Solving problems at Fermilab

Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

We are approaching the end of the fiscal year. All machines have run well, despite many difficult weather-related issues this summer. The heat and humidity have been extreme, limiting our ability to cool many components. The thunderstorms brought additional problems. A large power failure about a week ago brought the complex down hard. It took a large effort to bring accelerators and detectors back up to full production.

The Tevatron has already produced more than 2.2 inverse femtobarns of data this year, and it has a shot at having another record year. The experiments continue to publish important results, and they will dominate the search for a Higgs boson at the lowest mass range for another year. Indirect measurements suggest the Standard Model Higgs – if it exists – ought to be in this low-mass range. Analysis of the data sample will continue for a few more years. In the relay race to reach new discoveries at the energy frontier, the Tevatron will have done its leg brilliantly.

Another area that has been quite difficult for us has been the NuMI neutrino beam, where target failures have affected the MINOS and MINERvA programs. Based on the lifetime of early targets, we expected the number of spare targets on hand would carry the program through next year. However, the most recent targets failed quickly, and we ran out of spares. We made heroic efforts to recover the first two targets ever used in the beamline, and we are now running with one of them for a few more weeks while we prepare new modified targets. Recycling the early targets was no easy feat since the used targets are highly activated. It continues to be a learning experience for us, in particular the need to have command of this difficult technology at Fermilab rather than relying entirely on outside suppliers.

In its full run-through today, despite these target problems, MINOS has collected a total of more than 12×1020 protons on target. MiniBooNE, which profits whenever the NuMI beamline is down, is up to 14×1020 protons on target. These are formidable data sets and are producing exciting results for the summer conferences.

As usual, the ingenuity and dedication of Fermilab staff was on display during this difficult period for both the Tevatron and the neutrino programs. Nothing shows the strength of our lab better than when we are challenged with nasty problems. This year has been no exception.