accelerator technology

The first major superconducting section of the PIP-II accelerator has come to Fermilab: the first of 23 cryomodules for the future accelerator. The cryomodules’ job is to get the lab’s powerful proton beam up and moving, sending it to higher and higher energies, approaching the speed of light. This first cryomodule also represents a successful joint effort between Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab to design and produce a critical accelerator component for the future heart of Fermilab.

Three United States DOE national laboratories – SLAC, Fermilab and Jefferson Lab – have partnered to build an advanced particle accelerator that will power the LCLS-II X-ray laser. Thanks to technology developed for nuclear and high-energy physics, the new X-ray laser will produce a nearly continuous wave of electrons and allow scientists to peer more deeply than ever before into the building blocks of life and matter.

Giaccone’s research focuses on particle accelerator cavities — the structures that transfer energy to particle beams as the beams race through them. She and her team use plasma to process the inner surface of the cavities in order to remove contaminations. This new technique results in a better-performing accelerator. Her work was recently recognized at the International Conference on RF Superconductivity.

Superconducting magnets are the workhorses that steer particle beams in most particle accelerators. The problem is that these magnets require costly cryogens to cool. Now, researchers have found a way to create high-temperature superconducting magnets. A group at Fermilab proposed a novel magnet design that works at much higher temperatures. It could substantially simplify magnet fabrication and cooling.

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.

Sam Posen is a Fermilab associate scientist who is improving particle accelerator technology, focusing on ways to make superconducting radio-frequency accelerating cavities more efficient. One way is through the use of new materials such as niobium-tin. When he’s not experimenting with new ways to coat cavities, Posen enjoys breaking out of escape rooms, playing complex board games and planning his upcoming wedding.

In electrospinning, a positive charge is applied to liquidized material to create thin strands that eventually harden into a solid, fibrous material. Photo: Reidar Hahn

Fermilab scientists are preparing for future, high-power particle beams with a technological advance inspired by spinning sugar. It’s a new type of target — the material that beams collide with to produce other particles, such as neutrinos. The target is designed to be able to withstand the heat from high-intensity beams, expanding the potential of experiments that use them. Researching this new patent-pending technology already has led to a TechConnect Innovation Award and might have applications in the medical field.

Scientist Jean-Paul Carneiro and collaborators in France are setting the stage for one of the world’s first autonomous particle accelerators. They will incorporate the world’s leading code for computing the dynamics of particle beams into a Fermilab prototype. Funding is provided through the FACCTS program, which fosters productive partnerships between Chicago-based and French researchers.