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Fermilab constructs pioneering accelerator test facility:
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The Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory is building a pioneering accelerator test facility thanks to $52.7 million in funds received for R&D in superconducting radio-frequency technology through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The laboratory is working with U.S. industry to boost America’s capability in manufacturing acceleration devices known as SRF cavities. The technology has applications in medicine, nuclear energy and materials science.

During phase I of the construction of the test accelerator facility, contractors doubled the length of an existing building on the Fermilab site to make room for a 460-foot-long prototype accelerator. Phase II will include the construction of two additional buildings. They will house test facilities for accelerator components and a large cryogenic refrigerator that will provide liquid helium as coolant for the superconducting test accelerator.

Electrician Stan Kramer spent the better part of 2009 unemployed. In March 2010, he received a call from Arlington Electric that he was needed for electrical work at the accelerator test facility at Fermilab, paid for with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Companies from Batavia, Aurora, St. Charles, Naperville, Elmhurst, Elk Grove Village, Wheeling and other locations are working on the project as subcontractors for Michigan-based Barton Malow Inc.

Construction workers gather for a safety briefing in the Fermilab test accelerator facility. Since March 2010, about 200 Chicago-area tradespeople have worked on the test facility and its expansion. The test facility on the Fermilab campus in Batavia, Ill., will be the most advanced R&D center for SRF accelerator technology in the United States.

When complete, the test accelerator at Fermilab will be 460 feet long. Scientists will test various accelerator components and systems by sending a beam of electrons through the accelerator.

Superconducting radio-frequency cavities will be the technology of choice for the next generation of particle accelerators. The devices are made of pure niobium. They save energy by conducting electricity without resistance, making them a highly efficient technology for accelerators. Fermilab is partnering with U.S. industry and other research institutions to develop and build SRF cavities in cost-effective ways.

Fermilab has begun to install the first components of a superconducting prototype accelerator in its new test facility. When complete, the prototype accelerator will comprise six cryomodules. The first one was installed earlier this year (photo). Each cryomodule weighs about 8 tons and contains eight superconducting radio-frequency cavities that accelerate particles.

For additional photos and B roll video footage, including aerials of the Fermilab site, visit the Fermilab Visual Media Services website. To obtain permission for the use of this additional material, please send an email to

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Last modified: 09/20/2010 |