$600m upgrade to America’s top particle research lab approved

The US Department of Energy has approved construction of a superconducting linear accelerator at Fermilab, America’s most important centre for research into particle physics.

The Batavia, Illinois site is planning to build the PIP-II project, short for Proton Improvement Plan II, which is aimed at creating the world’s most intense beam of neutrinos. The $600m project will include fitting the accelerator with cutting-edge superconducting and high-power radio frequency systems.

When complete in the late 2020s, the accelerator will generate proton beams greater than 1MW, a 60% increase of its present power. This will enable a variety of research projects, including the creation of neutrinos for the lab’s Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE).

More than 1,000 researchers from around the world will study the neutrinos produced here. The intensity is important because this particle is the most abundant in the universe, but has no charge, and a mass so small that it has never been measured. This means that it can travel through light-years of matter without interacting with any other particle. 

Lia Merminga, Fermilab’s director, commented: “We are elated to have reached this crucial step for PIP-II. Our team around the world has worked tirelessly to prepare for this moment. The planning has paid off, and we are excited to move into the construction phase, knowing it will make incredible new science possible.”

As well as US scientists, DUNE will host physicists from France, India, Italy, Poland and the UK. As with other big science schemes around the world, international contributions will take the form of materials rather than money. For example, India is contributing the cryogenic plant needed to cool equipment and achieve superconductivity.

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