The successful start-up of the EMMA accelerator where a brand new technology, that will be used to help a range of applications from fundamental science and treating cancer to powering safer nuclear reactors, is being born.
Particle accelerators already have many uses. But there could be many more applications if they could be made smaller, simpler, cheaper, and more reliable.
In 2007 the British Accelerator Science and Radiation Oncology Consortium (BASROC) obtained a grant from the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Basic Technology programme to fund the Construction Of a Non-scaling Fixed-Field Alternating Gradient (FFAG) for Oncology, Radiation and Medicine (CONFORM) to do just that.
A principal focus of CONFORM has been Electron Machine with Many Applications (EMMA): a compact 20m electron volt proof-of-principle prototype for this brand new type of particle accelerator, designed by an international team of scientists and engineers, and constructed at Daresbury Laboratory.
EMMA’s concept is based on a ring of magnets which use their magnetic field simultaneously to steer and focus the electron beam around the machine. The magnetic field strength increases as the beam spirals outwards while accelerated around the ring.
Due to magnetic focus, the displacement of the beam as it accelerates is much smaller than in any equivalent fixed-field accelerator, with the result that EMMA’s ring of magnets is much more compact and the beam better controlled. EMMA will ultimately accelerate electrons from 10 to 20 million electron volts.
The University Huddersfield’s Professor Roger Barlow, leader of CONFORM said: “This is a fantastic result, and a tribute to the skill and dedication of the engineering and technical staff at STFC Daresbury Laboratory, members of the international EMMA collaboration, and everyone involved in the CONFORM project. It will define the way forward for this kind of particle accelerator across the world.
The achievement is a direct consequence not only of the enlightened funding of the RCUK Basic Technology program, but also of the investment that STFC have made in establishing the two Institutes for Accelerator Research: Cockcroft and John Adams.”
Susan Smith, director of ASTeC at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory said: “This is a great achievement for all those involved in the EMMA project, including our international partners. This milestone 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 instrument experts Gianni Tassotto, Carol Johnstone, Manfred Wendt (experiment head) and Jim Crisp.
Carol Johnstone, of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago and one of the international team, spoke for many with her response: "I have just announced the success of the nonscaling FFAG at Fermilab. I am so impressed and proud to collaborate with the UK team. This has made my day."
Ken Peach, leader of the Oxford Group said “Now that we know that the basic idea works, we can go on to develop the applications of this new technology, with enormous potential benefits not only to fundamental science but also to address everyday concerns, such as the effective treatment of some forms of cancer.”
J. Scott Berg from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US : “The UK has shown itself to be a leader in particle accelerator research in building such an innovative type of accelerator. Engineering challenges have been extensive, but the Daresbury Laboratory team has met them.”
Bob Cywinski from the University of Huddersfield said “Exploitation of accelerator driven subcritical reactor technology for safer, cleaner and more sustainable nuclear power has been held back by the size, cost and reliability of existing accelerators. The successful demonstration of EMMA’s capabilities may well help to pave the way to an alternative nuclear future”
Karen Kirkby from University for Surrey said: “A great achievement from a truly multidisciplinary team bringing together scientists, engineers and clinicians. Its potential impact is enormous in fields as diverse as energy production and cancer therapy." She thanked the EPSRC for their funding.
David Wilcox, chair of BASROC said “On behalf of BASROC, I would like to congratulate the team on this tremendous achievement, which paves the way for a new generation of accelerator-based applications, from leading edge science to cancer therapy.”
Mike Begg, MD of Tesla Engineering in Storrinton, who made the magnets for EMMA said “This is a great achievement, and I am very pleased that Tesla Engineering has been able to contribute to the development of this exciting new technology.”
The CONFORM project team included:
University of Oxford - Gray Institute Cancer Therapy, John Adams Institute Accelerator Science;
The University of Surrey Ion Beam Specialists
; University of Manchester Accelerator Science
; University of Huddersfield Neutron & Muon Science;
Imperial College, London Accelerator Science;
STFC Daresbury Laboratory Accelerator Science
and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Accelerator Science
Further details on CONFORM.
The international EMMA collaboration includes members from: Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, USA , TRIUMF, Canada, LPSC, Grenoble, France , Brunel University, and UK CERN, Geneva.