A US-based particle collider will benefit from UK-built technology

This international collaboration on the new and exciting PIP-II particle accelerator will investigate the unknown aspects of the Universe


This new complex of buildings, located near Fermilab’s Wilson Hall, will host the 200-metre (700-feet)-long PIP-II particle accelerator, the new heart of the Fermilab accelerator complex. Image credit: Fermilab

A major new physics facility near Chicago, United States, is expected to have United Kingdom technology at its heart, and lead to significant spin-off opportunities for UK companies.

The new PIP-II particle accelerator at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) will power the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which aims to address key questions about the origins and structure of the universe. The UK has committed £65 million ($86 million) investment to help build and operate DUNE, PIP-II and technology for the neutrino beam.    

British Consul-General for Chicago, John Saville, represented the UK Government at the PIP-II ground-breaking event at Fermilab today, which was also attended by members of the US Congress and Government.

Mr Saville says, “The UK is proud to be a strategic partner in PIP-II through our provision of key accelerator components. The scale of PIP-II reflects the scale of our commitment to promoting scientific discovery and the benefits of innovation that flow from this. We are excited to work with our US and global partners in pursuit of these mutual goals.”

In a cleanroom at Fermilab, a technician works on a string of superconducting 325-MHz spoke resonator cavities for the PIP-II particle accelerator. Image credit: Fermilab

Professor Mark Thomson is the Executive Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), and a former co-spokesperson for the international DUNE science collaboration. STFC is part of the national funding agency UK Research and Innovation.

He says, “Projects like DUNE will provide new information about our Universe, but will crucially also provide inspiration to new generations of researchers, engineers and technicians. By stimulating the development of new technologies and their transfer to UK industry, these projects will help boost productivity and help achieve the Government’s Industrial Strategy.”

The 200-metre (700-feet)-long PIP-II accelerator is the first accelerator project built in the United States with significant contributions from international partners. It will use the latest superconducting technology, and the UK is expected to win key contracts to provide the crucial cryomodules at the heart of the accelerator.

Peter McIntosh, the Deputy Director of the Accelerator Science and Technology Centre (ASTeC) at STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, which is the UK’s Centre of Excellence for the study of the production, acceleration and delivery of charged particle beams, is leading one of the teams working on PIP II and says, “LBNF/DUNE provides the UK’s Daresbury Laboratory with a fantastic opportunity to harness its accelerator development expertise and use it to establish new manufacturing and system integration capabilities. Working in close partnership with UK industry and the team at FermiLab we can deliver critical superconducting accelerator systems for PIP-II, and this work will significantly strengthen the UK’s accelerator delivery impact for decades to come.”

Dr Alec Gunner, New Business Streams Manager for the technology engineering specialists TWI says, “The opportunities which arise from this project are firstly the project itself – the opportunity for UK industry to engage in large, prestigious Big Science programmes is an end in its own right. However, further possibilities arise from this programme as a consequence installing a world-class high vacuum electron beam welding facility in the UK. This is an enabling capability which is available for use by industry in the development and manufacture of high value assemblies, including niobium for the medical sector, titanium for use in satellite propellant tanks and zirconium for power applications. TWI will be engaging directly with its industrial members and the wider community to allow UK industry to take full advantage of this exciting new facility.”

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