Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Operated by STFC and located on the Harwell Oxford Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, it provides a thriving and collaborative environment for research in:

  • particle physics
  • space science
  • materials
  • astronomy
  • photon science
  • computational and e-science
  • biology
  • biomedicine
  • chemistry

Approximately 1,200 staff at RAL support the work of more than 10,000 scientists and engineers, chiefly from the university research community. RAL’s pioneering research in areas such as energy, security, healthcare and the environment addresses important challenges facing society.

How to find us

Key facts

RAL, and the wider Harwell Oxford Campus and Innovation Campus host some of the UK’s major scientific facilities including:

  • Central Laser Facility (CLF) –one of the world's leading laser facilities, its high power lasers can recreate the conditions inside stars while its small, compact lasers have medical, security and environmental applications

  • ISIS pulsed neutron and muon source – a pioneering research centre in the physical and life sciences, ISIS has an impact in fields such as energy, biotechnology, materials development and information technology. ISIS is helping aerospace companies assure the quality of engineering components, and medical researchers develop a glass that could replace bone transplants

  • RAL Space, STFC's Space Science and Technology Department, is involved in more than 200 international space missions including Herschel, the largest space telescope ever launched, which is examining the early stages of star birth and galaxy formation

  • Diamond Light Source Ltd – the UK national synchrotron radiation facility, Diamond generates brilliant beams of light from infrared to X-rays with applications ranging from research into diseases such as Alzheimer’s and finding new ways to clean up contaminated land

  • The Satellite Applications Catapult is one of a network of seven UK technology and innovation centres which aim to drive economic growth through commercialisation of research. The vision of the Satellite Applications Catapult is to support UK industry through the acceleration of the growth of satellite applications and to contribute to capturing of a 10% share of the £400Bn global space market predicted by 2030. The Catapult has incorporated the activities of the International Space Innovation Centre (ISIC) into its programme and will continue its involvement in the Harwell Space Cluster.


RAL 1957-2007

Through its links with the Appleton Laboratory, the laboratory can trace a history back to 1921. A laboratory has existed on the Chilton site since 1957 when the then Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, an establishment of the National Institute for Research in Nuclear Science, was set up.

Following mergers with the Atlas and Appleton Laboratories in 1975 and 1979 respectively, the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory was formed with a diverse remit to support a wide range of university research activities. Together with Daresbury Laboratory, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory was brought under the umbrella of the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils in 1995.

Case studies

The most recent case studies for Rutherford Appleton Laboratory are also shown in the right-hand column

  • See also



    2 images of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
    Aerial view of Harwell Oxford, showing RAL in the
    Aerial view of Harwell Oxford, showing RAL in the foreground and the Diamond Light Source in the background
    Credit: STFC
    221 76_th_1.jpg 76_web_1.jpg 76_web_1.jpg Aerial view of Harwell Oxford, showing RAL in the
    R68 at RAL
    Credit: Media Services
    711 76_th_2.jpg 76_web_2.jpg /76/76_web_2.jpg R68

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