News FocusAccelerator Physics

The Next Big Beam?

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Science  08 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5962, pp. 142-143
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5962.142

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A handful of accelerator physicists are experimenting with a new type of machine—a cross between a cyclotron and a synchrotron—that avoids many of the shortcomings of both and is simpler and cheaper to build. Proponents of these machines, known as fixed-field alternating-gradient (FFAG) accelerators, say they would be ideal for applications such as proton therapy, inspecting the contents of cargo containers, and accelerating muons for a muon collider or neutrino factory. FFAGs may even revive the fortunes of a novel type of nuclear reactor called an energy amplifier, which needs a particle accelerator to drive it. After a modest start in Japan about 10 years ago, the field is exploding. Over the next few months, FFAG fans everywhere will be eagerly awaiting the first beams to whiz around the Electron Model for Many Applications (EMMA), a prototype of a variation on traditional FFAGs that promises to be even simpler and cheaper. A successful demonstration of this so-called nonscaling FFAG, which is under construction at the Daresbury Laboratory in the United Kingdom, could open the floodgates for the application of this technology.