By Brad Jones
Particle accelerators have proven to be invaluable to the attempts of science to answer some of the most complex questions offered up by the field of physics. Now, the Department of Energy’s Fermilab facility is set to embark on a project that will hopefully offer up various other useful applications.
The Accelerator Application Development and Demonstration program will help Fermilab scientists collaborate with various partners to investigate new ways to utilize compact particle accelerators.
“A2D2 has two aspects: One is to investigate new applications of how electron beams might be used to change, modify or process different materials,” read a statement from Fermilab’s Tom Kroc “The second is to contribute a little more to the understanding of how these processes happen.”
Anyone who has a novel idea of how to apply the technology will be able to submit their proposal to Fermilab. The end goal is to convert established tools and concepts into useful commercial applications — and there are already some interesting plans being put in motion.
Paving the way
One of the first projects will use accelerators to create pavement that won’t be damaged by extreme heat or cold. Instead of asphalt, this process would use a material that could be strengthened by passing an accelerator over it.
Accelerators can be used to drive chemical reactions using electron beams, which is much quicker and more efficient than conventional methods.
Additionally, the Chicago Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is scheduled to test out the technology’s capacity to overhaul water purification techniques, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also set to test out its capabilities.
More potential uses are going to be facilitated by an even smaller, portable accelerator currently in development. For the portable version, environmental cleanup is one such potential application currently being touted by Fermilab.
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