Money for particles

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury has announced a £147.5 million (213.6 million Euros) cash injection for two particle accelerators based in the UK. The government is hoping that the facilities will lead to breakthroughs in areas such as medical research, super computers and clean energy technology.

Over 80% of the funding will be spent on building the Diamond Light Source. This is the largest science facility to be built in the UK for nearly 30 years and, when built, will be the size of five football fields. The accelerator should open in 2007, and will provide infrared, ultra-violet and x-ray beams of exceptional brightness.

The accelerator will enable scientists to improve their understanding of the basic structure of matter and materials, and could lead to new discoveries in the fields of biotechnology, medicine, and environmental and materials science. While most of the funding will come from the UK government, just under one fifth will be provided by the Wellcome Trust.

Some £27.5 million (39.8 million Euros) will go towards increasing the capacity for new hi tech instruments at ISIS, a neutron spallation facility that opened in 1985. The accelerator fires protons at a target, releasing neutron beams that are then used to probe the internal structure of material.

‘The ability to look deeper into matter is fundamental to achieving new breakthroughs in many areas, from medical treatment and drugs to understanding the origins of our planet,’ said Lord Sainsbury. ‘This is not just about pure academic research, Diamond Light Source and ISIS provide opportunities for industrial research such as the aerospace industry, surgical tools, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.’

‘Thanks to the decoding of the human genome and the genomes of many important bacteria and viruses, we now know the sequence of thousands of new proteins that are important in health and disease,’ added Dr. Mark Walport, Director at the Wellcome Trust. ‘But to understand their function, we need to know their structure. Diamond Light Source is a facility that will help us do that. Ultimately, this is the key to the future development of new drugs and treatments.’