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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Tantalus, the world's first source of synchrotron radiation, helped researchers from around the world publish more than 2,000 scientific studies over it 20 years of operation. 

UW-Madison electron storage ring named historic site

The American Physical Society named a UW-Madison electron storage ring a historic site Friday, recognizing it as an imperative tool for many scientific studies over its 20 years of operation.

The electron storage ring, named Tantalus, was the world’s first source of synchrotron radiation in 1968, according to a university release. It used a powerful magnetic field to force fast-moving electrons to change direction, creating synchrotron light.

From its first experiment to its retirement in 1987, Tantalus catalyzed more than 2,000 scientific papers, ranging from understanding the structures of exotic materials to etching advanced computer chips.

The university originally created Tantalus as a “user facility,” so it could be used by a variety of researchers from within and outside the university, according to the release. Much of the published research was done by visiting scientists from around the world.

Dave Huber, an emeritus professor of physics and the former director of the UW-Madison Synchrotron Radiation Center, said the ring has not only been influential for Wisconsin science, but has had an international impact as well.

"Many of the fundamental techniques for doing synchrotron radiation studies of solid state materials were worked out on Tantalus," Huber said in the release. "A lot of people came from other countries, went home and were influential in setting up their own synchrotron facilities."

The Historic Sites Initiative, according to the APS website, recognizes locations with national or international significance to physics and its history to raise public awareness of physics.

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