Breakthrough: World's First Nb3Sn Superconducting Electron Accelerator Achieves Stable Beam

Researchers developed and tested the world's first Nb3Sn superconducting radio-frequency electron accelerator, reaching 4.6 MeV energy with 100 mA beam current. The novel design operates without liquid helium, making it a more efficient and cost-effective solution.

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Breakthrough: World's First Nb3Sn Superconducting Electron Accelerator Achieves Stable Beam

Breakthrough: World's First Nb3Sn Superconducting Electron Accelerator Achieves Stable Beam

In a groundbreaking achievement, researchers from the Institute of Modern Physics (IMP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Advanced Energy Science and Technology Guangdong Laboratory have successfully developed and tested the world's first Nb3Sn superconducting radio-frequency (SRF) electron accelerator. This novel accelerator has reached a maximum energy of 4.6 MeV with an average macro-pulse beam current exceeding 100 mA.

Why this matters: This breakthrough in accelerator technology has the potential to revolutionize various scientific and industrial fields, such as wastewater treatment, preservation and sterilization, and medical isotope production, by enabling more efficient and cost-effective solutions. Furthermore, the reduced demand for large-scale cryogenic systems and lower operation costs of SRF accelerators could lead to increased accessibility and adoption of thesetechnologies.

The Nb3Sn SRF electron accelerator boasts several key features that set it apart from traditional designs. It is cooled directly by cryocoolers in a novel liquid-helium-free (LHe-free) design, which significantly reduces thermal loads and raises the operation temperature of SRF accelerators, making simpler LHe-free cooling schemes viable. The accelerator utilizes Nb3Sn thin film SRF cavities, which have a superconducting transition temperature twice that of metallic niobium.

To overcome the challenges in the deposition system, growth mechanisms, and coating processes of Nb3Sn thin films, the research team developed a comprehensive production process. Their efforts have demonstrated the feasibility of utilizing Nb3Sn thin film SRF cavities in both large-scale scientific facilities and compact industrial accelerators.

The successful development and testing of the Nb3Sn SRF electron accelerator mark a significant milestone in accelerator technology. It enables miniaturization to promote industrial applications in fields such as wastewater treatment, preservation and sterilization, and medical isotope production. Moreover, this breakthrough reduces the demand for large-scale cryogenic systems and lowers the operation costs of SRF accelerators.

Research on Nb3Sn SRF technology started in 2018, and the construction of the conduction-cooled LHe-free Nb3Sn SRF electron accelerator was completed at the beginning of 2024. The researchers achieved stable electron beam acceleration in May 2024, marking a new era in accelerator technology.

The achievement of stable beam acceleration with the Nb3Sn superconducting radio-frequency electron accelerator is a significant breakthrough in accelerator technology. The novel design's ability to operate without liquid helium makes it a more efficient and cost-effective solution, paving the way for advanced applications in various scientific and industrial fields.