Jeff Smith Helps Keep the LHC Beam in Check
(Photo by Julie Karceski.)
Here at SLAC, Jeff Smith studies collimation systems, which he describes as machine protection structures for the Large Hadron Collider. While designing a collimator may not sound as flashy as colliding proton beams, it is a necessary precaution to protect nearby equipment from the collider's high-energy beams.
"Collimators take the brunt of the beam energy," Smith added. "The LHC would not operate without this system."
Smith's research won him the American Physical Society California Section
Luis Alvarez Award for Best Experimental Research, an annual award handed out to scientists from California and Nevada. "The most challenging aspect is creating a rotating device that is straight to within 25 microns," Smith said, explaining that there is little room for error when firing a particle beam through a narrow beam pipe.
Coming to SLAC for his postdoc was an easy decision for Smith, as he spent about seven months here during his graduate work in physics at Cornell. He's currently trying to find a way to improve the collimators for the LHC and frequently travels to Geneva, Switzerland to work with the LHC team on site. "The most fun part of it is I feel like I'm a member of two different labs," he said.
The existing collimators are not built for maximum beam intensity, putting a bit of a "speed limit" on current accelerator experiments. Researchers hope that improving the equipment will support higher luminosity—beams with more particles packed into a tightly focused area, for higher-energy collisions.
(Photo by Lauren Knoche.)
A steel and glass sculpture stands proudly between the Research Office Building and the Kavli building. The seven foot tall piece of artwork was constructed on-site using recycled SLAC materials. The striking 40-inch glass window weighs
more than 1000 pounds and was once a piece of a bubble chamber—a chamber filled with superheated liquid hydrogen and used to detect electrically charged particles from the 1960s through the 1980s. If you look closely, you may be able to see the
x’s etched into the surface of the glass. Called fiducials, these etchings enabled accurate
three-dimensional tracking of particles zipping through the chamber.
The sculpture was unveiled on March 17, 2003, by physicist and philanthropist Fred Kavli at the
Kavli Institute Inauguration, marking the spot for the then-future Kavli Building. After construction began, the sculpture was relocated and today stands just west of the building.