Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

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The Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) is one of the national scientific research laboratories in the UK operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council
Science and Technology Facilities Council
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy .-History:It was formed in April 2007 as a merger of the Particle...

 (STFC). It is located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a science and technology campus near the villages of Harwell and Chilton, Oxfordshire, England. The site is about south of Oxford...

 at Chilton
Chilton, Oxfordshire
Chilton is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse about southwest of Didcot. The parish was part of Berkshire until the 1974 local government boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire....

 near Didcot
Didcot
Didcot is a town and civil parish in Oxfordshire about south of Oxford. Until 1974 it was in Berkshire, but was transferred to Oxfordshire in that year, and from Wallingford Rural District to the district of South Oxfordshire...

 in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. It has a staff of approximately 1,200 people who support the work of over 10,000 scientists and engineers, chiefly from the university research community. The laboratory's programme is designed to deliver trained manpower and economic growth for the UK as the result of achievements in science.

History


RAL is named after the physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

s Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics...

 and Edward Appleton
Edward Victor Appleton
Sir Edward Victor Appleton, GBE, KCB, FRS was an English physicist.-Biography:Appleton was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and educated at Hanson Grammar School. At the age of 18 he won a scholarship to St John's College, Cambridge...

.

The National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science (NIRNS) was formed in 1957 to operate the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory established next to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment
Atomic Energy Research Establishment
The Atomic Energy Research Establishment near Harwell, Oxfordshire, was the main centre for atomic energy research and development in the United Kingdom from the 1940s to the 1990s.-Founding:...

 on the former RAF Harwell
RAF Harwell
RAF Harwell was a Royal Air Force airfield in former Berkshire, England, near the village of Harwell, later the site of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The site is now in Oxfordshire....

 airfield between Chilton
Chilton, Oxfordshire
Chilton is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse about southwest of Didcot. The parish was part of Berkshire until the 1974 local government boundary changes transferred the Vale of White Horse to Oxfordshire....

 and Harwell
Harwell, Oxfordshire
Harwell is a village and civil parish in the Vale of White Horse west of Didcot. It was part of Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire.-Amenities:...

. The 600MeV proton
Proton
The proton is a subatomic particle with the symbol or and a positive electric charge of 1 elementary charge. One or more protons are present in the nucleus of each atom, along with neutrons. The number of protons in each atom is its atomic number....

 linear accelerator was transferred from the Atomic Energy Research Establishment
Atomic Energy Research Establishment
The Atomic Energy Research Establishment near Harwell, Oxfordshire, was the main centre for atomic energy research and development in the United Kingdom from the 1940s to the 1990s.-Founding:...

 to the new laboratory to become a national facility for particle physics as the Nimrod (synchrotron)
Nimrod (synchrotron)
Nimrod was a 7 GeV proton synchrotron operating in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom between 1964 and 1978. It was used forstudies of nuclear and sub-nuclearphenomena...

. Since then the laboratory has grown both with the expansion of its established facilities, and the incorporation of facilities from other institutions to provide the benefits from economies of scale
Economies of scale
Economies of scale, in microeconomics, refers to the cost advantages that an enterprise obtains due to expansion. There are factors that cause a producer’s average cost per unit to fall as the scale of output is increased. "Economies of scale" is a long run concept and refers to reductions in unit...

. The major mergers were in 1975 with the adjacent Atlas Computer Laboratory
Atlas Computer Laboratory
The Atlas Computer Laboratory on the Chilton, Oxfordshire campus shared by the Harwell Laboratory was one of the major computer laboratories in the world, which operated between 1961 and 1975 to provide a service to British scientists at a time when powerful computers were not usually available...

 creating the Rutherford Laboratory, and then in 1979 with the Appleton Laboratory to form the current Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. With the closure of the Royal Greenwich Observatory in 1998, some small offices also moved to RAL. Similarly, laser technology moved to RAL from Joint European Torus
Joint European Torus
JET, the Joint European Torus, is the largest magnetic confinement plasma physics experiment worldwide currently in operation. Its main purpose is to open the way to future nuclear fusion experimental tokamak reactors such as ITER and :DEMO....

 at Culham
Culham
Culham is a village and civil parish on the north bank of the River Thames, just over south of Abingdon in Oxfordshire.-Manor:The toponym comes from the Old English Cula's hamm, referring to the village's position in a bend of the Thames...

 to become the foundation of the Central Laser Facility.

In order to be able to decide the priorities for government funding across all areas of scientific research, the Science & Technology Act of 1965 created the Science Research Council (SRC) which took over management of the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory from NIRNS along with many other previously disparate UK science bodies. In order to prioritise economic impact over blue skies research
Blue skies research
Blue skies research is scientific research in domains where "real-world" applications are not immediately apparent...

