The Programme “Matter and Technologies”
The research field “Matter” investigates fundamental questions in natural science as the origin and nature of matter. The scientists work with large-scale research infrastructures such as accelerators, radiation sources and detectors. The programme “Matter and Technologies” addresses the technological challenges and needs of the field.
What is the goal?
The technologies used in accelerators and detectors are becoming increasingly more complex and their development cycles longer. The Helmholtz Association has established a new programme, “Matter and Technologies”, to stress the importance and central role technologies play for the field and beyond. This step should ensure that the Helmholtz Association stays in the forefront of the technological developments needed for future large scale research facilities, in particular, accelerators, and detectors. These activities, which in the past were distributed over several programmes, should increase the overall visibility of technology developments in “Matter”. This should also contribute to attract the best people in the field to work for Helmholtz.
What is Helmholtz doing to achieve this goal?
The Helmholtz Association has introduced a new programme, “Matter and Technologies”, that combines developments of both accelerators and detectors into one programme. This makes it possible to strategically invest into promising areas, to realise synergies, and to develop an overall coherent programme. A strong element of this is the close ties between the partners, and the strong ties to the other programmes in matter and beyond. Altogether the combination of this new programme with the other two programmes in matter should ensure that the Helmholtz Association continues to hold a worldwide leadership position in this research.
Examples from research
The programme is divided into two topics: research on accelerator technology (Accelerator Research and Development, ARD) and research on detector technologies (Detector Technologies and Systems, DTS). Networking between these two topics, as well as between the centres and universities, is a central priority of the programme. Conferences, workshops, joint projects and joint use of scientific infrastructures contribute to this effort.
1. Accelerator technologies
Development of technologies and new concepts for accelerators has a long tradition in the Helmholtz Association. Germany enjoys a leadership position in the sector of superconducting accelerator technology and hadron beams, which are to be expanded through selected projects. A completely new field has moved into the spotlight in recent years – the development of plasma-accelerators. These accelerators take advantage of the fact that considerably higher fields are available in plasmas when compared to conventional accelerators, i.e. to traditional cavity resonators operated by radio-frequency transmitters. If it is possible to use these plasma fields successfully, much more compact and much more efficient accelerators could be built that would obviously be quite attractive for many sectors in research and application.
In Figure 1 the results from a simulation of such fields is represented by a particle-in-cell simulation of a laser in gas. The areas with high electron density are visible (in red). A goal of these studies is to develop this highly promising technology into a state to make it technically applicable.
Through this new programme, the Helmholtz Association will position itself internationally in this field; they have already shown – through the results from preparatory studies – that this technology is exceptionally promising.
2. Detector technologies
The requirements for modern detector systems are becoming increasingly complicated. Modern accelerators make it possible to perform more detailed examinations and measurements. In order to make full use of the accelerators, the detectors have to be very fast, possess exceptional resolution, function in highly demanding (in part) technological environments and be able to process huge amounts of data. The resulting requirements can frequently only be solved by systems that can raise the limitations of what is technologically and/or technically feasible.
A focus in developments concerns semiconductor detectors, based on silicon or other materials. These detectors make it possible to achieve high spatial resolutions, in order to (for example) measure elementary particles precisely, or to record spread patterns in complicated systems on synchrotron radioactive sources. A particular challenge here is the technical and logistic handling of huge amounts of data that are produced by the sensors. Conventional systems reach their limits quite early in this regard. A fascinating and very promising development is the combination of classic electronic elements with optical systems.
A focus in developments is semiconductor detectors, based on silicon or other materials. These detectors make it possible to achieve high spatial resolutions, in order to (for example) measure elementary particles precisely, or to record diffraction patterns produced by complex systems at synchrotron radiation sources. A particular challenge here is the handling of the huge amounts of data that are produced by the detectors. A fascinating and very promising development is the combination of classic electronic elements with optical systems. An electron microscope image of a test system is shown in Figure 2, in which it was possible to achieve a connection on a chip between two optical systems; this is a basic requirement for making the new area of “silicon photonics” usable for applications. Only the development of such completely new technologies will allow the capabilities of modern sensor systems to be fully exploited.
In order to demonstrate the feasibility of these new technologies, development of complete prototypes is an important aspect of the new programme topic.
Participating Helmholtz Centres:
Deutsche Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research
Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology