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The World's Largest Diffraction Pattern

October 2008 saw the start of a new collaboration with Diamond Light and Evotec to create The Largest Diffraction Pattern in the World. This will be a 3m x 3m textile hanging depicting protein crystals discovered at Diamond. Eventually over 5000 people will participate in the project and the finished textile will be unveiled in 2010.

In order to gather stitches from those unable to attend any of the events, the diffraction pattern is open to all by means of the "virtual stitch". Anyone can participate, no matter where you are in the world, to add your stitch, visit the Diamond Website.

What is diffraction?

The image depicted on the left is called a diffraction pattern. Diffraction patterns are obtained by scientists during their experiments at Diamond Light Source. They lead to a 3-D representation of the structure of a specific biological target which can be used to help find cures for specific diseases.

The pattern shown here is that of a protein called Serine Racemase. Serine Racemase is an important biological target in the fight against pain and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and is one of the first ever collected for this specific biological target and was done by scientists from Evotec.

The Design

The images below were developed by Evotec using computer design techniques. The diffraction pattern here is made up of 90 points, in practise, a real diffraction pattern will contain many more than 90 points These points represent the number of degrees that this crystal must be turned in order to get sufficient data to give a good electron density pattern.

The electron density pattern generated from this diffraction pattern is the centre image of the three.

The righthand image is generated from the electron density map and shows the structure of Serine Racemase including ribbons (the large coiled structures), loops (thinner structures) and sheets (arrows - right side of the image).

These images were then stylised to give further design ideas. From left to right a circular section of the electron density map; a sample of how it could be developed in stitch; ribbons manipulated to give a circular pattern; ribbon design twirled and manipulated to give circular designs; possible background for the piece.

The images below are some of the original ideas, drawn out on paper using traditional methods and combining the diffraction pattern with the protein structure. The first design, far left was to show elements of the structure (ribbons and loops) on a background of a diffraction pattern. The second shows the structure mounted as if it was ready for the beam, and the third, a reverse of the first idea was to show the diffraction pattern on a background of the ribbons and loops.

The Final Piece

Details of the stitch contributions can be seen below, and they were all gratefully received!

The final piece was 3metres tall as you can see from the images below. The background for the central diffraction pattern contained contributions from over 5000 people on an indigo dyed background using a variety of blue hand dyed and commercial threads. The spots were made from a metallic paper and machine stitched in the design of the original Evotec diffraction pattern. The loops and ribbons were made from pink silk, gold and silver paper lame.

The pattern was unveiled on 9th August 2010 by Wantage MP Ed Vaisey, Minister for Culture.

Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire Adds a Stitch

The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson added his stitch to the world’s largest diffraction pattern, when he visited Diamond on 18th February.

The vist launched Diamonds involvement with this year's Oxfordshire Science Festival, also attending and adding her stitch was Renee Watson, director of the festival (see right).

To add your stitch to the project, visit the Diamond stand in Bonn Square, Oxford, between 12pm and 4pm on Saturday 28th February.

World's Largest Diffraction Pattern at AAAS Conference in Chicago

Diamond Light Source attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science festival held in Chicago from February 12th-16th. Speakers from Diamond and a number of Users of the Sychrotron presented at the conference.

The textile piece was available to view and stitch at the "Bright Light for Better Health" symposium where Prof. Dave Stuart, discussed his work unveiling the structure of complex virues such as smallpox. This work shows how that these viruses are related to the more simpler ones. An apt topic for the 150th anniversery in 2009 of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species.

Also presenting was Dr. Joanna Collingwood from Keele University who presented new results from studies into Parkinson's disease, carried out at Diamond in collaboration with Dr Mark Davidson from University of Florida and Prof. Keith Meek Head of Structural Biophysics at Cardiff who is using the Diamond facility to advance research into the understanding and treatment of eye diseases.

Stitches were also collected at the stand of the US Synchrotron, Brookhaven National Laboratory (above left with Silvana Damerell from Diamond).

The project was lucky to gain the support of AAAS President, James McCarthy Ph.D. (right)

British Ambassador launches the World's Largest Diffraction Pattern project in Paris

Diamond Light Source together with ESRF, Soleil and Elettra attended the Paris European City of Science Festival at the Grand Palais from 13 - 16 November 2008 to showcase the broad range of applications of synchrotron light and presented their latest scientific results.

Following this over 1000 members of the public contributed stitches to the project.

As part of these activities Sir Peter Westmacott the British Ambassador to France contributed a silver stitch at the British Embassy on 12th November.

UK Science Minister Contributes the First Silver Stitch

The new UK Science Minister Lord Drayson visited Diamond on Friday 7th November, and contributed the first silver stitch to the project.

He commented: "I am pleased to be taking part in this thought provoking project, which will give members of the public an opportunity to appreciate the wide range of science taking place at Diamond. Over the next decades, Diamond will play a vital role to engage the young and the old in the exciting contribution science is making to society and will inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers in the same way that cool projects in the 70s and 80s inspired me."

Harrogate Fashion and Embroidery Show

The first stitches in The World's Largest Diffraction Pattern were contributed at the Harrogate Fashion and Embroidery Show in September 2008, where over 1000 visitors contributed a cross to the background of the textile piece.