Materlik, 56, brings wide experience to the job, having helped to build the HASYLAB facility and been its director from 1986 to 1993. He has also been involved in the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility from its inception in 1978 and has served on the advisory boards for synchrotrons around the world, including Spring8 in Japan and the Advanced Photon Source in the US.

"It's a great project and I'm really enthusiastic about building it," says Materlik. "My priority will be to deliver a source that is better than the competition and has an outstanding beam that can be used for top-class experiments." He also wants to encourage links between the different synchrotron groups who will use the machine and to develop a strong synergy between DIAMOND and the other facilities at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which include the ISIS neutron source and the Central Laser Facility. Materlik is also a member of the science directorate of the DESY particle-physics lab and professor of physics at Hamburg University.

DIAMOND will consist of a 3 GeV electron storage ring some 178 metres in diameter. Electrons fed into the ultra-high vacuum ring will be forced through complex 'insertion devices' and 'bending magnets' to generate X-rays that will be used for experiments in physics, chemistry and biology. The facility - expected to open in September 2006 - will include an initial seven beamlines with space for a further 37.