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SLAC to Leverage Accelerator Expertise for Project X

(Photo - Fermilab from the air)
Located 45 miles west of Chicago, Fermilab's particle accelerator complex provides beam to particle physics experiments, test facilities and a cancer treatment center. The proposed Project X would replace the 40-year-old linear accelerator and booster ring. (Photo: Fred Ullrich, Fermilab.)

This month, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory officially received a funding package of $400,000 from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for research and development on a radio-frequency power system for the proposed proton accelerator, Project X, at Fermilab. The project will benefit greatly from SLAC's current expertise, while the opportunity to do R&D in new accelerator technologies will help SLAC maintain its position at the leading edge of accelerator research.

"We're a world leader in RF systems and this is one of our core competencies," said SLAC Accelerator Physicist Chris Adolphsen, who is leading part of the work funded by the new package. "This effort is one way to continue developing our expertise. We're kind of the go-to guys for RF systems, and we want to keep it that way."

The Project X facility would fuel two experiments: a high-intensity neutrino beam traveling more than 800 miles to a detector at the proposed Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, and a proton beam that will support rare-decay experiments. Fermilab has officially formed the Project X Collaboration and has plans to apply for the first major step for any Department of Energy project, Critical Decision 0, to establish the scientific case to move the project forward.

The current R&D funding package for SLAC will go to the Accelerator Research Division as well as the Klystron and the Power Conversion Departments, all of which fall under the Accelerator Directorate. For now, the funds will support research into options for continuous wave and pulsed RF sources for Project X. RF, or radio frequency, sources generate microwaves that accelerate particle beams up to a desired energy. The SLAC linear accelerator uses pulsed RF sources, which generate power intermittently, in contrast to continuous wave sources, which remain on continuously while the machine is operating.

SLAC possesses a great deal of expertise in high-frequency, high-power pulsed RF systems, but less in low-frequency continuous wave systems, which Adolphsen says are, "a whole different game." In addition to exploring such systems, the work will call for research into solid-state RF systems, which are an alternative to the klystrons used at SLAC. Groups in the SLAC Accelerator Directorate do have some experience in solid state technologies, but Project X will provide an opportunity to learn more.

Tor Raubenheimer, director of SLAC's Accelerator Research Division, also emphasized his support of SLAC's involvement in Project X, and the benefits it brings. He pointed out that some of the work SLAC has already done toward plans for the proposed International Linear Collider will overlap with plans for Project X. In addition, Raubenheimer said there has been an increase in the commercial production of solid state RF sources, as opposed to klystrons, suggesting that this technology will be more prevalent as research advances and costs for solid state technology go down.

"I would like SLAC to maintain its leadership in high-power RF and believe that there are significant opportunities in solid-state sources," Raubenheimer said. "SLAC has a great technology base and understanding of RF systems, and so using our expertise to do this is a great way for us to advance our capabilities, from beyond the pulsed RF systems to continuous wave."

—Calla Cofield
SLAC Today, February 24, 2011