FAIR deal

Published : Mar 09, 2007 00:00 IST

FAIR (Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research) is an international accelerator facility for research in nuclear and high-energy physics. It was first proposed to the international science community by the German Gesellschaft fur Schwerionenforschung (the Society for Heavy Ion Research), or GSI, in 2001. India will be one of the 13 countries participating in the construction and operation of this facility, which will be built at the GSI laboratory in Darmstadt, Germany.

Minister for Science & Technology Kapil Sibal and German Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan formalised this in a joint declaration on February 7 during the India-European Union Ministerial Science Conference in New Delhi. The other member-states in the FAIR project are China, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

India's decision to participate in FAIR was made in December 2005 in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in Kolkata by Bikash Sinha, director of the Variable Energy Cyclotron (VECC)/Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and Hans H. Gutbrod, FAIR coordinator. The present ministerial declaration has expanded the MoU into a larger bilateral national agreement. It has also included other Indian institutions.

FAIR will be a unique and technically innovative accelerator system that will deliver an extensive range of high-intensity primary and secondary particle beams - from protons and their antimatter partners, antiprotons, to ion beams of all elements including the heaviest, uranium - with energies up to 35 giga electron volt (GeV) a nucleon. (The term nucleon collectively refers to protons or neutrons, particles that make up the atomic nuclei.)

The facility will conduct research into nuclear structure physics and nuclear astrophysics with radioactive ion beams and cooled beams of anti-protons, physics of nuclear matter at the highest matter density, plasma physics at very high pressure, density and temperature physics, and atomic physics. It will also include applied sciences and materials research. It will enable investigations at one end into laser-induced plasma - an alternative to the inertial confinement fusion at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project in nuclear fusion, in which India is a participant - and at the other into `hadron therapy', which is the application of medical cyclotrons as an alternative to cobalt therapy. In all, about 2,500 scientists from 44 countries are expected to participate in the proposed areas of research.

FAIR's cost of construction is estimated to be 1,002 million euros. Manpower costs for 2,400 persons each year will add 185 million euros. The German government approved the project in February 2003 and will contribute 75 per cent of the costs needed to finance its construction. The detailed design of the facility was completed in 2004. Significant research and development (R&D) has already been carried out, funded largely by the European Commission. The FAIR Baseline Technical Design Report was issued in 2006. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2007 and will be completed by 2014.

As per the present proposal, a limited liability company, FAIR GmbH, will assume ownership of the project. According to the joint declaration, the regulations laid down in the FAIR Convention and the Articles of Association will form the basis of participation in FAIR. Participation will become effective on India's signing the convention with other contracting parties. As per the declaration, India will contribute at least 3 per cent of the construction cost, a major part of which will be in kind. This is similar to the manner of India's s participation at the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), a major European accelerator facility for research in high-energy particle physics, for the past many years. As for the operation costs (estimated at 118 million euros), both Germany and India will contribute "in an appropriate way".

India will be involved in designing and building parts of the proton linear accelerator and four large-size high-precision superconducting dipole magnets, each weighing 80 tonnes. Complimentary to India's contributions at CERN, Indian scientists will build novel ultra-fast gaseous detectors for studies on `quark-gluon plasma'. The declaration states that the exchange of human resources between Germany and India would form the most important component. It envisages that a network of FAIR centres will be established in India.

R. Ramachandran
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