Fermi National Accelerator

Fermi National Accelerator

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During the early 1950's there was a need for a new large accelerator facility in the United States, therefore a group called MURA (Midwestern Universities Research Association) was formed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission specifically to take on this enormous task. By the early 1960's the accelerator research panel had made several recommendations about the accelerator project. The panel reccomended that four things needed to be constructed to get the project under way. What the panel had suggested was that a super high current accelerator be constructed, a proton accelerator of approximately 200 GeV ( this would be Fermilabs original main ring) be constructed, storage rings needed to be constructed and a design study for an approximately 800 GeV machine needed to be formed.

On November 21, 1967 President Lyndon Johnson signed a bill allowing the go ahead of the Fermi National Accelerator and by early 1968 congress approved funding to build the laboratory. In 1967 the Fermilab cost $243 million with an additional $120 million in 1983 to complete the Tevatron. The site chosen by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was just outside Chicago Illinois in a small town called Weston, Illinois. The first person chosen to take on the complicated task of running the Fermilab was Founding Director Robert R. Wilson, and from the outset Robert committed the laboratory to firm principles of scientific excellence, esthetic beauty, stewardship of the land, fiscal responsibility and equality of opportuniy (Fermi website, http://www.fnal.gov/pub/contact/index.html).

What excactly does the Fermilab do you ask? Well in the simplest terms possible the lab studies the tiniest building blocks of matter to learn and understand more about the forces involved in holding them together and the forces that separate them, otherwise known as particle physics. To study these subatomic particles the scientist must smash them together in order to see what comes flying out.

One of the most interesting parts about the Fermilab is the immense size of the equipment used to carry out the experiments. The Tevatron is the highest energy particle accelerator in the world. It is located 30 feet below the surface and has a circumference of approximately four miles. The Tevatron uses accelerators that help add energy to the subatomic particles so that they can travel around the four-mile loop 50,000 times a second at a speed of 99.9999 % of light. To help study the collisions there are two collider detectors ( CDF and DZero), each about the size of a four story building.

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To help compute all of the information the lab uses a supercomputer. This supercomputer can handle over 80,000 gigabytes or 80 terabytes a year.

Inside the Tevatron you will find two kinds of particles, protons and antiprotons. The scientists send the two different particles in opposite directions and then steer them into a head on collision with each other. These collisions occur in the center of the CDF detector and the DZero detector. These detectors house tons of sensors and equipment that relay the necessary information to the scientists.

The Fermilab scientists have made some astonishing discoveries by smashing speeding subatomic particles together. Of the eighteen subatomic particles that are known, three of them were discovered in the Fermilab. The first subatomic particle discovered by the Fermilab was the bottom quark in May of 1977. In March of 1995 the top quark was discovered by CDF and DZero experiments and the third and final subatomic particle to be discovered by the Fermilab occured in July 21, 2000 and was named the tau neutrino.
In March of 2001 the Fermilab began a new experiment named Collider Run II. They are searching for a particle called the Higgs Boson. This new particle could hold the key to understanding the origin of all mass (Fermilag website). Below are two diagrams that will hopefully give you a better understanding of subatomic particles and the experiments used to find these subatomic particles.

The original name of the Fermilab was the National Accelerator Laboratory, but in April of 1969 the AEC chairman Glenn T. Seaborg announced that it would be renamed in honor of Enrico Fermi and from then on would be known as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Enrico Fermi was born in Rome on the 29th of September, 1901. Early in his life he was recognized for his abilities in math and physics. He obtained his a doctor's degree in physics in 1922 at the University of Pisa. In 1926 Fermi introduced "Fermi Statistics", which goverened the particles subject to Pauli's exclusion principal. Fermi then worked at the University of Rome until 1938 when he won the Nobel Prize. After he won the Nobel Prize he moved to the U.S. where he had been appointed Professor of Physics at the Columbia University. Fermi's main topic of interest up to this point had been neutrons. In 1942 Fermi was the first person to create a controlled nuclear chain reaction. Because of his experience he had become involved with the first atomic bomb and he was one of the physicists on the Manhattan Project for the development of nuclear energy. At the end of WWII in 1944 Fermi finally became a U.S. citizen. He then accepted a post at the Institute for Nuclear Studies of the University of Chicago. Here he concentrated on high-energy physics until his death in 1954.

Although Enrico Fermi never got see the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, his lifes work continues to live on in the experiments at the Fermilab. Fermi's quest for knowledge has helped solve many questions that might have been unanswered still today. His spirit and love for physics can be seen in the spirit of the hard working people at the Fermilab. Their undying quest for knowledge helps give the human race a better understanding of our universe.

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