How EU research infrastructures are contributing to materials science

March 8, 2005

Brussels, 07 Mar 2005

Research infrastructures have not only been responsible for some of the greatest scientific discoveries, but are also influential in attracting the best researchers from around the world and forging bridges between scientific disciplines. The European Commission has recognised this, and is funding projects making the best of current facilities in Europe, as well as the design of new infrastructures.

Research infrastructures are used by every scientific discipline, and can range from lasers, synchrotrons and neutron sources to libraries, databases and clean rooms. The European Commission gave details of where some of its infrastructures budget is going on 3 March with presentations of projects focusing on materials science. The event took place at the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton laboratory in the UK, which supports the work of over 10,000 scientists and engineers, mainly from the university research community. Its facilities enable research into new materials and structures, including battery electrolytes, turbine blades, x-ray lasers, space-based astronomy, and particle physics.

The NMI3 project, addressing neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, is coordinated by ISIS, located at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Its principal aim is to improve the use of European facilities for neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy. The consortium of 23 partners from 14 countries will do this through 'access activities', joint research activities and networking activities. Through its access activities, NMI3 is enabling European scientists to carry out hundreds of experiments, and priority is awarded to those who would not ordinarily be able to carry out such research due to a lack of facilities in their home country.

While major breakthroughs in this field are usually the result of a single experiment, the combined results of many studies could lead to discoveries in a wide range of fields. The research conducted under the umbrella of NMI3 could lead to a reduction in the stress under which turbine blades in jet engines must function; new, environmentally friendly solders; improvements to fuel cell technology; and new information on how materials were used to create objects discovered by archaeologists.

Coordination is also a major feature of the Laserlab-Europe project. Materials science, health sciences, biotechnology, micro- and macro-production, metrology, and information and communication technologies (ICT), all owe a great deal to lasers and optical technologies.

Most of Europe's largest national laboratories in the field are involved in this consortium. Work will centre on two major joint research activities that address problems such as the control of intense short-pulse laser light, and overcoming technological barriers to the development of high-power short-pulse lasers.

A third project, IA-SFS (integrating activity on synchrotron and free electron laser science), is enabling scientists to perform experiments in top-level facilities located in different countries. It is also funding joint research activities, which involve the use of more than one facility in a project, leading to new techniques. These activities are diverse, and address problems facing the structural biology, chemical and physical processes, materials science, magnetic structures and laser beam communities.

Support for research infrastructures is set to continue in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In the Commission's communication on the financial perspectives of the European Union for the period 2007 to 2013, support for research infrastructures of European dimension and interest is outlined as a priority. In line with this, 'developing research infrastructures of European interest' appears as one of the six major objectives in the recent Commission's communication on the future EU policy for research.

For further information on EU research infrastructures, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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