accelerator science

Fermilab researchers have announced first results from IOTA, the lab’s newest particle accelerator. The first run, which included observations of single electrons circulating in the ring, illustrates the exciting potential of the versatile machine, both in advancing quantum science and improving accelerator beams.

Particle accelerators are some of the most complicated machines in science. In today’s more autonomous era of self-driving cars and vacuuming robots, efforts are going strong to automate different aspects of the operation of accelerators, and the next generation of particle accelerators promises to be more automated than ever. Scientists are working on ways to run them with a diminishing amount of direction from humans.

A Ph.D. student at the Illinois Institute of Technology conducting his research at Fermilab, Bafia is currently researching a method to draw maximum performance from acceleration cavities. The method, called nitrogen doping, increases superconducting radio-frequency cavity efficiency and boosts beams to higher energies over shorter distances. His work earned him the Best Student Poster Prize at the 2019 International Particle Accelerator Conference.


In particle accelerators, the greater a beam’s intensity, the more opportunities there are to study particle interactions. One way to increase the intensity is to merge two beams with a technique called slip-stacking. However, when combining them, the beams’ interaction may cause instability. A Fermilab scientist has created a successful model of the fraught dynamics of two particle beams in close contact, leading to smoother sailing in this area of particle acceleration.

What if you could accelerate particles to higher energies in only a few meters? This is the alluring potential of an up-and-coming technology called plasma wakefield acceleration. Scientists around the world are testing ways to further boost the power of particle accelerators while drastically shrinking their size.

From CERN Courier, Oct. 29, 2018: In late August, a beam of electrons successfully circulated for the first time through a new particle accelerator at Fermilab. The Integrable Optics Test Accelerator, a 40-meter-circumference storage ring, is one of only a handful of facilities worldwide dedicated to beam-physics studies.

Quantum leap

Alex Romanenko prepares to supercool superconducting accelerator cavities, the silver-colored objects, to convert it into a quantum device. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Fermilab scientists are adapting the lab’s cutting-edge accelerator technology for qubits and quantum sensors.