On the outskirts of the Swedish town of Lund, between fields of crops and old windmills, one of the most significant scientific facilities of the future is being built. Its heart is already visible in the form of a concrete and steel bunker where the workers work against the clock. Inside it will be the most potent particle accelerator in the world.
“Our top priority is to complete the installation within the total budget of 1,8 billion euros so that the first scientific research can start in 2023,” explains John Womersley, the head of the European Spallation Source (ESS). The project is driven by 13 European countries led by Sweden and Denmark, which account for 47.5% of the total cost.
Neutrons, particles without an electrical charge, penetrate the matter without damaging it and show its composition at atomic and molecular scale. The world’s most powerful neutron beam will allow scientists to see how these particles pass through the cellular membrane, paving the way to the design of more specific anti-cancer drugs, for example.
It will also be possible to study the surface area of new energy-dense materials for electric car batteries with a more extended autonomy than the current one. In other instruments “the neutrons will pass through the metal of the outer layers of a running engine or turbine and show the movement of hydrocarbons, water, oil as well as the formation of rust,” explained Sindra Petersson Arskold, scientific advisor to ESS.
The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the ESS is more powerful than CERN
Inside a 537-meter-long tunnel, the first sections of a linear proton accelerator are being installed, which will be the most powerful in the world, “even more powerful than the CERN LHC,” says Womersley. The speed of the particles is higher in the accelerator where the Higgs boson was discovered, “but we generate more intensity of particles hitting the target and reach a power of 5 megawatts, while CERN only reaches two megawatts,” says the British physicist.
The ESS, of which 45% has already been built, will reach its maximum power between 2030 and 2035, depending on when the necessary additional equipment is installed, explains Roland Garoby, technical director of ESS, during a visit to the facilities paid for by the European Union.
One of the objectives of the ESS, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator is to foster scientific vocations among young people and to create highly qualified jobs.
“We expect 10% of the use to be from companies and another 30% from collaborations between companies and universities”, explains Womersley. The lifespan of the ESS is 40 years, so the investment in this type of infrastructure is not as large as it might seem. “It’s a good investment, but only if you’re patient and don’t want to see the returns from one year to the next,” added Womersley.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.