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Accelerator Physics

Brief History

Since 2012, an Accelerator Physics track has been investigated within the Physics Department through undergraduate (PHY526 - Topics in Contemporary Physics) and graduate (PHY 743/744 - Topics in Advanced Experimental Physics) elective courses. Accelerators are used in many areas in which our faculty is heavily involved: nuclear/high energy physics [Jefferson Lab for medium energy physics research since the late 80s, Fermilab for neutrino experiments since the early 2000s and more recently Brookhaven National Lab], medical physics [hospitals based x-ray machines are small scale accelerators and cyclotrons are used for proton therapy such as the one housed at HUPTI ], and radiation biology [NASA has a long-lasting space radiation program that primarily utilizes their facility at Brookhaven National Lab jointly sponsored by DoE; NASA Langley recently started a validation program of their codes with our faculty that will require dedicated measurements of data utilizing a low energy accelerator). This effort is also linked to an accelerator-based experiment to create a highly polarized positron beam at Jefferson Lab. A Memorandum of Understanding between Hampton University and the Accelerator Division at Jefferson Lab was signed on February 21, 2014 to expand the existing MOU with the Physics Division at Jefferson Lab. This amendment will provide supports for graduate students and undergraduate students to work in the field of Accelerator Physics.

LELIA Accelerator System

One of the old thermo-ionic guns of the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) at Jefferson Lab was transferred to Hampton University in the Spring 2013 to primarily serve as an educational tool in accelerator physics. This gun is a DC source that can generate electrons with kinetic energies up to 100 keV and has a total estimated value of about $200k. In the mid- to long-term goal, this gun will be expanded to a Low Energy LInear Accelerator (LELIA) capable of accelerating electrons up to a maximum of 500 keV and then to few tens of MeV. To achieve this, a radio frequency (RF) system must be designed and its conception will be based on the CEBAF injector following a two-step approach: (1) construct a two-stage bunching mechanism (pre-buncher and buncher) to produce the beam bunches, and (2) develop a "small" accelerating section to bring the beam to 0.5 MeV using a capture (warm) RF cavity. New collaborations were established or expanded: Old Dominion University (which has a graduate program in accelerator physics), George Washington University (which is in the process of developing a complementary program to Hampton University, but with a focus on photo-ionic guns), the University of Pennsylvania (that also has a cyclotron) and Michigan State University (that has a coupled cyclotron facility) amongst others.


The training of students is expected to span across various areas such as simulation of the beam properties along the beamline, understanding vacuum and ultra-high vacuum, optimizing materials from which electrons are produced, measuring scattering of electrons with various biological and non-biological targets, developing dedicated diagnostic and visualization software tools, etc. The proportion of African-American students in Accelerator Physics is far less than 1% and the program is expected to make a major impact in this area.