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January/February 2003

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Glenn Mara

A Question of Quarks

Island Paradise Regained

Understanding Cells in a New Way with Three-Dimensional Models

Patents

Awards

 

Glenn Mara

Glenn Mara
Deputy Director for Operations

Translating Vision into Reality


FOR decades, Lawrence Livermore’s often unheralded engineering crew has been “translating” physicists’ doodles on napkins and complex equations on white boards into devices and entire facilities that fill some new or long-standing need. The National Ignition Facility, whose powerful lasers will create a thermonuclear explosion in a laboratory, is the most visible case in point at Livermore now. But other examples abound. Certainly the scientists in the High-Energy Physics Group would not be able to make the scientific advances they do in basic nuclear and particle physics without Livermore’s crew of experienced engineers.
The article entitled A Question of Quarks is a testament to this capability. Livermore is part of a worldwide collaboration that is using the Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory to try to create a quark–gluon plasma, a state of matter that scientists suspect existed during the earliest moments after the big bang. Livermore designed and oversaw construction and installation of the giant magnets in the Pioneering High-Energy Nuclear Interaction Experiment (PHENIX) detector, one of four complementary detectors around the collider’s tunnel. The steel magnets weigh 3.6 million kilograms, and the detector incorporates comparably big, complicated engineering.
PHENIX had to be capable of measurements of unprecedented precision. The theory of fundamental particles and how they interact predicts that quarks can never be seen directly. Instead, scientists must infer their presence from the combined results of many measurements, such as particle momentum. Collecting these data requires that PHENIX’s massive magnets create a large magnetic field parallel to the accelerated beams of gold ions in the central region of the detector and a field perpendicular to the beams on the detector’s north and south arms. In addition, the magnetic field in the arms must go to zero in the beam region so that it does not deflect the trajectories of the ions in the accelerator. Fitting the detector in the tunnel required that the magnets generating these fields be as compact as possible.
The B Factory at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is another example of how Livermore’s engineers make big science happen. Like PHENIX, the B Factory, which includes the PEP-II electron–positron collider and the BaBar detector, was designed to answer questions related to our early universe: Why is there a preponderance of matter over antimatter in the universe? What happened during the big bang that caused so little antimatter to remain? Experiments at the B Factory are just now beginning to supply information that may answer these questions.
During the 1990s, nearly 200 Livermore specialists in accelerator technology and advanced manufacturing helped to design and produce major components for the B Factory. Perhaps the most complex were the high-power radio-frequency cavities for the collider—the most powerful of their kind ever built—that maintain electron and positron beams at their proper energy level.
PHENIX and the B Factory are opening new windows on the subatomic world, providing scientists with a more complete and accurate picture of the fundamental nature of matter and energy. Although few organizations could have undertaken these projects, Livermore is that rare breed with the capabilities necessary to meet the challenge. Our knowledgeable and experienced engineering staff comes through every time, translating a physicist’s vision into reality.

 

 



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UCRL-52000-03-1/2 | January 23, 2003