News | June 3, 1999

Fermilab Dedicates New $260 Million Particle Accelerator

The Main Injector accelerator at the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (DOE's Fermilab; Batavia, IL; 630-840-5678) was dedicated on June 1, 1999. The world's newest particle accelerator, the Main Injector will increase the number of particle collisions that occur at Fermilab's Tevatron accelerator by 10 times. The seven-year, $260 million project was completed on time and under budget.

Main Injector Benefits
Accelerator Design

Main Injector Benefits (Back to Top)
The Main Injector is one of five increasingly powerful accelerators that make up the Fermilab complex. Fermilab's Tevatron, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, creates high-energy particle collisions that allow particle physicists to explore the structure of matter at the very smallest scale.

By drastically increasing the number of collisions that can occur, the new Main Injector will multiply the opportunities for discovery for the hundreds of scientists from nearly every state and 45 countries who carry out particle physics research at Fermilab.

More collisions at the Tevatron mean more opportunities to discover new particles and new physics beyond the Standard Model, the current theory of the fundamental structure of matter. With this tool, scientists hope to make discoveries as significant as the detection of the top quark, first observed at Fermilab in 1995.

During the main injector construction project, a new storage ring called the Antiproton Recycler was added to the accelerator complex without increasing the total project budget or delaying its scheduled completion. The Recycler, which shares the new two-mile circular tunnel with the Main Injector, is the only accelerator of its kind in the world, using permanent magnet technology to retrieve, store, and recycle antiprotons that previously would have been discarded. The Recycler cuts costs while adding to the efficiency and effectiveness of Fermilab's collider experiments at the Tevatron.

Accelerator Design (Back to Top)
Housed in a tunnel 30 feet below ground, the Main Injector has a circumference of approximately two miles. Particles travel around the Main Injector at nearly the speed of light, circling the two-mile ring nearly 100,000 times/sec. The particles are then injected into the four-mile Tevatron accelerator where billions of particle collisions occur.

Building the new electromagnets to steer the particles around the new accelerator required 8,300 tons of steel, equivalent to the weight of a US Navy destroyer. More than 10,400 tons of 9-in thick, continuous-cast steel plate were installed as shielding over the beam enclosures. A network of more than 8,000 cables, carrying signals for some 44,000 system parameters, was installed to operate the Main Injector. End to end, the cables are about 3 million feet long—this could cover the distance between Fermilab and Memphis, TN.

"It has taken seven years to reach this dedication day," says Fermilab Director John Peoples, whose 10-year administration spanned the entire project. "But what made the difference was the people who worked to get the Main Injector built—the public officials, physicists and engineers, designers, technicians, contractors, procurement experts, construction workers, and safety experts whose vision, energy and hard work brought the Main Injector from a sketch on a drawing board to a living particle accelerator."

Funding (Back to Top)
A $2.2 million challenge grant from the state of Illinois in 1991 gave Fermilab enough funding to take the first steps towards building the new Main Injector: carrying out environmental and design studies. Federal funding for the project was approved in October 1991, and construction got underway in 1993, after extensive R&D.

Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, and Governor George Ryan joined Fermilab staff and visiting scientists in celebrating the dedication of the accelerator.

"Completion of the Main Injector dramatically improves Fermilab's capability to explore the fundamental properties of matter and demonstrates the Department of Energy's commitment to keeping the United States at the forefront of high energy physics," Richardson says. The DOE provides more than 90% of the federal support for research in high-energy physics in the US.

"The research program at Fermilab, like our other fundamental research laboratories, brings together scientists from over 40 countries and provides an excellent example of the importance of international scientific collaboration," Richardson says.

For more information, call Mike Perricone of the US Department of Energy at 630-840-5678.