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Press release | Institutional
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) signed statements with the DOE expressing their interest to collaborate on high-tech international particle physics projects that are planned to be hosted at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. DOE and CEA held a signing ceremony on Dec. 11, during the visit of the Under Secretary for Science to France.
The three agencies indicated their interest to work together on the development and production of technical components for PIP-II (Proton Improvement Plan-II), a major DOE particle accelerator project with substantial international contributions. In addition, CNRS and the CEA could also collaborate on the construction of the Fermilab-hosted Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), an international flagship science project that will unlock the mysteries of neutrinos — subatomic particles that travel close to the speed of light and have almost no mass.
The construction of a 176-meter-long superconducting particle accelerator is the centerpiece of the PIP-II project. The new accelerator upgrade will become the heart of the Fermilab accelerator complex and provide the proton beam to power a broad program of accelerator-based particle physics research for many decades to come. In particular, PIP-II will enable the world's most powerful high-energy neutrino beam to power DUNE. The experiment requires enormous quantities of neutrinos to discover the role these particles played in the formation of the early universe. The first delivery of particle beams to DUNE is scheduled for 2026.
"The collaboration on PIP-II and DUNE would be a win-win situation for France and the United States," said DOE Official [proposed: Paul Dabbar, DOE Undersecretary for Science]. "Scientists in France and the United States have a wealth of experience building components for superconducting particle accelerators, and are contributing substantially to developing key technologies for DUNE. France's expression of interest brings into the fold for the projects a partnership that has already seen great interest and contributions from across the globe."
Two French institutions – the departments of the Irfu institute, part of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, and the CNRS IN2P3 laboratories (Institute of Nuclear Physics, IPN and Linear Accelerator Laboratory, LAL) – may have a contribution to the construction of PIP-II. They both have extensive experience in the development of superconducting radio-frequency acceleration, which is the enabling technology for PIP-II, and are contributors to two major superconducting particle accelerator projects in Europe: the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) and the European Spallation Source (ESS).
"For IN2P3, the DUNE experiment is of major scientific interest for the next decade, and this interest naturally extends to the PIP-II project, that actually aligns perfectly well with our experience on superconducting linac technologies. Our scientific and technical teams are very excited to start this collaboration" said Reynald Pain, IN2P3 Director.
"Irfu physicists are strongly involved in neutrino physics ; in this field, the DUNE experiment is particulary promising. In that context, contributing to the PIP-II project would be very interesting for our accelerator teams, which have a strong experience on superconducting linac. First discussions with Fermilab staff are very stimulating ! " said Vincent Berger, Director of Fundamental Research at the CEA.
At the heart of the PIP-II project is the construction of an 800-million-electronvolt superconducting linear accelerator. The new accelerator will feature acceleration cavities made of niobium and double the beam energy of its predecessor. That boost will enable the Fermilab accelerator complex to achieve megawatt-scale proton beam power.
In addition to the French envisaged participation, other international partners are making significant contributions to PIP-II: India, the United Kingdom, and Italy. DOE's Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories are also contributing key components to the project.
"France would bring world-leading expertise and capabilities to the PIP-II project," said PIP-II Project Director Lia Merminga. "Having France in the project would be a tremendous opportunity and honor"
French scientists would also plan to contribute to building the DUNE detector, a massive stadium-sized neutrino detector that will be located 1.5 km underground at Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. Construction of prototype detectors are currently underway at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European particle physics laboratory located near the French-Swiss border. These prototypes include key contributions from French institutions in developing the dual-phase technology for one of the two ProtoDUNE detectors.
"French scientists were among the founders of the DUNE experiment," said Ed Blucher, DUNE Collaboration co-spokesperson and professor at the University of Chicago. "Their enormous experience in detector and electronics development would be crucial to successful construction of the DUNE detectors."
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.