Physics: Russia Testing First High-Frequency Generator to Build Its Own Atom Smasher

Electron-positron collider at the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics in Russia. Wikimedia Commons

Russian physicists are building their first klystron generator, a critical particle accelerator component for which the country has previously had to rely on external suppliers in Europe or Japan. Now, researchers from the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Science's Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics are testing a model they believe could be up and running within the year.

Klystrons are high-frequency, particularly powerful generators. They allow researchers to create the intense electromagnetic fields that accelerate the particles within the colliders, Yevgeny Levichev, deputy director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics, said, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. No klystron generator or anything even comparable has been manufactured in Russia before.

Russia's ability to build its own functional klystron generator is crucial to the success of its science "megaproject"—a unique electron-positron collider called the Super Tau Charm Factory, according to international news agency Sputnik.

The Super Tau Charm Factory will study the decay of tau lepton, a particle along the lines of an electron, and the decay of charmed particles, the third-largest of the six categories of quarks. It will facilitate study of matter-antimatter collisions and things that can't be explained by the Standard Model of particle physics, which, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research (more commonly known as CERN), is a widely used theory developed in the early 1970s that explains the four fundamental forces governing the structure of matter.

This means it will also be searching for new forms of matter, like theoretical particles called "glueballs." Colliders like CERN's Large Hadron Collider—the biggest machine in the world—are used for various pursuits in particle physics, but there's currently no other collider anywhere in the world dedicated predominately to this field of research, RIA Novosti previously reported.

The Russian Scientific Foundation has issued a grant for construction of the klystron generator in recognition of the vital role it will play in building a functional collider. All together, the collider is expected to cost 27 billion rubles (the equivalent of roughly $470 million), according to a previous report by RIA Novosti.

The completion of such a project would put Russia at the forefront of particle physics. Levichev said that Russia's klystron has already been assembled and tested in a "non-generating mode," a trial run to demonstrate that the particle beam is flying the way it's meant to, according to RIA Novosti.

In 2015, Levichev and colleagues won a competition to have the Future Circular Collider—the CERN supercollider that will take over once the Large Hadron Collider reaches the end of its life—constructed based on their designs, according to news agency Russia InfoCentre