An insatiable appetite

Bill Pellico

Bill Pellico, head of the Proton Source Department, wrote this column.

Beam, beam and more beam—this is the sound of the Intensity Frontier calling the Proton Source of the Fermilab accelerator complex. What is the best, easiest and most economical way to answer the call? This is the challenge that we always need to address.

Fermilab is the only DOE high-energy physics facility with an accelerator program for the Intensity Frontier. Our success requires a robust accelerator complex capable of delivering intense beams of protons. At present, Fermilab has two proton beam lines that generate neutrinos for both short- and long-baseline neutrino experiments. Over the next decade, several other experiments will tap the proton spigot. Fermilab’s plans for the Intensity Frontier require twice as many protons as we can currently deliver. How can we achieve this goal?

The construction of a multi-megawatt proton accelerator that delivers high-intensity beam is a long and expensive undertaking, particularly when budgets are tight. Fermilab’s Proton Source, now more than 40 years old, will remain the workhorse for our laboratory in the near future and must be kept viable until it can be replaced.

We are in the middle of implementing the Proton Improvement Plan, which outlines vigorous upgrades to our existing proton accelerators. Recent changes under the PIP include the installation of the new RFQ injector line (which replaced the outdated Cockcroft-Walton system) and the Booster RF solid state upgrade (which will allow the radio-frequency power to pulse reliably at the Booster cycle rate of 15 Hertz.) In addition to meeting our PIP goals, these projects reduce the work needed to maintain antiquated equipment, improve Fermilab’s technology base and give employees an opportunity to build and work on advanced accelerator hardware.

FY12 was the first year of implementing the PIP. Commissioning of the new RFQ injector and Booster RF systems will be completed very soon. Significant shutdown work is still under way and must be completed before the end of the current accelerator shutdown in the spring. But this is just the beginning.

In the last 10 years the Proton Source has achieved record beam intensities, with each year delivering more beam than it had provided in the first 30 years of its existence. The PIP plan is to double the proton beam intensity. But that won’t be the end to improving our accelerator complex. Our efforts to ramp up the beam intensity, reliability and efficiency will be continuous because neutrino and muon experiments have an insatiable appetite for beam.