In DepthNuclear Physics

Electron-ion collider wins key endorsement

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Science  27 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6400, pp. 317-318
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6400.317

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The next dream machine for U.S. nuclear physicists received a ringing endorsement this week in a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report committee hailed science that could be done by the proposed Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a billion-dollar accelerator that would probe the incredibly messy innards of protons and neutrons. The glowing assessment should help the Department of Energy justify building the EIC at one of two national laboratories competing to host it. Physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, use their Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) to smash heavy nuclei such as gold and re-create the soup of subatomic particles that filled the infant universe. They eventually want to add an electron accelerator to convert RHIC into the EIC. However, the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, has recently upgraded its Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, a machine used to fire electrons into stationary targets to study protons, neutrons, and nuclei. They hope to add an ion accelerator to it to make the EIC. For now, Brookhaven and Jefferson Lab scientists are collaborating on the R&D, as the project probably won't get the go-ahead for several years.