Synchrotron Laboratory Welcomes New Particle Accelerator Module
By MICHAEL MERRILL
Last month, the basement of Newman Laboratory opened to transport a distinctive red pipe containing the Main Linac Cyromodule — a prototype designed to accelerate particles with unparalleled energy efficiency — across campus. Now housed inside the Wilson Synchrotron Laboratory, the MLC is the latest addition to Cornell’s own particle accelerator located under Alumni Field.
The MLC is the product of over twenty thousand hours of work within Newman Lab, built and designed with the help of a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore technologies for use in the next generation of particle accelerators. Its seven superconducting cavities funnel energy into particle beams to help scientists study, basic building blocks of matter, solid state physics and even human biology.
“The topic of this research and development program was to build a very efficient sort of conducting accelerator. This is what the MLC is,” said Prof. Ralf Eichhorn, phyics, a key scientist on the project who headed the accelerator department of the technical university of Darmstadt before coming to Cornell in summer 2012.
Particle accelerator modules of a similar construction and purpose require liquid helium to keep their superconducting components at less that two degrees celsius above absolute zero. Liquid helium requires large amounts of energy to produce, so cryogenic modules require much more energy to cool than they impart into their particle beams, according to Eichhorn.
“This cryogenic module is beyond the state of the art accelerator cryogenic module in terms of efficiency,” Eichhorn said.
The MLC’s transport through campus drew as much concern from its creators as it did confused glances from onlookers.
“This module was designed to be operated in a fixed location. The more you try to constrain the cold mass, the thing that is inside the cryo module, the more possibilities you add to bring heat into the module,” explained Eichhorn.
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