its inauguration and decommissioning, the UVX synchrotron light source received several upgrades, with the objective of improving the quality of the synchrotron light produced. In addition, new experimental stations were opened over the years according to the needs of the scientific community, bringing the total to 18 beamlines in 2014.
In 2009, the campus takes the name of Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM), and the research units previously under LNLS become themselves National Laboratories. Thus, CNPEM now includes three National Laboratories: the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS), the Brazilian Biosciences National Laboratory (LNBio), and the Brazilian Bioethanol Science and Technology National Laboratory (CTBE), which in 2019 would be renamed Brazilian Biorenewables National Laboratory (LNBR), with the diversification of its activity.
Later, in 2011, from three other units under LNLS – the Electron Microscopy Laboratory, the Tunneling and Atomic Force Microscopy Laboratory and the Microfabrication Laboratory – the Brazilian Nanotechnology National Laboratory (LNNano) is created and becomes part of CNPEM.
About a decade after the inauguration of UVX, users already highlighted the need to start studies on a new low-emission synchrotron light source. In 2006, the recommendation is made in the ABTLuS master plan for the creation of a task force that would initiate studies on this new source, provisionally called LNLS-2. A report is sent to the MCT and, with the approval and allocation of the first financial resources, the studies continue.
In 2009 events are held with users to discuss the characteristics of the new synchrotron light source. Electron energy is defined at 3 GeV, and some of the essential parameters for the development of the first project. In 2010, after an internal contest, the LNLS-2 project is renamed Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. There are advances in the definitions of the project and the search begins for an appropriate area for the installation of the new light source.
In 2012, Sirius’ first project, previously classified as a third-generation synchrotron light source, is presented to an international committee of experts, which recommends a more advanced equipment. Sirius is redesigned and the project indicates the possibility of reaching the lowest emission in the world in its energy class, a pioneer among the synchrotron light sources of the fourth generation, together with the Swedish MAX-IV source.
In 2013, an area of 150,000 square meters, adjacent to the CNPEM campus, is expropriated by the Government of the State of São Paulo to build Sirius. In the following year, earthworks are completed, and, on December 19, a ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone is organized. In January 2015, construction works begin. By the end of the year, almost 20 percent of construction works were completed.
In 2017, the construction works reaches 75% completion, with emphasis on the successful completion of the most critical phase of construction: the implementation of the special floor on which the accelerators and beamlines were subsequently installed.
Between 2017 and 2018, most of the manufacture of components of electron accelerators and Sirius beamlines is executed by Brazilian companies, based on the projects developed by the CNPEM teams.
In 2018, construction works are completed and the installation of equipment in the Sirius building begins.
First, the linear accelerator is installed, and on May 8, 2018, the first electron beam successfully travels its entire length. Then, the installation of components of the injector accelerator and the storage ring begins. On November 11, this process culminates in the arrival of the first electron beam at the entrance to the booster.
A few months later, on March 8, 2019, the first complete electron loop occurs in the booster. Later, on November 22, the first electron loop in the storage ring is achieved.
This milestone demonstrates that thousands of components, such as magnets, ultra-high vacuum chambers and sensors, were working properly and synchronously, and that the entire structure, including parts of hundreds of kilograms, had been aligned within the micrometric standards necessary to control the trajectory of the particles sufficient for the first commissioning phase. Thereafter these parameters of the accelerators and beamlines have been constantly improved to achieve the design requirements.”
On December 14, the team managed, for the first time, to keep electrons circulating in the main accelerator for several hours, an essential condition to produce synchrotron light with the appropriate quality for scientific experiments.
Finally, just two days later, the CNPEM team obtains the first X-ray images generated by Sirius. This achievement was possible with the arrival of synchrotron light for the first time in a research station set up temporarily for testing and demonstrated the potential of the tool for generating high-resolution images, even if still at a power thousands of times lower than designed for the machine.
Later, in July 2020, CNPEM researchers performed the first scientific experiments of Sirius in the MANACÁ beamline, the first to start operating, to evaluate the quality of the results generated by the beamline. One of the first samples analyzed was the 3CL protein of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which participates in the process of replication of the virus inside the organism during infection and is essential for its life cycle.
In September, while still in the scientific commissioning phase and performing experiments under limited conditions, MANACÁ was made available to researchers experienced in protein crystallography so that they could contribute to the molecular understanding of the coronavirus. On October 21, 2020, the MANACÁ beamline began accepting research proposals for other the study of other samples, in addition to those related to Covid-19.
The following year, in October 2021, five new beamlines – CARNAÚBA, CATERETÊ, EMA, IPÊ and IMBUIA – started receiving research proposals from external researchers while in the scientific commissioning. At the occasion, support laboratories and the data processing unit, equipped with supercomputers, were also delivered.
CNPEM’s team is now dedicated to reaching higher and higher electric currents in the electron accelerators, necessary to produce synchrotron light of sufficient intensity to carry out advanced scientific experiments.