Alvin Tollestrup receives IEEE superconductivity award

Alvin Tollestrup

Alvin Tollestrup came to Fermilab in 1975 for what was supposed to be a six-month sabbatical. He has now been at Fermilab for more than 35 years, and at age 87, is still making strides for the field of high-energy physics.

This year, he has been selected to receive the IEEE Council on Superconductivity Award for Significant and Sustained Contributions to Applied Superconductivity. Tollestrup was chosen as one of three recipients of the 2011 award for his many contributions in high-energy physics and to particle accelerators, said Martin Nisenoff, chair of the awards committee for the IEEE Council on Superconductivity.

Tollestrup led the pioneering work of designing and testing 1,000 superconducting magnets used in the Tevatron. This was the first large-scale application of superconductivity.

“The Tevatron was the premiere accelerator in the world and many discoveries have come out of it, so it was a very major accomplishment that Alvin should be recognized for,” Nisenoff said.

Tollestrup is also being recognized for his more recent work on the development of stronger superconducting magnets for application in the proposed muon collider. The goal of the research is to develop high-temperature superconducting materials to make magnets several times stronger than what is currently possible. Tollestrup is a co-principal investigator for this multi-institutional collaboration funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He serves with David Larbalestier, from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

Tollestrup said one of the most rewarding components of his work has been to see the far-reaching applications of superconducting magnets in other fields of science, including chemistry, biology and medicine.

He was surprised to learn he had been selected for the award and is grateful to the IEEE for supporting the field of high-energy physics. He will receive the award on Sept. 12 at the 22nd Magnet Technology Conference in Marseille, France.

Christine Herman