Foundation stone for the European new generation research centre

Today in Lund, Sweden, the foundation stone will be laid for the European Spallation Source (ESS), the superstructure that will be one of the most powerful research centres of the world and will mark the beginning of the new generation research in Europe. This is also significant for the researchers of the University of Tartu, who were the first among all partners to sign a contract to develop equipment for research with neutrons.

“Building such an immense research centre as the ESS cannot be an effort of only one country, as compared to existing similar research infrastructure objects allowing neutron measurements, the ESS will be an order of magnitude more powerful. No country in Europe could set up such an extensive centre alone,” finds Industrial Liaison Officer of the Institute of Physics of the University of Tartu Ott Rebane, who is the ESS Industry Liaison Officer for Estonia.

The research centre is being built in the cooperation of 17 partner countries, including Estonia. “It has taken more than 20 years to reach the point where we are today”, says James H. Yeck, ESS Director General. “The construction has started thanks to the dedication of countless people who have contributed with their scientific drive, technological inventiveness and administrative determination. We are very proud to be where we are, but also very well aware of the responsibility we carry.”

The total cost of the entire facility is calculated to 1.843 billion euros. Estonia has promised to contribute 0.25% of the cost, that is up to 5 million euros. “The volume of required cooperation will be a true challenge in terms of logistics, engineering and research, as the schedule is tight: the equipment still being constructed is expected to deliver first neutrons in 2019. The entire research centre should be fully operable in 2023,” adds Rebane. Despite all the elaborate logistics, the ESS Director General Yeck is optimistic, as the preparations have been thorough and the organisation is ready for the challenge.

“Considering the overall required cooperation it is even more surprising that the research group of the University of Tartu, led by Professor Pieper, was the first in the world to sign the official in-kind contribution contract with the ESS,” emphasised Vice Rector for Research Marco Kirm. The contract concerns the creation of a specific measuring environment for biological objects, allowing to use neutrons to investigate the functioning of proteins after manipulation by a powerful laser impulse.

The contract is also a basis for and accelerates the joining of other research groups with the ESS for cooperation in any field. “Thanks to this contract, the cooperation between the ESS and the University of Tartu as well as other Estonian researchers will become even stronger, ensuring our researchers’ continuous contribution to the world’s top-level research in very diverse fields – materials science, technology, engineering, biochemistry, biomedicine, biology and geology, but also applied and fundamental physics and chemistry. The most important thing is that our researchers and enterprises will have an opportunity to apply world-class technology in solving their research problems,” said Professor of Physical Chemistry Enn Lust.

Researchers of the University of Tartu also participate in the planning of the research campus surrounding the ESS as well as in the design of test cells and instruments, aiming to create suitable conditions for studying new energetics materials at the research centre. “Researchers are also working on the development of various equipment that would help to determine the structure of porous materials, physical and chemical adsorption of liquids and gases and dynamics in different materials,” added the Estonian coordinator of the ESS, Research Fellow of Physical and Electrochemistry Heisi Kurig.

Virge Tamme
Press Officer of the UT
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