Since its inception in 1967, the Institut Laue - Langevin (ILL) has sought to become the most reliable neutron source for research and studies in the fields of material sciences, solid-state physics, chemistry, crystallography, molecular biology and nuclear and fundamental physics.
Owing to its high-flux reactor, which became operational in 1971, ILL operates one of the most intense neutron sources in the world, feeding some 40 experimental stations. Thanks to its outstanding infrastructure, ILL has positioned itself at the forefront of neutron research. Every year several hundred scientists carry out their experiments and measurements at this unique research facility in Grenoble.
ILL’s permanent members (associates) are France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden are scientific members, meaning they have five-year contracts allowing them use of the facility. With a staff of almost 500 and being subject to extremely strict nuclear security requirements, ILL has an annual budget approaching EUR 98 million. Operating the facility is thus a demanding task, but the fundamental importance of the services it supplies for research throughout the world amply justifies these efforts.
Update programmes (Millennium and Endurance)
In order to ensure its leading position in world neutron science and provide cutting-edge infrastructure, since 2001 ILL has been undergoing an update process. This is being carried out in two phases. The first, Millennium, was completed in 2019 and involved the installation of 14 new or completely overhauled instruments. The neutron sources have also been replaced, and this has multiplied the rate of neutron detection by a factor of 24. The second phase, Endurance, is currently ongoing and involves the installation of new instruments and the update of some existing ones.
Switzerland's scientific partnership in ILL is based on an international treaty signed in 1988, which was extended by five years in 1993, 1998, 2004, 2008, 2014 and 2019. Switzerland is thus participating for a seventh five-year period (2019–2023) in this institute at the leading edge of world research into neutron diffusion. Its total contribution during this time will be CHF 14.4 million, or 2.4% of ILL’s budget over the same period. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) is responsible for Switzerland's participation in ILL. The use and maintenance of ILL infrastructure creates substantial orders for Swiss industry. The Swiss Industry Liaison Office is responsible for promoting relations between Swiss companies and ILL.