Work has begun to build a new particle accelerator at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory at Upton, Long Island. The new facility will form the backbone of the Electron-Ion Collider project, an initiative to learn the secrets of electrons. Assorted officials from New York and the Department of Energy commemorated the news, including Senator Chuck Schumer.
The Electron-Ion Collider project will attempt to smash electrons and protons together in order to produce images showing their internal structure. Officials at BNL describe it as a “CT Scanner for atoms,” to get a better look at the building blocks of these phenomena: Gluons and Quarks. Specifically, that the force that binds an atomic nucleus and the electrons that surround it, which is regarded as one of the strongest in nature.
Funding for the project will primarily come from the DOE, which expects to hand over anything up to $2.6 billion, with New York State adding an additional $100 million. That will pay for a 2.4-mile long ring to be built parallel to the collider that’s already in place at Brookhaven. It’s hoped that investment will pay off if researchers can understand the nature of how gluons bind these structures together.
For all the attention that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider gets, you may be forgiven for not knowing that Brookhaven already hosts one of its own. The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider is designed to fire heavy ions at each other in the hope of causing a collision which can be studied. According to one report, the RHIC will be retired in 2025 to make way for its replacement, which is expected to begin operations around 2031.