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Fermilab moving ahead with new accelerator project

BATAVIA – Fermilab has started work on a new facility that scientists there believe is critical to the next generation of particle accelerators.

“Our future is going to involve accelerators that use superconducting radio-frequency technology,” said Jay Theilacker of Fermilab’s Accelerator Division. “Building this new SRF test facility is an important step forward.”

Fermilab officials on Tuesday gave media tours of the facility that is expected to be done by the fall of 2011. The laboratory has started phase II of the new facility, which will occupy three buildings and host a 460-foot-long test accelerator.

The project is also one of the bigger construction projects in the area, employing about 200 Chicago-area tradespeople from companies in Batavia, St. Charles, Aurora, Naperville and elsewhere.

“This is a good time for the project,” said Keith Wiederhold, project manger for Barton Malow, the project’s contractor. “Pretty much everything in the private sector has dried up.”

Fermilab is using $52.7 million in federal stimulus funds to advance its Superconducting Radio-Frequency research and development program, which includes the construction of the SRF Accelerator Test Facility.

“Prior to the stimulus money coming through, the project had slowed down quite a bit,” said Fermilab project engineer Jerry Leibfritz. “This has gotten really exciting in the last year and a half because of the stimulus funding.”

The first phase of the project began in March 2010 with the $2.8 million expansion of an existing building. For phase II, the laboratory has awarded a $4.2 million contract for the construction of two new buildings.

In addition, stimulus funds will go toward equipment and infrastructure needed for the building’s operation. Fermilab will use the facility to test superconducting radio-frequency components and validate the manufacturing capability of vendors from U.S. industry.

Fermilab plans to use the facility to test cryomodules designed for two proposed future particle accelerators: Project X, which would be built at Fermilab, and the International Linear Collider, which could become the world’s next high-energy collider, designed and built through an international effort.

The laboratory’s current flagship accelerator, the Tevatron, is scheduled to retire after 2011. It does not use SRF technology.

Project X will delve into the mystery of how matter came to dominate antimatter in the universe, allowing for the existence of all solid objects.

The facility will be the first of its kind in the United States. Scientists will also use the particle beam generated by the test accelerator to develop and design better instruments and advanced accelerator technology, which have applications in many fields, including medicine and industry.

“It could be used for cancer research, or for treating waste water,” said Fermilab scientist Bob Kephart.

“We’re excited when our technology gets used for other things.”

Kephart said the new project will keep Fermilab a cutting-edge facility.

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