Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi Engineering Researchers Awarded $1.4 Million DOE Grant

Team will work on new breakthroughs in electron accelerators
robert bradford
May 02, 2011 —

A USC Viterbi research team has been awarded a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct a series of experiments that will accelerate electrons in shorter distances than have ever been achieved.

Patric Muggli, a research professor in the Viterbi School's Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering, will lead the team that is focusing on micro-electron accelerators.

Patric Muggli with a poster on an earlier conference in his specialty
In June, he and his team will travel to the Facility for Advanced Accelerators and Test Beams (FACET) at Stanford University to study the new generation of particle accelerators. The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) is “the only place in the world where you can do these experiments—colliding electrons and positrons,” Muggli said.

In the secure SLAC facility buried 20 feet underground on Stanford’s campus, the electrons will travel three kilometers in a straight line through a tube that is 1.5 inches in diameter. Experiments have shown that acceleration using plasma, or ionized gas, can dramatically boost the energy of particles in a short distance. In a groundbreaking experiment conducted in 2007, researchers from SLAC, UCLA and USC achieved the biggest acceleration gradient ever using ionized gas.

The goal through the summer, according to Muggli, is to build on this work and create even bigger acceleration gradients – to accelerate electrons and positrons ever more quickly to higher energies. He co-authored a detailed account of hopes for the new facility in the CERN Courier, in a story that appeared Feb. 11.

“FACET is a key facility that will let us explore these proof-of-principle experiments and determine whether they can be incorporated in the design of a future plasma-based electron/positron collider,” Muggli said. “The facility is really a necessary next step in our understanding of how to build bigger, more powerful accelerators. The experiments that we will be running in FACET could revolutionize the world of particle accelerators and enable new particle physics discoveries, or they might take us in other directions.”

Muggli is a leading researcher in the world of beam physics. On March 31, he received the 2011 IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Science Society Particle Accelerator Science and Technology Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the development of particle accelerator science and technology.