U.S.-India agreement bolsters Project X proposal

On July 19, Fermilab physicist C. Shekhar Mishra (left) explained superconducting radio-frequency technology to Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (second from left) and Mrs. Kakodkar (center). Dr. Kakodkar was a strong proponent of collaboration between Fermilab and Indian institutions during his tenure at the IAEC. Photo: Reidar Hahn.

Plans for a new high-intensity proton accelerator research complex at Fermilab received a significant boost from an agreement signed last week between the United States and India to further discovery science. Fermilab and Indian laboratories and universities will now take the next steps in cooperative research and development for next-generation particle accelerator and detector technologies for the proposed research complex, dubbed Project X. The agreement was announced July 25 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which funds Fermilab.

“This agency-level agreement strengthens the ongoing collaboration between Fermilab and Indian institutions on the joint development of accelerator technologies for Project X,” said Fermilab Director Pier Oddone “It will form the basis for finalizing the discussions between Fermilab and Indian institutions, laying a path for the Indian Department of Atomic Energy to become a major partner in Project X construction and experiments at Fermilab.”

Fermilab’s strong partnership with Indian institutions in particle physics research dates back to 1986. Agreements between Indian institutions and Fermilab for cooperative R&D work on accelerator and detector technologies began in 2006. This week’s agreement takes this collaboration to the government agency level. Officials from DOE and the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) signed the agreement last Tuesday in New Delhi.

“The Indian Department of Atomic Energy and Fermilab have been collaborating in the area of high-energy and accelerator physics since several years. The collaboration dates back to January 2006 when the first Memorandum of Understanding between U.S. universities and Indian universities for collaboration in R&D for accelerator and high-energy physics was signed,” said DAE Secretary Srikumar Banerjee.

“Since then we have made substantial progress in developing high-gradient accelerating structures and related R&D. In this context the signing of the implementing agreement between DOE and DAE for co-operation in the area of accelerator and particle detector research and development for discovery science on July 19, 2011, assumes a great significance. I am sure our collaboration will reach new heights in the coming years,” he added.

The agreement would enhance collaboration between Indian institutions and Fermilab to develop superconducting radio-frequency cavities and other accelerator components that would be used for Project X. Superconducting radio-frequency, or SRF, technology enables the acceleration of intense beams of particles to high energies more efficiently and at lower costs than other technologies. SRF technology could also be applied in the areas of clean nuclear energy and transmutation of radioactive waste.

“Fermilab and Indian institutions have been cooperating to develop these technologies for our respective scientific programs,” said Shekhar Mishra, Project X international collaboration coordinator. “While Fermilab’s primary focus is on particle physics, Indian interest is primarily in developing technical capabilities for its nuclear energy, physics and material science research programs,” Mishra has been coordinating the development of this collaboration with Indian DAE.

Indian institutions will also work closely with Fermilab to exploit the scientific potential of Project X. The accelerator complex, which is still in the R&D stage and has yet to receive DOE approval, would enable world-leading research in areas of particle physics that require very large numbers of particles. Protons could be accelerated to create a high-intensity neutrino beam for use in neutrino oscillation experiments such as NOvA and the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment. Simultaneously, Project X could supply protons to kaon-, muon-, and nuclei-based precision physics experiments.

“This agreement is the latest step in the deepening cooperation between the U.S. and India on a range of clean energy and scientific fronts,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman. “Working together, we will be able to further our collective understanding of accelerators and high energy particles, pursue new technologies and scientific discoveries, and advance our shared clean energy goals.”

As part of the collaboration to develop a high-intensity proton accelerator, Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory is working with Indian institutions on radio-frequency power technology. The new agreement also provides the legal framework to expand research collaboration in accelerator and particle detector research and development at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and Brookhaven National Laboratory.