The dismantling of a cherished scientific instrument can be a painful experience for researchers who have experimented with it for years. But particle physicists in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, can take some comfort from the fact that their venerable linear accelerator and electron storage ring will get a new life in Russia.
The Medium Energy Accelerator (MEA) has been running for 20 years at the National Institute for Nuclear and High-Energy Physics (NIKHEF) in Amsterdam. The accelerator injected short pulses of electrons with energies of almost 1 billion electron volts into the Amsterdam Pulse Stretcher (AmPS), a storage ring completed in 1992. The high-speed electrons probed the protons and neutrons making up atomic nuclei. But just as AmPS was installed in 1992, the Dutch government cut back on nuclear and high-energy physics in favor of other fields of physics and decided that the MEA/AmPS combination would operate only until the end of 1998. NIKHEF physicists have spent the last 2 years looking for a new home for the machine, says Louk Lapikás, a program leader at NIKHEF.
They found it at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, which will start dismantling and moving the machine later this year. In Dubna, MEA/AmPS will start a new life as a synchrotron radiation source. The lab plans to boost the intensity of the radiation by increasing the electron energy in the storage ring to 1.2 GeV, says Igor Meshkov, chief engineer for Basic Facilities at Dubna. Although the Dutch machine is free, the Russian institute will have to raise $5 million for reassembly, which is expected to take 4 years. "Fortunately we have a building which just fits," says Meshkov.