ASTA generates broad interest at users’ meeting

Fermilab Accelerator Division’s Jinhao Ruan, ASTA laser expert, presents results of the first beam from the ASTA photoinjector. Photo: Margie Bruce, APC

A crowd of researchers from government labs, academia and industry gathered in Wilson Hall for two days last week for the first-ever users’ meeting for the Advanced Superconducting Test Accelerator, which produced its first electrons in late June. The primary goal of ASTA is to provide a home for accelerator R&D, specifically in the areas of superconducting radio-frequency technology, advanced beam dynamics and accelerator applications.

Eighty-four users attended the meeting, two-thirds of whom were from institutions outside of Fermilab. Vladimir Shiltsev, ASTA’s interim program director and head of Fermilab’s Accelerator Physics Center, said this number exceeded his expectations and that four new experimental proposals arose out of the meeting, on top of 24 that were already under consideration.

Representatives of each proposal were given 15 to 30 minutes to present their ideas for experiments. Users also took a tour of the facility and attended an hour-long talk by Eric Colby, an accelerator physicist currently working at the Department of Energy Office of High Energy Physics.

“We were really impressed by the breadth of the proposals, and people were interested in many aspects of the facility,” Shiltsev said. “The users seemed really impressed at how big and modern the facility is. So it really showed the scale of investment that DOE already has put into ASTA.”

ASTA will have a low-energy test beam and multiple high-energy test beams, in addition to an electron and proton storage ring called IOTA, all of which will allow for multiple experimental setups to operate in parallel.

Alex Murokh, chief technology officer of Radiabeam Technologies, had a two-fold interest in attending the meeting: Radiabeam is developing beamline instrumentation hardware for the facility, and he also has research projects in mind that could use the facility.

Colby’s talk addressed a proposed Accelerator R&D Stewardship program within DOE that would direct funding toward connecting those who have particle accelerators and those who could use them. He stressed that the program is still yet to be approved, but that it would be important for the field of high-energy physics in an environment where multiple areas of basic research are competing for the same funds.

“ASTA can play a key role in some of the areas identified in the program, especially in discovery science,” Colby said. “I think there are some very interesting application challenges out there, and there is interesting accelerator science that can be done to address them.” He added that accelerator laboratories need to form relationships with users in industry in order to develop an effective stewardship program.

If the initial users’ meeting is any indication, ASTA is already contributing to solving that challenge. Shiltsev pointed to a group from the University of Maryland who came with their own proposals and found other groups with projects to which they could contribute as an example of the new collaborations that were formed there.

“We were very pleased to see junior researchers and younger students,” he said. “I think it shows just how relevant the facility is. The audience looked young and energetic, and it was a great sight for us.”

Laura Dattaro