Applied mathematician wins DOE grant to improve particle accelerator safety


The Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Laboratory.


This figure shows scratches and other damage to the APS infrastructure after a full beam dump.

UC Santa Cruz professor of applied mathematics Dongwook Lee has won a three-year, $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that will fund his research on improving computer models for safety mechanisms in particle accelerators.

For this project, Lee will collaborate with scientists on the Advanced Photon Source (APS) Upgrade Project (APS-U) at Argonne National Laboratory, the site of one of five light source facilities ultra-brilliant from the United States. These sites, called X-ray light source ease of useproduce x-ray beams studied by scientists for a wide range of applications in medicine, biology, materials science, astrophysics, and more.

Argonne National Lab’s APS facility is donut-shaped, with electron beams emitted from a linear particle accelerator in the center. The beams are then bent by magnets to travel in circles around the site at very near the speed of light. When the electrons bend, they emit synchrotron radiation in the form of very bright X-rays.

In the middle of this process, at some point, the electron beams must be stopped. This is what scientists call a “whole beam dump”, and special circuit breakers, called collimators and made of solid metals, are used to prevent the beams from damaging the facility and injuring its employees when this happens. . When the collimators stop the beams, they are scratched and damaged. The ongoing APS technical upgrade is expected to result in very intense electron beams, which will increase damage to collimators when encountering extremely high energy density conditions which impact the protection of the machine.

The essence of this project is to study these processes and ensure the integrity and reliability of the collimators. Lee’s role will be primarily to develop high-fidelity numerical models for the physics of the ensemble of beam discharges with the new APS-U system. In addition to researchers at Argonne National Lab, Lee will collaborate with RadiaSoftwhose physicists study particle physics of accelerators as well as particle-material interactions.

“Unlike many other typical proposals, this team has very unique expertise in different areas,” Lee said. “This project is a great example of how applied mathematics can help advance real-world problems.”

For the past two years, Lee has been working on preliminary research into the gas dynamics of this problem with the support of seed funding from Argonne National Lab. The project team includes former Ph.D. de Lee. student Youngjun Lee, who worked on the initial studies with seed funding and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Argonne. The funding will also support a new Ph.D. Student at the Applied Mathematics Department of UCSC.

Lee uses X-Flash, a popular open-source community code for astrophysicists and high-energy physics, to develop its computational models. As part of the project, the team will provide and make public the digital code to perform this research, making it available to the research community to continue this pioneering work.

“We want to provide our science with more clarity and more transparency in our efforts,” Lee said.

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