Imagine a professional pie baker who stocks his kitchen with all the ingredients for great pies, makes his own crusts, stuffs them with delicious insides and sets them on baking sheets. But imagine that the baker has to travel a few hundred miles to get to an oven to bake the pies. Problems would arise quickly if the baker needed a pie immediately, or if something went wrong with a batch. “That’s no way to run a kitchen,” says Brookhaven National Laboratory accelerator physicist Ilan Ben-Zvi.
Ben-Zvi uses the pie baker metaphor to illustrate how frustrating it can be for accelerator scientists developing superconducting cavities, to have to send the cavities away for rigorous preparatory treatments before they can be used (although he notes that the treatments are actually much more complicated and costly than baking a pie). This is one primary reason why Brookhaven has invested in a new, private facility to treat the superconducting cavities within a few miles of the site. The new facility is top of the line, located almost next door, and shows the power of joining government and private industry.
“Basically we will have at our disposal a very modern and state of the art facility,” says Ben-Zvi, who is the associate chair for the Accelerator R&D in the Collider-Accelerator Department at Brookhaven. “When you build a cavity you really want to process it quickly and see if it works. If you have to send it to another laboratory, obviously the order from that lab will come first. Sometimes you have to go to the facility, sometimes more than once. And that can be very time consuming if you have to go far, and you have to spend the money to send people.”
The new facility is located at and run by the private company Advanced Energy Systems, Inc. (AES) of Medford, New York. Brookhaven contributed $2 million dollars to purchasing equipment for the facility, and AES received a $200,000 grant from the Empire State Development Corporation to do upgrade its own infrastructure.
From a press release from Brookhaven:
“This facility is the result of a unique public/private partnership meant to spur technology advances on Long Island,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Sam Aronson. “The collaboration — the first of its kind that Brookhaven Science Associates has undertaken — will help us reach our scientific goals while contributing to the growth of a local company.”
While Brookhaven’s accelerator R&D is quite extensive, Ben-Zvi says it would not yet justify paying full time technicians to operate its own cavity treatment facility. These accelerator cavities may undergo a variety of different chemical treatments and cleaning procedures, all of which require extensive upkeep. The AES facility allows Brookhaven scientists to have local, immediate service, but also allows AES to keep other clients to maintain costs.
Besides its regular R&D program, Brookhaven will soon be gearing up for a major upgrade to its Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC. The upgrade will require generating a large number of superconducting accelerator cavities. Ben-Zvi says Brookhaven invested in the facility both to meet its current needs and in anticipation of the increased work load during the RHIC upgrade.