Fermi National Laboratory

Accelerator Update

About the Fermilab Accelerators

The Tevatron became operational in 1983. Its initial energy of 800 GeV was double that of the old Main Ring at 400 GeV. Today, the Tevatron accelerates protons and antiprotons to 980 GeV.

History of the Tevatron

In 1985, Helen Edwards wrote a report on "The Tevatron Energy Doubler: A Superconducting Accelerator" for the "Annual Review of Nuclear Particle Science." At the very end of the report, under the heading "Hindsight and a look to the Future," she wrote:

"It works! This is by far the most significant thing that can be said in retrospect. One tends to forget that it was not obvious that the Energy Doubler would work and the years of effort with many failures and setbacks that went into the magnet and cryogenic development.

There are no major flaws in the system that we know of to date, but one should keep in mind that it is very much a prototype accelerator. It is as much an accelerator research tool as a high-energy physics tool. It will take time for the performance to become as dependable as expected from conventional accelerators."

The Tevatron has come a long way since then, becoming the key element for Fermilab to achieve its mission. It has done everything that scientists had hoped for and more. In fixed-target operation, the Tevatron accelerated protons to approximately 800 GeV and directed them onto a target of specially selected material such as lead, copper, beryllium, or even hydrogen, materials chosen because of the specific particles they tend to produce. The particles created were fast but had a smaller mass than the proton.

Converting to collider operations with 900 GeV beams, the Tevatron again upped the capability of Fermilab's high-energy physics program. Why? In a collider, a proton and an antiproton annihilate each other and give all of their energy to new particles, allowing the creation of massive but slow particles. The total energy of the collision (a 900 GeV proton and a 900 GeV antiproton) equals approximately 1.8 TeV.

The Tevatron can be considered an excellent quark-producing machine. With its help the CDF and DZero experiments discovered the top quark back in 1995. Today, the experimenters are still studying the top quark, but they are also looking for new particles and forces. They are studying many aspects of matter, answering questions like how the building blocks of matter are put together and how they stay together. In addition, the experiments help to reveal how the universe began.

Fermilab's Mission:

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory advances the understanding of the fundamental nature of matter and energy by providing leadership and resources for qualified researchers to conduct basic research at the frontiers of high-energy physics and related disciplines.

last modified 10/30/2001   email Fermilab