Working at ISIS: The work of technicians
14 Mar 2012



STFC employees explain about the work that technicians do at the organisation

​​​​​​Steve Cox, part of the ISIS experiment support staff

Chris Barker: “My name is Chris Barker and I’m the mechanical technician here at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

It’s a hands-on application. Cryogenics can be applied to everyday things, even to your fridge, which is a cryogenic system. The thing with cryogenic gas is that when it’s a liquid and it starts to expand into a gas, it increases in volume at seven hundred times per second. You also get to see through every single individual application for making a satellite. The planck satellite is currently up there at the moment. I worked on the cooling system on that and helped to integrate that onto the satellite.

This is the closed- cycle cooling system. Inside there are fine, small-diameter pistols going up and down at around about 40 hertz, which is 40 times a second, which is quite a powerful, small cooler for a space application”.

Sonya Chapman: “My name is Sonya Chapman and I work for the Central Lasers Facility. My main areas are lasers, optics and amplifiers. The properties that they hold are what help the laser to gain its energy. What happens is, when we fire the laser, it’s all done in such a short time, quicker than when you blink your eye. At the moment, we obviously have fossil fuels but eventually we’re going to run out of those, so we’re looking at ways to come up with something different. The way that they’re doing that is at a high power fusion”.

Steve Cox: “I’m Steve Cox and this is ISIS. It’s like a big microscope that fires neutrons. All around the world, different countries are trying to build these neutron accelerators-big microscopes- and they use that to spin out big industries. There are some that have just started up on hydrogen fuel cells for things like hydrogen cars in the future”.

Darren: “Hi, my name’s Darren and I am an engineer and sports technician for the Central Lasers Facility. My primary role is to set up the engineering, the vacuum and any other components that the users need.

This is a parabolic mirror. It works to the accuracy of a couple of microns, guided down to a one micron spot. It ignites the gas.

Behind the laser, there is a wave that excites the electrons. The electrons go from the gas into the electron spectrometer. It’s to do with various things: cancer therapy, proton therapy and things like that”.

Donna Wyatt:  “My name’s Donna Wyatt. I produce tiny structures for a high-powered laser. I love it! It’s very varied. I work with a lot of lovely people. We’re a really nice, small team and we have lots of fun.

If you think of the average human hair as about eighty to a hundred microns, we tend to work on a smaller scale than that, really tiny. If you drop something, there’s no finding it again”.

Martyn Bull:  “My name is Martyn Bull. I am Head of Communications for the ISIS neutron source. We’re looking through one of the newest instruments at ISIS, which we will use to look at materials at the scale of atoms”.

Kate Lancaster: “The lasers are so powerful that they actually start to make lightening in the air. Fusion, which is the reaction that powers the sun, we try to recreate that in the laboratory and in miniature.

Martyn Bull: “We have defined the technology that has now been installed in the United States and Japan. For twenty-five years, we have been the world leaders of this technology”.