The technological level of many ukrainian enterprises is the highest by world standards – Grigory Trubnikov

The Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna is a unique international organization that includes 18 member countries, including Ukraine. Here, as in the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s best minds in the field of high energy physics work. Grigory Trubnikov, Acting Vice-Director of JINR in Dubna, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, spoke about the projects that this institute is currently working on, as well as the role of Ukrainian scientists and Ukraine as a whole in modern research in the field of physics, in an interview with Ukrinform.

— Grigory Vladimirovich, in what main areas does your institute conduct research today and in which of them do Ukrainian scientists participate?

— We have eight laboratories at the institute in different areas of fundamental research. The three basic areas in which we conduct research are nuclear physics, condensed matter (solid state physics and neutron physics) and high energy physics (elementary particle physics). In all these three areas, Ukrainian scientists are actively involved in fundamental and applied research.

It should be noted that all these scientific groups and excellent scientific interaction between Dubna and Ukraine did not emerge “out of the blue” and have a rich history. At the origins of the development of high-energy physics in Ukraine was the legendary Academician Nikolay Nikolaevich Bogolyubov, whose efforts led to the organization of the Institute of Theoretical Physics in Kiev. This step gave a huge impetus to the development of physics institutes, scientific schools, and basic departments of universities in Ukraine. Of course, the role of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine is very important in this. The pupils of Bogolyubov and his followers, including Academician of the NAS A.G. Zagorodnyi and Corresponding Member of the NAS G.M. Zinoviev, now very actively develop and strengthen scientific connections of Ukrainian institutes not only with Dubna, but also with CERN and other major European and American physical laboratories.

— How many Ukrainian scientists are working in Dubna today?

  – The total number of the institute is more than 4,000 people, of which more than 1,200 are researchers. Ukraine has historically been one of the key member states of the Institute, and the group of Ukrainian scientists is one of the most numerous. Today, there are about 40 researchers who work under contract here in Dubna. Plus, several dozen Ukrainian specialists come on business trips to our institute throughout the year.

— How are scientists selected to work at your institute?

– From each country, scientists are sent to Dubna by the Plenipotentiary Representative of the participating country. The representative of Ukraine in our institute is the First Deputy Head of the State Agency for Science, Innovation and Informatization, Academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Boris Viktorovich Grinev. He is a remarkable organizer of science and an ardent supporter of the development of relations with JINR.

— What contributions should the state make in order for scientists to take part in JINR research?

— The total annual budget of the institute in 2014 is about $150 million, and each country makes its annual contribution to this budget. At the same time, the share of Ukraine is quite significant. The contribution of the participating country is calculated based on several factors: gross national product (GNP), UN scale and others. The Agency for Science, Innovation and Informatization supports fundamental and applied science and pays the most serious attention to both the development of JINR and the development of high energy physics in Ukraine through Dubna. Thanks to this, we have very good constructive relations with the government of Ukraine, which regularly and fully contributes to JINR.

“There is no national science, just as there is no national multiplication table,” A.P. Chekhov once said. Investing in fundamental research is a reliable prospect for the development of our states, and JINR is our common scientific base where such research is carried out.

— Who at the institute decides what kind of research this money should be spent on?

— All decisions on the development of one or another major scientific project or direction are made by our International Academic Council of the Institute, which includes 49 famous scientists from all over the world. These decisions are approved and submitted to the budget of the Institute by the Committee of Plenipotentiary Representatives of the participating countries, which meets twice a year in Dubna. Further, in the course of the development of the project, we carry out budget expenditures to pay for contracts and agreements for the supply of equipment and materials for scientific infrastructure with enterprises of the participating countries of the Institute, of course, including Ukrainian enterprises and research institutes.

— What Ukrainian enterprises does your institute cooperate with?

— We are actively cooperating with many Ukrainian enterprises and research institutes. It should be noted that the technological level of many of them is the highest by world standards. These are, in particular, Kharkov research enterprises for the creation of new materials and detector elements for high energy physics. This, of course, is Novokramatorsky Mashinostroitelny Zavod, which makes unique steel products for us for the accelerator complexes of several laboratories. I’m talking about the elements of the magnetic systems of cyclotrons and synchrotrons. We have quite large multi-year contracts with Novokramatorsk.

