India Joins European Neutron Facility in Grenoble

NEW DELHI—India has become the first non-European country to join the international neutron research facility at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in Grenoble, France, operator of one of the most intense neutron sources in the world. With a budget of €80 million, it hosts researchers from over 40 countries conducting research into condensed matter physics, chemistry, biology, nuclear physics, and materials science.

This "exciting new collaboration," says Ratan K. Sinha, nuclear engineer and director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai, "will help bridge the gap" between less powerful Indian facilities and the goals of Indian scientists who are eager to carry out experiments with higher intensity beams. BARC will spend almost $10 million over 4 years to support the collaboration and will make new detectors for the ILL facility—to be counted an in-kind contribution.

The agreement calls for India to have about 50 days of beam time at the Grenoble facility. India could initiate about 15 new independent material science experiments on its own, says Samarth Lal Chaplot, a physicist and head of the Solid State Physics at BARC. The facility supports about 800 experiments a year, according to its Web site. A key person in making the collaboration, Chaplot says India will benefit significantly as its scientists become integrated with the global neutron research community on "an equal footing."

Andrew Harrison, ILL's director, on a visit to India yesterday described India's entry into the collaboration as "win-win situation." Harrison said, "India has a lot of pent up talent, and if that talent gets access to top of the line facilities like ILL, they would be unstoppable." Already, Harrison says, 70 Indian researchers have registered to use the facility.

India now relies on neutron beams in an aging 100 MW research reactor called Dhruva in Mumbai; scientists at BARC are hoping to construct two more modern neutron sources at Visakhapatnam in eastern India. Harrison says he hopes the new collaboration will enable the transfer of some ILL technology to these new research reactors.