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Recovery Act Funding at Work in SSRL Upgrades
Accelerators and Astrophysics Featured at the 2009 SLUO Annual Meeting

SLAC Today

Tuesday - September 22, 2009

Recovery Act Funding at Work in SSRL Upgrades

Program Support Technician Kirk French and Mechanical Services Manager David Ernst install one of the SPEAR3 clearing magnets during the SSRL shutdown. (Photo courtesy David Ernst.)

The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory received an important boost this year, with $4.8 million in funding from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for repairs and upgrades during SSRL's annual three-month shutdown, and new scientific instruments in the year to come.

"The ARRA funding was a really big help; I don't know when we could have ever gotten these things done without it," said SSRL Acting Director Piero Pianetta. The funding will go toward seismic retrofits and key upgrades to SSRL's X-ray beamlines, which are used by scientists from around the world to conduct experiments in energy, materials, environmental and life sciences, accelerator physics and more.

Part of the Recovery Act funding will help SSRL develop an advanced spectroscopy facility that will allow researchers to study systems ranging from fuel cells to photosynthesis. This facility will rely critically on SSRL’s plan to bring its SPEAR3 storage ring to its maximum operating capacity of 500 milliamperes. The ring has operated at 100 mA since its commissioning in 2004, although it recently received a boost to 200 mA. Running at full capacity will increase the brightness of the facility's X-ray beamlines, making SSRL an even more valuable tool for SSRL's scientific users.

"The results of an experiment depend on how many photons you can put on a sample," said Bob Hettel, deputy director for SLAC's Accelerator Directorate. "If you can put five times as many photons on a sample, some experiments can be done five times faster." 

In other experiments, where the intense beam could be harmful to experimental samples, new schemes such as rapid sample scanning and fast shutters to remove the beam from the sample between measurements will be employed.

One of the biggest challenges in reaching full operating capacity, though, is making sure that the SSRL optical devices have a reliable cooling supply. Toward this end, $800,000 in Recovery Act funds will be used to help upgrade the cooling systems on SSRL's 11 monochromators—devices that filter incoming light to a single specified wavelength.

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Accelerators and Astrophysics Featured at the 2009 SLUO Annual Meeting

Roughly 100 people listen to presentations at the SLUO annual meeting in Kavli Auditorium. (Photo by Lauren Knoche.)

The 2009 SLAC Users Organization annual meeting on Thursday, September 17, brought nearly 100 users from around the world to SLAC's Kavli auditorium for discussion of funding, cosmology and SLAC's role in past, present and future accelerator science and accelerator-based physics.

"This is a vibrant community of physicists and astrophysicists," said SLUO chairperson Gérard Bonneaud. "The accelerator and non-accelerator communities are merging very well, which is a unique feature of SLAC's Particle Physics and Astrophysics Directorate."

Representatives from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy spoke during the morning session of the meeting. Michael Procario, director of the facilities division in the DOE Office of High Energy Physics, discussed the importance of building tools to deliver science to many laboratories and universities in the United States.

"The U.S. high-energy physics program is at a crossroads, and we need to start making investments in new tools for the field," he said. Procario stressed the importance of U.S. involvement in particle physics projects such as the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino experiments, Dark Energy Survey and NuMI (NOvA) Off-axis Electron Neutrino Appearance Experiment, which are already being built. Others, such as the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment and the Joint Dark Energy Mission, are just being planned. The new Office of Science Early Career Research Program has been established to fund the most promising new researchers in universities and DOE national laboratories, Procario noted. 

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