SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Post image for SLAC’s historic linac turns 50 and gets a makeover

Since the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park powered up its “linac” half a century ago, the 2-mile-long particle accelerator has driven a large number of successful research programs in particle physics, accelerator development and X-ray science. Now, the historic particle highway is getting a makeover that will pave the way for more groundbreaking research.

Crews have started removing equipment from the first third of the linac (pictured above) to make room for a next-generation X-ray laser, LCLS-II, which will feature a brand new superconducting accelerator that operates at minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit. The ultracold technology will let LCLS-II fire 8,000 times faster than its predecessor, the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), and generate X-ray beams that are 10,000 times brighter.

Linac redo_2nd_vert“As SLAC’s engine for discovery for the past 50 years, the linac has served a new mission every time the lab reinvented itself,” says Lia Merminga, who heads SLAC’s Accelerator Directorate. “Replacing part of the accelerator with a superconducting one is yet another historic juncture. It’s the beginning of a new era, with decades of revolutionary new science ahead of us.”

LCLS-II will operate in parallel with LCLS, which will continue to occupy the last third of the original copper linac. The accelerator’s mid-section will stay unchanged, too, and is planned to soon deliver particle beams to another proposed facility, FACET-II, for developing next-generation particle accelerator technologies.

When the linac produced its first particle beam in the early morning hours of May 21, 1966, it was the single largest civilian science project ever undertaken by the U.S. government. To this day it is the longest linear accelerator ever built.

“The linac has always been crucial for SLAC’s mission of pursuing large-scale, multidisciplinary research of national importance,” says Burton Richter, who directed the lab from 1984 to 1999. “For all these years, the pursuit of this mission has relied on people with a desire to advance science, a view of what might be possible and new ideas that may have seemed relatively crazy at the time they were brought forward.”

Caption for photo above right: As part of the Sector 0-10 Equipment Relocation Project, crews retrieve klystrons – microwave generators that boost particle energies in the copper linac – from the klystron gallery, 2016.  Both photos courtesy of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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New X-ray laser at SLAC brings promise of never-before-seen views of nature

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Construction has begun on a major upgrade to a unique X-ray laser at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park. The project will add a second X-ray laser beam that’s 10,000 times brighter, on average, than the first one and fires 8,000 times faster, up to a million pulses per second. The […]

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Public can tour SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory twice a month beginning in April

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Beginning in April, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park will offer free public tours, which last approximately 90 minutes and include a visit to the lab’s two-mile-long linear accelerator, now driving the world’s brightest X-ray source. Tours are offered twice a month, by registration only, which opens on the last Friday of the previous month. Registration […]

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Getting a tour of the new Science and User Support building at SLAC

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We’ve been watching the new building at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory go up over the past year, and now that it’s complete, find it quite eye-catching, particularly as viewed going west on Sand Hill Road. Accompanied by InMenlo contributing photographer Irene Searles, we were given a tour of the first floor and second floor by […]

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SLAC’s Claudio Pellegrini receives Fermi Award at White House

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President Obama welcomed SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Claudio Pellegrini into the Oval Office yesterday morning (10/27) as a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, one of the highest honors the U.S. government can give to a scientist. Pellegrini, a visiting scientist and consulting professor at SLAC and distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Los […]

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Steady to a fault: How does SLAC’s particle accelerator survive in earthquake country?

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Perhaps you’ve seen the move San Andreas in which a massive quake rocks northern California, toppling skyscrapers and propelling a massive tsunami toward the Golden Gate Bridge. [Or you may have felt the 4.0 quake overnight last night.] Just a kilometer from the San Andreas Fault in Menlo Park sits SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, home to a […]

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Building of world’s most powerful camera by SLAC in Menlo Park gets green light

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Plans for the construction of the world’s largest digital camera at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park have reached a major milestone. The 3,200-megapixel centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which will provide unprecedented details of the universe and help address some of its biggest mysteries, has received […]

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SLAC Director Emeritus and Nobelist Burton Richter to receive National Medal of Science

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President Obama Friday (Oct. 3) named former SLAC Director and Nobel Prize winner Burton Richter as one of 10 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and also named eight recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation. The two awards are the nation’s highest honors for achievement and leadership in advancing the fields of […]

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SLAC scientists in Menlo Park take first dip into water’s mysterious “no-man’s land”

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Scientists at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park have made the first structural observations of liquid water at temperatures down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit, within an elusive “no-man’s land” where water’s strange properties are super-amplified. The research, made possible by SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser and reported June 18 […]

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Menlo Park Fire Protection District responds to two-alarm fire at SLAC last night

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A fire alarm last night at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park at 9:47 pm brought response from Menlo Park Fire Protection District Engine 6, which arrived to find heavy black smoke pouring from one of the structures. The Captain requested a full first alarm response on arrival. A second alarm at 10:02 pm brought in additional Menlo […]

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SLAC chemist Riti Sarangi ponders big and little scientific questions

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In many respects you could say SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory scientist Riti Sarangi grew up at the lab. From 2001 to 2007 she used the facility while pursuing a PhD in chemistry at Stanford, where she had come after completing her undergraduate studies in India. Her interest in science, though, was sparked early in life. “My […]

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