ONE of the world’s largest technology projects is under construction in Sweden, and scientists at the University of Huddersfield are responsible for ensuring that the enormous particle accelerator known as the European Spallation Source (ESS) will receive the power it needs.
Fifteen European nations are collaborating on the ESS, which is sited at Lund in Sweden. Building work began in 2014, after a near 20-year campaign to make the case for a new and ultra-powerful neutron source that would enable thousands of scientists to carry out atomic-level investigations of materials.
It is expected that the ESS will be in full use by 2023 and findings by researchers could lead to breakthroughs in fields such as drug development, plastics, batteries, engines, proteins and nanotechnology.
The UK has signed up to provide 10 per cent of the 1.8 billion euro cost of developing the ESS, with a large proportion of national contributions being made on an “in kind” basis by teams of technologists and scientists.
The University of Huddersfield’s International Institute of Accelerator Applications (IIAA), in tandem with the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory, has been contracted to provide the ESS with its Radio Frequency (RF) distribution system, which delivers power to the particle accelerator.
This will require the construction and installation of almost four kilometres of waveguides, in the form of aluminium tubes, and a large number of other devices. The mechanical engineering will be handled by Daresbury, while Professor Rob Edgecock of the University of Huddersfield’s IIAA heads the other aspect of the work package – ensuring that the RF power is efficiently and safely delivered to the accelerator.
It is a demanding project because the amount of power required is very high, he said. “And if you design the system incorrectly it is possible that you will get big reflections of RF power back to the power source, which will damage it, alongside other expensive equipment that is part of this system.”
So although Professor Edgecock and his colleagues will not be carrying out the actual installation of the RF system, they will pay frequent visits to Lund in order to ensure that it is correctly installed and test the equipment.
The work package – valued at £20 million – is scheduled to last until 2020 and a research fellow is shortly to be appointed, joining PhD student Norman Turner on the RF project.
Professor Edgecock is a long-time advocate of the European Spallation Source and is convinced that it will yield major benefits.
“The neutrons produced will be used for looking at the composition and structure of nuclei. The ESS is going to produce a much higher intensity of neutrons, so it will be possible to carry out these studies in more detail and get a much better image of the structure of the materials,” he explained.
“This will lead to a better understanding of how they work at the molecular and atomic scale and will allow development of newer, cleverer materials for a wide range of different applications.”