, the SRC became the Science and Engineering Research Council
Science and Engineering Research Council
The Science and Engineering Research Council used to be the UK agency in charge of publicly funded scientific and engineering research activities including astronomy, biotechnology and biological sciences, space research and particle physics...

 (SERC) in the early 1980s, and in 1994, the SERC was eventually divided into three Research Council
Research Council
The UK Research Councils, of which there are currently seven, are publicly-funded agencies responsible for co-ordinating and funding particular areas of research, including the arts, humanities, all areas of science and engineering...

s (the EPSRC
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is a British Research Council that provides government funding for grants to undertake research and postgraduate degrees in engineering and the physical sciences , mainly to universities in the United Kingdom...

, PPARC
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council
The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council was one of a number of Research Councils in the United Kingdom. It directed, coordinated and funded research in particle physics and astronomy for the people of the UK...

 and the CCLRC
Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils
The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils was a UK government body that carried out civil research in science and engineering.- Activities :...

 - which took responsibility for RAL from EPSRC in 1995), so that each could then focus its development around one of three incompatible business models - administratively efficient short duration grant distribution, medium term commitments to international agreements, long term commitments to staff and facilities provision. In order to unify the planning of the provision for UK scientists to access large national and international facilities, in 2007 the CCLRC merged with PPARC and incorporated the nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 discipline from EPSRC to create the Science and Technology Facilities Council
Science and Technology Facilities Council
The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a UK government body that carries out civil research in science and engineering, and funds UK research in areas including particle physics, nuclear physics, space science and astronomy .-History:It was formed in April 2007 as a merger of the Particle...

 which then took responsibility for RAL.

Facilities


RAL hosts two of the UK's major scientific facilities:

ISIS
ISIS neutron source
ISIS is a pulsed neutron and muon source. It is situated at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom and is part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council...

 is a spallation
Spallation
In general, spallation is a process in which fragments of material are ejected from a body due to impact or stress. In the context of impact mechanics it describes ejection or vaporization of material from a target during impact by a projectile...

 neutron source
Neutron source
A Neutron source is a device that emits neutrons. There is a wide variety of different sources, ranging from hand-held radioactive sources to neutron research facilities operating research reactors and spallation sources...

. The neutrons it produces are mainly used in neutron scattering
Neutron scattering
Neutron scattering,the scattering of free neutrons by matter,is a physical processand an experimental technique using this processfor the investigation of materials.Neutron scattering as a physical process is of primordial importance...

 experiments to study the atomic structure and dynamics of materials. ISIS provides research capabilities for around 1600 scientists from a range of disciplines, and has been operating since 1985. ISIS evolved from the original Nimrod
Nimrod (synchrotron)
Nimrod was a 7 GeV proton synchrotron operating in the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom between 1964 and 1978. It was used forstudies of nuclear and sub-nuclearphenomena...

 proton synchrotron, whose location is currently used for the synchrotron which generates the neutrons and muons used to study materials in ISIS.

The Central Laser Facility provides access to large scale laser systems for researchers from the United Kingdom and other EU countries. The facility operates high power glass and Ti:Sapphire laser installations(including the Vulcan
Vulcan laser
The Vulcan laser is an 8-beam 2.5 kJ per pulse infrared neodymium glass laser at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory's Central Laser Facility in Oxfordshire, England. Vulcan is also capable of operating in frequency doubled mode where it can deliver about 1 kJ to a target at 532 nm in 2 ns...

 and Astra lasers) and a number of smaller scale, tuneable lasers. A vigorous development programme ensures that facilities maintain their international competitiveness.

A third major facility is sited next to RAL and mostly owned by the STFC, sharing campus infrastructure:

The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus
The Harwell Science and Innovation Campus is a science and technology campus near the villages of Harwell and Chilton, Oxfordshire, England. The site is about south of Oxford...

 was controversially chosen over the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus as the site for the synchrotron light
Synchrotron light
A synchrotron light source is a source of electromagnetic radiation produced by a synchrotron, which is artificially produced for scientific and technical purposes by specialized particle accelerators, typically accelerating electrons...

 source Diamond
Diamond Light Source
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research...

, which officially opened in January 2007.

RAL also hosts several minor facilities, including:
  • Microelectronics Support Centre (MSC)
  • NGS
    National Grid Service
    The National Grid Service , now entering its seventh year, aims to help UK academics and researchers carry out their research by providing easy to use access to computational, data and other resources...

     UK national academic computing grid
  • EGEE international computing grid
  • Energy Research Unit


RAL hosts a number of other resources and services in microelectronics
Microelectronics
Microelectronics is a subfield of electronics. As the name suggests, microelectronics relates to the study and manufacture of very small electronic components. Usually, but not always, this means micrometre-scale or smaller,. These devices are made from semiconductors...

