© Ewan Topping
© Ewan Topping

Italy and ILL celebrate 20 years of scientific excellence

Today (5 October) Italy celebrates the 20th anniversary of its scientific membership of the world’s flagship centre for neutron science, the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL).

The two decades of collaboration have tackled scientific challenges across areas as diverse as health and computing as well as upskilling the future generation of neutron scientists.

Around 6% of all scientific visitors at the ILL and 24% of those welcomed from scientific member countries are Italian. Some of the most exciting science to be conducted at the ILL recently has come from Italian users.

The revelation that ‘quantum tunnelling’ (where a particle ‘tunnels’ through a barrier) enables the birth of stars was discovered by the University of Parma, for example. Work within the same department has brought molecular magnets closer to application in quantum computing – a relatively unexplored field.

In the global context, an ageing population means treating chronic diseases is a scientific challenge. In this area, ILL has supported the University of Milan in contributing to the fight against chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – mapping the mechanisms underpinning the diseases to contribute to the design of new treatments.

Italy was in fact one of the first nations using neutrons for spectroscopy. With no nuclear source of their own since the 1960s, use of the ILL’s world-class facilities and expertise has enabled Italians to maintain influence on the global research stage, impacting  areas such as Alzheimer’s, cryopreservation and investigation of life under extreme conditions.

Professor Helmut Schober, director of the ILL, said: “The unique research conducted by Italian users at the ILL over the last 20 years has been essential to solving some of the major challenges facing modern society. Carried out across a broad range of disciplines and feeding into innovation in many different fields of application, including health, materials and the future of computing, I have no doubt that science in Italy will continue to benefit from the unrivalled services provided by the ILL.”

Given the European Commission’s planned €1bn quantum technologies flagship initiative in 2018, ILL is enabling Italian scientists to be at the forefront of European science priorities.