Accelerators are World´s Largest Machines
Material sciences, as well as nuclear and particle sciences of today utilize particle accelerators to gain a better understanding of the world on an atomic or even subatomic level. Superconductivity is an enabling technology for the realization and improved efficiency of such accelerator machines.
In accelerators superconducting magnets (typically dipoles, quadrupoles and higher order multipoles) provide the high forces needed to guide the particle beam. Besides these magnets superconducting high frequency resonators, so called cavities, can be used for particle acceleration the.
The most important examples of superconducting accelerator technology in Europe are referred to in the following:
The Large Hadron Collider – LHC
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world´s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. It is part of the accelerator complex at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, near Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is a circular accelerator with a circumference of 27 kilometers housing more than 1000 superconducting magnets and accelerating devices. It is also the world’s largest superconducting machine and became famous for the detection of the Higgs particle, also referred to as the “God particle”, which explains why some fundamental subatomic particles have mass. Extremely strong magnets with the highest demands on close tolerances are necessary to generate a magnetic field which is 100.000 times stronger than the earth´s magnetic field. Without superconductivity, it would not have been possible to build the LHC in the existing tunnel.
Superconductivity is also needed for the magnets of huge detectors that are implemented in the interaction areas accelerators, like Atlas or CMS experiments, made with Niobium Titanium superconductor.
The Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research – FAIR
The Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) is a large accelerator system integration under construction at GSI (Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung) in Darmstadt, Germany. This installation will give new insights to the interaction between nuclear particles. FAIR uses superconducting technology for its fast-ramped synchrotron, a compact circular accelerator, called SIS 100, that will be charged and uncharged in a 4 Tesla per second cycling mode. At FAIR more than one hundred superconducting dipoles with a maximum field of 1.9 Tesla will be installed. Superconducting technology increases the efficiency and reduces the running cost of the machine considerably.
Applied and basic researchers from physics to biology use exceptionally intense beams of X-ray, ultraviolet and infrared light as a kind of extraordinary microscope for their research. Light sources are machines generating this kind of light by accelerating electron beams. Modern light sources consist of electron accelerators and magnets that bend, undulate or wiggle the electron in order to generate light. Today most undulators are based on permanent magnets and most wigglers are still resisitive, i.e. are using non superconducting technologies.
However, electron beams can be accelerated very efficiently with superconducting accelerator structures, as it is done at the European X-Ray Laser Project XFEL at DESY in Hamburg. Moreover, superconductors make it possible to overcome boundaries set by conventional materials for the undulating or wiggling magnets. Examples of such superconducting magnet systems are the superconducting wiggler at Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire UK or the superconducting undulator at the ANKA light source at KIT, Karlsruhe.