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Impact Of Our Research

The Impact of Our Research…Distinctive Science Making a Difference

Our research seeks to understand the Universe from the largest astronomical scales to the tiniest constituents of matter, yet creates impact on a very tangible, human scale. From cancer treatment to airport security, high-tech jobs to hydrogen-powered cars, energy generation to accident-scene emergency care, our impact is felt within and beyond the UK in many aspects of daily life.

Our Research also leads to benefits across the wider economy. More detail can be found under About Us: Our Impacts & Achievements. These include:

  • Creating capability and advancing the UK’s skills base
  • Improving the performance of existing businesses
  • Creating and nurturing new businesses
  • Improving public policy and public services
  • Attracting R&D investment from global business

Key facts

The following five examples provide a taste of the incredible and diverse science that typifies the research we undertake and enable:

Higgs Boson Laid Bare

LHC display in BIS window
(Credit: Michael David BIS Digital)

A new era dawned for particle physics with the announcement in 2012 that a particle had been observed with properties consistent with the elusive Higgs Boson. The UK played a central role in this watershed discovery at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. An incredible 26 million people across the UK tuned into TV and radio coverage, with the Higgs mentioned every 1.1 seconds on Twitter – reflecting the phenomenal interest in a dramatic discovery that’s unleashed a new desire for answers about the underlying nature of the Universe.

Witnessing the Dawn of Time

ALMA, the world’s most complex ground-based telescope, produced its very first image in 2012. We made a major contribution to the design and construction of this pioneering collaborative facility, located in northern Chile, which provides an unprecedented view of the earliest, most distant galaxies. As well as the incredible opportunities for UK research scientists that ALMA offers, the return to UK industry during the telescope’s construction phase exceeded £5 million.

Brain Power for Computers

Enabling computers to mimic the unique workings of the human brain is the remarkable aim of researchers at the University of Leeds – pioneering science that could spawn radical new computing architectures that deliver major leaps forward in health, energy and other key sectors. Our ISIS neutron source studied a special iron-rhodium alloy developed by the team, examining it at different temperatures and exploring its potential for use in the ‘magnetic memristor’ that could add brain-like capabilities to conventional computers.

Countering Carbon More Cleanly

A revolutionary material developed at the University of Nottingham could make the removal of carbon from greenhouse gas emissions easier and more environmentally friendly. As well as reducing the energy-intensity of carbon removal, NOTT-300 doesn’t produce the toxic by-products generated by ammonia-based alternatives. The material has been studied at molecular level at our ISIS neutron source, providing detailed understanding of how it works and aiding its development as a potentially valuable weapon in the battle against climate change.

A Future Shaped by Lasers

DiPOLE, an innovative technology platform being developed at our Central Laser Facility, is at the forefront of research into next-generation pulsed lasers that could touch virtually every walk of life. Reduced radiation doses for cancer patients; better detection of concealed weapons and contraband; unprecedentedly precise atmospheric readings that enable more accurate weather forecasts; clean, limitless energy from fusion – these are just some of the real-world benefits that lasers could bring within reach in the coming years and decades.

Our research builds knowledge, nurtures skills and creates possibilities. Ultimately, the potential gains are almost incalculable.

Last updated: 26 February 2016


Science and Technology Facilities Council
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