07.25.11

Great friendships and great discoveries

The U.S. and India sign a forward-looking framework.

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The semiconductor industry relies on accelerator technology to implant ions in silicon chips. Accelerators for American Future report

The semiconductor industry relies on accelerator technology to implant ions in silicon chips.

Great friendships often lead to great science . . . and even better societal benefits.

For instance, Watson and Crick — assisted by Rosalind Franklin — came together to divine the structure of DNA. Marie and Pierre Curie discovered two new radioactive elements, radium and polonium, and earned a Nobel Prize in Physics (1903). And Albert Einstein and his physicist friend Neils Bohr untangled many of the mysteries of quantum mechanics, and even won sequential Nobel Prizes in Physics (1921 and 1922).

A great new friendship of discovery is developing between the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science and India’s science-related agencies. On July 19th, DOE and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) signed an agreement to work together in advancing science and innovation in the fields of high energy physics and nuclear physics.

The agreement provides a foundational framework on which DOE and DAE can build on existing collaborations and create new projects, and it specifically aims to expand efforts in three areas: Heavy ion physics, particle detector development and superconducting radiofrequency acceleratory technology. Several Office of Science labs — including Fermilab, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility — could be involved. So may many of their counterparts in India such as the Inter-University Accelerator Center in New Delhi, the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.

Through their collaborative research, the U.S. and Indian scientists hope to gain better understanding of the matter and energy that forms our universe. But there are also profoundly practical implications. Accelerators that produce beams of charged particles — which will hopefully be improved under the framework — are already used in everything from medical diagnosis and treatment to digital and electronics and security and defense. According to the DOE report, Accelerators for American Future (http://www.acceleratorsamerica.org/report/index.htmlExternal link), “All the products that are processed, treated or inspected by particle beams have a collective annual value of more than $500 billion.”

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End view of a collision of two 30-billion electron-volt gold beams in the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, The beams travel in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light before colliding. Brookhaven National Laboratory

End view of a collision of two 30-billion electron-volt gold beams in the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory, The beams travel in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light before colliding.

Innovations developed under this new partnership could increase those benefits even more. Moreover, the friendship between the two countries has already produced important scientific discoveries. Collaborative U.S.-India work at Fermilab led to the successful search and discovery of the top-quark, a fundamental constituent of matter. India was also a contributor to the international team at Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, which discovered what scientists believe to be a quark-gluon-plasma, a new form of matter that’s envisioned to have existed an instant after the universe began — about 13.7 billion or so years ago.

This new framework follows on a new, long-term collaborative effort on climate research that DOE began with India’s science-related agencies earlier this year. Other shared efforts are also advancing, such as the third annual Women in Science workshop that the U.S. and India plan to hold this September.

There’s unbounded potential in friendship. That’s true for the U.S. and India, and this new agreement opens even more opportunities. It’s a great friendship of science . . . with great societal benefits.

For more information about the agreement, please go to http://www.energy.gov/news/10441.htm. And for more information on DOE’s Office of Science, please go to: http://science.energy.gov/.

Charles Rousseaux is a Senior Writer in the Office of Science

Last modified: 3/15/2013 5:23:56 PM