Particle accelerators are complicated machines, with hundreds of thousands of components that all need to be designed, engineered and operated to produce high-quality particle beams. Research at SLAC is continually improving accelerators, both here and at other laboratories, while also paving the way to a new generation of particle acceleration technology.
SLAC scientists contributed significantly to the world’s most powerful particle collider – the Large Hadron Collider at CERN on the French/Swiss border. SLAC helped commission and operate detectors for the collider’s ATLAS experiment and is contributing to the ATLAS science program, as well as operating a Tier 2 computing center for distribution and interpretation of ATLAS data. The lab is also involved in R&D for future upgrades to ATLAS components and LHC accelerator systems.
SLAC’s BaBar detector finished its nine-year run in 2008, but researchers are still analyzing the huge amount of data from the experiment – especially the billions of particles called B mesons produced by electron-positron collisions. Among the questions the approximately 500 physicists and engineers in the BaBar collaboration seek to answer: If the Big Bang that gave rise to the universe produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter, what happened to the antimatter?
The SLAC Theoretical Physics Group works on virtually all areas of high-energy physics, from the development of fundamental theories and concepts to detailed tests of these theories at colliders and other experimental facilities. The very close and unique collaboration between scientists working on theory and conducting experiments provides an exciting and stimulating research environment.
SLAC led the construction and operation of the Enriched Xenon Observatory, located deep in a New Mexico salt deposit. The experiment is searching for a theorized type of particle decay that, if it exists, would happen only once in 100 billion times the age of the universe to any given xenon atom. Seeing this decay would prove that the neutrino is its own antiparticle.
The Facility for Advanced Accelerator Experimental Tests opened to scientists in spring 2012 as a test bed for technologies that will power the next generation of particle accelerators. It also hosts experiments that require extreme electric and magnetic fields.
SLAC managed construction and assembly of the main instrument for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, an international project launched by NASA in 2008 to observe the universe in gamma rays. These high-energy rays bring us invaluable information about the extreme events that caused them, such as black holes and exploding stars. They may also yield evidence for dark matter, which so far has only been seen through its gravitational influence on the growth of structures in the universe.
The Geant4 collaboration has created an evolving software toolkit for the simulation of particle interactions in complex devices. Geant4 is widely used in high-energy physics, space and medicine. The SLAC Geant4 group has a major role in Geant4, leading the work on hadronic physics, visualization and overall software architecture.
At the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, researchers from SLAC and Stanford use the resources of modern computational, experimental, observational and theoretical science to better understand the universe. The results including stunning, high-definition 3-D visualizations that help scientists and the public understand cosmic phenomena.
The Linac Coherent Light Source produces brilliant, ultrafast pulses of X-ray laser light that allow researchers to freeze the motions of atoms and molecules. Experiments at the LCLS are probing novel materials and new states of matter, dissecting the details of chemical reactions and shedding light on fundamental processes of life.
SLAC is leading the design and construction effort for the 3.2 gigapixel camera – the world’s biggest – planned for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. The LSST will photograph the entire southern sky every 3.5 days, providing a unique view of the transient universe. This will allow scientists to track the evolution of the universe and any changes in its expansion rate over time, giving us great insight into the nature of dark energy.
At the Next Linear Collider Test Accelerator, scientists carry out research and development for next-generation electron-positron machines, such as the International Linear Collider, and on free-electron lasers (FELs). New techniques for enhancing control and brightness of FEL sources will greatly enhance the scientific reach of SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source.
Research at the PULSE Institute probes changes in the structure and electronic properties of matter on the smallest and fastest scales. The goal is a deeper understanding of ultrafast phenomena in atomic physics, chemistry, materials science and structural biology.
Researchers at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences design materials from the atom up, using a combination of theory, computer simulation, lab synthesis and testing under realistic conditions. Potential applications include advanced electronics and clean, economical energy sources with reduced environmental impacts.
The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource is a pioneering synchrotron facility known for outstanding user support and important contributions to science and instrumentation. SSRL produces extremely bright X-rays used to study our world at the atomic and molecular levels, leading to major advances in energy science, nanotechnology, solid-state physics, new materials, chemistry, medicine and other fields.
Scientists at SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis use theoretical and experimental methods to guide the atomic-scale design of catalysts, which promote chemical reactions. Widely used in industry, catalysts are critical to present and future energy technologies such as artificial photosynthesis, cleaner fuels and more efficient chemical processes.
SLAC is playing a key role in the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search experiment, a next-generation search for dark matter that will take place deep underground at Canada’s SNOlab. SLAC is developing the experiment’s germanium-crystal detectors, which will attempt to record signals from dark matter WIMPs – weakly interacting massive particles – that usually pass through normal matter without leaving a trace.