Rutherford Appleton Laboratory



Scientists at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) come to work every day because they want answers to some of science’s biggest questions. How big a computer system do you need to analyse the weather? How do we solve the world’s antibiotics crisis? How do we keep our future energy supplies going?

RAL’s pioneering work in areas such as particle physics, scientific computing, laser development, space research, and technology addresses some of the important challenges facing society.

A laboratory has existed on the Chilton site since 1957. Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is named after the physicists Ernest Rutherford and Edward Appleton. Today, approximately 1,200 staff work on site.

RAL is located on the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, and is funded and managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

RAL offers a range of diverse training schemes, including engineering apprenticeships and summer student placements. These schemes help attract young people into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), which is vital for the future of the UK economy.

Our facilities

Some of our scientific facilities onsite, and on the wider Harwell Campus, include:

Central Laser Facility (CLF)

The Central Laser Facility’s high power lasers can recreate the conditions inside stars while its small, compact lasers have medical, security and environmental applications.

ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

The ISIS Neutron and Muon Source is a centre for research in the physical and life sciences. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments give unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. ISIS supports a national and international community of more than 2,000 scientists. The facility has published around 12,000 papers during its lifetime, making it one of the most productive facilities of its type in the world.

RAL Space

RAL Space carries out science research and technology development and has been involved in more than 210 spacecraft. Working throughout the lifecycle of space missions, RAL Space leads concept studies for future missions, designs and builds instruments, provides space test and ground-based facilities, operates ground stations, and processes and analyses data.

Diamond Light Source

Diamond Light Source is the UK national synchrotron radiation facility, which generates brilliant beams of light from infrared to X-rays. These highly focused beams of light enable scientists and engineers to probe deep into the basic structure of matter and materials, answering fundamental questions about everything from the building blocks of life to the origin of our planet.

The Satellite Applications Catapult

The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of 10 UK network technology and innovation centres that helps organisations make use of, and benefit from, satellite technologies, and bring together multidisciplinary teams to generate ideas and solutions in an open innovation environment. This catapult has incorporated the activities of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) into its programme.

Scientific Computing Department

The Scientific Computing Department (SCD) manages high performance computing facilities, services and infrastructure, supporting some of the UK’s most advanced scientific facilities. Our staff provide the computational expertise, services and products that help the scientific community to make vital discoveries and deliver progress. We are leaders in the advancement and support of scientific computing, carrying out research and development to gather and interpret results quickly and clearly. Whether it’s creating new computational science software, helping to visualise complex scientific results, or developing the infrastructure that allows us to process huge amounts of data, research and development from SCD is driving improvements across the scientific research landscape.


STFC technology ranges from the very small – micro-nano-engineering – to the very large – major engineering structures. The experiments on the Large Hadron Collider depend on key components delivered by us. We have provided key technologies for some of the world’s best telescopes.

The calibre and expertise of our staff, and our project and quality management expertise, enables us to deliver unique and advanced high performance engineering projects.

Particle Physics Department

The Particle Physics Department at RAL is a group of approximately 100 scientists, engineers and administrators, providing capabilities that complement and go beyond what can be done in universities.

Our work includes construction of large detector systems, engineering, computing and data analysis, and support for the UK community. We are involved in experiments at CERN, Fermilab and Japan, as well as research and development towards future detectors.

Last updated: 17 October 2023

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