China is to build several large, multi-purpose facilities in Beijing and Shanghai that will form the basis of two new national laboratories.
Work on the ¥10bn ($1.5bn) Beijing-based laboratory will start early next year, while the Shanghai-based laboratory recently received approval from government funding agencies. The initiative was announced by Chunli Bai, president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), last month and is part of an effort to reform China’s research structure.
Covering an area of 13 km2 on the outskirts of Beijing, the new national lab will comprise three major research facilities: the Synergetic Extreme Condition User Facility (SECUF), the Beijing Advanced Photon Source (BAPS) and the Earth System Simulator. It will also feature five “research platforms” that focus on accelerator technology, clean energy, materials genome, environment science and brain science.
“After seven to eight years of construction, the lab will house some 3000 employees, a scale similar to Argonne or Oak Ridge national laboratories,” says Hong Ding, chief scientist at CAS’s Beijing National Laboratory of Condensed Matter Physics.
“It is time China had its own national labs to this scale.”
The SECUF, of which Ding is project manager, will include a dozen instruments – including transmission electron microscopes – that can operate at low temperatures, high pressures and high magnetic fields. BAPS, meanwhile, will be one of the most powerful X-ray synchrotron radiation sources in the world once complete in 2022. According to Ding, almost half of the ¥10bn will go towards building BAPS.
Located on the outskirts of Shanghai, the Zhangjiang Comprehensive National Science Center will be designed within the national lab framework and received the green light in February from China’s National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Science and Technology. Other national labs will be set up in other parts of China, too, including in Hefei – home to China’s first synchrotron radiation facility and the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak – as well as in Guangdong province, which harbours the Daya Bay Neutrino Experiment and the upcoming China Spallation Neutron Source.
One of the major challenges of the national lab programme is determining how to integrate the old research system.
“While many of the pieces of national labs already exist, for example within the institutes of the CAS, integrating the construction and operation of major facilities with the research programmes that use them is hard to do if there are too many management or budgetary boundaries,” says Thomas Mason, director-general of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US. (Physics World)