5 Takeaways from the Autumn Accelerator Conference Season

I spent the time from August to October hopping from one accelerator conference to another. Here are the insights I gained on the road.

by Rok Hrovatin, Ph.D.

Oh, on my way to RuPAC I also stopped by at IBIC — the 7th International Beam Instrumentation Conference which was held at Shanghai

The tour started with the 15th Annual Meeting of the Particle Accelerator Society of Japan (PASJ) which took place in Nagaoka in early August, continued to the 29th Linear Accelerator Conference (LINAC18) in Bejing (China) in September and ended in Moscow at the Russian Particle Accelerator Conference (RuPAC) in October.

1. There is a lot going on in the field of particle accelerators

Talking about linacs, the most important topic nowadays are hadron linacs. There is a range of facilities under operation, being upgraded or constructed, e.g. ESS, SNS and CSNS (spallation sources), FRIB, FAIR, SARAF (use of superconducting structures), to name just a few projects. The use of linacs in Proton and Heavy ion therapy was also reported.

However, compared to LINAC18, where the world’s most important projects were categorised as “electron”, “hadron”, “technologies” and “beam dynamics”, local conferences such as PASJ and RuPAC mostly reflected the developments and achievements of the domestic scenes.

2. The big scientific projects are getting bigger and bigger

Recognize him?

Due to their size, the projects appear to be less in number but are actually growing in terms of cumulative effort. It is obvious that the largest projects are planned and constructed in collaborations of several countries. A significant and comprehensive preparatory and planning phase mostly focuses on scientific goals, i.e. on experiments, and in the next steps on the technologies to be used in the construction of the project. Yet, the focus of the conference presentations are predominantly on the second half of the planning.

I also detected that some relatively big projects were not presented at all — in spite of their drive and decision to realize them. I wonder about the reason behind that — is it due to unclear assignments, or perhaps they are at a stage too early and too sensitive to disclose the intentions.

3. The main challenge of big scientific projects is having the technology ready

In terms of technology, the main challenge is to have the technologies ready when the projects are defined. Following the organizational patterns of big projects, the priorities are well sorted out — in a way that most long-term high-effort tasks are considered first, as unavailability of technologies linked to these tasks also represents the highest risk for the big projects. The assessment of time and effort, of course, is considered correct.

It seems the complexity of systems for the big sci projects in future will only grow. To be frank, it needs to be scaled — the complexity will grow due to the growth of performance requirements. It will be crucial that the alignment of requirements will be done in several segments in parallel and on time.

4. Awareness of the existence of technologies and careful planning are the key to a successful project

When scientific facilities are planned, the focus is on mechanics, physical mechanisms and missing technologies. From the system point of view, the engineering part, i.e. the integration of the systems, is addressed but in lot less detail and the controls and the processes of their realization get even less attention. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this observation: FAIR and ESS addressed the controls segment early. There is yet another part of the observation: the effort estimates for the controls segment are often a factor lower than what is really required later in the project.

Some snapshots from the road. At PASJ (left), booth with a view at LINAC (middle and right).

5. There is a hierarchy even among projects

There is a hierarchy even among projects — in particular, if several of them are parts of a big project. This can be seen at GSI — planning the upgrade of Unilac and the construction of a CW linac. Priorities simply have to be set, but one should do the necessary tasks in order to be ready on time with the execution of the project with a lower priority. So in this case sometimes it seems that GSI is running two projects in parallel — while in reality all moves and activities are carefully aligned. It is actually the nature of the projects that most of the activities are to be done in a continuous mode.

Are my insights spot on? Let me know in the comments below or send me an email :).


Rok Horvatin joined Cosylab in the very beginning of 2015 and is able to apply his vast experience gained in industry and in the quality and standards arena to identify appropriate control system solutions for unique problems in the world of particle accelerators and big physics.
In his free time, Rok enjoys running, working around his house, long motorbike journeys, kayaking, sailing and cycling. He feels that his leisure time is always too short, but he always enjoys whatever free time he has. He prefers wine over beer and sausages over foie gras. Most of all he likes spending quality time with his grandsons.

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