A world-wide collaboration lays the foundation for ESS research centre


Making a pleasant change from the usual bad news, 450 scientists and engineers from 46 research institutions in 17 countries have joined forces to develop the technical design of the future European Spallation Source research centre. The completion of the design is a scientific and technical milestone of the ESS project, allowing it to move forward with the construction of the ESS.

The ESS will be a facility for materials research and life science, based on the world’s most powerful neutron source. The ESS technical design will be based on highly advanced technology, including a high-power particle accelerator and unique, large-scale scientific instrumentation.

Over the past two years, around 450 scientists and engineers from 46 leading research institutions from across the world have participated in the development of the final technical design of the ESS, manifested in a 650 page Technical Design Report. The scientists and engineers represent 13 out of the ESS 17 Partner Countries, and also USA, Russia, Slovenia and Slovakia. The finalisation of the technical design represents a milestone for the ESS project, marking its readiness to move forward with the construction.

According to Patrik Carlsson, ESS Director for Accelerator & Target, ‘The finalisation of the technical design is a true milestone. The Technical Design Report demonstrates the fruits of the hundreds of people who over the past 20 years have brought the ESS project to where it is today. It is only with their combined efforts that we have been able to come up with technological solutions that will greatly improve the overall performance and efficiency compared to today‘s neutron sources.’

‘The high brightness of the ESS will significantly expand the scientific possibilities of neutron science’, says Dimitri Argyriou, ESS Director for Science. With the formulation of highly relevant science drivers and a state-of-the-art reference instrument suite, we are on our way to shape the science of tomorrow.’

According to Steve Peggs, executive editor of the ESS Technical Design Report,

‘The Technical Design Report arrives one year after the ESS Conceptual Design report, containing the work, the studies, and the designs by around four times as many people as contributed to the conceptual design. Building a scientific laboratory that will be world-leading requires the combined efforts and joint thinking of a large number of experts.’

The final technical design of the ESS comprises innovative achievements within many different areas:

The linear accelerator

The ESS 5 MW accelerator will be the world’s most powerful proton accelerator, and as such, a technical challenge in itself to design. Among the technical novelties is the usage of superconducting spoke accelerator cavities, which will be used for the first time in a particle accelerator. Spoke cavities open the possibility to use superconducting technology at relatively low speed, thus making the acceleration of low energy particles more energy efficient.

The target station concept

Since the neutrons used for the experiments are produced in the target station, the design of the target station is of vital importance to future scientific opportunities and performance. ESS will use a novel design for spallation targets, consisting of a solid, rotating tungsten wheel. Since ESS will be the most powerful neutron source ever constructed, at 5 MW, the design of the target required a significant amount of design work. The chosen target concept will secure the best scientific performance combined with safety and minimum environmental impact.

The 22 neutron instruments

ESS will offer neutron beams of unparalleled brightness and in long pulses, which necessitate the development of new technology and approaches in the design of the 22 instruments. The high flux and unique time structure, in combination with unmatched instrument flexibility, will make possible many investigations that are out of range today. The reference instrument suite provides an example of what can be achieved, although the instruments that will actually be built will be chosen in an ongoing process involving the wider science community.

Scientists and engineers from the following research institutions have contributed to the ESS Technical Design Report:

  • European Spallation Source ESS AB, Lund Sweden
  • Aarhus University, Denmark
  • Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies alternatives (CEA), Saclay/Paris, France
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Firenze, Italy
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Messina, Italy
  • Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), Milano, Italy
  • Control System Laboratory (Cosylab), Slovenia
  • Copenhagen University, Denmark
  • Czech Technical University, Prague, the Czech Republic
  • Denmark Technical University (DTU), Roskilde, Denmark
  • Deutsches Elektronen-Synkrotron (DESY), Hamburg, Germany
  • Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • European Spallation Source Bilbao, Spain
  • Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum für Materialien und Energie, Berlin, Germany
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf, Germany
  • Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Germany
  • Institute for High-Energy Physics (IHEP), Protvino, Russia
  • Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), Halden/Oslo, Norway
  • Institut Laue-Langevin, Grenoble, France
  • Institute of Nuclear Techniques, Budapest, Hungary
  • Institut de Physique Nucléaire (IPN), Paris Orsay, France
  • Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN), Catania and Legnaro, Italy
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • Laboratoire Léon Brillouin, Saclay/Paris, France
  • Linköping University, Sweden
  • Lund Technical University, Sweden
  • Lund University, Sweden
  • MAX IV Laboratory, Lund, Sweden
  • Mid Sweden University, Sweden
  • Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Nuclear Physics Institute ASCR, Prague, the Czech Republic
  • Paul Scherrer Institute, Zürich, Switzerland
  • Research Centre Rez/Prague, the Czech Republic
  • Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, Aachen, Germany
  • Royal Holloway, University of London, United Kingdom
  • Science and Technology Facilities Council, United Kingdom
  • Sincrotrone Trieste, Italy
  • Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Technical University Delft, the Netherlands
  • Technische Universität München, Germany
  • Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, Virginia, USA
  • University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
  • University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
  • University of Tartu, Estonia
  • Uppsala University, Sweden

ESS in brief

The European Spallation Source (ESS) will be a multi-disciplinary research laboratory based on the world’s most powerful neutron source. ESS can be likened to a large microscope, where neutrons are used instead of light to study materials - ranging from polymers and pharmaceuticals to membranes and molecules - to gain knowledge about their structure and function. ESS will be around 30 times brighter than existing facilities, opening up new possibilities for researchers in, for example, health, chemistry, fundamental physics, environmental sciences, climate, energy, transport sciences and cultural heritage.

ESS is an intergovernmental research infrastructure project and it will be built in Lund in southern Scandinavia. Currently 17 European countries are partners in the ESS project, and will take part in the construction, financing and operation of the ESS. The partner countries are: Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

ESS is expected to support a user community of at least 5,000 European researchers and will have great strategic importance for the development of the European Research Area. Nearby there will be complementary laboratories, such as the synchrotron MAX IV in Lund and XFEL and PETRAIII in Hamburg.