Cockcroft Institute

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Physics


Science has underpinned human progress for centuries. It has improved our quality of life and helps us understand our place in the Universe. The days when important breakthroughs could be achieved by a researcher working alone in a laboratory with minimal equipment are long gone. Now, the most important insights in science demand that researchers work in teams, collaborating between universities and laboratories and across national boundaries, often hand-in-hand with expert industrial partners. They also demand the best and most sophisticated equipment.

The Cockcroft Institute reflects these changes. Its purpose is to research, design and develop particle accelerators, machines that can be used to reveal the nature of matter, to probe what happened at the instant the universe was born and to develop new materials and medicines to improve our quality of life. These machines are at the cutting-edge of technology, pushing to the limits our ability to control and understand processes happening at the smallest scales, and at the speed of light. They range from very small instruments built to manipulate a difficult process to large sources of particles to create and probe the innermost workings of atoms. The global economy can afford only a few of these latter machines and so they demand collaboration between multi-national teams of the world's best scientists and engineers.

The Cockcroft Institute - a collaboration between academia, national laboratories, industry and local economy - brings together the best accelerator scientists, engineers, educators and industrialists to conceive, design, construct and use innovative instruments of discovery at all scales and lead the UK's participation in flagship international experiments. It cultures the curiosity of emerging minds via education of the future generation and engages with industrial partners to generate wealth for the community that sustains us.

Established more than a decade ago, the Cockcroft Institute is increasingly focusing its attention on three parallel and complementary activities:
- Contributions to near future scientific frontier facilities based on incremental advances to conventional accelerating technologies
- Ground-breaking research in novel methods of particle acceleration which have the long term potential to yield much more compact types of particle accelerators
- Applications of accelerators to address global challenges in healthcare, security, energy, manufacturing and the environment.

Planned Impact

1. Specific benefits to future STFC projects
The Cockcroft Institute (CI) strategy aims to develop fundamental, world-leading expertise in core areas, with direct and indirect benefit to the UK programme and international field. The resulting skill base will underpin the STFC programme in many areas by providing core accelerator expertise and enabling technology.

The core institute competence in frontier machines will have a large impact on the upgrade of STFC collider facilities such as the LHC (e.g the CI initiated and led HL-LHC-UK, 2016-2020), through the delivery of hardware and knowledge. The core institute competence in medical and security accelerators directly addresses the RCUK and STFC thematic agenda. The work in accelerator R&D for medical applications has several potential impacts on diverse communities, notably in the healthcare sector where two UK-based (Manchester, London) hadron therapy centres are being constructed. The third core institute competence in novel acceleration aims to position the institute as internationally competitive in several novel acceleration areas, and world leading in some.

2. UK Healthcare and Industrial Involvement
The CI program has the potential to create impact on an academic, societal and economic level as well as contributing to the training and career advancement of future research leaders in accelerator science and technology. The CI, working in close collaboration with the Christie Hospital, will develop a research beamline currently under construction at their proton therapy centre; this will be a unique facility for both biomedical and accelerator research.

Regarding industrial applications, CI experience in high gradient linacs has enabled novel linacs to be developed for cargo screening and proton therapy/imaging. This has resulted in a collaboration with Rapiscan and e2v, and the development of an industrial linac at Daresbury to be used for other industrial applications such as looking at e-beam treatment of contaminated water. Two CI researchers Alexandrova and Yin were awarded Royal Society of Edinburgh/STFC Enterprise Fellowships, leading to creation of the company D-Beam in December 2015 to provide advanced beam diagnostics. Yin in 2016 is in the process of forming a spin out company THz Power Ltd to commercially exploit millimeter and sub-millimeter source technology.

3. Improving career prospects and training
To date the CI has trained 49 PhD students in accelerator science and technology (not including Strathclyde students). These students have moved into a wide range of positions with 20% working in industry and 37% working in national laboratories. We believe the broad education offered by the CI covering both physics and engineering of accelerators, as well as transferable skills provides our students with a good grounding to thrive outside of academia.

4. Outreach and Communication Activities
We will develop an impact case for Accelerator Science Outreach that uses CI R&D to educate a variety of target audiences outside of the accelerator community. CI is communication led in a number of highly visible accelerator projects and with dedicated support of the Project TEAM at the CI we will pursue an international communication strategy and hold a number of large scale outreach events. Researchers and students from across CI will help communicate Institute activities to different target audiences as identified in the Institute's wider communication plan. All CI PhD students will be trained as STEM Ambassadors and engage with school children via visits to (at least) two local colleges or high schools each and talk about their own experiences and research. The CI will host an annual Outreach Symposium in a large venue, such as the Liverpool Convention Centre, as a scientific outreach event to showcase specific accelerator research areas to a wide audience.


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