Building Particle Accelerators Takes More Than a Village

From magnets to power supplies, NSLS-II experts support accelerator upgrades across the Nation.

Each year, thousands of people travel far and wide to see architectural marvels such as the towering steps of the Kukulcán temple in in Chichen Itza or the intricate facade of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. Like these marvels of history and culture, thousands of researchers travel to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) five light source facilities each year. They don’t come for the views, though, they come to push the boundaries of science—in fields ranging from batteries to pharmaceuticals—by using the ultrabright synchrotron light, mostly x-rays, from these facilities to conduct experiments.

This light doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It needs to be generated by large, complex particle accelerators. And, to keep the x-rays as bright as possible, scientists and engineers are working constantly to advance them. This story highlights ongoing collaborative projects of the Accelerator Division at the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II), located at DOE’s Brookhaven Lab.

According to historical sources, it took the Germans over 600 years to build the original Cologne Cathedral, while archeologists speculate that the Temple of Kukulcán took at least 200 years to build in two phases. Thousands of people worked on these monuments during these extremely long construction periods. This is a feat they share with modern particle accelerator projects. While the initial construction of NSLS-II took only a decade, it still involved an international effort of hundreds of people from many disciplines and professions.

From the civil engineering challenges of the building design to the construction of the hundreds of magnets inside the accelerator, it truly takes more than a village to build a particle accelerator for a synchrotron light source. Similarly, many modern accelerator projects span multiple institutions and countries to leverage the expertise in the field.

Read more on the Brookhaven National Laboratory (NBL)

Image: The photo shows a view of the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) accelerator tunnel located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science Brookhaven National Laboratory.