Sesame Cern Unesco

What is SESAME?

SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East) is a “third-generation” synchrotron light source under construction in Allan (Jordan). It will be the Middle East’s first major international research centre.

It is a cooperative venture by scientists and governments of the region set up on the model of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). It is being developed under the auspices of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) following the formal approval given for this by the Organization’s Executive Board (164th session, May 2002).

It is an autonomous intergovernmental organization at the service of its Members which have full control over its development, exploitation and financial matters.

SESAME will both:
  • Foster scientific and technological excellence in the Middle East and neighbouring countries (and prevent or reverse the brain drain) by enabling world-class scientific research in subjects ranging from biology, archaeology and medical sciences through basic properties of materials science, physics, chemistry, and life sciences; and
  • Build scientific and cultural bridges between diverse societies, and contribute to a culture of peace through international cooperation in science.

As an intergovernmental scientific and technological centre of excellence open to all scientists from the Middle East and elsewhere, SESAME will serve as a propeller for the scientific, technical, and economic development of the region and will strengthen collaboration in science.


SESAME will be a widely-available ‘user facility‘. Scientists, including graduate students, from universities and research institutes will typically visit the Centre for a week or two, twice or three times a year, to carry out experiments, frequently in collaboration with scientists from other centres/countries, and then return home to analyze the data they have obtained. In other words, SESAME will not be a source of brain drain; quite the contrary, not only will the scientists who visit SESAME bring back scientific expertise and knowledge, which they will share with their colleagues and students, but it will also create a motivating scientific environment that will encourage the region’s best scientists and technologists to stay in the region or to return if they have moved elsewhere.

The SESAME facility is expected to come into full operation in late 2015 provided the required capital funding for completion of construction of the machine is available on schedule.

What is a synchrotron light source?

  A synchrotron light – or synchrotron radiation – source produces very intense pulses of light/X-rays, with wave lengths and intensities that allow detailed studies of objects ranging in size from human cells, through viruses down to atoms, with a precision that is not possible by other means. Advanced sources of light (like lasers and synchrotrons) have therefore become prime factors in promoting scientific and technological progress, and in recent decades the extraordinary power of synchrotron light has had an immense impact in fields that include archaeology, biology, chemistry, environmental science, geology, medicine and physics.

The heart of a synchrotron light source is a ring of magnets (133.2m in circumference in the case of SESAME) in which electrons are stored after being accelerated to high energy. The ‘synchrotron light’ emitted by the electrons is directed towards the beamlines which surround the storage ring and are connected to it. Each beamline is designed for use with a specific technique or for a specific type of research.

Electrons are relatively expensive devices which are frequently built by international collaborations. Working in collaboration has the important benefit that it disseminates the highest scientific and technical standards through the participating countries, which helps foster the development of a wide range of basic and applied science and industrial activities.

Synchrotron light sources are generally ‘user facilities’. Scientists from universities and research institutes typically visit synchrotron laboratories for a week or two, two or three times a year, to carry out experiments on the beamline that corresponds to the needs of their work, frequently in collaboration with scientists from other centres/countries, and then return home to analyze the data they have obtained. These scientists bring back scientific expertise and knowledge, which they share with their colleagues and students at home.