The Jordanian city of Allan saw the opening of the first major international research centre in the Middle East and the first such centre in the world powered by solar energy. Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) is a unique science for peace project where Arabs, Israeli, Iranians, Turks, Europeans and others work together in a world-class science facility.
Strongly supported by European Union funding, the SESAME synchrotron* is the first research hub in the Middle East that is open to scientists from all over the world, and the first synchrotron ever built in the region. It enables cutting-edge research in fields including medicine, biology, materials science, physics, chemistry, healthcare, the environment, agriculture and archaeology.
The EU is the second biggest financial contributors to SESAME, with over EUR 20 million. The EU has financed the state-of-art magnet system for the SESAME main research storage ring, the air-conditioning system, a high performance computing ecosystem, and SESAME staff exchanges and training programme.
Most recently, the EU has also allocated EUR 3.5 million for the future solar panel plant that will power the SESAME facility. This support will come under the new EU renewable energy programme and will help SESAME become the first green Synchrotron-light centre in the world fully run on renewable energy.
SESAME was launched in 2002 under the auspices of UNESCO with the aim of using science diplomacy to foster a culture of peace and cooperation in the broader Middle East. It is an autonomous intergovernmental organisation at the service of its members, who have full control over its development, exploitation and financial matters. Its members currently include Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine and Turkey. The EU is an observer in SESAME since April 2015 along with Brazil, China, Japan, Kuwait, Russia, Switzerland, the US, and several EU Member States (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) that also have an observer status in their own right.
* A synchrotron is a large machine (about the size of a football field) that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields they create extremely bright light. The light is channelled down beamlines to experimental workstations where it is used for research.