PRINCESS Anne might have been forgiven for breaching Royal fashion protocol and wearing sunglasses indoors today as she stepped inside a giant microscope ten billion times brighter than the sun.
The Princess Royal visited Harwell’s Diamond Light Source laboratories to mark ten years since they were switched on.
It was her mother The Queen who attended an event to mark that occasion in 2007.
The Princess today also cut the ribbon on a new ‘beamline’ at the microscope and took a tour of the facilities.
Diamond, the UK’s national synchrotron, is a giant microscope.
At its centre is a huge, ring-shaped particle accelerator.
This machine fires electrons around at fantastic speeds which forces them to emit a light ten billion times brighter than the sun.
That light is then directed off in ‘beamlines’ into laboratories which are clustered around the ring, where scientists from all disciplines and from all around the world can use it to study everything from drug molecules to catalysts for car exhausts.
During last year’s deadly Ebola outbreak in Africa a team from Oxford University used Diamond to map the structure of the virus for the first time.
The lab’s CEO Andrew Harrison, who accompanied the Princess on her tour this afternoon, used the opportunity to tell her about the ‘huge number of success stories’ from the lab in the recent years.
He said: “We give biologists essential information about the origin of diseases which can be used to develop drugs.
“We played a key role in the development of a foot and mouth vaccine and we are helping in the development of anti-cancer drugs and antidepressants.
“This is the best place in the UK and the second best place in the world to do this research.”
And if the Princess met some bright sparks today, the next time she visits Diamond it might be even more sparkly: the lab is currently preparing a bid to the UK government for funding to make its bright light ten times brighter still.
A pair of sunglasses doesn’t even begin to cover it.