Hasan Padamsee earns APS Wilson Prize

Hasan Padamsee

Hasan Padamsee, chief technology officer and head of the Technical Division, is now also the recipient of the American Physical Society’s Robert R. Wilson Prize. The 2015 award, which will be presented at the IPAC 2015 meeting in May, recognizes his outstanding achievement in the physics of particle accelerators.

Specifically, the citation acknowledges his “leadership and pioneering world-renowned research in superconducting radio-frequency physics, materials science and technology, which contributed to remarkable advances in the capability of particle accelerators.”

That’s no modest wording, and Padamsee is honored to accept it.

“The people who have gotten this award in the past are people who have done wonderful things. I feel humbled to be in their company,” Padamsee said.

Sergei Nagaitsev, who chaired the selection committee, says the award is well-deserved.

“The main criteria we were looking for were a high impact in both particle and accelerator physics and unquestionable respect in both communities,” said Nagaitsev, head of Fermilab’s Accelerator Division and chief accelerator officer.

Padamsee came to Fermilab in June from Cornell University, where he contributed 40 years of research to the field of superconducting radio-frequency cavities. There, he initiated the 1990 organization of TESLA (TeV Energy Superconducting Linear Accelerator), a scientific community commissioned to study the application of SRF cavities to linear colliders. Many of his doctoral students have also made key contributions of their own within SRF fields.

Notably, Padamsee accomplished a solution to “breakdown,” when superconducting cavities spontaneously become normal conductors above an RF magnetic field threshold. Minute imperfections such as inclusions on the RF surface, he realized, carry RF current by induction and heat up, warming the surrounding surface to the superconducting critical temperature at a limiting field. Although such defects can be reduced, they can’t be completely eliminated — especially on a large scale. Instead, he proposed increasing the bulk material’s thermal conductivity to carry away heat effectively and prevent thermal breakdown. His solution has led to significant improvements in the quality of niobium and performance of SRF cavities.

“Without his contributions, SRF technology would not be ready today for the most modern accelerators that are under construction and development,” Nagaitsev said.

As head of the Technical Division, Padamsee anticipates great advances in SRF technology at Fermilab.

“Fermilab is in a strong position,” he said. “Having built up a powerful infrastructure, we can now build SRF-based accelerators. At the same time we have gathered a lot of intellectual muscle to push the field even further towards its ultimate limits.”

Troy Rummler