The Texas A&M Cyclotron Institute, one of five U.S. Department of Energy-designated Centers of Excellence and home to one of only five K500 or larger superconducting cyclotrons worldwide, is dedicated to discovery science, workforce development and applications to society.
Past proves prologue
This past fall, the Cyclotron Institute celebrated 50 years of beam and a rich history of exploring the nuclear frontier. The institute is jointly supported by the DOE Office of Science for Nuclear Physics (DOE NP), the state of Texas and the Houston-based Welch Foundation. Within the DOE NP program, which is the federal steward of basic research in nuclear physics, the Cyclotron Institute is one of five university Centers of Excellence supported to advance basic research in nuclear physics. The institute is home to one of only five K500 or larger superconducting cyclotrons worldwide as well as a second K150 cyclotron and a vast array of experimental devices. It provides the primary infrastructure support for Texas A&M’s graduate programs in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry while conducting basic research and educating students in accelerator-based science and technology. In addition, the institute serves as a technical support base for collaborative research programs at other major national and international accelerator facilities.
“The decision 50 years ago to build a cyclotron at Texas A&M has proven nothing short of revolutionary, then and now,” Yennello said. “That bold move, in combination with the continuous support in the five decades since from federal, state, university and private sources has enabled us to serve our state, nation and world through a unique combination of discovery science, workforce development and societal service through applications. It’s a proud legacy fueled by the longtime support of the DOE Office of Science that we are pleased to see enhanced through CENTAUR.”
Since 2011, the Cyclotron Institute and Livermore Lab have been involved in a surrogate reactions program featuring two ongoing experimental setups installed and commissioned within the institute. The first, NeutronSTARS, allows the direct detection of charged particles and neutrons from charged-particle-induced nuclear reactions. The second, the $4 million Hyperion charged-particle array, is capable of detecting gamma rays and currently ranks as the largest gamma ray detector array in the NNSA arsenal. Additional Cyclotron Institute researchers have collaborations with scientists at Los Alamos Lab that will benefit from closer connections through CENTAUR.
Partners in nuclear progress
Like the Cyclotron Institute, Florida State’s Fox Accelerator Laboratory led by Dr. Ingo Wiedenhoever brings an established reputation as a national leader in cutting-edge nuclear scientific research and education dating back more than 50 years. The National Science Foundation-funded facility houses a 9 MV Tandem Van de Graaf accelerator and an 8 MV linear accelerator along with a full complement of experimental equipment, including a recently installed Super-Enge Split-Pole Spectrograph. When paired with the expertise of Dr. Thomas Albrecht-Schmitt’s radiochemistry group, it creates an opportunity to build an experimental program focusing on spectroscopy of astrophysical resonances and nuclear structure at the binding limit of stable nuclei.
Washington University’s Dr. Lee Sobotka, a renowned expert in nuclear reaction mechanisms and development of application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips for low energy nuclear science experiments, will play a key role in CENTAUR’s neutron detector development activities while also leading the effort on total reaction cross-sections of rare but stable nuclei.
Dr. Scott Marley and other LSU scientists already have collaborative ties to Florida State and, through CENTAUR, will build additional ones with Texas A&M scientists to perform neutron and proton transfer reactions for the purpose of identifying key nuclear structure information.
As a past collaborator in the Texas A&M-Livermore Lab Hyperion experiments, Notre Dame’s Dr. Anna Simon will direct CENTAUR efforts to carry out measurements to obtain cross-sections and structure data relevant to national security and energy needs and for basic science. During the past six years, the Hyperion collaboration — which also includes scientists from Rutgers University, the University of Richmond and Oak Ridge National Laboratory — has logged more than 2,000 hours of beam-time benefitting countless projects, researchers and students.
The University of Washington is home to the Institute for Nuclear Theory — another DOE NP university Center of Excellence — where scientists such as Dr. Aurel Bulgac have expertise in high performance computing applications of density functional theory with specific emphasis on nuclear superfluid properties.
“The faculty, staff and students associated with CENTAUR are at the top of their respective fields,” Yennello said. “This is definitely a case in which the whole is most certainly greater than the sum of its parts.”