Energy-saving magnets for particle accelerators

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UK engineers at the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Daresbury Laboratory in Cheshire have developed a new type of energy-saving magnet for the next generation of particle accelerators.

CERN physicists are already considering and planning for its next large scale research facility: the Compact Linear Collider – a 50km long accelerator which CERN hopes will reach record-breaking energies.

However, one of the key challenges faced when designing and building a next generation particle accelerator is energy consumption and the associated financial and environmental cost.

The flexible, tuneable electromagnets that are used to bend and focus the beam are said to require a considerable amount of energy to operate, unlike permanent, fixed magnets that do not need a power supply. There is also the cost of powering the necessary water cooling systems with chillers and pumps associated with tuneable magnets.

According to STFC, permanent magnets that are tuneable had not previously been developed with large scale production in mind but, commissioned by CERN, the laboratory has successfully designed, built and patented the Zero Power Tuneable Optics focusing magnets.

The ZEPTO magnet is a brand new type of permanent but tuneable energy saving quadrupole magnet that the company claims could power particle accelerators at a fraction of the energy cost, making it a viable consideration for CERN’s next large scale facility.

“CERN needed a new type of magnet that was permanent, adjustable, environmentally-friendly and almost free to run. It also needed to be easily up-scalable considering how many they’d need,” said Professor Jim Clarke, head of science division at STFC’s Accelerator Science and Technology Centre.

The STFC team believes the breakthrough has the potential to offer benefits in the construction of accelerators for healthcare applications such as particle therapy systems.