, atmospheric sciences, spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 and renewable energy
Renewable energy
Renewable energy is energy which comes from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, and geothermal heat, which are renewable . About 16% of global final energy consumption comes from renewables, with 10% coming from traditional biomass, which is mainly used for heating, and 3.4% from...

 research.

Programmes


In addition to hosting facilities for the UK, RAL also operates departments to co-ordinate the UK programme of participation in major international facilities. The largest of these are the areas of particle physics
Particle physics
Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

, and space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

.

In particle physics
Particle physics
Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

 the largest international project is the Large Hadron Collider
Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It is expected to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature....

 at CERN
CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research , known as CERN , is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory, which is situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border...

, but RAL has a major role in the UK participation in several other projects such as:
  • the MINOS
    MINOS
    MINOS is a particle physics experiment designed to study the phenomena of neutrino oscillations, first discovered by a Super-Kamiokande experiment in 1998...

     Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search,
  • the T2K
    T2K
    T2K is a particle physics experiment that is a collaboration between several countries, including Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom...

     - to measure the third type of neutrino oscillation,
  • experiments to measure the electric dipole moment of the neutron at the Institut Laue–Langevin,
  • International Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment
    International Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment
    The International Muon Ionization Cooling Experiment is a high energy physics experiment dedicated to observing ionization cooling of muons for the first time. This is a process where by the beam emittance of a beam is reduced in order to reduce the beam size, so that more muons can be accelerated...

    ,
  • the UK Dark Matter Collaboration
    UK Dark Matter Collaboration
    The U.K. Dark Matter Collaboration was an experiment to search for Weakly interacting massive particles . The consortium consisted of astrophysicists and particle physicists from the United Kingdom, who conducted experiments with the ultimate goal of detecting rare scattering events which would...

     experiment at the Boulby Mine in Yorkshire.


In space science
Space science
The term space science may mean:* The study of issues specifically related to space travel and space exploration, including space medicine.* Science performed in outer space ....

, RAL builds components for, and tests satellites, as well as receiving, analysing and curating the data collected by those spacecraft. Satellite missions in which RAL has a significant role include:
  • the STEREO
    STEREO
    STEREO is a solar observation mission. Two nearly identical spacecraft were launched into orbits that cause them to respectively pull farther ahead of and fall gradually behind the Earth...

     Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory,
  • the SOHO Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
    Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
    The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory is a spacecraft built by a European industrial consortium led by Matra Marconi Space that was launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas IIAS launch vehicle on December 2, 1995 to study the Sun, and has discovered over 2100 comets. It began normal operations in May...

    ,
  • Solar-B
    Hinode
    Hinode , formerly Solar-B, is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Solar mission with United States and United Kingdom collaboration. It is the follow-up to the Yohkoh mission and it was launched on the final flight of the M-V-7 rocket from Uchinoura Space Center, Japan on 22 September 2006 at...

     investigating the Solar Corona,
  • Galileo European satellite navigation system,
  • MSG-2 meteorological satellite,
  • Venus Express
    Venus Express
    Venus Express is the first Venus exploration mission of the European Space Agency. Launched in November 2005, it arrived at Venus in April 2006 and has been continuously sending back science data from its polar orbit around Venus. Equipped with seven science instruments, the main objective of the...

     investigating the atmosphere of Venus,
  • TopSat
    TopSat
    TopSat is an Earth observation satellite that was launched on October 27, 2005 alongside the Beijing-1 Disaster Monitoring Constellation satellite by a Cosmos rocket from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. TopSat carries out imaging with a ground resolution of 2.5m...

     taking high resolution pictures of the Earth,
  • Double Star (Polar) investigating the interaction of the Earth and the Sun,
  • EOS-Aura
    Aura (satellite)
    Aura is a multi-national NASA scientific research satellite in orbit around the Earth, studying the Earth's ozone layer, air quality and climate. It is the third major component of the Earth Observing System following on Terra and Aqua...

     monitoring the global temperature of the Earth's atmosphere,
  • Rosetta (spacecraft)
    Rosetta (spacecraft)
    Rosetta is a robotic spacecraft of the European Space Agency on a mission to study the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Rosetta consists of two main elements: the Rosetta space probe and the Philae lander. The spacecraft was launched on 2 March 2004 on an Ariane 5 rocket and will reach the comet by...

     investigating the composition of comets,
  • Chandrayaan-1 mission to investigate the moon,
  • Herschel Space Observatory
    Herschel Space Observatory
    The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency space observatory sensitive to the far infrared and submillimetre wavebands. It is the largest space telescope ever launched, carrying a single mirror of in diameter....

     and Planck (spacecraft) space telescope.
  • Badr-B
    Badr-B
    Badr-B The Badr-B payload was equipped with several CCD cameras, compact dosimeter, a telemetry system, charge detector and a temperature control unit...

    , developed the CCD cameras for the satellite.

