EuPRAXIA: A revolutionary particle accelerator in Europe
What if particle accelerators can be made smaller, cheaper, and, therefore, widely available?
Since their first inception in the early 30s, particle accelerators have revolutionised fundamental science and found numerous pivotal practical applications. Radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, and CT scans are just a few examples of their importance in our everyday life. Recently, they have also hit the news for the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson, one of the elusive particles predicted by the Standard Model.
However, accelerators tend to be bulky, hard to handle, and, ultimately, very expensive. New technologies are sorely needed in order to bring these machines into the next stage of becoming agile and widespread systems: just imagine having an accelerator in each hospital or industrial estate. This is the reason why, in 2015, an international consortium of 41 institutions was created with the objective of designing a new European plasma accelerator infrastructure. The EU-funded project, EuPRAXIA, will produce the first accelerator for users based on novel technology: plasmas. This will result in a compact and cheaper machine that, for instance, could comfortably fit in the car-park of a medium-sized hospital.
UK institutions are central members of the collaboration, with leadership roles in several key aspects of the project. As an example, the group of Dr. Gianluca Sarri at Queen’s University Belfast is responsible for the delivery and operations of several end-stations for the use of the accelerator in material science, industrial applications, and fundamental physics.
After years of hard work, the EuPRAXIA consortium has reached its first important milestone: the submission of a detailed Conceptual Design Report (CDR) to the European Commission. The EuPRAXIA CDR is now also publicly available with its publication in the European Physical Journal Special Topics. The 600 page long document provides a detailed description of the EuPRAXIA infrastructure, including the simulations that underpin the design. The report also contains a thorough analysis of the opportunities of EuPRAXIA for innovation, and the preliminary models for project implementation, cost and schedule that would allow operation of the full EuPRAXIA facility within 8 – 10 years.
The EuPRAXIA consortium has now signed an agreement for the next phase of the project with 40 member institutes and 10 observers from 15 countries. In parallel, EuPRAXIA has applied to the ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures) roadmap to set the basis for its construction. The project is presently under ESFRI review for a decision in late Spring or Summer 2021.
The report can be found in: https://doi.org/10.1140/epjst/e2020-000127-8