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Turkey plans an accelerator center

The proposed Turkish Accelerator Center will include a set of accelerators and storage rings that be used in various combinations.

Over the last ten years, Turkish physicists have been working diligently to build a national accelerator center, which would serve as a core science facility and offer increased opportunities for Turkish students. It would be the first accelerator facility in the country, and only the second in the Middle East.

After much planning, excitement is building over the construction of the first phase of the project, a testing and research facility called the Turkish Accelerator and Radiation Laboratory at Ankara, or TARLA for short. Scheduled to be completed in 2012, it will be an Infrared Free Electron Laser, capable of producing an intense laser beam of infrared light for research in a wide variety of sciences ranging from physics to chemistry to biology and medicine.

As the construction of TARLA gets underway, three Turkish physicists have been touring three US national laboratories--SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, and Argonne National Laboratory--to learn more about specific types of accelerator technology and experiments.

The visits represent more than simply a technical exchange. While at SLAC, the physicists raised the possibility of future collaborations.

"The main reason we are here is to be able to establish a collaboration between SLAC and our project so we can have an exchange of students and scientists," said Suat Ozkorucuklu, an experimental high-energy physicist from Suleyman Demirel University. "We are looking forward to having our students, young scientists, be trained and educated, and maybe work towards their degrees at SLAC."

TAC represents the second accelerator center in the Middle East. The first, SESAME, is a synchrotron light source, built in Jordan from recycled portions of accelerators from French, German, Swiss, UK, and US labs, including SLAC. Scientists from Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Palestine Authority, and Turkey all collaborate on the SESAME project, but Turkey has started to look at its national needs for an accelerator center. TAC would be a much larger facility built in Turkey's backyard, making the study of particle physics much more accessible. The center would also allow for great strides to be made in technology.

"Countries trying to develop and become a big country, they need these types of technologies," Ozkorucuklu said. He spent two days touring SLAC with Omar Yavas of Ankara University, the director of the TAC project, and Pervin Arikan of Gazi University. The three looked closely at the SPEAR storage ring and the experiments it can conduct as well as at the LCLS, an X-ray laser that will study structure and dynamics on a molecular scale.

The Turkish Accelerator Center was first proposed in 2000 by a group of scientists from Ankara and Gazi University. Nearly 100 scientists from 10 universities across Turkey are collaborating on its development with Ankara University, the future site of the project, at the helm.

The design plan for the TAC is to have a combination of an electron linear accelerator and a positron storage ring that could be used individually or as a unit for a wide range of experiments. This would be the second combination complex build in recent years; the Beijing Electron Positron Collider also combines a particle collider and an X-ray light source.

The physicists said that in the "big dream," TARLA would be followed by four more facilities at the site.

A charm factory would allow physicists to study particles containing charm and anticharm quarks, offering insight into the balance of matter and antimatter produced during the formation of our universe. A SASE FEL, or Self-Amplified Stimulated-Emission Free Electron Laser, would use radiated X-ray light traveling through a long undulator along with an electron beam to further amplify the laser light, similar to the production of the X-rays in LCLS at SLAC. A third generation light source would accelerate positrons around a ring to produce X-rays for experimentation. The final piece, the proton accelerator facility, would be used for neutron scattering experiments.

The light sources will be used for research in all areas of science, including engineering and industrial sciences, cancer therapies, materials science, semiconductor development, and biotechnological research.

Ozkorucuklu said that the developing center will not only advance Turkey's study of particle physics, but also other sciences and technologies: "We have to have this kind of physics to be able to go into other areas of research--material science, health, engineering, electronics, software systems, etc. Once you have a facility this big you have to develop new technologies and new processes to be able to run your machine and run your facility."

Construction on TARLA will start next month. In the meantime, the planning committee is writing a technical design report for the next steps. Once TARLA is up and running, the TAC committee will ask the Turkish government for funds to start building the next project.

Should the "big dream" come true, Ozkorucuklu said, all five projects could be completed in the next 25 years.

This research facility represents an important step forward for Turkey, Ozkorucuklu said. "All the developed countries around the world have this type of technology," he said, and acquiring this type of technology helps countries develop. Turkey recently applied for membership in the European Union and CERN, the European particle physics lab. The visiting physicists said they think having an accelerator facility will greatly help their applications to both organizations.

Ozkorucuklu said he envisions TAC as a place where "lots of people from all branches of science come together, so it becomes a center of excellence in science." He said the coordinators expect more than 100 scientists to use TARLA when it opens, with more likely in the future.

Once TARLA is completed, Turkey will be able to train students in accelerator research for the first time. "At this moment they have to go abroad to get this kind of knowledge," Ozkorucuklu said. "But if we can have it in Turkey, it will be easier for us and easier for them."

Turkey's timing could not be better. President Barack Obama recently expressed interest in improving science and technology in the Muslim world through outreach programs.

Tangible plans have yet to be made by the US government, but Turkish scientists may yet receive the additional resources and collaboration they seek to make their "big dreams" a reality.