Galen Aymar is our Accelerator Design Group Leader. Previously, he worked as a mechanical engineer, supplying devices that are used in particle accelerators, but became eager to design and see an accelerator through to use. Unlike other organisations, ISIS doesn’t have separate engineering groups for each type of accelerator component, so Galen’s team comes up with solutions of all shapes and sizes.
Currently they are working on feasibility studies for ISIS-II, a next-generation neutron facility that will succeed ISIS in 20 years’ time. It will play a key role in enhancing the UK's neutron capability for academia and industry, so Galen’s team have to consider what might be at the leading edge of science over the coming decades and explore new technologies that can serve these areas of research. As the original facility was built in the 1980s, Galen has an opportunity to get creative.
For example, in addition to a new synchrotron similar to the existing ISIS accelerator, one of the exciting potential solutions that he and his colleagues are exploring is a vertical Fixed Field Alternating (FFA) Gradient accelerator, where the particle beam spirals vertically as it accelerates. Only a handful of similar accelerators have been built over the last 30 years, but no vertical FFA has ever been built or even fully designed.
Improvements like these have to be planned far in advance. As it will take time for ISIS-II to come to fruition, Galen is also working on refurbishing and repairing parts of the existing accelerator. This year, his team are replacing a 12-metre long cylindrical tank that accelerates hydrogen ions to 37% of the speed of light before feeding them into the facility’s 163-metre-wide particle accelerator. The tank has been operational for 34 years and was first designed 50 years ago. This means Galen and his team need to redesign or rediscover how it was assembled and have to draw on the ideas of the broad variety of specialist and generalist engineers at the facility (some of which have been at ISIS since the tank was installed). “As an accelerator engineer, it’s brilliant that I have the opportunity to work on really any component throughout the entire machine. We don’t have a group that works only on magnets or only on vacuum vessels, so we get to do everything. And we then also get to meet everyone else working on it as well.”
– Galen Aymar, Accelerator Design Group Leader.
With prototyping and testing, the new tank has taken almost a decade to design and build. These continuous improvements and upgrades are incredibly important to ensure the facility’s capabilities are able to produce the very best science for ISIS users.