We have had a very interesting cooperation for the last two years with Lviv Polytechnic. They have a modern laboratory for magnetic measurements. They make various ferromagnetic probes, sensors for measuring magnetic fields with unique accuracy, operating at cryogenic temperatures. They already delivered several such unique devices to us in 2013. We already use the devices that Lvov makes, for example, to measure fields in superconducting magnets, channels for transporting charged particle beams, and other magnetic elements. This is unique equipment.

On the basis of the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology, a modern enterprise “LED technologies” has recently been created. It develops new energy-saving technologies, produces unique cable products for detectors of large experimental facilities, as well as LED elements. We plan to actively work with them and are now discussing the technical specifications for the equipment that they could supply to the NIKA complex under a contract.

We are also discussing with a number of Ukrainian metallurgical enterprises the question of what, perhaps, they will make complex elliptical stainless steel vacuum chambers for us. There are the highest requirements for the purity of the alloy, for the purity of the surface, for the quality of welds, hull strength and many other non-trivial technological nuances.

— Grigory Vladimirovich, does Ukraine produce superconducting magnets for your institute?

– So far, Ukraine does not directly produce superconducting magnets for us – I’m not sure that there are such opportunities for mass production, although the direction is promising. Our superconducting magnets for the NIKA project are a unique development of Dubna, know-how, we assemble and test them ourselves here at the institute. Kharkov is now starting to participate in the design of such magnets. Just recently, I had a meeting with representatives of Kharkiv University, KhNU, who are involved in the calculation of superconducting magnets for the future collider in Dubna. In March, three graduate students from KhNU arrive, who will master cryogenic technologies and participate in cryogenic tests of magnets for NIKA.

– It is known that in Ukraine there is the production of special crystals for detectors, which are successfully used today in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. What is their uniqueness and is there any interest in them at your institute?

— Yes, a unique enterprise has been created at the Institute of Scintillation Materials in Kharkov: a line for growing crystals from scintillation materials. The production technology of these crystals is a breakthrough in the field of high-tech physics. Such a crystal is a wonderful detector, passing through which the particles born as a result of a nuclear reaction leave a flash of light. In this way, it is possible to measure the energy of particles and subsequently, with the help of complementary detectors, reconstruct their trajectories of motion with fantastic accuracy. Apart from Kharkov, no one in the post-Soviet space knows how to do such things.

As for our institute, we are currently developing the NIKA project. This is the flagship project of the participating countries, the so-called mega-science project, which was initiated by JINR and supported by the Russian Federation and several countries, including Ukraine. And in the main detector at the NIKA collider, which is called MPD (Multipurpose Detector, from the English. MultiPurpose Detector), one of the most important systems – an electromagnetic calorimeter, we hope, will be created in Ukraine, which will become its contribution to the international project. We agreed on this beforehand.

— What is the prospect of creating the NIKA project in Dubna today?

— The project is already under construction. It was approved by a government commission chaired by Vladimir Putin in 2011. And our institute is now actively implementing this project. We have started serial production of many elements for the collider and detector. Last year, we held an international competition to select construction companies that will build buildings, a tunnel for the collider and a pavilion for the detector. We hope that in September of this year we will start pouring the foundation slab for this complex. The full construction cycle will take, according to the designers, about 4 years.

– Will it be a collider of such a plan as in CERN?

– Not really. At CERN, the collider has a perimeter of 28 kilometers, which is huge. Our perimeter will be 503 meters. The outer shape of the collider will look like a stadium racetrack: two arcs connected by two straight sections. In addition, unlike CERN, a low-energy collider is being built in Dubna – this is a very complex accelerator facility. No one in the world has ever done such things. These are unique technologies, a unique project.

— Does your institute have a practice of placing scientific programs in research bases of other member states? What programs can be placed in Ukraine?

