ESS - the world’s most powerful neutron source

The research facility European Spallation Source, ESS, will increase our knowledge of materials. We can use this knowledge to discover new materials or improve the characteristics of existing materials, for example.

ESS is a multi-disciplinary research facility that will be the world’s most powerful neutron source. Read more about it here: Research with neutrons – how it works (link).

ESS is under construction in the city of Lund, Sweden. It is located next to the national synchotron light laboratory MAX IV (link). Sweden and Denmark are the host nations for ESS.

See TEDx Lund University with Sindra Petersson Årsköld, "Texts, Drugs and Dinosaurs - Neutrons Show the Way"

Research into materials of the future

Materials research has had a major impact on human development. And it still plays a large role in our quest for solutions to many of the major challenges of our times.

ESS enables researchers to carry out advanced studies of different types of materials at the atomic and molecular level, as well as processes related to the materials. Researchers will be able to discover the molecular structure of a material, which is directly linked to the physical or chemical properties of everything around us. This knowledge will provide a better understanding of current problems in industry and open doors to new research.

Researchers from all around the world, in a wide variety of fields

ESS is being built as a user facility, and will be an invaluable source of support for researchers throughout Sweden, Europe and the world. The current plan is that the facility will receive its first users in 2023. It will enable researchers to perform at the highest possible level and obtain quick, relevant service while conducting their experiments. ESS will allocate time for experiments on scientific and excellence grounds.

Once ESS is fully operational, it is expected that around 3,000 researchers from all over the world will use the facility each year. The researchers will come from a broad spectrum of fields, such as medicine and health, climate and transport, energy and environment, as well as foods and cultural heritage.

ESS is expected to provide unique opportunities for research and development long into the future. Together, MAX IV Laboratory and ESS will form a competency cluster with global attraction.

ESS is governed by many countries

ESS is governed by a European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC), with 15 member and observer countries. Sweden and Denmark are the host countries, which means that they have a great deal of responsibility for developing the facility.

The consortium is governed by the ESS Council, with delegates who are appointed by the member country governments:

  • Chair: Lars Börjesson, Chalmers University of Technology (not counted as a delegate)
  • Vice Chair: Beatrix Vierkorn-Rudolph, Federal Ministry of Education & Research, Germany (not counted as a delegate)
  • Swedish delegates: Sven Stafström, Director General of the Swedish Research Council, David Edvardsson of the Ministry of Education and Research, Aleksandar Matic, Expert Advisor from Chalmers University of Technology.

The ESS Council also has a number of advisory committees, also with delegates nominated by the member countries:

  • Administrative and Financial Committee, AFC
    Swedish delegate: Johan Holmberg, Swedish Research Council
  • Science Advisory Committee, SAC
    Swedish delegate: Martin Månsson, Royal Institute of Technology
  • Technical Advisory Committee, TAC
    No Swedish delegate at present
  • In-Kind Review Committee, IKRC
    Swedish delegate: Ulf Karlsson, Linköping University

ESS is financed by the member countries

The ESS consortium, European Spallation Source ERIC, is financed through grants from the member countries. They have agreed to construction costs of 1.84 billion EUR (in 2013 monetary value), allocated over a period of 12 years.

Sweden is contributing 35 per cent of this investment cost, which is equivalent to about 6 billion SEK. Sweden’s contribution is thus larger than the other member countries, since Sweden is a host country

The annual operating cost of ESS is estimated at around 10 per cent of the construction cost. Once ESS is fully operational, the member countries will contribute in proportion to how much their researchers are using the facility. Sweden has, however, offered to cover 10 per cent of the operating costs.

Two of Sweden’s most advanced research facilities are located in Lund: European Spallation Source (ESS) and MAX IV Their technologies complement each other and together, they will form an internationally leading competency cluster, producing research of the highest quality.

The two facilities use similar technologies and theoretical principles for analysing materials. However, where ESS uses neutrons, MAX IV uses synchrotron light, which is similar to X-rays. Researchers are thus able to obtain various types of information about the sample studied. They can thereby gain deeper knowledge when using both technologies.

The research can help solve global societal challenges

The technologies at both facilities can be used for research and development within areas such as structural biology, materials science, biomechanics and chemistry. It covers most areas where we are facing major global societal challenges. These facilities can thus contribute to solutions in areas such as health, climate and energy.

ESS and MAX IV collaborate

In May 2017, ESS and MAX IV signed a declaration of intent that lays the foundation for more joint projects in both the short and the long term. The three main goals of the declaration of intent are to:

  • establish scientific collaborations on materials research and life science that uses the complementarity between X-rays and neutrons
  • utilise synergies in the construction, operation and maintenance of major research infrastructures
  • coordinate activities to meet the users’ needs for reception, transport, accommodation, training, security, publications, etc.

PublISHED ON 25 May 2018

UpDATED ON 20 November 2019

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Questions about the financing of research infrastructure


  1. Sakura Mobility Programme – 2nd Call for Proposals
  2. New members of the Council for Research Infrastructures

    The Swedish Research Council’s Board has appointed five new members of the Council for Research Infrastructures, RFI, for the period 2020–2022. Jan-Eric Sundgren, chair of the council, has an appointment until 31 December 2020.

  3. User Support Astronomer (ESO)