mercredi 20 septembre 2017

Superconductors boost acceleration

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

September 20, 2017

Image above: The new superconducting crab cavities being assembled at CERN. These cavities will be used in the future High-Luminosity LHC to tilt the particle bunches before they collide. (Image: Jules Ordan/CERN).

Thanks to their amazing properties, superconductors have become a vital ally of particle physics. As well as using superconducting magnets to steer particles in the right direction, accelerators use superconducting cavities to accelerate them. During the EUCAS 2017 conference on superconductors and their applications, which is taking place this week in Geneva, many presentations are being made on this subject.

A radiofrequency accelerating cavity is basically a metal chamber in which electromagnetic waves generate an electrical field. As particles pass through the chamber, they receive an electrical impulse. Compared to traditional copper cavities, superconducting cavities generate very strong electrical fields. Those in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), for example, generate an electrical field of 5 million volts per metre.

The first work on superconducting cavities for particle physics began in the 1960s. But it was not until the 1980s that they were actually used in an accelerator, an electron collider at Cornell University in the United States. Meanwhile, the designers working on the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP) at CERN were investigating the technology as a way of doubling the energy level of their machine. The 27-kilometre ring was fitted out with 280 such cavities, allowing the LEP to exceed 200 GeV in the 1990s. The LHC is equipped with similar cavities. The brand new XFEL synchrotron at the DESY laboratory in Germany is made up of no fewer than 800 accelerating cavities, which rely heavily on the work carried out in the 1990s by the TESLA collaboration.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Animation Credit: CERN

Today, the development of new superconducting cavities continues, particularly at CERN, where so-called “crab cavities” are under development to tilt particle bunches before they collide in the High-Luminosity LHC. These cavities will help to maximise overlapping of the beams in order to increase the probability of collisions each time they meet, otherwise known as luminosity. At Fermilab, the Cornell Laboratory and SLAC in the United States, new coatings are also being studied to improve performance even further.

This text is based on the article entitled “Souped up RF”, which appeared in the September issue of the CERN Courier:


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.

Related links:

Superconducting cavities:

EUCAS 2017:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP):

The brand new XFEL synchrotron:

DESY laboratory:

High-Luminosity LHC:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Corinne Pralavorio.


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