India and the United Kingdom have a long history of scientific collaboration, and the partnership between the two nations is set to strengthen even further. Dr. Jitendra Singh, the Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, recently visited the UK’s premier institution, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), to explore opportunities for collaboration in the field of science and innovation.
RAL is one of the national scientific research laboratories in the UK operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). In addition to hosting facilities for the UK, RAL also operates departments to coordinate the UK’s program of participation in major international facilities, including particle physics and space science. The site hosts some of the UK’s major scientific facilities, including the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, a spallation neutron source, the Central Laser Facility, and the Diamond Light Source synchrotron.
During his visit, Dr. Jitendra Singh mentioned that India is ready to offer its experiences in science and innovation to other countries for the larger benefit of mankind. India is collaborating with international institutions such as CERN (Geneva), FAIR (Germany), TMT (USA), Fermilab (USA), and LIGO (USA) under the Mega Facilities for Basic Research program. The UK has been a traditional partner in this field and has been collaborating with India for a very long time.
Under the Nano Mission, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Indian government has a major collaborative project that enables Indian researchers to pursue collaborative research with the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source and to have access to all of the neutron and muon beamlines of the facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK. The ISIS accelerator in RAL is one of the leading research centers for neutron scattering studies in materials research.
DST has also contributed to the construction cost of a new beamline ZOOM dedicated to small-angle scattering in TS2 of the ISIS facility. The tenure of the project is up to 30th Sept 2023, with a total project cost of £ 2.5 million. Over 25 research papers have already been published, encompassing various disciplines.
The proposal for Phase II (2023-28) is under consideration, which has five components, namely (a) provision for the visits of two scientists for each experiment, (b) Provision of cash contribution of £ 3 Million towards the upgrade of mutually beneficial instrumentation, including the “Indian motivated” ZOOM beamline, (c) Provision of Fellowships for one postdoctoral fellow, (d) Provision for the visit of two researchers obtained their beam time under direct access, and (e) Fund to organize Steering Committee meetings every year in India and UK alternately and fund for organizing the “India-UK Neutron Scattering Workshop” alternate year starting from the first year of the project.
Dr. Jitendra Singh also informed that the Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the LIGO-India project to build an advanced gravitational-wave detector in Maharashtra at an estimated cost of Rs 2,600 crore. The observatory will be the third of its kind, made to the exact specifications of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories (LIGO), in Louisiana and Washington in the U.S. LIGO-India will work in tandem with them.