The EMMA project has successfully accelerated an electron beam to 18 MeV

Particle accelerator prototype achieves significant milestone

A new particle accelerator technology was hailed as achieving an "outstanding milestone".

Scientists around the world are celebrating the successful start up of the EMMA accelerator at the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire.

Part of the BASROC CONFORM project, EMMA paves the way for the construction of a whole new generation of  more powerful, yet more compact and economical accelerators.

This could hold the key to applications including charged particle cancer therapy, powering safer nuclear reactors, and particle physics e.g. neutrino factories.

The University Huddersfield’s Professor Roger Barlow, leader of the CONFORM project said: “This is a fantastic result, and a tribute to the skill and dedication of the engineering and technical staff at STFC Daresbury Laboratory and members of the international EMMA collaboration, as well as for everyone involved in the CONFORM project.

"It will define the way forward for this kind of particle accelerator across the world."

EMMA, funded by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Basic Technology programme is a proof of principle prototype for a brand new type of particle accelerator, designed by an international team of scientists, including a number of the UK’s top universities and institutes.  

Particle accelerators already have a wide range of uses in many areas of science, but their potential is limited by their size, complexity and cost.

EMMA is a compact 20 million electron volt prototype and uses technology that is simpler and less expensive than equivalent accelerators in existence.

Its concept is based on a ring of magnets which use their combined magnetic field simultaneously to steer and focus the electron beam around the machine.  

The strength of the magnetic field increases as the beam spirals outwards while it is accelerated around the ring. 

Due to the strength of the magnetic focussing, the displacement of the beam as it accelerates and spirals around the ring is much smaller than in any equivalent accelerator.  

As a result, EMMA’s ring of magnets is much more compact and the beam is better controlled. 

Susan Smith, Director of ASTeC at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory said: “This is a great achievement. It marks the beginning of a detailed experimental programme that will provide all the information required for the design and construction of all future accelerators of this type.”

EMMA’s next steps will be to move towards full acceleration from 10 to 20 MeV and commence the detailed characterisation of the EMMA accelerator and its novel acceleration scheme.

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