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Posts Tagged ‘Muon Collider’

This article first appeared in Fermilab Today July 20.

During the last week of June, roughly 100 physicists met in the thin air of Telluride, Colo., to contemplate the construction and physics goals of a muon collider. This new type of particle collider would be one of the most complex devices ever created by humans. It would employ a short-lived particle, the muon, which disintegrates in a mere 2 millionths of a second. That’s just long enough to use the particle as a probe to unveil the secrets of nature.

The muon collider plans and designs are still conceptual, and we won’t be building such a machine for at least 20 years. Undaunted, the scientists at Telluride trekked on to identify and solve the multifarious issues that revolve around three topics:

*creating a large number of muons and antimuons for the collider using the proposed Project X accelerator

*cooling these particles to form small packets that can be accelerated to an energy of up to 2 TeV

*making the muons and antimuons collide head on at 4 TeV in a complex and robust particle detector

For the detector design, the challenge is to differentiate between the particles coming from actual muon-antimuon collisions and the enormous background created by particles coming from muon decays. At the Telluride meeting, scientists reported a feasible solution: a detector that utilizes fast timing and clever geometry to deal with the ferocious backgrounds. Major, more detailed, studies need to be done before this type of detector becomes a reality.

Theorists provided a list of the “top six” key physics questions to explore 20 years from now, when a muon collider exists. The list includes:

*studying a very heavy, beyond-the-Standard Model Higgs boson, via WW scattering, which would be difficult to detect at the LHC

*probing in depth the collider production of dark matter particles

*studying a Z’-boson, should the LHC find evidence of such a particle. If it exists, a Z’ boson will act as an amplifier for new physics, and this would reduce the stringent technological requirements for muon cooling and background reduction.

The muon collider complex would fit on the Fermilab site and could be built in functional stages, beginning with the Project X proton accelerator. The next stage would be the construction of a large muon storage ring, or neutrino factory, followed by the construction of the muon collider itself. Staging distributes the costs over many years and many sub-projects and might be the way for the United States to once more host experiments at the Energy Frontier.

— Fermilab theorist Chris Hill

Related information:

Muon collider website

Muon collider program website

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Allen Rusy (left) and Dan Turrioni, from the Superconductor R&D Group, inspect the cabling machine used to make Nb3Al superconducting cable. Credit: Fermilab/Reidar Hahn

One hundred years ago, in April 1911, Dutch scientist Kamerlingh Onnes discovered superconductivity. While investigating the electrical resistance of pure mercury at very low temperatures, Onnes discovered that mercury’s resistance dropped suddenly to zero in the vicinity of 4.2 Kelvin (see graphic). Scientists found that similar transitions happened in other metals and dubbed the phenomenon superconductivity.

Since 1911, we have discovered superconductors among chemical elements, alloys, ceramics and organic materials that can carry very strong electric currents without electrical resistance. These materials are perfect for developing powerful magnets and other applications. Their development and our improved understanding of superconductivity have paved the way for applications such as superconducting magnets in accelerators, MRI devices and levitating trains; various electrical power applications; and new particle acceleration devices known as superconducting radio-frequency cavities.

Fermilab has a long history of forefront research in the field of superconducting accelerator magnets. In addition, the laboratory has been involved in developing and testing superconducting RF cavities made of niobium for many years (see this article in Symmetry magazine.

The Superconductor R&D Group in the Technical Division’s Magnet Systems Department works on new materials and technologies for superconducting accelerator magnets for various Fermilab and multi-laboratory projects. It has the equipment and expertise needed for cable fabrication, small coil winding, strand and cable testing, strand processing and material studies. Our experts work closely with industry to improve the superconductor’s performance and collaborate with other laboratories and universities to improve the fundamental understanding of strands, cables and magnets. The outcome of this work provides material specifications and engineering data for accelerator magnet design and construction.

For the LHC luminosity upgrades, we are developing robust and cost-effective accelerator magnets with 11-15 Tesla magnetic fields. We are using niobium-three-tin (Nb3Sn), a low-temperature superconductor that is widely used for high-field solenoids and other types of magnets in fusion, solid-state physics and other fields of research. This material can produce stronger magnetic fields than the niobium-titanium conductor used in the Tevatron and LHC magnets, but it requires a completely different magnet fabrication technology. We also have worked with niobium-three-aluminum. In 2010, Fermilab scientists and their collaborators in Japan won the prestigious Superconductor Science and Technology Prize for their investigation of a highly strain-tolerant Nb3Al cable. This work continues in collaboration with CERN.

Our long-term goals include superconducting magnets with magnetic fields above 20 Tesla for a possible Muon Collider and

From left, scientists Ryuji Yamada, Emanuela Barzi, Akihiro Kikuchi and Alexander Zlobin stand behind the small racetrack coil made of the new Nb3A1 conductor. Credit: Fermilab/Reidar Hahn

LHC energy upgrades. Such magnets will require materials outside of the niobium family. Our group is studying high-temperature superconductors such as Bi-2212 round wires and YBCO tapes. This work has the potential for very high impact on the future Energy Frontier activities in high-energy physics.

Thank you, Dr. Onnes, for getting this all started. In your honor, various organizations will host events across the world.

— Emanuela Barzi

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