Accelerator Division graduate student helps develop world’s first digital DCCT

From March to November last year, graduate student Silvia Zorzetti worked with a team in the Accelerator Division to develop a digital DCCT for measuring beam intensities. She graduated in December with a master’s in electronics engineering from the University of Pisa, and her thesis on the DCCT earned the maximum number of points. Photo courtesy of Manfred Wendt, CERN

It’s difficult to assign a value to the meaningful contributions of students at the laboratory, but faculty members at one university recently gave top marks on a student’s Accelerator Division project.

The project was the development of the world’s first digital direct-current current transformer, or DCCT, which measures particle beam intensities. The development of this new Fermilab component is thanks to Silvia Zorzetti, former Fermilab intern and recent guest scientist in the Beam Instrumentation Department.

Zorzetti graduated in December from the University of Pisa with her master’s degree in electronics engineering. Her thesis, which focused on the Fermilab DCCT on which she worked from March to November last year, scored the maximum number of points from her thesis advisors.

“She was the star of the show at her graduation,” said Manfred Wendt, former head of the Instrumentation Department and then advisor to Zorzetti.

Typical DCCTs use analog control electronics and are widely used around the world to measure beam currents in circular accelerators. Using digital electronics for the DCCT allows for more flexibility and stability in processing those signals.

“It should work as well or better than the traditional analog system and also provide all the advantages of modern digital signal processing,” said Instrumentation Head Nathan Eddy.

Under the direct supervision of Aisha Ibrahim, Zorzetti developed and implemented the DCCT firmware. Her expertise in electronics engineering meant she understood the electronics, but she also had to learn the physics that motivated the project, the DCCT’s operation and the practical matters involved in building it.

“Every component of the system could be its own thesis, but she had to understand the whole system to create the best algorithm for the part she worked on,” Ibrahim said.

Her effort paid off. She wrote her high-score thesis over two months of long days and nights and in time for December graduation.

“I enjoyed my work at Fermilab,” Zorzetti said. “I’m thankful to the Italian community for welcoming me. Everyone in the Accelerator Division was also very kind, and every time I had a question, someone was ready to help.”

The Instrumentation Department team will continue to work on the DCCT, which will be used in Fermilab’s current and future accelerators.

Over the next year, Zorzetti will work as an intern with CERN’s Beam Department, helping to develop the design of radio-frequency power electronics.

Leah Hesla