UK and India forge new research partnership

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Professor C.N.R. Rao and Professor Robert McGreevy

Professor C.N.R. Rao, FRS, Chair of India’s Nano Mission and Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of STFC’s ISIS neutron and muon facility (Credit: STFC)
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The Government of India and the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) have today forged a partnership that will benefit both STFC’s ISIS neutron and muon facility and India’s Nano Mission.

ISIS is acknowledged as a world leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences and there are currently few facilities in India that can offer a similar research capability.  Under this new agreement, scientists working on the Indian Government’s Nano Mission will be given dedicated access to ISIS instruments. The partnership is expected to attract new investment that will enable the development of new instruments to go ahead earlier.

The partnership deal was struck with a letter of intent, signed today by the Director of STFC’s ISIS, Professor Robert McGreevy, and Professor C.N.R. Rao, FRS, Chair of India’s Nano Mission.  The Indian Nano Mission aims to increase India’s ability to study materials on the nanometre scale, enhancing our fundamental understanding of science on this scale, and using this knowledge to develop technologically important materials for use in real world applications – such as steel for domestic appliances or polymers for drug delivery systems.  For comparison of scale, a human hair is about 75,000 nanometres in diameter.

Professor Robert McGreevy, Director of STFC’s ISIS facility, said, “The commitment by the Indian Government to partner with STFC demonstrates the importance of the ISIS facility on the international stage.  It builds on a long-standing relationship as India was, in fact, the first country to sign a partnership agreement with ISIS back in 1983. We hope this agreement will act as a pathfinder for future UK-India activities, and we look forward to the exchange of skills and research capability that it will bring.”

Professor Rao said, “The ISIS spallation neutron source has pioneered many technologies and applications for using neutrons to study materials on the nanoscale. This agreement will enable the Indian scientific community to fully exploit the capabilities that ISIS offers, and build the expertise of Indian scientists in neutron scattering so that similar spallation sources can be developed in future in our country.”

The ISIS facility already has strong relationships with India, from fundamental research into nanoparticles and superconductivity to collaborations with industrial giant Tata Steel who have used the Engin-X instrument to improve their products.

However, interactions with the UK have still not met their full potential.  This partnership agreement is a step change in the scientific and technical engagement and will enable more access to the ISIS facility for the Indian user community.

STFC’s ISIS facility has an ongoing programme of instrument development, with the completion of Target Station 2 in 2009 providing seven new instruments, and another four in various stages of construction.  One of these, Zoom, uses the technique of small angle neutron scattering, which has already enabled important advances in advanced materials, environmental science and healthcare.

Zoom will have enhanced capabilities that will provide insights into how drugs interact with the body as well as important industrial materials, including polymers, emulsions, metals and alloys.

Professor Rao said, “Zoom will be a state-of-the-art small angle neutron scattering instrument, which will provide information regarding the shape, size, size distribution and correlation of density fluctuations in materials on the nanometre scale. The capabilities of Zoom are of great interest to Indian scientists in understanding and controlling a range of important properties in technologically relevant materials.”

The new partnership will enable Indian researchers to develop skills in neutron scattering techniques and initiate future collaborations between the UK and India.

This international collaboration is expected to bring forward the development of Zoom, which will allow British and overseas researchers to benefit from the new instrument sooner than originally planned.

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