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Large facilities for research

UK facilities

Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK’s synchrotron, located at Harwell Oxford, a science, innovation and business campus in south Oxfordshire. It is operated as a not-for-profit limited company funded as a joint venture between the UK Government, through the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Wellcome Trust.

The synchrotron is free at the point of access and is one of the most advanced scientific facilities in the world, helping to keep the UK at the forefront of scientific research by harnessing the power of electrons to produce bright light that scientists can use to study anything from fossils to jet engines to viruses.

Diamond Light Source offers a range of different modes of beam time allocation to ensure the various needs of Users can be met. For further details on how to apply please refer to the Applying for Beamtime Diamond Light Source webpage.

Diamond macromolecular crystallography (MX) village

Academic researchers are making increasing use of macromolecular crystallography (MX). Improvements in the speed of data collection and solving structures mean that it is now possible to obtain structural information on a timescale that allows chemists and structural biologists to work together in the development of promising compounds into drug candidates.

The MX village currently comprises four state-of-the-art undulator beamlines; two high brilliance beamlines, a fixed wavelength beamline and a microfocus beamline. Diamond Light Source offers a wide range of facilities and capabilities including microbeams, in situ (in-plate) screening and data collection, fragment screening, sample humidity control, UV-Vis spectroscopy and data collection from pathogenic samples.

Other techniques available at Diamond Light Source include:

Electron Bio-Imaging Centre (eBIC) 

eBIC was established at Diamond following the award of a £15.6M grant from the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). eBIC provides scientists with state-of-the-art experimental equipment and expertise in the field of cryo-electron microscopy, for both single particle analysis and cryo-tomography. Currently, eBIC houses four Titan Krios microscopes, a Talos Arctica and a Scios cryo-FIB/SEM. The Polara microscope is located at the University of Oxford. 

The location of eBIC enables scientists to combine their techniques with many of the other cutting edge approaches that Diamond offers. For further details on how to apply please refer to the How to Apply section of the Diamond Light Source webpage.

Central Laser Facility

The Central Laser Facility (CLF) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in south Oxfordshire is one of the world’s leading laser facilities providing scientists from the UK and Europe with an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology.

The CLF’s wide ranging applications include experiments in physics, chemistry and biology, accelerating subatomic particles to high energies, probing chemical reactions on the shortest timescales and studying biochemical and biophysical process critical to life itself. Providing advanced, compact, tuneable lasers which can pinpoint individual particles to high power laser installations that recreate the conditions inside stars. 

The Lasers for Science Facility, based in the Research Complex at Harwell, operates the OCTOPUS imaging cluster, a central core of lasers coupled to a set of advanced interconnected microscopy stations that can be used to image samples from single molecules to whole cells and tissues, and the ULTRA cluster, a range of ultrafast light sources giving unprecedented flexibility to combine multiple beams, multiple colours, mixed timing patterns, and pulse length, permitting a range of ultrafast spectroscopic methods.

The facility brings together expertise in imaging, including its capabilities in in vivo single molecule fluorescence imaging, multi-photon FLIM microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy and imaging. 

Information on how to access the Central Laser Facilities can be found on the CLF website.


ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in south Oxfordshire. ISIS produces beams of neutrons and muons that allow scientists to study materials at the atomic level using a suite of instruments, often described as ‘super-microscopes’.

It supports a national and international community of more than 2000 scientists who use neutrons and muons for research in physics, chemistry, materials science, geology, engineering and biology.

ISIS neutron and muon instruments are free to use for academic and industry researchers, provided results from experiments are published in the public domain.

New users are always welcome at ISIS and ISIS scientists and the User Office can help with beam time proposal, for more information on how to apply visit the ISIS webpages.

Access to international facilities

European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF)

The ESRF is an X-ray light source for Europe. It is located in Grenoble, France, and supported and shared by 21 partner countries, including the UK who currently subscribe to 10% access provision. The ESRF is the most powerful synchrotron radiation source in Europe and complements the facilities at Diamond. ESRF provides access to 44 experimental stations, the “beamlines” and is free of charge for academic users. For further details on how to access ESRF please visit their webpage.

The Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL)

The Institut Laue-Langevin is an international research centre based in Grenoble, France. ILL is funded and managed by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, in partnership with 10 other countries.

ILL is an international research centre at the leading edge of neutron science and technology providing scientists with the most intense neutron source on earth. The high flux neutron source feeds 40 state-of-the-art instruments, supporting work on biological processes at the cellular and molecular level.

Neutron beams and instrument access are provided free of charge for proposers of accepted experiments. Further details on how to access the facility can be found on the ILL website.