Currently, around 17000 accelerators exist in the world and these are used for a variety of applications including medicine, semi-conductor manufacture and understanding the structure of materials. About 100 of these are used for fundamental physics studies, including the accelerators in CERN (link opens in a new window), Fermilab (link opens in a new window), etc.
PPD works on a number of projects undertaking R&D on accelerators for both Particle Physics and for medical applications.
The neutrino factory
The Neutrino Factory (link opens in a new window) is a possible future facility for creating very intense beams of neutrinos to make detailed studies of the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations (link opens in a new window). It is a potential successor to the T2K experiment and a possible future facility for the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.
The facility will consist of a number of different accelerators and most of these are beyond the state of the art. This has led to the creation of several R&D projects to understand how these can be built, for example MICE (link opens in a new window), the Front End Test Stand (PDF - link opens in a new window) project, studies of pion production targets (PDF - link opens in a new window) and EMMA (see below).
PPD also leads a European Commission 7th Framework Programme (link opens in a new window) design study to investigate future high intensity neutrino oscillation facilities. This study is called EUROν (link opens in a new window) and has recently officially started work.
The layout of a neutrino factory from a recent international study
EMMA and PAMELA
The BASROC (link opens in a new window) project has been created to study a novel type of accelerator, a so-called non-scaling FFAG, for a variety of applications. However, so far no such accelerator has ever been built, so the first step in the project is to build one and study in detail how it works. This proof-of-principle non-scaling FFAG is called EMMA and is currently being constructed at the Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire. The studies of EMMA will use a beam produced by another accelerator at Daresbury called ALICE (link opens in a new window). The EMMA project leader is a member of PPD.
One of the main applications under study is the use of non-scaling FFAGs to accelerate "hadrons", in particular protons and carbon ions, for the treatment of cancer, so-called hadron therapy (link opens in a new window). The aim of this work is the design of a carbon therapy accelerator, to be called PAMELA (link opens in a new window).
EMMA: the world's first non-scaling FFAG
Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (link opens in a new window) is another form of hadron therapy, this time using very low energy neutrons. In BNCT, the tumour is doped with a boron-10 carrying compound. The neutrons interact with the boron to produce an alpha particle and a lithium nucleus and these destroy the cancerous cell in which they are created. However, a large number of low energy neutrons are required. We are working with a group from Birmingham University who already have a BNCT facility in which the neutrons are made using an accelerator. Our aim is to increase the neutron fluence to the level at which clinical trials of the therapy are possible.
An experimental neutron production station for BNCT in Birmingham University.
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