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UPS Ensures a Stable Outlook for Diamond Light Source

An aerial view of the Diamond Light Source facility. Credit: Diamond Light Source.

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Located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron facility. The not-for-profit company, a joint venture funded by the UK Government through the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, is used by over 7,000 researchers from both academia and industry to conduct essential experiments that keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research.

Keeping a synchrotron in service

At the heart of the world-leading research centre lies a giant machine, half a kilometre in circumference, called a synchrotron. It works like a massive microscope, harnessing the power of electrons by sending them through three particle accelerators to near light speeds so that they give off light 10 billion times brighter than the Sun.

These intense beams, predominantly in the X-ray region, are then directed into laboratories known as ‘beamlines’, of which there are currently 31 operational onsite. Scientists use them to study a vast range of subject matter down to the level of atoms and molecules. The applications are broad, reaching from smarter materials, to better data storage, to clever clean-up solutions for plastic pollution, as well as the preservation of significant historical artefacts such as The Mary Rose. Synchrotron light has also played a pivotal role in the study of diseases such as foot-and-mouth and polio, vital antibiotic research, and other areas of medical science.

The beamlines operate at the micron level and below and are incredibly precise. To achieve this precision, each one has to be calibrated through several items of equipment. If power were to be lost, or even slightly interrupted, they need to be completely re-calibrated. This would take 1-2 weeks for each beamline, losing valuable research time.

Diamond Light Source has also recently become the UK’s largest electron microscope hub, with eight top-of-the-range microscopes on site. The heating element in the tip of each microscope is a sensitive filament. If the power is turned off without letting it cool down, it will be destroyed and need replacing.

Therefore, due to the importance of the research being undertaken and the sensitivity of the equipment, the facility requires robust and reliable critical power protection at all times. Diamond Light Source uses an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system to ensure continuity of supply. This UPS system needs to be reliable, with dependable ongoing maintenance support to quickly alleviate any future faults or failures.

But which UPS backup is the right one?

The project needed to be completed quickly and efficiently over a six-month period, working to a timeline of eight weeks on and three weeks off to ensure minimum downtime. As a scientific facility where around 600 staff are located, there was a challenge in the amount of input needed from different sources.

Due to the nature of the facility, there is limited downtime to play with. With eight weeks of solid running time followed by three week-long shut downs, we knew it would be a real challenge to replace the existing systems to the standard required in the time provided.

The existing UPS was a ‘closed protocol’ system, meaning the units were ‘locked out’ to anyone other than the manufacturer. This had caused several issues since the initial installation many years ago, so it was important that we weren’t limited to one maintenance option going forward and the new system offered a more open approach.

A bespoke UPS was commissioned for design and installation to ensure ongoing critical power protection across the complex site. With beamline time at a premium, ongoing power availability is crucial in supporting the integrity of Diamond Light Source and the services we provide.

Following an extensive review of the facility’s requirements, Riello UPS’s Multi Sentry solution was selected as it met our requirements, providing excellent performance and efficiency levels, within a very compact footprint.

The state-of-the-art UPS has high online double-conversion performance. It is specifically designed to protect critical information and telecommunications systems, networks, services and processes where operations could be disrupted by poor power quality or breaks in the mains power supply.

In addition to reliability and value for money, the new system offers an advanced communication ‘open protocol’, making it easier for those working onsite to monitor loading and battery autonomy. The large front panel graphic display provides vital information, such as real-time measurements, operating status, and alarm conditions.

The UPS installation was completed three months earlier than the expected six months, which meant significant cost savings and reduced downtime. Another added benefit was the fact that no power load was lost during the implementation.

Protection for the future

Since the initial implementation, the facility now operates 41 UPS units, 13x 120 KVA units and 28x 30 KVA units. We also use a parallel UPS design for complete protection against power failure. For example, if two UPS units are needed to support the critical load, we will run three in the unlikely scenario that one fails.

In recent years, UPS failure has been a real issue for us and has had a knock-on effect with the laboratories and scientists we work with. However, with the new UPS installation, we have had total confidence from start to finish and also feel we have an added level of protection with the ongoing maintenance support. We also use associated monitoring software to enable us to view the status of the units at all times.