— One of such programs is the same scintillation materials and crystals for detectors. This is the direction where our institute is ready to invest both intellectually, in the form of technologies, and in the form of financial resources, developing infrastructure and receiving in return unique products in the form of Ukraine’s contribution to NIKA. This is what we are developing together with our Ukrainian colleagues, primarily from Kharkiv.

The second direction concerns information technologies. Our institute, together with the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, created a GRID center in Kyiv for computing and processing large data arrays. Such a GRID system for processing and storing information is currently working for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. That is, the data generated in the course of nuclear reactions are recorded, and then several dozen centers connected by ultrafast optical fiber are used for their processing around the world, including in Dubna and Kyiv.

In Kyiv, one of the most powerful nodes of such a GRID grid, a data processing center, has now been created in the post-Soviet space. We are currently creating the same GRID system for NIKA. I am sure that the GRID center in Kyiv will also be used for NIKA.

We also have a wonderful joint project with Lviv Polytechnic to create a high-tech production base for the development and manufacture of fluxgates and other magnetometric equipment for physical complexes and applied purposes.

And finally, we are actively working with the universities of Ukraine, we invite students to our production and graduation practice, there are grants from the Plenipotentiary Representative. Starting this year, we organize 2-month summer student schools, where children enter exclusively on a competitive basis. Such educational activities of our institute develop scientific personnel in all participating countries.

— What is the practical significance of the research being carried out in Dubna?

— In the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions named after G.N. Flerov in Dubna, to study the radiation resistance of electronic microcircuits, we irradiate quite large volumes of chips, electronic components for a space corporation. At the reactor, we carry out flaw detection of various mechanisms and critical elements for aviation and space, for example, turbine blades of jet aircraft. We carry out neutron activation analysis of soils, plants, study the structure of crystals, the quality of alloys. It is actively demanded by the industry.

At NIKA, we are planning, in addition to fundamental research, to also engage in applied work. For example, the development of superconducting technologies (HTSC) is a direct path to energy saving. Cryogenic technologies are used in the oil and gas industry, for example, to efficiently liquefy gas for transportation. Research is being planned (and is already being actively carried out) in the field of nuclear and radiation medicine and space biology.

— Does your institute deal with nuclear waste processing technologies? Are projects for the decontamination of nuclear fuel, for example, the one buried at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, possible?

— We are conducting experiments to research and develop methods that can lead to efficient technologies for processing nuclear waste. We irradiate small samples of similar materials with charged particle beams. We investigate how these assemblies behave after that, look at the neutron yield spectra, etc. But all this, of course, is not happening at the industrial level, but at the research level. In this field of applied science, Dubna is one of the developed research centers.

As for the processing of nuclear fuel buried at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, it seems to me that such projects and undertakings should be discussed at the state level, if such an idea is realistic in principle. Because this is a costly and extremely responsible project from all points of view. Since it is practically impossible to irradiate such fuel through the walls of the protection, it means that an installation must be created on site. This is not the scale of an institution, it is the scale of the state. We can only offer methods.

— What is the institute in Dubna most proud of?

— Of course, these are fundamental, world-class results in the field of synthesis of superheavy elements. About ten elements in the periodic table were discovered in Dubna. In my opinion, everything from the 102nd to the 118th, with the exception of just a few. For the merits of Dubna, the 105th element was named Dubnium (Db). Recently, the 114th and 116th were named Flerovium (in honor of the founder of the Laboratory of Nuclear Reactions, Academician G.N. Flerov) and Livermorium (in honor of our partners, the Livermore Laboratory in Berkeley, USA). And in the near future we expect that the 115th element will receive the name that Dubna proposes.

In addition, our pioneering research in the field of relativistic nuclear physics should be attributed to world results. In this regard, we were glorified by the famous synchrophasotron, on which new elementary particles and new effects in high-energy physics were discovered. And of course, we are proud of the contribution of our theorists and experimenters to the physical research that is being carried out at CERN, including the discovery of the Higgs boson. The center of collective use for scientists from many countries is a research pulsed nuclear reactor with unique parameters. Surely, our breakthrough will be the NIKA collider – the potential for discoveries at this facility is definitely Nobel level.