An artists impression of the European Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics in Romania [Credit: ELI-NP]

Advanced gamma beam facility to feature UK tech

British accelerator scientists will contribute to the most powerful gamma beam facility in the world after winning a major contract.

The European Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) facility, due to be built in Romania, will specialise in both basic and applied research, from investigating the processes that take place in the heart of stars, to industrial and medical applications.

And the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire has won a €5.5m (£4.5m) contract to supply 22 accelerator modules to the project, as part of a wider €68.8m contract awarded to the European consortium EuroGammaS, which is led by Italy’s Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN), to develop the facility’s accelerator based gamma source.

Professor Susan Smith, head of the Daresbury Laboratory, said: “Winning this contract is fantastic news for STFC. It demonstrates that Daresbury Laboratory has the facilities and expertise to deliver next generation accelerator solutions anywhere in the world.

“As part of the EuroGammaS consortium, this contract strengthens STFC’s international reputation and collaboration with Europe’s leading institutes and commercial companies; it reinforces the UK as an international leader in this area.”

The accelerator modules STFC will supply, will be used to steer, control and measure a beam of electrons that are accelerated to energies of more than 7 hundred, thousand, million volts before being collided with an intense pulse of light from an extremely high power laser to produce the most brilliant tuneable gamma-ray beam available in the world.

Delivering the system will involves integrating, aligning and testing the radio frequency structures, high field magnets, vacuum chambers and controls. The accelerator modules will be assembled and tested at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory prior to delivery to the ELI-NP site in Magurele, Romania.

Neil Bliss, Group Leader within STFC’s Technology Department, who has played a key role in design engineering STFC’s particle accelerator, said: “Winning this contract to work with the EuroGammaS consortium is fantastic news for STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory and true recognition of our expertise and skills in developing pioneering accelerator technology.

“We are constantly developing our know-how and making new and exciting breakthroughs. Major projects like this build on the UK’s expertise and experimental experience in this area, paving the way for the UK’s next state-of-the-art light source, simultaneously contributing to international R&D.”

Once operational, the facility will produce high intensity gamma beams of very precise energy that can then be used for nuclear physics experiments and other applications.

ELI-NP is one of three pillars of the Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) – a multi-million euro project being carried out in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania to create a world class laser capability – and is expected to be producing light and gamma beams by 2018.

The gamma beam itself can be used to map the isotope distributions of nuclear materials or radioactive waste remotely via Nuclear Resonance Fluorescence (NRF) measurements and medical isotopes produced by gamma induced reactions will have major health benefits.

In addition it will produce intense neutron beams and intense positron beams, which opens new fields in material science and life sciences – the possibility to study the same target with these very different brilliant beams will be unique and enable rapid scientific advances.

This is the second contract that UK scientists have won for the ELI project. STFC’s Centre for Advanced Laser Technology and Applications, recently won a major £2.2m to develop a cutting-edge laser amplifier that can supply extremely powerful bursts of laser energy.

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