Cost Saving Science
April 23, 2014

Cost Saving Science

One of the many goals that you have to think about when working on a project is how can you do it as inexpensively as possible. The same is true in the various fields of scientific research, as most facilities are only given so much funding and they must at times struggle to make that funding stretch as far as possible. Sure, a budget of millions of dollars might sound like a lot to us, but when you are trying to design a revolutionary new electron ion-collider, those millions will dry up really quickly. Unless you can find some way of cutting costs and making its construction more efficient. Fortunately for the Brookhaven Nation Laboratory, Stephen Brooks has done just that.

The Brookhaven Nation Laboratory is planning on building a new type of electron ion-collider that should help to secure the United State’s leadership in the field of nuclear matter for the next several decades. This new collider would produce extremely focused high-energy electron beams that can pierce through the core’s of RHIC’s counter-circulating protons or heavy ions so they can produce 3-D images of gluons, which are the particles that bind quarks within protons and neutrons, imparting visible matter with 99 percent of its mass. This new collider, as part of the cost-saving plan of its design, will be made by adding an electron accelerator to the current Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) complex rather than building a whole new facility to house it. While this alone will save a great deal of funding, the greater cost-saver is in its digitally created design.

Using software of his own design, Stephen Brooks has created a 3D virtual model of the proposed electron accelerator that not only lets him observe the model in great detail, but also test it out to see if it will work. While there are many codes already used that can track particles through accelerators, Brook’s code is far more interactive and able to incorporate far more complex accelerators. Just like in a sandbox-style video game, Brooks is able to navigate from a birds-eye view to extremely close up just with his mouse. The researchers are able to use this code to test individual components of the collider and to make sure they are all compatible with each other when they are all assembled. Also, knowing that this collider is going to be built in the RHIC tunnel, the program is able to incorporate physical considerations of the tunnel such as the concrete walls, that way they can be sure the new design will fit properly.

Another innovative feature of this program is the ability to vary any aspect of the accelerator in order to find out the best possible design they will need to achieve a particular objective. One such goal is to track and minimize the amount of synchrotron radiation that will be emitted by the electron beam. Synchrotron radiation is energy that flies off tangent to the changed particles’ path, much like droplets of water flying off of a wet towel that is being swung around in a circle, and it gradually depletes the beams energy. By ensuring that they minimize the radiation, they are able to get more out of their new collider for less.

There is a lot riding on this project, and so far things are looking good. I hope to hear more about this new collider once it is something more than a digital model, albeit a very impressive one.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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