CERN Accelerating science

 EuCARD-2 achievements and prospects
 by Panos Charitos (CERN)

Some EuCARD-2 results in numbers, showing the impact on European science and society.
(Image credit: EuCARD-2 collaboration) 

Accelerators are our only key to accessing the subatomic world, concentrating huge amounts of energy in tiny particle beams that penetrate deeply into the matter revealing new structures and physics phenomena. By converting energy into matter following Einstein’s famous formula (E=mc2) they can produce new  types of matter that may have existed just after the Big Bang, when our Universe was too hot and dense. Moreover, some accelerators can inspect molecular and atomic structures, thus finding many applications outside fundamental research, from material science to medical diagnostics and treatment. 

To exploit the potential that particle accelerators can offer in different fields, inside and outside of particle physics, crucial technological advancements are needed. Future accelerators should be more compact, more sustainable and more affordable; these developments could endure their use for particle physics and unlock their huge transformative potential in other fields. Improving the present and future European accelerator-based Research Infrastructures was the main goal of EuCARD-2, the FP7 Integrating Activity project just completed after 4 years full of events and successful accomplishments. Maurizio Vretenar, the EuCARD-2 Project Coordinator, explains: “In exploring societal applications we tried to capitalise on our competences in scientific accelerators, at the same time identifying areas where the impact of accelerators could be the highest”.

EuCARD-2 focused on improving the performance of existing and future accelerators with the goal of making them more compact, economic and energy efficient. On top of that, new applications of accelerators were analysed by EuCARD-2 in collaboration with industry. Accelerator produced isotopes can open new perspectives in medical imaging and in fighting cancer, giving an important contribution to the new generation of personalised cancer therapies. In the environmental field, the treatment with particle accelerators of flue gases from coal plants or of exhaust gases from e.g. large marine engines will reduce the rejection of sulphur and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, thus improving the quality of air. The diffusion of industrial processes based on accelerators, like material analysis, inspection, treatment of plastics and ion implantation will increase competitiveness for European industry, resulting in job creation and economic growth.

EuCARD-2 also studied ways to maximise the energy efficiency of accelerator facilities, contributed to the development of new schemes for frontier accelerators and in coordinating the plasma accelerator community in Europe, which resulted in the EuPRAXIA Design Study. 

Key scientific achievements of EuCARD-2 include the selection of the conductor, the cable geometry and magnet design for High Temperature superconductors for accelerator magnets that can be used in future colliders, aiming to  push further the energy and intensity frontiers: a world record current density of 1338 A/mm2 was reached in an YBCO tape. EuCARD-2 produced and tested novel collimation materials that will be used for the High Luminosity upgrade of the LHC. Finally, it played a pivotal role in the demonstration of high-brightness electron beams for laser plasma accelerators and contributed to the initial success of the AWAKE plasma-driven experiment at CERN. 

Participants of the final Annual Meeting on 28-30 March 2017, hosted by the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (Image credit: EuCARD-2 collaboration) 

EuCARD-2 brought together 40 European universities, accelerator laboratories and technological institutes on a programme structured in 13 Work Packages. With clear objectives in mind, the EuCARD-2 team focused on obtaining results of direct benefit to both European science and European citizens. Vretenar explains: “We focused in structuring and supporting the existing accelerator community, contributing to the development of new ideas and technologies for the future accelerators for science, and to transferring these technologies to accelerators that could impact our everyday life.

Reaching these goals called for the formation of a well-balanced international network of partners including research centres, universities and the industry. Modern scientific projects require collaboration and one of the key challenges of EuCARD-2 was to build across Europe a strong network of experts and young researchers who would share the same goal and remain motivated during this project. By promoting complementary expertise, cross-disciplinary fertilisation and a wider sharing of knowledge and technologies on strategic topics, EuCARD-2 succeeded in enhancing multidisciplinary R&D for European accelerators and prepared the ground for other EU funded accelerator projects.

Successful collaboration doesn’t come without problems and the coordination team of EuCARD-2 often had to tackle delicate technical problems. “Research is unforeseeable by definition and delays in the production of prototypes, unavailability of key people, unavailability of testing equipment forced us to change many times the schedule and to look for alternative solutions to keep our work plan and our engagements. Most of the times, the solutions consisted in a redistribution of the work among the partners that was possible only thanks to the good team spirit and to our culture of collaboration and exchange.

As Vretenar points out, “There is a brave new world of applications in front of us, with many opportunities to exploit, but as well, many challenges to face in promoting scientific innovation in our complex European society”. EuCARD-2 has identified a number of promising technologies that could be exploited to improve European science and to address our societal challenges, such as providing better medicine for an aging population, reducing the environmental impact related to high living standards, and increasing technological content and competitiveness of industry. Some of these steps are part of the successor to EuCARD-2, the new ARIES (Accelerator Research and Innovation for European Science and Society) project that will continue the exploratory work of EuCARD-2, but at the same time will push forward selected key technologies in collaboration with industry.   


More information on the EuCARD-2 results can be found in the Final Project Report