Economic impact



In recent years, there has been an increasing political drive towards requiring that the science undertaken at RAL and the technology created there result in a proportional economic benefit to the UK in order to justify the investment of public funds in the laboratory. RAL management have argued that this is achieved in various ways, including
  • From the commercial products and services resulting from the scientific results which are achieved on the facilities at RAL (e.g. through new materials, new drugs etc..).

  • Through the early warning of disasters predicted from terrestrial and space data acquired and analysed at RAL (e.g. radio/mobile phone interference predictions, severe weather predictions etc..).

  • Through the training of specialist scientists and engineers at RAL, who then move into commercial companies.

  • Through the standardisation of technologies which has resulted in the acceleration of economic growth through interoperability and interchangeability of products - especially in computing.

  • By the enthusiasm generated in science by the results of large facilities (e.g. from astronomical images or from particle physics experiments), which leads to schoolchildren choosing scientific training and scientific careers in many fields.

  • By technologies developed at RAL during the development of facilities themselves, which are then licensed to UK companies, or spin-out companies.

Directors

  • Dr Gerry Pickavance (1957–1969)
  • Dr Godfrey Stafford
    Godfrey Stafford
    Dr Godfrey Harry Stafford CBE, MA FInstP, FRS is a British physicist and directed the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories from 1969 to 1981. He went on to be a master at St Cross College, in Oxford and president of the Institute of Physics. In 1950 Dr. Stafford married Helen Goldthorp Clark, an...

     (1969–1981)
  • Dr Geoff Manning (1981–1986)
  • Dr Paul Williams (1986–1998)
  • Dr Bert Westwood (1998–2000)
  • Dr Gordon Walker (2000–2001)
  • Professor John Wood (2001–2007)

In popular culture


RAL was used as a set for the filming of an episode of Terry Nation
Terry Nation
Terry Nation was a Welsh screenwriter and novelist.He is probably best known for creating the villainous Daleks in the long-running science fiction television series Doctor Who...

's BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 TV series Blake's 7
Blake's 7
Blake's 7 is a British science fiction television series produced by the BBC for its BBC1 channel. The series was created by Terry Nation, a prolific television writer and creator of the Daleks for the television series Doctor Who. Four series of Blake's 7 were produced and broadcast between 1978...

.

The computer-generated imagery
Computer-generated imagery
Computer-generated imagery is the application of the field of computer graphics or, more specifically, 3D computer graphics to special effects in art, video games, films, television programs, commercials, simulators and simulation generally, and printed media...

 (CGI) for Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott
Sir Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. His most famous films include The Duellists , Alien , Blade Runner , Legend , Thelma & Louise , G. I...

's 1979 film Alien
Alien (film)
Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto. The film's title refers to its primary antagonist: a highly aggressive extraterrestrial creature which...

 were created at the Atlas Computer Laboratory
Atlas Computer Laboratory
The Atlas Computer Laboratory on the Chilton, Oxfordshire campus shared by the Harwell Laboratory was one of the major computer laboratories in the world, which operated between 1961 and 1975 to provide a service to British scientists at a time when powerful computers were not usually available...

 which is now part of RAL.

See also

  • Daresbury Laboratory
    Daresbury Laboratory
    Daresbury Laboratory is a scientific research laboratory near Daresbury in Cheshire, England, which began operations in 1962 and was officially opened on 16 June 1967 as the Daresbury Nuclear Physics Laboratory by the then Prime Minister of United Kingdom, Harold Wilson...

  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by UT-Battelle. ORNL is the DOE's largest science and energy laboratory. ORNL is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville...

  • Argonne National Laboratory
    Argonne National Laboratory
    Argonne National Laboratory is the first science and engineering research national laboratory in the United States, receiving this designation on July 1, 1946. It is the largest national laboratory by size and scope in the Midwest...

  • Spallation Neutron Source
    Spallation Neutron Source
    The Spallation Neutron Source is an accelerator-based neutron source facility that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development...

  • European Spallation Source
    European Spallation Source
    European Spallation Source is the name of a materials research facility for scientific research using the neutron scattering technique. The facility will be built in Lund, Sweden starting in 2013. The facility is expected to open in 2019 and will be fully operational in 2025...

  • Institut Laue–Langevin
  • European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
    European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
    The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility is a joint research facility supported by 19 countries situated in Grenoble, France...

  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
    Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
    The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is the national government body for scientific research in Australia...

  • List of synchrotron radiation facilities
  • European Space Agency Facilities
  • European Research Area
    European Research Area
    The European Research Area is a system of scientific research programmes integrating the scientific resources of the European Union . Since its inception in 2000, the structure has been concentrated on multi-national co-operation in the fields of medical, environmental, industrial and...

  • Diamond Light Source
    Diamond Light Source
    Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. Its purpose is to produce intense beams of light whose special characteristics are useful in many areas of scientific research...


External links