Peoples fellow makes discovery, wins award

Alex Romanenko

Technical Division’s Alex Romanenko always seems ready for some friendly competition. He even made a bet on his doctoral thesis at Cornell University. Now his thesis is being honored by the Nuclear Plasma and Sciences Society, part of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

The Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award recognizes contributions to the field made in a student’s doctoral thesis. Romanenko, a Peoples Fellow at Fermilab, is receiving the award for discovering subtle structural changes that occur in niobium superconducting radio-frequency accelerator cavities during low-temperature baking.

"I made a bet with my advisor at Cornell University, Hassan Padamsee,” Romanenko said. “We were betting on what factors caused the niobium to change with mild baking.”

Romanenko won the bet and his findings are advancing the world of accelerator material science.

“Alex’s work improved a 10-year-old model we’d been using to make accelerator cavities,” said Lance Cooley, head of the Technical Division’s SRF materials group.

The SRF cavities must have an exceptionally smooth surface to maintain a high level of superconducting performance.

“While working on his thesis, Alex found evidence for improvement of the niobium SRF material at a baking temperature far below what we would’ve expected,” Cooley explains.

At Fermilab, Romanenko continues to improve SRF accelerator technology. SRF accelerators will be used for future experiments at Fermilab such as the proposed Project X.

Romanenko has always felt motivated to keep improving his work. Before his work at Cornell University, he competed as a youth soccer player in the Ukraine.

“I had to choose between physics and sports,” Romanenko said. “I think I made the right choice.”

The IEEE-NPSS award includes $2000 and a plaque to be given out at a ceremony on March 31 during the 2011 Particle Accelerator Conference in New York.

Cynthia Horwitz