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Fermilab sets world record for particle beam

Results announced Wednesday

Published: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 6:14 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 8, 2015 10:16 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Scientists, engineers and technicians at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia on Wednesday announced Fermilab has achieved a world record for high-energy neutrino experiments: a sustained 521-kilowatt beam generated by the Main Injector particle accelerator.

BATAVIA – Scientists on Wednesday announced the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia has set a world record for the most powerful high-energy particle beam for neutrino experiments.

According to a news release from Fermilab, the laboratory achieved a sustained 521-kilowatt beam generated by its Main Injector particle accelerator. More than 1,000 physicists from around the world will use this high-intensity beam to more closely study neutrinos and fleeting particles called muons, both fundamental building blocks of our universe, the release states.

The record beam power surpasses that of the 400-plus-kilowatt beam sent to neutrino experiments from particle accelerators at CERN in Switzerland, according to the release.

“We have the world’s highest-power beam for neutrinos, and we’re only going up from here,” Ioanis Kourbanis, head of Fermilab’s Main Injector Department, stated in the release.

Laboratory-made neutrino experiments start by accelerating a beam of particles, typically protons, and then smashing them into a target to create neutrinos, according to the release. Scientists then use particle detectors to “catch” as many of those neutrinos as possible and record their interactions.

The amped-up particle beam provided by the Main Injector enriches the lab’s neutrino supply, positioning Fermilab to become the primary laboratory for accelerator-based neutrino research, according to the release. Neutrinos also are made in stars and in the Earth’s core, and they pass through everything – people and planets alike.

“The idea is that if you build a more intense beam, neutrino scientists from around the world will beat a path to your door,” Fermilab Deputy Director Joe Lykken stated in the release. “This is exactly what’s happening.”

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