World's largest microscope established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium

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Soon to be the ‘world’s largest microscope’, the European Spallation Source (ESS) has been established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or ERIC, by the European Commission. Announced on the 19 August in Brussels, the decision will put the facility on a par with both CERN and the European Southern Observatory (ESO) as a major international scientific collaboration.

The European Commission's decision to establish the European Spallation Source ERIC will enter into force from 28 August. 

The European Spallation Source is the world’s next-generation neutron source currently under construction in Lund, Sweden, and once completed, will be an accelerator-based facility producing neutrons for a large array of advanced instruments. The facility will be around 30 times brighter than today's leading facilities.

ESS will use a high-power linear proton accelerator to create neutron beams to probe the structures and dynamics of materials. In the same way that telescopes allow scientists to directly and indirectly investigate the distant places and hidden elements of our universe, a neutron source and its instruments enable scientists to observe basic atomic structures and forces. It can be compared with a giant microscope for the study of different materials – from plastics and pharmaceuticals, to engines, proteins, molecules and nanotechnology. 

Industrial drivers such as fuel cells, superconductors, innovative structural engineering, climate, transportation and food technologies, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and clean energy, are all dependent on advances in the capacity and capability of the science of neutron imaging.  

Now that the ESS facility has been established as a European Research Infrastructure Consortium, or ERIC, it classifies as an international organisation with legal standing in all EU member countries, and provides the framework for completing the project in collaboration with the partners in those countries. 

The ESS is one of the top priorities of the EC’s European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) Roadmap, which was established more than a decade ago to prioritise research infrastructure development in Europe. The EU has contributed €5 million of funding to the project’s pre-construction phase, with additional support of €20 million in 2015 through Horizon 2020.

The facility is anticipated to be a major driver for innovation in science and industry in Europe. It will provide new opportunities for researchers in a broad range of scientific areas including life sciences, energy, environmental technology, cultural heritage and fundamental physics. 

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