U.S. Magnet Development Project for CERN Particle Collider Upgrade Moves Forward


Photo - The HL-LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project magnets use conductors made of niobium-tin to generate a stronger magnetic field compared to predecessor technology. These world-record-setting magnets will have their debut in the HL-LHC: Its run will be the first time that U.S.-built niobium-tin magnets will be used in a particle accelerator for particle physics research. (Credit: Dan Cheng/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

The High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC) Accelerator Upgrade Project magnets use conductors made of niobium-tin to generate a stronger magnetic field compared to predecessor technology. These world-record-setting magnets will have their debut in the HL-LHC project at CERN. Its run will be the first time that U.S.-built niobium-tin magnets will be used in a particle accelerator for particle physics research. (Credit: Dan Cheng/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Note: This press release has been adapted from an original release by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. View the original release.

The U.S. Department of Energy has formally approved a key milestone in the High-Luminosity LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project being carried out at eight U.S. institutions, including the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

The approval, known as Critical Decision 3, or CD-3, is the endorsement by DOE to proceed with the full production of the U.S. contribution to the high-luminosity upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider, or HL-LHC, at the European laboratory CERN.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) leads the U.S. upgrade effort, which comprises two cutting-edge technologies: accelerator magnets and cavities. Under the HL-LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project, or AUP, the U.S. collaborators will contribute 16 magnets to dramatically focus the LHC’s near-light-speed particle beams to a tiny volume before colliding. The collaborators are also contributing eight superconducting cavities, which are radio-frequency devices designed to manipulate the powerful beams. (Additionally, they will provide four spare magnets and two spare cavities.)

Berkeley Lab’s contributions, through its Superconducting Magnet Program/Berkeley Center for Magnet Technology (SMP/BCMT), include superconducting cables, insulation of the cables, and magnets.

With CD-3 approval, AUP collaborators can now move full-speed-ahead building and delivering the crucial components. The new instruments will enable a giant leap in the number of particle collisions at the future HL-LHC, a 10-fold increase compared to the current LHC.

The high-luminosity upgrade to the Large Hadron Collider will enable physicists to study particles such as the Higgs boson in greater detail. And the increase in the number of collisions could also uncover rare physics phenomena or signs of new physics.

“Gaining DOE’s endorsement to move to full production is a huge achievement. Knowing what it means for the future of particle physics – for the new physics that the HL-LHC will reveal and for future accelerators enabled by these technologies – makes it even more gratifying,” said Giorgio Apollinari, Fermilab scientist and HL-LHC AUP project manager. “I congratulate the entire AUP team on the milestone. They have been instrumental in ensuring the development and technical successes of the leading-edge technologies needed for the HL-LHC.”

The AUP is supported by the DOE Office of Science. The AUP team consists of six U.S. laboratories and two universities: Fermilab, Brookhaven National Laboratory (Brookhaven), Berkeley Lab, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (all DOE national laboratories), the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Old Dominion University and the University of Florida.

Berkeley Lab’s Soren Prestemon, who heads the SMP/BCMT, said, “These are very challenging magnets that took excellence in multiple skill sets and a variety of facilities. From conductor through cabling, design and assembly of magnets, and testing, this has been teamwork at its best.”

Berkeley Lab Interim ATAP Division Director Thomas Schenkel added, “As the review committees have noted, the AUP has been notable not only for technical achievement, but also for managerial coordination. A coast-to-coast project for a customer several time zones away is never easy, and especially during the pandemic, when we can’t meet in person, they’ve done a remarkable job of coordinating their efforts.”

The AUP magnets use conductors made of niobium-tin to generate a stronger magnetic field compared to predecessor technology. These world-record-setting magnets will have their debut in the HL-LHC: Its run will be the first time that U.S.-built niobium-tin magnets will be used in a particle accelerator for particle physics research.

The 16 magnets will be installed in eight cryoassemblies – cooling and housing units that enable the magnets’ superconductivity.

To date, the team at Berkeley has assembled four of the 5 pre-series magnets, and is now gearing up for series production now that the CD-3 approval has been given. “These magnets are a culmination of more than 15 years of technology development starting with the LARP (LHC Accelerator Research Program) collaboration,” said Dan Cheng, who is the deputy level-3 control account manager for the magnet structures task at Berkeley Lab. “That effort was the foundation of what all of our teams have achieved so far, but there are still many challenges ahead of us.”

Kathleen Amm, director of Brookhaven’s Magnet Division and that lab’s representative for the AUP, said, “It is very exciting to see this cutting-edge magnet technology, which is enabling breakthrough science at the LHC, enter the production phase after the successful tests of our first magnets and with the approval of CD-3. The incredible talent across our national laboratories working seamlessly has made this possible.”

The AUP accelerator cavities, made of niobium, are a type known as “crab cavities,” manipulating the beam in a particular way to increase the likelihood of particle collisions. While Fermilab high-performance superconducting cavities have already been put to use in accelerators such as XFEL in Germany or LCLS-II at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the operation of these crab cavities in the HL-LHC will be the first application of Fermilab superconducting radio-frequency technology – building upon critical contributions from Jefferson Lab, Old Dominion University, SLAC and industrial partners – in a particle-physics-dedicated accelerator.

At CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, beams of protons race in opposite directions around the collider’s 17-mile circumference, colliding at high energies at four specific interaction points along the way. Scientists study the collisions to better understand nature’s constituent components and to look for exotic states of matter, such as dark matter.

The HL-LHC AUP magnets and cavities will be positioned near two of the LHC’s collision points – the ATLAS and CMS particle detectors. These giant, stories-high instruments are also being upgraded to take full advantage of the HL-LHC’s more rapid-fire collisions.

Over the course of the HL-LHC Accelerator Upgrade Project, the AUP team has seen one success after another, hitting both technological and project milestones according to the schedule established in 2015, says Apollinari. The U.S. collaboration’s first focusing magnet, completed last year, met or exceeded specifications.

“Building such an ambitious machine requires not only vision but discipline in carrying it out – tight, transparent, respectful coordination with partners, including with funding agencies and the independent reviewers,” Apollinari said. “The achievement is not only that we received CD-3 approval, but how we got here. We met our goals on a timescale that was put down on paper five years ago. That’s thanks to incredible teamwork of everyone involved.”

The HL-LHC is expected to start operations in 2027 and run through the 2030s.

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