Can we make the particle collider more energy efficient?

Can we make the particle collider more energy efficient?

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Prototype section of the proposed Cool Cooper Collider beam tunnel. Image source: Emilio Nanni/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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Prototype section of the proposed Cool Cooper Collider beam tunnel. Image source: Emilio Nanni/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Since the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, physicists have wanted to build new particle colliders to better understand the properties of this elusive particle and explore elementary particle physics at higher energy scales than ever before.

The trick is that doing so requires a lot of energy. A typical collider requires hundreds of megawatts – the equivalent of tens of millions of modern light bulbs – to operate. That’s not to mention the energy needed to build the devices, all of which adds up to one thing: a lot of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Now, researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have thought about how to advance one proposal, the Cold Copper (C) Collider.3), more energy efficient.

To understand how to do this, they took into account three key aspects that apply to any accelerator design: how scientists would power the collider, how the collider itself would be built in the first place, and even where the collider would be built — which turns out to have a significant, if indirect, influence. , on the overall carbon footprint of the project.

“When discussing big science, it is now necessary to think not only in terms of financial costs, but also environmental impact,” said Caterina Vernieri, an assistant professor at SLAC and one of the co-authors of the new paper, published in the journal SLAC. PRX Energy.

Emilio Nanni, an assistant professor at SLAC and another co-author, agreed. “As scientists, we all hope to inspire the public and future generations, not only through our discoveries, but also through our actions,” Nanni said. “This requires that we take into account the potential scientific impact and overall impact on our society.” Making the facilities more sustainable will help achieve both goals, he said.

A large number of options

C3 It is one of a number of different proposals for a next-generation accelerator capable of probing the Higgs and beyond, although they all follow one of two basic designs: linear accelerators, such as C3 The proposed International Linear Collider, synchrotrons, or future circular accelerators, such as the Future Ring Collider or the Ring Electron Positron Collider.

Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Notably, synchrotrons can recycle particle beams, which means they can collect data across many loops. However, it has reached its limit, because charged particles such as protons and electrons lose energy when their paths bend into a circle, resulting in increased energy consumption. Linear accelerators do not suffer from the problem of energy loss, which allows them to have higher power and opens the possibility for new measurements, but they only use the beam once and to achieve higher data rates they need to work with intense beams.

C3 It aims to solve the length-versus-power limitations of most linear accelerators with a new design, including more precisely designed electromagnetic fields fed into the accelerator at more points as well as a new cryogenic cooling system. The project also aims to use more interchangeable parts and a construction approach that could significantly reduce costs, ultimately creating a small, relatively low-cost collider — only about five miles long — that can nonetheless explore the extreme limits of particle physics.

Make big physics more sustainable

However, Proposition C3 It would require a lot of resources to build and operate the collider, so its proponents have addressed a growing concern by taking the carbon footprint of major physics projects into account, starting with how the accelerator itself is powered.

Historically, physicists have not cared much about how accelerators operate, at least in terms of energy efficiency. However, the SLAC and Stanford team found that subtle changes, such as changing the structure of the particle beam and making improvements in the operation of klystrons, which create the electromagnetic fields that drive the beam, can make a difference. Combined, these improvements could cut C3Iran’s energy needs range from about 150 megawatts to 77 megawatts, or nearly half. “I would be happy with 50% of that,” Vernieri said.

On the other hand, the team found that construction itself is likely responsible for the bulk of C’s carbon footprint3– Especially as the world shifts to using more renewable energy. Researchers point out that using different materials, such as different forms of concrete, in addition to paying attention to how materials are manufactured and transported, can help reduce the impact of global warming. C3 The project is also much smaller than other acceleration proposals – just eight kilometers long – which would reduce overall material use and allow builders to choose locations that could simplify and speed up the construction process.

The researchers also looked at the whereabouts of C3 The location of the project will be determined, as that could impact the mix of fossil fuels versus renewable energy that powers the collider, or potentially build a dedicated solar farm that would cover the accelerator’s needs, along with an energy storage system.

How do collisions accumulate?

Finally, the SLAC-Stanford team looked at how C3 It can be compared with other future collider proposals, as well as how linear and circular colliders compare, when each collider makes similar measurements.

Based on their analysis and similar sustainability studies of other accelerators, the team found that construction is likely to be the main driver of a project’s carbon footprint, but ring colliders capable of achieving similar physics goals will generally have higher construction-related emissions. Likewise, shorter accelerators such as C3 Another proposal, a compact linear collider, would have a lower global warming potential than longer proposals.

“It’s a very new field,” Vernieri said of studying the sustainability of physics projects, but it’s essential. “There is at least a whole new debate that raises the question of the carbon footprint of particle physics.”

more information:
Martin Breidenbach et al., Sustainability Strategy for the Cold Copper Collider, PRX Energy (2023). doi: 10.1103/PRXEnergy.2.047001

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