Physicists love to smash particles together and study the resulting chaos. Therein lies the discovery of new particles and strange physics, generated for tiny fractions of a second and recreating conditions often not seen in our universe for billions of years. But for the magic to happen, two beams of particles must first collide.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have announced the first successful demonstration of a new technique that improves particle beams. This demonstration could be used in future particle accelerators to potentially use the method to create better, denser particle beams, increasing the number of collisions and giving researchers a better chance to explore rare physics phenomena that help us understand our universe. The team published its findings in a recent edition of Nature.
At Fermilab, scientists used the lab's newest storage ring, the Integrable Optics Test Accelerator, known as IOTA, to demonstrate and explore a new kind of beam cooling technology with the potential to dramatically speed up that cooling process.
The new technique is called optical stochastic cooling and this cooling system measures how particles in a beam move away from their ideal course using a special configuration of magnets, lenses and other optics to give corrective nudges.
"It's exciting because this is the first cooling technique demonstrated in the optical regime, and this experiment let us study the most the essential physics of the cooling process," Jarvis said. "We've already learned a lot, and now we can add another layer to the experiment that brings us significantly closer to real applications."
With the initial experiment completed, the science team is developing an improved system at IOTA that will be the key to advancing the technology. It will use an optical amplifier to strengthen the light from each particle by about a factor of 1,000 and apply machine learning to add flexibility to the system.
"Ultimately, we'll explore a variety of ways to apply this new technique in particle colliders and beyond," Jarvis said. "We think it's very cool."
Read the full story about IOTA's recent result: First demonstration of a new particle beam technology at Fermilab