Formed in 2007, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation with a clear mission: to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and to the world.

STFC is one of nine public sector research funding bodies that together form UK Research and Innovation – created in April 2018 with the mission to create the best environment for research and innovation to flourish.

It is one of Europe’s largest multidisciplinary research organisations, supporting scientists and engineers worldwide. Through research fellowships and grants, it is responsible for funding research in UK universities, in the fields of astronomy, particle physics, and nuclear physics.

STFC also operates its own world-class, large-scale research facilities (such as materials research, laser and space science and alternative energy exploration) and provides strategic advice to the UK government on their development. It manages international research projects in support of a broad cross-section of the UK research community and directs, coordinates and funds research, education and training.

It enables UK researchers to access leading international science facilities by funding membership of international bodies including European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), the Institut Laue Langevin (ILL), European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

This week, STFC, in partnership with the British Cryogenics Council and the University of Oxford, is hosting the International Cryogenic Engineering Conference and International Cryogenic Materials Conference (ICEC-ICMC) in Oxford, UK.

ICEC27-ICMC18 starts today


Source: Software Sustainability Institute

Professor Neil Geddes (left), Director of STFC Technology, gave a welcome address on behalf of the council on Monday – the first day of the ICEC-ICMC conference.

He explained to delegates that cryogenics plays a core enabling role in much of STFC’s science programme and that the council is a strong supporter of the British cryogenics cluster, organising the annual Cryogenics Cluster Day since 2010.

He said, “There is a long history of cryogenics development at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.”

“STFC’s interest started at RAL in the 1960s with a principal interest in magnets for particle physics. This is an interest which continues to this day and most recently we have built magnets for antimatter studies at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research – known as CERN - and muon cooling experiments at RAL.”

“Early work at RAL led directly to the development of Rutherford Cable in the 1970s.”

RAL aerial view

Source: Science and Technology Facilities Council

Aerial view of RAL

Rutherford cable is a type of superconducting electrical cable used to generate magnetic fields in particle accelerators. The cable is named after RAL, where it was developed.

“This is turn underpinned the development of multifilament cables and superconducting joints that supported the development of MRI scanners,” he continued.

STFC’s interest in cryogenic remains strong and the council has extensive infrastructure at RAL and its other sites in Daresbury and Edinburgh.

gasworld caught up with Geddes during the ICEC-ICMC conference to ask him three short questions.

What’s going on in the cryogenics industry at the moment from your point of view?

Cryogenics continues to demonstrate its importance as an enabling technology – from new applications such as quantum technology, to the cold chain in food, particularly in developing countries, addressing a number of the UN Global Goals. 

What challenges do you see ahead in the cryogenics sector?

Security of helium supply is one issue, which is being addressed on many fronts, from better “helium husbandry” – more efficient use and recycling – to new prospecting methodologies, for which the British Cryogenics Council is lending support.

If you could give one key message about cryogenics to our readers, what would that be?

Cryogenics is a domain of real strength in the UK, with a particular concentration of activity and expertise around Oxford, with important, though often invisible, roles in food, healthcare, energy, science and space. Maintaining a critical mass of technical expertise in this field will be important.

About Professor Neil Geddes

Geddes obtained his doctorate in High Energy Particle Physics (HEP) from the University of Oxford in 1986. 

He joined the Science and Engineering Research Council’s (SERC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in 1986, to pursue research in Quantum Chromodynamics and matter-antimatter asymmetries.

In April 2001, Geddes joined the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council to direct their e-science programme and in 2005 took over as head of the then Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Council’s (CCLRC) e-Science Department. On the creation of the STFC in April 2007, he became STFC Director of e-Science.

He now leads the STFC Technology Department, covering activities at RAL and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh.

Geddes is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. He has more than 500 refereed publications covering particle physics and computing, and is a member of a number of National and International advisory panels on science, e-science and e-infrastructure.