Sirius: Accelerating the Future of Brazilian Science

Sirius, the new Brazilian synchrotron light source, is the largest and most complex scientific infrastructure ever built in Brazil. This large equipment uses particle accelerators to produce a special type of light called synchrotron light, which is used to investigate the composition and structure of matter in its most varied forms, with applications in practically all areas of knowledge.

Sirius is an open infrastructure, available to the Brazilian and international scientific community, developed at the Brazilian Center for Research in Energy and Materials (CNPEM) – a private non-profit organization under the supervision of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovations (MCTI). Sirius is funded by MCTI and designed by CNPEM researchers and engineers, in partnership with the Brazilian industry.

Sirius allows hundreds of academic and industrial research projects to be carried out annually, by thousands of researchers, contributing to the solution of great scientific and technological challenges, such as new drugs and treatments for diseases, new fertilizers, more resistant and adaptable plant species and new technologies for agriculture, renewable energy sources, among many other potential applications, with profound economic and social impacts.

Below, we present some of the challenges involved in the development of this infrastructure, that inaugurates a new chapter in the history of Brazilian science, bringing benefits to the society.


The light that is visible to us allows us to observe macroscopic characteristics of things. However, there are still so many other types of light that we cannot see, but that allow us to investigate the structure, composition and properties of things on the microscopic scale. They allow us to open a new window for observing the world around us.


Synchrotron light is a type of extremely bright electromagnetic radiation that extends over a wide spectrum, that is, it is composed of several types of light, from infrared, through visible light and ultraviolet radiation, and reaching X-rays.

With the use of this special light it is possible to penetrate matter and reveal characteristics of its molecular and atomic structures for the investigation of all kinds of materials. Its wide spectrum allows carrying out different types of analysis, using each of different kinds of light of which synchrotron light is composed. Its high brightness allows extremely fast experiments and the investigation of details of materials at the nanometer scale.


Synchrotron light sources have at their heart a set of particle accelerators, specifically electron accelerators. These large machines are designed to generate beams of these subatomic particles, accelerate them to very high speeds, very close to the speed of light, and to control their movement.


In a synchrotron light source, such as Sirius, the beamlines are the research stations where experiments are carried out and allow observing microscopic aspects of materials, such as the atoms and molecules that constitute them, their chemical states, and their spatial organization, in addition to monitoring the evolution over time of physical, chemical, and biological processes that occur in fractions of a second.

Sirius stands out for having the highest brilliance among the synchrotron light sources in the world in its energy range. For this reason, it allows experiments previously impossible in Brazil and, in some cases, worldwide.


The building that houses Sirius is an essential part for the operation of this complex machine, which is why it is one of the most advanced structures ever built in Brazil. There were many challenges for the construction of these facilities, from the floor stability against deformations and the isolation of internal and external vibrations to the thermal stability of the environments and components.


Sirius had as one of its objectives to stimulate the development of the Brazilian industry, by inducing the demand for services, raw materials, and equipment. Thanks to the involvement of Brazilian companies, around 85% of the project’s resources were invested in Brazil.


In 1987 the construction project for the first large Brazilian scientific infrastructure was initiated, planned be a multi-user laboratory open to the scientific community. Between 1987 and 1997, the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory (LNLS) developed the technology for the construction of the first synchrotron light source in the Southern Hemisphere, UVX.

This trajectory full of challenges allowed LNLS, 30 years after its inception, to continue its pioneering vocation with the construction and operation of the new synchrotron light source Sirius, one of the most advanced in the world.