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TUT and CERN collaborate in development of particle accelerators of the future

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, coordinates a large international project that aims to develop a particle accelerator for the next generation. TUT researchers are involved in developing and designing quench protection for the accelerator’s magnets.
Cross section of a dipole magnet in the LHC tunnel. The magnet contains two vacuum tubes for particle beams going in opposite directions. (Photo: CERN)
Cross section of a dipole magnet in the LHC tunnel. The magnet contains two vacuum tubes for particle beams going in opposite directions. (Photo: CERN)

In the future, researchers will be able to delve deeper into the mysteries of natural laws, dark matter, and other unanswered questions of the universe with the help of a new particle accelerator. The new particle accelerator in development is more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) currently operating at CERN.

The accelerator’s technology requires powerful superconducting magnets used to direct beams of particles on a circular track. The researchers in the TUT’s “Modelling and Superconductivity” group take part in the developing and designing of quench protection for the magnets. TUT has been involved in the Future Circular Collider (FCC) project since it first started in 2015. The additional project that starts now has allowed them to hire a new researcher into the team.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is a 27-kilometre long circular particle accelerator where particles collide into one another creating large energy densities concentrated in extremely small locations.

“The LHC is working wonderfully. Its most important goal was met when the Higgs boson, a particle predicted by the Standard Model, was experimentally observed in 2012. Thanks to this discovery, the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs, the developers of the theory that predicts this fundamental particle. The Future Circular Collider, which is the working title of the new particle accelerator currently in development, is estimated to replace the LHC in about 30 years. The FCC will enable us to take the research of particle physics to a whole new level,” says Academy of Finland’s post-doctoral researcher Tiina Salmi, one of TUT’s researchers involved in the project.

The collision energies in FCC’s 100-kilometre long accelerator would be many times larger than those of the current particle accelerator. Collision energy, measured in tera-electronvolts (TeV), is the energy carried by two particles, such as protons, as they collide at near light speed. When the particles collide, the structure of the protons breaks down and releases energy.

“Physicists are interested in what is formed from this released energy. These conditions are very near to those during the Big Bang. The more tera-electronvolts there is, the more there is to study,” Salmi says.

Quench protection is crucial

One of the most important elements in the Future Circular Collider are the powerful superconducting magnets that direct the particle streams inside the particle accelerator. A critical aspect of the design of these magnets is how they are protected against quench, which is intense heat resulting from sudden disturbances in the state of superconductivity. TUT researchers play a crucial role in designing quench protection for the magnets.

In addition to Tiina Salmi, Doctor Antti Stenvall is another TUT researcher involved in designing the FCC’s quench protection. Together they have studied magnet protection and given the designers of the magnets directions on how the new magnets could be best protected. The goal of the new project is to analyze the efficiencies of different quench protection system  in tested prototype magnets, produce new methods for more efficient analysis of test results, and ensure that the quench protection is being developed in the best possible manner.  This work is conducted using magnets developed for improving the efficiency of the LHC. TUT researchers have helped develop the quench protection for those magnets, as well.

“This increase in collaboration is a great sign of trust, which is very motivating for a researcher. We have worked together for years developing protection for superconducting magnets, and this project enables us to develop our group and expertise even further. We were happy to welcome Doctor Timo Tarhasaari into our research group for this project, and I’m eagerly awaiting good results this spring,” Tiina Salmi says.

Further information: Post-Doctoral Researcher Tiina Salmi, tel. +358 40 8490415, tiina.salmi@tut.fi

News submitted by: Riku Haapaniemi
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