Engineering Science Undergraduates Present Design Projects to CERN

In April, twelve 3rd Year Engineering Science undergraduates from the Department visited Geneva to present their engineering design projects to CERN, the european organisation for nuclear research. Led by Professor Felix Hofmann and Professor Jin-Chong Tan, from the Department of Engineering Science, they focused on the topic of "Maximising Collisions in the Large Hadron Collider".

For two terms work in Oxford ran in parallel with CERN’s ongoing developments in this area, with frequent progress updates between engineers and scientists in the field at CERN. The Department’s close partnership with Dr Raymond Veness, from CERN, with additional technical input from Dr Ralph Steinhagen, Paolo Magagnin and Anna Miarnau Marin, played a major part in the success of this project.

Group photo in CERN control room

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN circulates and collides proton beams with energies of up to 7 TeV, with a stored energy of 360 MJ per beam. LHC has been ramping up in performance, whilst providing new discoveries in particle physics such as the Higgs Boson in 2012. Efforts are now focusing on maximising performance of the existing machine.

Old CERN bubble chamber - group photo
Group photo taken at a decommissioned bubble chamber on display at the Microcosm Museum at CERN.
One promising concept under study at CERN is to adjust the beam orientation in the vicinity of the collision points, using a new device called the “Long-Range Beam-Beam Compensator” (BBLR). This device will compensate for electromagnetic forces that proton beams exert on each other, thereby increasing the probability of head-on collisions of incoming beams, important for the discovery of new sub-atomic particles.

The third year undergraduates were presented with the challenge to develop innovative conceptual designs for the BBLR device, taking into account multiple physical, operational and spatial constraints specified by CERN. The students worked in teams of four, each team developing a unique concept for the BBLR. After undertaking two full terms of detailed engineering design and simulation work, three different concepts were finally presented to CERN.

A practical design of a BBLR requires the generation of very strong electric fields in an ultra-high vacuum environment. To this end, the first team introduced the concept of multiple-wire correctors, which are positioned precisely a few millimetres from the highly energetic circulating proton beam for effective compensation.

CERN presentation - capacitor conceptCERN presentation - electron lens conceptCERN presentation - wire concept

The second concept involved the application of a pair of capacitor plates for cancellation of long-range electromagnetic interactions.

The third concept featured the implementation of an innovative electron lens compensation system compact enough for integration into the LHC.

In their presentations, the students addressed many of the key engineering challenges associated with each design concept, and answered technical questions from the experts at CERN.

CERN machine workshop 1CERN machine workshop 2CERN metrology lab

Students visiting the CERN machining workshops, materials and metrology laboratories with Dr Ray Veness acting as guide.