From FNAL: “50 years of discoveries and innovations: Fermilab is first to scale up electron cooling for antiproton beams”

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FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

May 3, 2017

This year Fermilab celebrates a half-century of groundbreaking accomplishments. In recognition of the lab’s 50th birthday, we will post (in no particular order) a different innovation or discovery from Fermilab’s history every day between April 27 and June 15, the date in 1967 that the lab’s employees first came to work.

The list covers important particle physics measurements, advances in accelerator science, astrophysics discoveries, theoretical physics papers, game-changing computing developments and more. While the list of 50 showcases only a small fraction of the lab’s impressive resume, it nevertheless captures the breadth of the lab’s work over the decades, and it reminds us of the remarkable feats of ingenuity, engineering and technology we are capable of when we work together to do great science.

7. Fermilab is first to scale up electron cooling for antiproton beams

In 2005, Fermilab was the first to scale up a technology known as electron cooling to adapt it for relativistic high-energy antiproton beams. The implementation of the cooling in Fermilab’s Recycler ring by a team led by Sergei Nagaitsev helped increase the rate of particle interactions in the Tevatron collider by a factor of three. Nagaitsev earned a U.S. Particle Accelerator School Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology for the innovation.


6. Fermilab physicist proposes looking for gravitational waves by detecting B-mode polarization

In 1996 Fermilab astrophysicist Albert Stebbins, along with scientists Marc Kamionkowski and Arthur Kosowsky, proposed a way to look for signals of gravitational waves in the cosmic microwave background: by detecting something called B-mode polarization.


It would present itself as a distinct pattern in the sky. These very faint signals, “curls” of light from the early universe, could provide evidence of the theory of inflation, which says that the universe underwent a rapid expansion soon after the Big Bang. The BICEP2 experiment later detected B-mode polarization, in 2014, but their signal was likely sourced by astrophysical foregrounds. Upcoming experiments are aiming to detect the primordial signal.


5. Fermilab produces a single top quark

Only one in 20 billion proton-antiproton collisions produces a single top quark instead of much more common pairs. The extremely rare process was discovered at Fermilab in 2009 — 14 years nearly to the day after Fermilab discovered the top quark — and produced some of the world’s most sophisticated data analysis methods in the process.


4. Fermilab develops QIE microelectronics for improved data analysis

Transforming the complex signals that detectors produce from particle collisions into digital data requires sophisticated electronics. Performing this task at the heart of many physics labs worldwide, including the CMS detector at the Large Hadron Collider, are devices called QIEs. Smaller than a penny, these integrated circuits, designed and improved upon at Fermilab, combine data from analog signals into a form researchers can analyze with excellent resolution.




CERN LHC particles


3. Tevatron sets world energy record (again, and again)

At 3:37 p.m. on July 3, 1983, the Tevatron claimed the world energy record by operating its particle beam at 512 GeV. Fermilab held the honor until 2009, beating its own record time and again eventually achieving its namesake energy level, 1 TeV. Scientist Helen Edwards, one of the Tevatron’s architects, was awarded the National Medal of Technology and the APS Robert R. Wilson Prize for her work on the collider.


2. Dark Energy Camera opens its modern eye to ancient light

Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight now finds its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the Dark Energy Camera, the world’s most powerful camera and mirror system, captured it for the first time on September 12, 2012. That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics – why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. The 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera was constructed at Fermilab with the partnership of 26 research institutions and more than one hundred companies.


1. Fermilab DONUT experiment discovers tau neutrino

On July 21, 2000, Fermilab announced the first direct evidence for a particle called the tau neutrino, the third kind of neutrino known to particle physicists. It had been hypothesized but never directly observed until the 2000 discovery, which was made by the DONUT (Direct Observation of the Nu Tau) experiment at Fermilab. The other two types, the electron neutrino and the muon neutrino, had been discovered in 1956 and 1962, respectively.


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Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.