Application of Next Generation Accelerators

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Physics


The innovative accelerator techniques which have been/are explored by the BT programmes linked to this bid lead to particle beams with unique characteristics. Two of the BT projects (ALPHA-X and LIBRA) have investigated particle beams accelerated by intense laser pulses. Laser-produced radiation beams have unique characteristics, not attainable using existing sources (i.e. accelerators or nuclear reactors). The small emission size and ultra-short duration of these sources lend enormous potential for high-resolution imaging. This is augmented by the fact that each laser shot produces a large number of particles or photons with high directionality making them intrinsically high-luminosity sources. By varying the irradiated sample, one can accelerate beams of electrons, protons, heavier ions using the same system. Huge advances of the BT programmes: ALPHA-X (controlled acceleration to 1 GeV, synchrotron source demonstration, gamma-ray source, high quality beam production, etc.), LIBRA (laser-based acceleration of ions, demonstration of new acceleration mechanisms, application of ions in radiobiology and plasma radiography) and BASROC (construction of the world's first non-scaling FFAG, design of a proton therapy accelerator based FFAGs, new possibilities for Accelerator Driven Subcritical Reactor (ADSR) systems, and systematic understanding of how cells react to ionising radiation). These new technologies are giving rise to new applications - and only the tip of the iceberg is evident. This is creating a strong growth in demand for highly trained scientists, both to contribute at a PDRA level and provide the permanent staff needed to advance applications of the sources. Furthermore, many commercial opportunities, in a competitive environment, are now being investigated, which will ultimately lead to a need for more trained scientists. The systems and techniques employed to accelerate particles are intimately connected with their applications. The accelerator designer must be aware of the application to effectively exploit the beams. Conversely, users also needs to know how the beams are produced. An optimal way of achieving this is to "embed" the user in the groups developing the technology. We propose to create a cohort of trained "embedded" experts in the application of accelerator beams, who are proficient in accelerator science and technology.

Planned Impact

We anticipate that the CDT initiative will have impact and relevance at several levels and on different timescales. Part of the impact is closely associated with the training aspect of the activity, while applied research will benefit directly from the PhD research programmes.
The primary beneficiaries of the CDT programme will be the cohort of Post Graduate Researchers (PGRs). They will receive advanced research training from experienced academics at state-of-the-art facilities, which will be coupled with an extensive personal development programme. This training will provide the necessary credentials and contacts to make them competitive in securing careers in academia, industry or government laboratories.
Employers will clearly benefit from a highly skilled workforce trained in a multidisciplinary environment. The immediate beneficiaries will be universities, industry, health services and government laboratories, but it is anticipated that the broad skills gained will also be desirable and transferable to a range of diverse career pathways.
In addition, the CDT will contribute to the quality of Undergraduate and Postgraduate teaching at the partner Universities, e.g. MSci and MSc students project work could be combined with some of the CDT research programmes, thus mutually enhancing the experience of students at the institutions.
The longer term, but potentially significant impact, is associated with the output of the research carried out by the students. Many of the projects will have a clear focus on biomedical applications. In this area, the potential for impact on society and quality of life is high. There is a large demand for improvement in cancer therapy in the UK. Particle therapy is currently seen as a possible route to improving treatment of certain types of cancer and therefore the quality of life of patients, particularly young children. Indeed, a limited number of proton therapy trial sites will be created over the next few years in the UK and the development of new treatment systems based on next generation accelerators may contribute to widespread diffusion of particle therapy, by reducing the costs and footprint of the required installations. Improved and more compact accelerators would also impact on diagnostic capabilities in hospitals, e.g. by allowing on-site production of isotopes for PET and other tracing techniques. Indeed, recently news reports in the media have identified an impending acute shortage of medical radioisotopes because of the imminent decommissioning of reactors.
Novel accelerator approaches will also have an important impact on the energy sector. They could provide the basis for or contribute to future approaches to safer and cleaner nuclear power production, either via fission (e.g. accelerator driven subcritical reactors) or fusion.
The technology being developed by the Consortium could also have an impact on ameliorating global insecurity, by contributing to new threat detection capabilities. The development of portable, high gradient accelerating systems would lead to applications in sensing fissile materials at long range or detecting heavily concealed or dense materials/explosives.
Industry is likely to gain from the development of more compact free-electron lasers and alternative sources for applications such as ion implantation and lithography. Furthermore, ultrashort pulses of laser-driven particle should allow real time investigation of materials subject to stimuli. An improved understanding of ion damage development
would be advantageous for implantation processes, material analysis in hostile environments (e.g. nuclear reactors) and spacecraft applications (including electronic component resilience). A compact X-ray free-electron laser based on laser plasma wakefield accelerators would have a major impact on the pharmaceuticals industry and health care because reduced cost would make them more widely available.


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