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?Meeting power need big challenge for science?

india Updated: Feb 03, 2007 20:46 IST

CERN IS the world’s largest particle physics laboratory situated in Geneva (Switzerland). Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore, has built components for CERN including magnets.  Its deputy director (accelerator and beam department) Dr Jean-Pierre Delahaye, who is participating at Asian particle accelerator conference, spoke to Padma Shastri on scientific challenges and collaboration between the two organisations. Excerpts

CERN is the European organisation for nuclear research. Can the world count upon scientists to fulfill energy demands through nuclear reaction?
Availability of power is obviously the future problem. The world will have to find new resources, as its demand is growing. It’s an extremely difficult vision. Its solution is a major challenge before scientists. But then, everyone has to try. Before producing power, people should learn how not to waste it, specially the people of developed countries. A simple example is that they should switch off the light when they leave room.

This will not affect their standard of living but will save of lot of electricity. Another example is that they can walk a few kilometers without taking their car. This will save fuel. Then we will have to develop renewable energy sources like wind or solar energy and generate it from agricultural resources. France fulfills 75 per cent of its energy demand through nuclear power. But then that generates lot of nuclear waste. Another possibility could be using (nuclear) fusion technology instead of fission technology, as it doesn’t create much waste. Moreover, it requires political will to solve such problems.

What are the glitches in using fusion technology?
We only know of its use in making a hydrogen bomb. We only know to control it at a level to adjust power, as we want. Last year, there was an agreement among countries to build a prototype, which is called `Iter’. But it’s an expensive project that will cost five billion dollars while another five billion dollars will be needed to study how this technology would produce power.

In past 50 years, what according to you are major scientific results that could be defined as discovery or invention?
World Wide Web is an invention that has transformed the world. It has helped to educate people world wide, which is the basis for any development. Web was invented at CERN. Laser is another significant invention that has a very wide application, including treatment of diseases and even in the field of archaeology. How is laser being used for restoration of archaeological sculptures? Not many know about this application. Good question, but even I am not aware about its details.

RRCAT has provided components for CERN. What do you have to say about this collaboration?
It’s been very successful and fruitful for both sides, a win-win situation. A lot of Indian scientists were made in charge of measuring the quality of 15-meter long magnets before they were to be installed in the tunnel at CERN. They did it very well. In return, they learned a lot from this experience. Its because of their efficiency and depth of knowledge in science that we are favouring them (to undertake research and development) for future accelerators. We want this collaboration to grow at laboratory and country level.

Finally, what are your impressions about India?
It is an emerging superpower. But, I hope that instead of copying west, Indians will retain their personality and cultural identity while they progress at all levels. We like India because it’s different in so many ways. But what is shocking is the wide gap between rich and poor here. Besides, the country has to check its population boom.