To better understand the fundamental laws of nature, researchers worldwide utilize particle accelerators to explore high-energy interactions at the atomic level. By propelling high-velocity beams of protons, neutrons or electrons toward their targets, these instruments are capable of shattering the nucleus of an atom to reveal its subatomic structure—the very particles that make up matter.
One University of Houston researcher is working to increase the speed at which particles spin inside these accelerators in order to improve energy efficiency and drive down cost. Ultimately, this will make the tool more widely available for research.
“If we can spin the particles close to their theoretical limit, we can bring this expensive technology one step closer to widespread use," said Stanko Brankovic, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Our work should support a more efficient accelerator design to help increase particle speed to near the speed of light.”
Brankovic will work to improve the performance and design of these instruments by exploring the effect that electropolishing—a state-of-the-art process utilized to smooth metallic interfaces—will have on the interior of the accelerator.
With a two-year, $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Jefferson Laboratory, he will be developing a model to predict how the surface of a rare superconductive metal called niobium smoothes during this polishing process.
“We hope our simulation result will enable our research collaborators to confidently pursue new methods of constructing the accelerators with much more efficient performance," said Brankovic, who notes that refining the instrument could lead to more productive medical research.