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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2015-11-16 14:45:00
    • Article ID: 643318

    $13.5M Moore Grant to Develop Working 'Accelerator on a Chip' Prototype

    The Goal: Build a Shoebox-sized Particle Accelerator in 5 Years

    • Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Three “accelerators on a chip” made of silicon are mounted on a clear base. A shoebox-sized particle accelerator being developed under a $13.5 million Moore Foundation grant would use a series of these “accelerators on a chip” to boost the energy of electrons.

    • Credit: (Left and middle images: Andrew Ceballos, Stanford University. Right image: Chunghun Lee, SLAC)

      These microscopic images show some of the accelerator-on-a-chip designs being explored by the international collaboration. In each case, laser light shining on the chip boosts the energy of electrons traveling through it.

    • Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      A diagram shows one possible configuration for the shoebox-sized particle accelerator prototype. Designing the glass accelerating chips is just one of the challenges facing the project. The Stanford-led team will have to figure out the best way to distribute laser power among the chips, generate and steer the electrons, shrink the diameter of the electron beam 1,000-fold and a host of other technical details. SLAC and two other national labs will contribute expertise and make their facilities available for this effort.

    • Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Members of the international scientific collaboration to build a working prototype of a particle accelerator based on “accelerator on a chip” technology gathered at the Moore Foundation in October for a kick-off meeting to discuss the endeavor.

    • Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Each “accelerator on a chip" is nanostructured using advanced fabrication techniques to provide the desired acceleration effect.

    • Credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

      Making accelerators much smaller would provide benefits to research, medicine and other applications.

    Menlo Park, Calif. — The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has awarded $13.5 million to Stanford University for an international effort, including key contributions from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, to build a working particle accelerator the size of a shoebox based on an innovative technology known as “accelerator on a chip.”

    This novel technique, which uses laser light to propel electrons through a series of artfully crafted glass chips, has the potential to revolutionize science, medicine and other fields by dramatically shrinking the size and cost of particle accelerators.

    “Can we do for particle accelerators what the microchip industry did for computers?” said SLAC physicist Joel England, an investigator with the 5-year project. “Making them much smaller and cheaper would democratize accelerators, potentially making them available to millions of people. We can’t even imagine the creative applications they would find for this technology.”

    Robert L. Byer, a Stanford professor of applied physics and co-principal investigator for the project who has been working on the idea for 40 years, said, “Based on our proposed revolutionary design, this prototype could set the stage for a new generation of ‘tabletop’ accelerators, with unanticipated discoveries in biology and materials science and potential applications in security scanning, medical therapy and X-ray imaging.”

    The Chip that Launched an International Quest

    The international effort to make a working prototype of the little accelerator was inspired by experiments led by scientists at SLAC and Stanford and, independently, at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU) in Germany. Both teams demonstrated the potential for accelerating particles with lasers in papers published on the same day in 2013.

    In the SLAC/Stanford experiments, published in Nature, electrons were first accelerated to nearly light speed in a SLAC accelerator test facility. At this point they were going about as fast as they can go, and any additional acceleration would boost their energy, not their speed.

    The speeding electrons then entered a chip made of silica glass and traveled through a microscopic tunnel that had tiny ridges carved into its walls. Laser light shining on the chip interacted with those ridges and produced an electrical field that boosted the energy of the passing electrons.

    In the experiments, the chip achieved an acceleration gradient, or energy boost over a given distance, roughly 10 times higher than the SLAC linear accelerator can provide. At full potential, this means the 2-mile-linac could be replaced with a series of accelerator chips 100 meters long ¬– roughly the length of a football field. .

    In a parallel approach, experiments led by Peter Hommelhoff of FAU and published in Physical Review Letters demonstrated that a laser could also be used to accelerate lower-energy electrons that had not first been boosted to nearly light speed. Both results taken together open the door to a compact particle accelerator.

    A Tough, High-payoff Challenge

    For the past 75 years, particle accelerators have been an essential tool for physics, chemistry, biology and medicine, leading to multiple Nobel prize-winning discoveries. They are used to collide particles at high energies for studies of fundamental physics, and also to generate intense X-ray beams for a wide range of experiments in materials, biology, chemistry and other fields. But without new technology to reduce the cost and size of high-energy accelerators, progress in particle physics and structural biology could stall.

    The challenges of building the prototype accelerator are substantial, the scientists said. Demonstrating that a single chip works was an important step; now they must work out the optimal chip design and the best way to generate and steer electrons, distribute laser power among multiple chips and make electron beams that are 1,000 times smaller in diameter to go through the microscopic chip tunnels, among a host of other technical details.

    “The chip is the most crucial ingredient, but a working accelerator is way more than just this component,” said Hommelhoff, a professor of physics and co-principal investigator of the project. “We know what the main challenges will be and we don’t know how to solve them yet. But as scientists we thrive on this type of challenge. It requires a very diverse set of expertise, and we have brought a great crowd of people together to tackle it.”

    The Stanford-led collaboration includes world-renowned experts in accelerator physics, laser physics, nanophotonics and nanofabrication. SLAC and two other national laboratories ¬– Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany and Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland – will contribute expertise and make their facilities available for experiments. In addition to FAU, five other universities and one industry partner are involved in the effort: University of California, Los Angeles, Purdue University, University of Hamburg, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Technical University of Darmstadt and Tech-X Corporation.

    “The accelerator-on-a-chip project has terrific scientists pursuing a great idea. We’ll know they’ve succeeded when they advance from the proof of concept to a working prototype,” said Robert Kirshner, chief program officer of science at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This research is risky, but the Moore Foundation is not afraid of risk when a novel approach holds the potential for a big advance in science. Making things small to produce immense returns is what Gordon Moore did for microelectronics.”

    SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. To learn more, please visit www.slac.stanford.edu.

    Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation fosters path-breaking scientific discovery, environmental conservation, patient care improvements and preservation of the special character of the Bay Area. Visit www.moore.org or follow @MooreFound.

    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

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    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

    Magnetic field lines tangled like spaghetti in a bowl might be behind the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe. That's the result of a new computational study by researchers from the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which simulated particle emissions from distant active galaxies.

    Argonne scientists maximize the effectiveness of platinum in fuel cells

    In new research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and published in Science, scientists have identified a new catalyst that uses only about a quarter as much platinum as current technology by maximizing the effectiveness of the available platinum.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    Barely scratching the surface: A new way to make robust membranes

    Argonne researchers have demonstrated a new technique's viability for membranes.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    Sierra Snowpack Could Drop Significantly By End of Century

    A future warmer world will almost certainly feature a decline in fresh water from the Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack. Now a new study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that analyzed the headwater regions of California's 10 major reservoirs, representing nearly half of the state's surface storage, found they could see on average a 79 percent drop in peak snowpack water volume by 2100.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.

    Compelling Evidence for Small Drops of Perfect Fluid

    Nuclear physicists analyzing data from the PHENIX detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) have published additional evidence that collisions of miniscule projectiles with gold nuclei create tiny specks of the perfect fluid that filled the early universe.


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    DOE approves technical plan and cost estimate to upgrade Argonne facility; Project will create X-rays that illuminate the atomic scale, in 3D

    The U.S. Department of Energy has approved the technical scope, cost estimate and plan of work for an upgrade of the Advanced Photon Source, a major storage-ring X-ray source at Argonne.

    Costas Soukoulis elected to National Academy of Inventors

    Costas Soukoulis, Ames Laboratory senior scientist and Iowa State University Frances M. Craig Endowed Chair and Distinguished Professor, has been named as a 2018 National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow.

    Biophysicist F. William Studier Elected Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors

    F. William Studier, a Senior Biophysicist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and Adjunct Professor of Biochemistry at Stony Brook University, has been elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). He is among 148 renowned academic inventors being recognized by NAI for 2018.

    Blast to the future

    A grant from DOE's Technology Commercialization Fund will help researchers at Argonne and industry partners seek improvements to U.S. manufacturing by making discovery and design of new materials more efficient.

    Department of Energy to Provide $24 Million for Computer-Based Materials Design

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to provide $24 million in new and renewal research awards to advance the development of sophisticated software for computer-based design of novel materials.

    Argonne scientists recognized for decades of pioneering leadership in research

    Argonne scientists Ali Erdemir and Jack Vaughey were named 2018 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    Kurfess, Smith join ORNL to lead advanced manufacturing initiatives

    Two leaders in US manufacturing innovation, Thomas Kurfess and Scott Smith, are joining the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to support its pioneering research in advanced manufacturing.

    Four Berkeley Lab Scientists Named AAAS Fellows

    Four Berkeley Lab scientists - Allen Goldstein, Sung-Hou Kim, Susannah Tringe, and Katherine Yelick - have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society.

    U.S. Department of Energy to Host Nationwide CyberForce Competition(tm) December 1

    Students from dozens of colleges/universities will participate in the U.S. Department of Energy's CyberForce Competition(tm) this weekend

    Seven ORNL researchers named 2019 INCITE award winners

    Seven researchers from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have been chosen by the Innovative and Novel Computational Impact on Theory and Experiment, also known as INCITE, program to lead scientific investigations that require the nation's most powerful computers. The ORNL-based projects span a broad range of the scientific spectrum and represent the potential of high-performance computing in ensuring America's scientific competitiveness and energy security.


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    Ice Formed by Contact Freezing: Pressure Matters, Not Just Temperature

    Distortion of water droplet surface may increase the likelihood of the droplet freezing.

    Future Loss of Arctic Sea-Ice Cover Could Contribute to the Substantial Decrease in California's Rainfall

    A new modeling framework helps understand the consequences of future sea-ice loss in the Arctic.

    Drawn into a Whirlpool: A New Way to Stop Dangerous Fast Electrons in a Fusion Device

    A new phenomena forms vortices that trap particles, impeding electron avalanches that harm fusion reactors.

    During Droughts, Bacteria Help Sorghum Continue Growing

    Researchers discover how certain bacteria may safeguard plant growth during a drought, making way for strategies to improve crop productivity.

    The Biermann Battery Effect: Spontaneous Generation of Magnetic Fields and Their Severing

    The mechanism responsible for creating intense magnetic fields in laser-driven plasmas also helps tear the fields apart.

    Subtlety and the Selective Art of Separating Lanthanides

    Unexpected molecular interactions involving water clusters have a subtle, yet profound, effect on extractants picking their targets.

    Review Examines the Science and Needs of Nitrogen-Based Transformations

    Advances in biochemistry and catalysis could lead to faster, greener nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

    Quickly Capture Tiny Particles Reacting

    New method takes a snapshot every millisecond of groups of light-scattering particles, showing what happens during industrially relevant reactions.

    New Technology Consistently Identifies Proteins from a Dozen Cells

    A new platform melding microfluidics and robotics allows more in-depth bioanalysis with fewer cells than ever before.

    Optimal Foraging: How Soil Microbes Adapt to Nutrient Constraints

    How microbial communities adjust to nutrient-poor soils at the genomic and proteomic level gives scientists insights into land use.


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