Italy is increasing its investment in a planned €500 million particle collider outside Rome. The National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) may double funding next year for work on a technical design of the proposed SuperB collider, says Marcello Giorgi, a particle physicist with INFN and the University of Pisa who leads the project.
Perhaps more important, the SuperB project has also gained some friends. The Italian Institute of Technology has agreed to help develop facilities that would use x-rays from the colliders' circulating particle beams for research in the material and life sciences, thus broadening the project's scientific scope, according to a press release issued today. If the project goes forward, then IIT would pick up €100 million of the cost, Giorgi says.
SuperB is planned for a site near Frascati, which already hosts several science facilities. To be built from parts of a decommissioned accelerator in the United States, SuperB would, among other things, crank out huge numbers of particles called B mesons to study a slight asymmetry between matter and antimatter called "charge parity violation." This year, researchers spent about €1.5 million on the design work, which should be completed late next year, Giorgi says. INFN officials have indicated that next year's funding may be twice that amount, he says, although the final number remains to be approved by the INFN board. Giorgi and colleagues also spent about €1 million this year to hire 10 scientists and engineers, with plans to add another 13 people next year.
The project has competition, however. In June, the Japanese government provided $100 million of the $350 million needed to transform an existing collider at the laboratory, KEK, in Tsukuba into a machine known as Super KEKB, which would pursue much the same research.
SuperB researchers are waiting for a similar green light from Italy's Ministry for Instruction, Universities, and Research. "We'd hope to have the first funds [for construction of the building] from the ministry before the end of 2010," Giorgi says.
In the meantime, researchers are taking heart in the fact that the cash-strapped Italian government hasn't said no to the proposal. "At a time when governments are slashing funds for research, the fact that this project is still being supported is progress," Giorgi says.