Deceleration project bursts out of the starting-blocks

The starter's pistol was fired for the ELENA project on 28 September, with the kick-off meeting organised in collaboration with the Antiproton Decelerator Users Committee. With more than 90 scientists in attendance from 20 research centres throughout the world expressing their enthusiasm for the project…and some even more than that... the meeting was a great success.


"Our kick-off meeting was a really great success," says Stéphan Maury of the Beams (BE) Department, who is responsible for the ELENA (Extra Low ENergy Antiproton ring) project. PH Department's Walter Oelert, Chairman of the AD Users Committee and one of the instigators of the project, adds: "More than 90 participants showed up, over twice the number we were expecting! They were all very enthusiastic and eager to get ELENA off the ground." The meeting was attended by representatives of some twenty institutes from across the globe, all of whom had come to blow life into the ELENA project. But not only that – some of them also brought some excellent news.

"We were pleasantly surprised," Stephan Maury explains, "when, on the day of the meeting, three new experiments were proposed in the framework of the ELENA project. One is the fruit of a collaboration between the University of Tokyo and Aarhus University (Denmark), and consists in placing a target inside the ELENA ring; the second, promoted by GSI Darmstadt (Germany), aims to study spin changes of the proton; the third project, dubbed Gbar, was put forward by CEA Saclay (France) and involves measuring the gravitational behaviour of antihydrogen at rest. A formal proposal has already been submitted for the latter project which will be discussed at the SPS Experiments Committee on 25 October. The other two should be presenting technical files to the CERN scientific committees in the near future."

Should these new initiatives emerge as viable projects, the Antiproton Decelerator (AD) Hall where ELENA will be built and which already houses ALPHA, ASACUSA, ATRAP, ACE and soon the AEGIS experiment, will have to be converted to host them. "The future site of the ELENA ring is currently taken up by a platform. Our initial plan was simply to move this platform aside to make way for ELENA. But if we add these proposed new experiments we will need a whole new building, which will obviously need to be built!" Stéphan Maury explains.

Layout of the AD experimental hall: the Antiproton Decelerator ring (purple); the ALPHA, ASACUSA, and ATRAP experiments (green); the ACE experiment (not pictured); and the new ELENA ring (blue).

And this will obviously cost money. But things are moving on the budget front. "We've already collected 2.06 MCHF to date and an additional 2.35 MCHF is under discussion in the laboratories (outside CERN) involved in the ELENA project," Stéphan Maury notes. "With the project now officially launched, all these research centres should be able to clarify their proposals internally and come forward with their contributions in the near future. Take the example of the University of Brescia (Italy) – they made no promises at the outset but have now come forward with 50,000€ for the project. 

In addition to cash contributions, certain institutes have pledged contributions in kind, such as equipment manufacture (notably the magnets and the electron cooling system) and the secondment of highly qualified personnel. In this regard, the project coordinators have had the pleasant surprise of seeing the number of outside members of the ELENA team increase from the initially expected 28 to 32. They will join forces with the CERN team and dedicate themselves to making the future decelerator facility a success.

All the ELENA project participants will get together again in six months' time with the aim of moving ahead on many fronts. For the time being, CERN's ELENA team is working on the technical design of the machine and should submit its Technical Design Report by next summer.

More information can be found on the ELENA project in CERN Bulletin n°30-31, or in the press release issued on 28 September for the project's kick-off meeting.

by Anaïs Schaeffer